Wednesday writing exercise: Choose a character from your story to encounter a ghost. Where and when does this happen? Whose ghost pops up? How does your character react?
Laurie's sitting at her desk, doing the homework Alex brought her home. "What's the point?" she asks the air, dropping her pencil on the inexpensive fake cherry her mother hates so much. The words swim before her eyes, tears promising to overflow in another round of self-pity. "I can't even make it to class." The panic attacks struck hard and fast, stalling her in her tracks a few hundred yards from the door.
A chill wind blows through. The guys always try to turn the apartment into a living fridge. Shivering, she turns to grab a blanket from the bed. But there's something on the blanket... The air shimmers and condenses.
"Giving up?" A voice she never thought to hear again. She barely heard it in the few hours she'd known him. Laurie jumps out of her chair and braces herself to run.
"You can't be real," she orders the apparition.
"You're not real," she rationalizes with herself, and forces her body back into her chair. "Just another sign that I'm falling apart." A groan. "That's it; I'm cracked." She shoves the notebook off the desk. "I give up."
Sergeant Duke scowls at her. "I didn't die so you could goof off."
She doesn't answer. It's not real.
Sgt. Duke doesn't care that he's not real. "Some civ shows up under my guard, and I die to keep her alive, and what does she do? Throw a hissy fit because she's a little scared. Give up on life. Great. What a worthless death I had."
Laurie drops her head between her knees, linking her hands over the back of her head to keep it down.
"Can't wait to tell Lieuson about this. She's still got the world, and she's wasting it. Stupid chit. This is why civs don't belong in a war zone. First taste of combat, and they fall apart. You wouldn't make it through basic training, would you?" His foggy eyes drift around the room, taking in the cheap furniture and elegant, expensive decor. "A rich stitch, at that. You could have anything, girl."
Her hands migrate to clamp over her ears. She starts to hum.
The ghostly figure circulates the desk to stare down at the notebook on the floor. "You signed up for classes, didn't you? You were trying. Trying to make your life worth something." The foot he kicks at the downed binder passes right through. "But you're giving up. Not willing to bear with a few months, a year, of getting over it; no, you're just throwing in the towel. All week you've been moaning. You know, I've gotta listen to you?"
She gasps at the final revelation. Turns out, a ghost's words can't be blocked with humming. He smiles. He knows this.
"Stop your whining, woman. Get yourself together. I don't have a year, and neither do my men. Everyone's scared the first time they almost die. So deal with it. Learn to deal with it. Live the life I don't have anymore. Dying for you? That was my job. But here's the price: Now, you've gotta live for me."
The room is silent. Laurie looks up. She's alone.
Her hands tremble as she picks up the notebook, puts it back on the desk. She goes and gets herself a coffee. Watches a movie, buried beneath Alex's arm and a pile of quilts. Eats the dinner Jake puts in front of her.
But before bed, she finishes the assignment, and hands it to Alex to turn in. 'Just in case' she doesn't make it to class tomorrow.
Because she's going to try.