Title: Oliver's Ghost Machine
Word count: 54,000
Genre: Upper MG Dark Fantasy (w/steampunk elements)
No respectable home in Orchard Knob is complete without at least one resident specter, and most folks can’t imagine life any other way – except for Oliver. There hasn’t been a ghost in his house since before he was born. And bein’ that Oliver’s pa is the town’s mortician, everyone knows they should have more ghosts than anyone.
So when the ghost of Elijah Banks shows up saying his niece, Lena, is dead and that Oliver’s the only one who can keep her from crossing over, Oliver is certain ol’ Elijah has gone soft in the head. Especially when Elijah claims helping Lena will also solve Oliver’s ghost dilemma.
It’s crazy talk is what it is.
But then Pa decides to train Oliver in the family business using Grandpa’s old embalming room in the cellar – on the same day Lena’s body arrives. One accident with an embalming hose later and Oliver’s seein’ things no one else can, like the dark tethers attacking the town’s ghosts at night. And if that weren’t enough, Pa starts calling him things like “sensitive.”
Now Oliver needs answers as much for himself as he does for Elijah and Lena – and even his own family – who might accidentally be responsible for the attacks on the town’s ghosts. Before long it’s a race against his family’s secrets to keep the dark tethers from consuming Lena and the rest of the ghosts in town. And Oliver’s gonna get his answers, just as soon as he can get up enough nerve to go back in his cellar.
First 250 words:
There are no ghosts in our house. Haven’t been since before I was born. Ma gets embarrassed if we mention it out in public but, I mean, it ain’t like everyone in town doesn’t know. We might be the only house in the world that doesn’t have at least one resident specter. Pa says we used to be wealthy before word got out that our last houseghost split into the aether. Then the looters came. Now the only thing we have left is this rickety old ghost-free house.
We don’t know why our houseghosts abandoned us. Oh sure, houseghosts cross over all the time. Unfinished business gets finished and all that. Sometimes they get a little fuzzy in the head too, but the worst is when their death state starts to show. That can get pretty ugly. But unless you live in my house, another houseghost is always there to replace the last.
That’s why I was completely caught off-guard when I came nose-to-aether-wisps with the ghost of Elijah Banks in our outhouse. To be fair, he didn’t look any happier about it than I was, though I suppose I gave him more reason than usual to be upset about it. It was about an hour before dawn. My hair was sticking up every which way (in other words, same as always) and I was trying to scrub the sleep outta my eyes. I staggered once and pulled open that door and began to relieve myself – right on old Elijah’s lap.