‘Keep ‘em there,’ the bossman says; cause nobody would think twice about hearin’ a scream comin’ outta the ghost house.
Delivers them, I does. Yep! At night, when it’s all quiet, like. The bossman gives ‘em to me in a jar.
Asks where they comes from, I doesn’t. Mustn’t know!
No questions, the bossman says. Cause folk who be askin’ questions is the same as folk who be endin’ up in the ghost house. Not me! No questions!
Came after closin’ time once, the bossman. With one of his jars, he did. Shinin’ it was! Glowin’ like a prize!
‘What’s in it?’ I says. Couldn’t stop lookin’ at it. Enchantin’, it was. Dazzlin’. Long, I gazed into it. Saw things. Wonders too special to speak of.
‘A soul,’ the bossman says.
Didn’t understand him. A soul? A livin’ soul taken from some poor sod?
That’s exactly what it was. That’s what the bossman told me it was.
That’s what he does. He collects souls. Takes ‘em from passers-by and stores ‘em in his jars. Does it for someone he calls the observer.
My bossman has his own bossman!
I doesn’t ask no more. Mustn't.
‘Why should I be helpin’ you?’ I asks him.
‘Here,’ the bossman says. Unscrews the jar. Lifts the lid. Just a bit.
‘Sniff it,’ he says.
I does. The jar screams. The bossman screws the lid back on.
I falls down on the grass.
‘It be like takin’ a drug, don’t it?’ the bossman says. I almost can’t hear him. Lost, I am, in a haze of bliss.
When I comes to I asks him why the jar screamed.
‘The souls don’t like it,’ he says.
‘The souls are still livin’?’ I asks.
‘For now,’ the bossman says.
Then I starts makin’ me way towards him. Demandin’ another sniff of the jar. Just one! Just a little one! BE GENEROUS!!
The bossman keeps me at bay. Doesn’t let me close.
‘Perhaps we can come to an arrangement,’ the bossman says. ‘You work at this funfair?’
‘I does,’ I tells him. ‘Cleans things. The booths. The games. The rides.’
‘You have access to the rides?’ he asks.
I tells him I does. He stands for a bit, thinkin’. Asks about the ghost house. Asks if there’s usually screamin’.
‘Screamin’?’ I says. ‘Wailin’! Howilin’! Scariest ghost house in the land, they says!’
This makes the bossman happy. Screws the lid on tight. Hands it to me.
‘Keep ‘em there,’ he says. ‘I’ll bring more. But you must give me back the ones I ask for. And you can have a little sniff once each day. As a reward, like. But only one, mind.’
Overjoyed, I was! Euphoric!
Now it’s how I spend me days. Cleanin’. Sneakin’. Sniffin’. Deliverin’.
Stealin’ an extra sniff.
Sometimes I’m spotted in the ghost house by some of the customers. They just think I’m part of it. The ghost house.
They’re right, too. I’m part of the ghost house. And it’s part of me.
This story was submitted to Globe Soup's "First Sentence Flash Fiction" contest, where it received an honourable mention. Stories had to be no longer than 500 words. and were judged on the strength of the entire story in the first round, and then more specifically on the first sentence, and how it relates to the rest of the story. Read more about Globe Soup here.