Fiction
Fiction

Pilot

Greg Mulcahy


 

They gave it to him in a three-ring binder. The binder was white. He felt stupid carrying the white binder around the building. Worse when he had to take it home.

 

What is it? she said.

 

The plans, he said.

 

For what?

 

The strategic and action plans. For work.

 

Maybe 200 pages. Seemingly created onsite.

 

He was trying to read it.

 

I am trying to read it, he said.

 

I see.

 

It’s not easy.

 

Do you have to?

 

I have to. I was told I was being issued instructions I was to be the department’s expert and I need to, at any time, be able to intelligently present the material. I have to explain it to everyone else.

 

It was night.

 

I’m going to bed, she said.

 

                                                  ***

 

Besides the plan, he thought he might be going deaf.

 

She kept telling him he was going deaf.

 

He said he was not.

 

He seemed to hear okay.

 

But he heard other things. Sometimes. Like a buzz or a static. Like this was

in his ear. In his ear and not a real noise at all. Maybe the air moving around in

there. Maybe some structural thing. Some physical thing.

 

Not all the time.

 

What if it started and it did not stop.

 

As though he might hear this sound within his head until he was deaf and heard nothing else.

 

                                                  ***

 

Worked on the plan. Got some tags and tagged parts. Parts he thought applied or might apply or might be made to apply.

 

Do you think the building’s haunted? she said.

 

What?

 

Don’t you ever hear things at night? That woman from the third floor said the building’s haunted.

 

The noise is the ventilation system. That woman’s crazy or high all the time. Look at her eyes. Besides, do you believe in ghosts?

 

I think it would be interesting.

 

That doesn’t mean anything.

 

Of course it does.

 

You said, speculatively, you think it would be interesting. That doesn’t answer a question of belief.

 

Why should it?

 

                                                  ***

 

In traffic in sleet.

 

Nobody seemed to remember how to drive.

 

Slippery. His car slid. He slowed. Pumped the brakes.

 

PILOT in steel letters on the back of the SUV in front of him.

 

Last thing he’d see?

 

Ice, loss of control, over?

 

 

                                                  ***           

 

He thought he understood the plan, and in the meeting when Twining asked about the plan, he was able to answer Twining.

 

But Twining said, That’s not what I’m asking. I’m asking why you came up with this plan.

 

I didn’t come up with it, he said.

 

But you’re responsible for it?

 

I’m the person in this department who is responsible for communicating the plan to this department.

 

But the plan does not address this department, Twining said.

 

Twining glared at him.

 

Well? Twining said.

 

Well, he said, it doesn’t address this department directly. Or emphatically. But—you know—by implication—

 

I wonder, Twining said, sometimes, why we have this department.

 

Twining certainly above him.

 

Twining certainly could fire him.

 

He did not know if Twining could get rid of an entire department.

 

                                                  ***

 

She’d got a book about ghosts from the library. Not real ghosts or ghost hunters. Stories and myths of ghosts from around the world.

 

Maybe he’d read that book a long time ago. Some animal ghost, he thought. He thought in Japan, a fox or a cat as a ghost.

 

Maybe he had seen it in a movie.

 

Certainly he’d read about the ghost hunter when he was a kid in a paperback he’d got at a drugstore.

 

Back then sometimes the ghost hunter would be on late-night TV.

 

Lot of interest in the paranormal.

 

Then.

 

Now, though, the ghosts in cartoons or comedies or horror movies but none of them anything—mere image without depth, or plot device.

 

A ghost—the word ghost like something that used to be.

 

Like someone you knew or an old love.

 

Read Next: "Eyes" by Vito J. Racanelli

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Greg Mulcahy is the author of Out of Work, Constellation and CarbineHe lives in Minnesota.

 

This story was originally published in Issue #9 of The Literarian.