Michael at Morpethroad tagged me for the latest Finish the Story prompt from Teresa at The Haunted Wordsmith.
Teresa at The Haunted Wordsmith gave us the image above (by enriquelopezgarre at Pixabay) and started us off with this:
As soon as Liam read the advertisement, he knew the place was for him. Three-story newly renovated home on a private island in the middle of Hidden Hollow Lake. Owner motivated to sell.
“I will have it!” He scanned the ad for a contact number and phoned it immediately. To his surprise, the agent said the house was his as soon as she answered the phone. “What do you mean the house is mine? I haven’t even made an offer yet.”
She laughed. “Mr. Owens, I have been instructed to sell the home to the first person who called, and today is your lucky day. I can meet you on the pier in an hour with your keys.”
“Oh… okay… yeah! Today really is my lucky day, isn’t it?”
Liam rushed around his tiny apartment, threw a few items into a backpack, and caught the train to the pier. Halfway expecting this to be a scam, he was gobsmacked when a professional-looking woman approached him, smiling.
“Mr. Owens, I presume?”
“Um, yeah, that’s me.”
“Good. Sign here, please, and I can release your keys to you.”
His hand shook with anticipation as he scratched his name on the form.
“And here are your keys. That man will take you to the island,” she said, pointing to a man in a small rowboat. “Thank you for your business.”
He watched as she walked toward the parking lot and disappeared into the crowd. “How’d she know my name?”
“You ready?” the boatman called.
“Oh, yeah. Sorry.” He climbed into the rowboat and took in the beautiful scenery before him, forgetting all about the sales agent. “This is really pretty, isn’t it?”
The man didn’t respond.
“Ok.” Liam sat in silence until the island came into view. It looked exactly as it had in the advertisement. He rubbed his eyes and pinched himself, convinced it was a dream.
“Get out here,” the boatman said, sternly as they reached the shore.
“Well, thanks, I guess.” Liam stepped out into knee-deep water and shivered as it soaked his pants. “How do I get back?” he asked as the boatman pushed away from the shore.
“There’s a flare in the house should you need it,” he called back, shaking his head.
Liam turned around and saw …
Li at Tao-Talk took part 2:
… a school of sharks swimming straight towards him! As a marine biologist, Liam knew it was unheard of for sharks to swim in a freshwater lake, even though he also knew a small canal connected Hidden Hollow Lake to the Atlantic at certain times of the year. Snapping his focus back to survival, his next thought was to run the 50 yards of knee-deep water before they nabbed him.
As Liam ran 10k every morning, it was no problem outpacing his sea-hunters – or so he thought. Even as his fleet feet touched dry sand he felt snapping jaws latch onto the sole of his shoe. Turning around, he saw a 2-foot tiger struggling to get a better grip on the rubber. Liam was blessed to see a piece of driftwood at hand. He grabbed it and beat the small shark on the head until it let loose and flip-flopped and rolled back into the water.
Unfortunately, in his desperate run for his life, Liam had let go of his backpack. Even now he could see it bobbing farther away from shore. He thought of risking it and going back out, but he could see shark fins circling the pack. His wallet, phone, snacks, a few books, and a couple of changes of clothing were in there. His pockets were empty except for his trusty Swiss Army knife.
The boatman had said something about a flare if he needed it. What kind of place was this?
Liam took a deep breath and looked around. The house of his dreams was another 50 yards. As he got nearer, he saw that the curtains to the windows were open, as was the front door. Curiosity getting the better of him, he ran the final yards. Stepping onto the porch, he heard voices talking inside. Imagine his surprise when….
Paula at Light Motifs took part 3:
….he found a bunch of people sprawled over sofas with laptops, iPads, and papers they periodically wadded up in disgust and flung in the corner.
“My agent was right!” moaned one woman. “This is all crap! Every word. I should have become a veterinarian instead.”
Oh no. Liam shrank back in horror. It was too awful to consider. Noooo!
A man stood up. “My poetry is top shelf. If these idiots can’t see that it’s because they’re sheep who want Hallmark card pap. But after I’m dead for another hundred years, well, then they’ll wish they’d appreciated me more.”
Liam’s heart raced with renewed terror. He’d been duped into buying the Ghost Writers’ Grievance Hotel! He’d have to take his chances with the sharks.
“Hey!” The ghost poet pointed at Liam. “Aren’t you that famous publisher’s kid?”
“Me?” Liam’s voice cracked.
The ghostwriters started to float over to the doorway.
“It is him!”
“I saw his photo in the news with Mark Manson.”
“That blogger guy? That’s not real writing.”
“Yes, it is. My friend made thousands on her mommy blog and it was very funny too. Then they turned it into a book!”
“Ridiculous! I’m talking about timeless classics.”
Liam desperately searched for a way to escape these lunatics. But they were all around him now, yapping and jabbering. It was his worst fear.
And then one of them…
Di at Pensitivity101 took part 4:
…put a ghostly arm around his shoulders and began to merge himself with his body. ‘Get out of me!‘ Liam shouted pulling at his clothes. ‘How dare you invade my personal space without so much as a by your leave!’
‘Sorry,’ the entity smirked. ‘Just wanted to touch base with the living and get some new ideas.’
‘Well sod off! My ideas are mine and I’ll do with them as I wish to thank you very much!’ With that, he turned on his heel and stalked outside to the echoes of their laughter.
Sprawled on the sand he watched the sharks nibbling at his backpack offshore. No chance of retrieving that then. He was thirsty and hungry, but to eat he had to face them again.
What on earth was he going to do? Could he welch on the deal? After all, no money had actually changed hands, but the place was perfect for inspiration and he had been toying with the idea of writing a novel.
‘Touch base with the living’
‘New ideas’ sifted through his head and a plan began to form…
Sadje at Keep It Alive took part 5:
Liam picked himself up from the beach and assuming a nonchalant attitude walked back to the house. As he entered it he heard mock clapping from a few of the ghosts. Ignoring them he came to center of the living room and said loudly. “I am offering a deal to anyone who is brave enough to take it” there was a hush in the room. Then the poet who had tried to co-occupy his body asked him what was it that he was offering. Liam cleared his throat for theatrical effect and said, “I am offering a collaboration. If you can give me new ideas for my book I will acknowledge your contributions in the book. That way you will achieve the fame you wanted in life, posthumously!”
The room will as filled with babbling voices of all the writers and poets. They were excited and intrigued. Liam congratulated himself on his clever idea and went towards the kitchen to get something to eat, leaving them arguing the merits of a collaboration.
As he made himself some coffee and a big sandwich, Liam sensed a presence behind him. The poet and a few other ghosts were there and one of them spoke up “We are happy to take your deal. But we have a condition …
Kristian at Tales From the Mind of Kristian took part 6:
A chill ran down his spine as he felt one of the ghostly forms touch his shoulder.
“What is your condition?” he asked trepidatiously.
The poet grinned, flashing a gap-toothed smile.
“You have to stay here with us on this Island, forever.”
Liam had somehow suspected their request and was willing to go along with it if it will help him realise his dream to become a successful published author. He had no plan to actually keep his word, however. His agile mind went over the idea, what he would gain by it.
“OK, I agree,” Liam said.
The crowd of ghosts cheered so loudly, Liam had to raise his voice to be heard over their din.
“Right, now you need to help me prepare a plotline.”
He had to admit that these literary ghosts had a talent that he could only dream of. The story they collaborated on, was one of the most original, exciting and insightful tales he had ever heard.
However, he had one major problem now…
Fandango at fivedotoh supplied part 7
His problem? Well, there were many, actually. First and foremost, ghosts are not alive. Liam had noticed when he went to the kitchen to get something to eat that there was nothing there. No food in the cupboards, an empty refrigerator. Nothing. Why? Because ghosts don’t eat. Worse yet, there was no electricity in the house. The seller had stopped all service when they move from the island house. Even though, when he first walked into the house he found bunch of “people” sprawled over sofas with laptops and iPads, none of the devices were working because their batteries were as dead as the ghosts and there was no way to recharge them. And, there was no internet connection or WiFi.
So if this deal was going to work, Liam had to arrange for the utilities to get hooked up again, get WiFi working, and, most important, get food and drink. Especially drink. What great novelist isn’t also a drunk? And that meant he had to get back to the mainland.
Liam gathered all the ghostwriters around him. “I know I promised that I would stay here forever, but as a living being, I need food. I also need to restore the electricity so that we can recharge our devices and WiFi so that we can communicate with the outside world. I need to get a new phone, laptop, and tablet as well as more clothes, since all that was lost when the sharks were after me.”
The ghosts looked around at each other and one said, “He really doesn’t know, does he?”
“What are you talking about?” Liam asked the ghost. “What don’t I know?”
Michael at Morpethroad wrote part 7
It was at this moment Liam noticed what his eyes had chosen not to previously notice.
iPad ghost had a rather bulbous nose, spread over his face it seemed to increase in redness the more Liam looked at it suggesting a previous life where alcohol may well have dictated his life. iPhone ghost laying on the lounge had her phone perched comfortably upon a pair of very large breasts and as if to suggest she could hear his thoughts raised a finger at him as he stared at her.
Laptop ghost had the strangest cat like eyes that bore into him and made him feel far more uncomfortable than he already was.
It was iPad ghost who spoke up: “Your dead pal. This is the next life. We don’t need power or wi-fi or data or anything because NOTHING matters now.
There was general agreement among the other ghosts who momentarily looked at Liam and then went back to whatever repetitive thing they were doing.
This news shocked Liam who couldn’t remember anything that might be a cause of his death. iPhone ghost added: “You came over on a boat? Yeah. Thought so, it was your last ride. The boatman did you in, the same way he did each of us.” With that she muttered a few indecipherable curses and went back to studying her phone.
Liam found it all a bit too much and took himself off outside and sat on the beach watching the sharks still circling his back pack which he surmised was by now wet beyond rescue and wondered to himself what he might now do.
If this was eternity he thought to himself, how disappointing. He looked down at his hands and noticed they seemed to be larger than he recalled. It was then he had an idea…
And now to conclude… my part
If he were dead, then those sharks couldn’t touch him. He could retrieve his backpack without risking even a limb. He upped to his feet and waded in.
That previously met with tiger shark sighted him, and beelined. Liam disregarded it, waded out to his backpack, reached in… just as the shark’s jaws opened.
“Out of it, Pesky,” he gave the shark a sharp kick. It exploded. Liam’s arms were fast over his head, expecting a rain of blood and guts. Instead, wires and gearwheels and microchips fell upon him. “Not a real shark? What’s going on here?”
Pack grabbed, he stormed back to the house, feet plunged through the shallows, water shooting around him. He ignored that front door, not yet ready to confront the ghosts…were they real, were they not? Indeed, was he dead or was he not? That ferryman might have some answers. And the flares the ferryman had mentioned would fetch him. He rounded the house…
And stood stock still. “What the…?”
A large high-sided unmarked white van… how had it got here? Airlifted? A blue and yellow striped marquee. And people. People eating, and drinking, and talking. People clearly alive.
An elderly man turned, saw him. The talk stopped at once. A woman he recognised, the woman who’d given him the key, smiled and approached, a clipboard in hand.
“Ah, Mr Owens, Liam. You’ve found us out. But, never mind, it isn’t disastrous, we have enough footage.”
“Foot…? What’s this about?” Pennies started dropping into the vacant slots in his head. “What’s this? You’ve Been Framed?”
“No,” the woman oozed as if offended. “Perish the thought. No, it’s for an advert. We’ve been commissioned by Hidden Hollow Writers Retreat. It opens for business next week. ‘A Retreat Guaranteed to Unblock the Blockages,’ that’s the strapline. And you’re the star.”
“Oh no I’m not! I want off this island. Now! You can find some other fool to do this. I’m not a writer, and I’m not an actor. I forbid you to use that footage.” He hefted his backpack over his shoulder. “You’ll be hearing from my lawyer. I want every cost reimbursed.” Liam was not very happy.
He was even less happy when the woman showed him the paper clipped to her board. “I’m sorry, Mr Owens, but that’s not possible. You signed the consent form.”