Fiction Friday: [Underqualified]

[This week's Fiction Friday was born from this writing prompt from Writer's Digest. Enjoy!]

Not afraid of ghosts.

It was an oddly specific detail in an otherwise generic job listing. One that most people would assume was a joke. But for me, the ridiculous requirement gave me hope that I might finally get a job. After almost two months of perusing want ads that reminded me of how underqualified I was for pretty much everything, I wasn’t ashamed to admit that I was borderline desperate for work.

So, I was ecstatic to be sitting on a hard black case full of equipment I’ve never heard of. Why I was grateful that an urgent call came in during the middle of my interview with Herb Tucker, proprietor of Otherworldly Security. I tried my best to hold on while he wove the company van through traffic. Riding shotgun was a bean pole of a man ironically named Truck. Tall and thin and rocking a camo t-shirt, Twig seemed more appropriate.

Sorry to cut this short, Herb had said after hanging up the phone and then, after a moment of careful consideration, Well…I guess we’re about to see what you’re made of.

Admittedly, I assumed the job would consist of acting more than anything else. We’d lug out the strange equipment under my butt, wave them around and say things that sounded ghost huntery. Then we would feed them some story about what we did to get rid of the spirit problem and leave as heroes. But as we pulled up to the ranch-style house and I saw the pajama clad family of four holding each other on the lawn, my cynicism lost some traction. Watching the color return to Herb’s thick, stubby fingers as he loosened his grip around the steering wheel helped it dissipate altogether.

Nausea swelled in my stomach from the moment we stepped into the house and the feeling was way too strong to just be my imagination. Herb sent Truck one way while we headed the other, shutting off lights and drawing curtains along the way.

“Take this,” he said handing me a tiny television on a stick. “It’s a thermal imager. I’ll try to talk to the spirit while you scan the area. Tell me if you see anything unusual. Got it?”

I swallowed down the lump in my throat and croaked out a feeble, “Yes”. For a moment I forgot my fear and marveled at the colors molding themselves around the furniture and tchotchkes in the living room through the monitor.

“If there is a spirit in this house, please know that we mean you no harm. We just need answers for the family who lives here.” Herb’s voice was strong and calm. The complete opposite of how I felt. As he continued in his attempt to communicate, I did as I was told and scanned the room.

The breath hitched in my throat and I audibly gasped drawing Herb’s attention.

“What did you see?”

“I…I…” I didn’t know what to say. Through the monitor I had clearly seen the outline of a man, but now looking with my naked eye, there was nothing. “A man...a blue blob in the shape of a man…”

Herb moved closer to where I had pointed.

“Thank you for joining us,” he said to…well, nothing. “With this equipment, we can help you communicate. We know it’s hard for you, but if you try we can share your message.”

I looked down at the thermal imager and froze. Through the monitor a pair of feet stood directly in front of me. A chill swooped through my body and my teeth clacked together. Curiosity, or stupidity, took over and I slowly lifted the imager. Blue legs, followed by hands. Arms. Shoulders. My hand shook uncontrollably by the time I reached the face yet the set of the eyes, the slope of the nose—all the details—were so clear.

I wanted to call out for Herb, but I choked on his name as it hung in my throat. Then, remembering how the blob disappeared last time, I lowered the imager. History did not repeat itself and I stood face to face with the sad-eyed man. A man who couldn’t possibly be real because through his diaphanous face I could see the family portrait that hung above the couch.

I screamed octaves higher than I knew were possible and dropped the thermal imager. I bolted toward the front door and knocked into a confused Truck. Flinging the door open, I startled the family still waiting so hopefully on the groomed lawn. I had no desire to stop and explain. No desire to be their hero. All I wanted was to get as far away as possible.

Well I guess we know what I’m made of, I thought as my feet pounded against the pavement, propelling me closer to my next job search.