This week we are proud to present Half-Baked by Holly Schofield for your monster's tastebuds.
Holly Schofield's short stories have appeared in Analog, Lightspeed, Escape Pod, and many other publications throughout the world. You can find her at hollyschofield.wordpress.com.
By Holly Schofield
*originally published by in Theme of Absence in 2016.
Yo, mind if I come in? No, don't go reaching for your phone or the security button under your desk. Wanna see something cool? If I blow some air at you--fthhhh, like that, see?--you get frozen stiff for a minute or two. The frost decorating your eyebrows doesn't do much for your rat-faced appearance, I got to say.
Hey, remember how you called me "immature" once, because I wouldn't call you by your full title, Supervisory TSO Randall K. Shufflebottom? Fthhhh. Aww, look at your fancy desk plate now--it's iced over, all except for the last six letters.
I've listened to you enough at staff meetings, standing there in my blue polyester TSA smurfsuit while you go on and on about the number of nitrile gloves we use at security, hair in the staffroom sink, and the time we waste on coffee breaks. So you can just sit at your desk and listen to me for a change, now that I'm a ghost.
I'm stuck here in the airport, see. I can't go home to my ratty apartment. I can't even hop a flight to Hawaii or nothing 'cause I can't board a plane, not even an astral plane, har har har. But I can wander, just a little bit. From the checked baggage area, through the security checkpoint (hey, imagine if I haunted there, making that hell worse than it already is!), to the employee elevator, and right up here into your office. Figures that I found you staring at the feed from the body scanners, you perv. Anyhow, if you close your blinds--go ahead, I'll wait--you can sort of see me sprawling here in your guest chair, all translucent-like.
Hey, leave your pepper spray alone. Do you really want to see how much the temperature drops when I sneeze? Fthhhh.
Nice desk, by the way. What's in it? Any liquids or gels? A bottle of that scotch I used to smell on your breath when you leaned in close to give me shit? Well, no more shit-giving's gonna happen, Randall, not any more.
Funny thing about ghosts: people think they hang around to see justice done. Or to get revenge or carry out some unfinished business. Me, I'm too laid back for all that stuff, and, anyway, right now I'm just a leeeetle bit baked. I only want to talk to you for a while, maybe ask a favor.
Those hairy eyebrows of yours went up when I said "baked". Yeah, Randall, I'm stoned, high, ripped. Seems ghosts' digestive systems are awful sensitive and awful slow. When I was a person, real flesh-and-blood, I could scarf down four or five hash brownies and pull a full shift no probs. But that last batch...
Ah, more eyebrow lifting. You finally recognize me, eh? Yeah, I'm that guy. The guy Hannah found in the checked baggage area last month next to the confiscation bin, an empty Tupperware in my hand. Those hash brownies, they had some high-grade shit in 'em but they were gooey and sticky as hell. I sorta strangled on them when I shoved them in my pie-hole. Still got undercooked crumbs on my lips. Fthhhh. See? Your mug of tea should thaw out in an hour or two.
Not even three weeks ago and you don't even remember my name, do you? You'd be a lot cooler if you did.
Know what really killed me? Your crappy rule that we couldn't take more coffee breaks than the collective agreement says, that's what. Fifteen minutes every four hours, that's shit. How am I supposed to find time to dig through the confiscated food? How we supposed to party? Marty was in the washroom, Hannah needed a cigarette bad, and Jasmine was in the staffroom studying for her Lead TSO exam. They weren't natural party types but I'd been working on 'em, see, telling 'em jokes, getting 'em all to lighten up. It woulda worked eventually.
If I hadn't died.
I've thought about this a lot, see, 'specially when the terminal's almost empty in the middle of the night and the only red eyes are mine. If my shift pals had had more breaks, more time to do stuff, we all would have been better buddies, we would have been bros. And, minor point, they coulda done the Heimlich maneuver on me and saved my life.
So now, I got nothing to do. I just wander around the terminal, hoping I'll get terminal, har har again. I guess the rules about being a ghost aren't something I can change. But the ones about your asshole supervision are. Fthhhh.
Marty's got four kids and a mortgage, Hannah's roommate just joined a cult, and Jasmine, well, someday she'll have your job but right now student debt is killing her. They got their troubles, see? So I'm gonna do my buddies a favor. It's the least I can do and, yeah, like my dad always said before he kicked me out, I usually do the least.
Here's how it's gonna be: until Hannah, Marty, and Jasmine, and all the other shifts too, get fifteen minutes every two hours, I'm parking my ass right here in this comfy chair. How'd you like that, Randy?
Matter of fact, I'm gonna up that ante. I want all the staffroom chairs to be as soft and cozy as this one.
And pizza every Friday.
And the day shift ends at 4:20.
And no more smurfsuits--T's and baggy jeans for everyone.
And everyone gets a pony. Damn, I'm so baked.
Really, though, it's simple as shit. A little respect, Randy, a little respect for my pals--gonna be hard, but you can change, man, you can change.
It's up to you. You decide.
Fthhhh. Think it'll take you long?
We really hope you've enjoyed this week's ghostly fun. Be sure to brush your monster's teeth, and return next week for another feeding.
*Half-Baked © Holly Schofield.