This is one of those kinds of short little ideas that you have to write down before they pop like soap bubbles.

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Ghosts in the Machines

Yolanda looked up from watching a cat video on her phone when someone jostled her, hard. Instead of apologizing, the guy who’d bumped her stared at her. He was carrying a large, clunky, and ugly cell of his own–a piece of machinery so hideous that Yolanda could hardly believe he’d paid for it.

He was wearing thick glasses, with wide black frames, and an odd brownish tint to the lenses. His eyes, magnified, blinked furiously at her. After a moment, he dropped his gaze and moved off, swinging one leg stiffly from the hip. Yolanda watched him limp away, and then returned her attention to her phone. The screen was black. She tried turning it on, pressing the power button with increasing anger and frustration. She pried off her rhinestone-covered case and removed and replaced the battery.

The screen remained black.


A half hour later, she was sharing her grief with an employee at the store where she had purchased her phone less than two months ago. The employee was sympathetic, but powerless to help–nothing he did to her phone made the screen light up again.

A manager was called over, and Yolanda received a hefty discount on another phone of the same model. Yolanda was deeply unhappy about what she’d lost on her phone, but eventually, she forgot about it.

She didn’t think twice about the man who’d bumped into her. Just as she was discovering that she couldn’t revive her phone, the man limped into an alcove in the street.Once out of sight, he shed his over-sized plaid shirt, revealing a plain blue t-shirt underneath. He unfolded a shopping bag from his pants pocket, and put the shirt and glasses inside it. He then walked on, without a trace of a limp, into a church a few blocks down.

Once inside, he cracked open his phone, revealing a small metal capsule, etched with crosses. He pulled on a glove, and carefully pried the capsule loose. It smoked, sending up the smell of burning leather. Ignoring the faint warmth growing uncomfortably stronger, he dropped the capsule into the basin of holy water before him.

The water hissed and bubbled, and by slow stages cooled and stilled. Another man stepped out from a hallway, and paused when he saw the first man. “Another hungry ghost?” He asked.

The first man nodded. “Yep. Another vampire, feeding off an unsuspecting victim.” He picked up his phone, and took it apart, putting it back together in the methodical fashion of someone assembling a weapon. “When will people learn?”

“That vampires are not flesh and blood, but spirit? That they can attach themselves to any thing?” The second man asked. “Likely never. How can you feel safe when the things you carry with you, the things you treasure, could be harboring a ghost that is draining away your life?”

The first man tapped his partly assembled phone in response, touching one of the many crosses engraved into the pieces. “They could be safe, if they’d take precautions.” He locked the capsule into place, empty and ready for another intangible vampire to be drawn into it and trapped, so he could destroy it.

“But everyone knows vampires aren’t real,” the second man said.

The vampire hunter shook his head, went to a nearby closet. He dropped the bag with his shirt and glasses on the floor, pulled on a suit jacket, and slicked back his hair. Out on the street, he activated the program that would search out another vampire device. No phone, tablet, e-reader, or laptop went un-scanned as he passed. Any portable device was a favorite home for the monsters, and just because no one would listen to him didn’t mean he wouldn’t protect them.

“Those things will kill you,” he murmured to a teenage boy, whose tablet was for the moment, ghost free. He moved on before the boy could respond, hunting.


About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

2 responses »

  1. That was pretty good. Keep up the good work.

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