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A Ghost in the Machine, a Short Story

Updated on January 8, 2018
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Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, an industrial engineer, a mother of two, and a published sci-fi and horror author.

Landon floated a thumb’s up signal to me out of the test set. I immediately disconnected the sensors and feeds and moved on to the next complicated device. I connected the diagnostic device to the next complicated set of equipment I could hardly fathom as Landon moved smoothly into the next device.

I couldn’t help but wonder how he could be there and not affect it in some way, though if he did, I wish he could create errors I could then fix and get a pay raise. But he’d helped me out so much since the accident, I didn’t dare ask.

The diagnostic device in my hands spat out lines of numbers and error codes. Landon glided up and pointed to one particular line. I click on it, and a list of reference documents appeared. He pointed to one particular solution. I opened it, and it was mostly rewiring hardware. That I could do. It was a lot like the monkey duty and simple hardware installation I’d been doing for years, though that stopped with the accident.

I pulled up a diagram and started checking the wiring and connections on the back of the test set. At least one connection is somewhere it shouldn’t be, one spot or two off from where it should be; all I had to do was find it. That’s what they were paying me for.

The electronics beeping reminded me of when I woke up in that hospital bed. I’d been half-awake watching “Ghost in the Shell” movie because someone told my family I liked sci-fi like that, and I startled awake when I saw Landon literally pass through the screen. I was as surprised to see him as he surprised to see that I could see him. My family was surprised to see me suddenly alert and awake after the coma but weren't about to complain. When I talked about seeing the dead guy, they assumed PTSD from seeing a dead body. Then I realized they couldn't see him now and shut up.

I couldn’t stand being in the hospital or home alone with Landon around because I was the only person he could interact with, so I went to work. They said with the broken leg and cracked spine surgeons glued together, I couldn’t go back up. I bluffed about being able to do diagnostic work. They decided to give me a try in that role, just to avoid paying out workers’ compensation and more disability pay.

If you enjoyed this short story, consider reading Tamara Wilhite's anthology "Humanity's Edge".
If you enjoyed this short story, consider reading Tamara Wilhite's anthology "Humanity's Edge". | Source

Landon was there to point out references, procedures, something plugged in the wrong place. Between his expertise and my literal handiwork, we made it work. And that meant I was back at work. At a higher pay rate, too, than before the accident.

Did he do this because he was afraid of whatever afterlife might be waiting for him? Or did ghosts have to stay until they had unfinished business? All this help might be an apology for messing up the lines and causing us both to plummet to Earth.

My secondary line let me fall ten or so feet before bouncing off the tower, cracking bones and giving me that major concussion. He’d forgotten his secondary line, so he’d fallen to his death. Or was he just one of those people for whom work was his life, and now, his afterlife?

I didn’t dare ask him, because I couldn’t risk losing my livelihood now.


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