An author of Speculative Fiction, speculates about fiction.

Tarquin

It all started as a prank. The kind of prank that was lame in its conception but led to a fantastic result. Sometimes, to break the tension of a job such as mine (and many other people in the same profession), little jokes are made, pranks are pulled, gentle jabs that keep an undervalued and dehumanised work force going. This was one of those pranks. Harmless and, apparently, never ending.

It was a night shift. We were fried, edgy and giddy (as any night shift worker can probably empathise with). And there was I, with a penchant for tomfollery at the best of times, feeling a little creative. A few minutes with a bed sheet, a coat hanger and a pair of scissors, I had made a laughable ghost and hung it from the lightfitting of a darkened bathroom.

Phase one: complete.

Phase two, of course, relied on someone walking in on our floating friend. Since there were three of us, I explained my plan to one friend and we agreed to stitch up the other. Let’s call him Sam. Sending Sam down to the bathroom for some urgent equipment, we waited close by for the smug laugh and something along the lines of “You guys are ridiculous. Nice try.” But, no. I had underestimated exactly how tired Sam was, exactly how dark the room, and how fiendishly evil I am.

Sam screamed. Like Penelope Pitstop.

Thus, Tarquin the Ghost was created. That was over a year ago now, and he’s made quite a few appearances since. Whenever things go wrong or something is lost, Tarquin did it. When the night call system turns itself on (and it often does), it was Tarquin. In a workplace that has its fair share of ghost stories to start off with, the mythology of Tarquin grew.

Most of this getting-out-of-hand had very little to do with me, by the way. Something just clicked between him and the collective consciousness of my colleagues. Lord knows why. But it’s brilliant. What was my fault, however, was when Tarquin was finally photographed. Let’s just say that, in our own little way, Tarquin went viral. I had text messages and Facebook comments from colleagues and friends asking if he was real. Some analysed the shot, some started looking into the history of the ward to find out who he could have been. Among the text messages was a plea from the current staff on nights, ‘needing’ to know if the photo was real because they were petrified (insert maniacal laugh here). Unfortunately I didn’t get the message until the next morning. I walked onto the ward to find four night staff, grey and hollow-eyed. Apparently they’d been going everywhere in pairs the whole night in case Tarquin got them. Laughter ensued.  A shot of a darkened hospital ward and five minutes of Photoshop turned out to be the best gag I ever pulled.

“Ready for my close-up Mr. Hallam!”

As you can see, it’s not even a very good job!

The reason for me posting this now is because Tarquin has made his second physical appearance. Oh yes, he has finally reached corporeal form and did it just in time for a spot of moonlight gardening. On stepping out into the garden tonight, my colleague (consequently the same person that helped me scare Sam witless) met this in the dark:

Yes, that’s Tarquin. Or, for the sceptics, a pair of grow-bags covered in towels. However, these were taken before it got truly dark so the full effect can not be gleaned. Suffice to say the poor woman ran back in a panic and cursed my ancestors shortly afterward 🙂

Well, folks, there it is. This is what I get up to when I’m not properly occupied/supervised by a responsible adult. A truly dangerous time for anyone around me. You never now, the next psot might actually be about writing! Surely I should get some good ghost story ideas from all this!

Thanks for reading.

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