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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2158286
Two ghost hunters examine a glowing tree--Designed to be a cliffhanger.
Written for "Invalid Item with a photo prompt of what almost looks like a negative of trees in winter. The required words to use include "ghost hunters," "sniff," "blackberry jam," and "bully." WC = 995

The two ghost hunters looked at the eerie, glowing white trees in front of them. A chill of sweat broke out across the body of the bulkier man.

"What do you think caused it?" His stomach rumbled, preparing to run. He'd seen things like this before and it was never good. Why did he take this godforsaken job? Is the money really that good? Well, yes, he supposes it is.

"I've got a blackberry jam sandwich in the truck if you're hungry," the slimmer man slighted, knowing full well the rumbling was his response to fear. He awaited the smart aleck response, another response to fear...and they hadn't even gotten started yet.

"Well, bully for you, Jim!"

"Come on, let's get this over with, Seth" Jim says as he tramps forward through the snow.

Their bodies get brighter as they approach the luminescent trees. Seth can see the outline of Jim ahead of him more and more clearly. He always hangs back, ready to run in case there is cause. He often thinks their is, but Jim's taunting of him when he does holds him in place more often than he'd like.

Jim reaches the trees, looking up, his face is awash with their glow. Seth meets with him a moment later, seeing nothing untoward has yet happened to Jim. But he can't shake the feeling that this is going to be another bad night at work...maybe even worse than normal and 'normal' is definitely not good in this job, because the job never encounters anything actually normal.

"Get out the vials."

Seth reaches around to the bag he's been carrying, and fishes out a small handful of vials, handing them to Jim.

Jim takes one, removes the cap, and presses it against the bark to get a sample, but suddenly pulls away dropping the vial.


Jim's sudden movement causes Seth's stomach to rumble again and his legs to loosen, ready to run or collapse, whichever best serves their purpose.

Jim gives a chuckle. "Nothing. He pressed the vial against the tree again and scraped some of the bark into it." After closing the vial, he presses his hand against the bark. "It's vibrating. Feel it. And it's warm, considering it's winter."

"No thanks." Seth looks around warily. In one way, he feels more comfortable being in light, though the light shouldn't be there. But in another way, he knows that only means anything in the darkness can more easily see him than he can it. That is disconcerting. And warmth can mean life and the last thing he wanted was to make a tree angry by copping a feel without asking.

"Get out the red box."

Seth digs around again, pulling up a small red box. He hands it to Jim.

Jim fiddles with some dials, then begins scanning the tree.

"Nothing. Hand me the blue box." He hands the red one back to Seth who replaces the red one with a blue one.

They had taken to calling the boxes by their colors because Seth could never keep straight which one did what. All he knew was that he didn't like it when the boxes made Jim excited.

"Huh. Nothing again. Hand me the yellow one."

They, again, exchange boxes.

Seth offers, "Maybe they are simply a science experiment. You know, gene splicing with a bio luminescent jellyfish or something." He likes to contribute sometimes, though it's rarely helpful.

"That vibrates?"

Seth doesn't have a good response for that. Jim is right. That doesn't make sense.

"White box, please."

Seth hands him the requested box and takes back the yellow one.

"It's as if it's an ordinary tree. Except that clearly it isn't. Wait. Quick! Hand me a vial!"

Seth grabs the white box and replaces it with a vial. He's unnerved by Jim's urgency, but keeps quiet. He again scans the perimeter of the light. Again, he sees nothing, but it doesn't calm his jangled nerves. One day this job is going to give him a heart attack. He briefly recalls the baby that came out of the bathroom wall and the dog with no head, not to mention the...he pushes the thoughts out of his mind. They only make matters worse.

He turns back to see what Jim needed the additional vial for. He sees Jim catching a wet, glowing, silver substance. It's oozing from where the bark was removed. Yet Jim only removed the outer layer, something a normal tree wouldn't weep from--Not to mention, weeping liquid silver.

Jim places the vial near his nostrils and takes a sniff. He gives no clue as to the odor.

"Black box."

He hands Seth the vial without turning around. Seth can tell Jim is getting more absorbed into the mystery of the luminescent trees as his commands get shorter. Jim's mind is thinking, tossing around every possible theory. Seth's is simply wondering if the trees are going to suddenly come to life and eat them.

"Finally. Some readings." Jim smiles in the glow of the trees. "But this doesn't make any sense. How can the white box not have any readings and the black box have such high readings?"

Seth knows Jim is talking to himself. But he also knows that Jim has a point. The black and white boxes always either both have readings or neither does. He doesn't know what it means, but he knows this isn't normal. But maybe for once, not normal is a good thing.

As if Jim heard Seth's thoughts, he says, "I don't think it's a good thing. But what does it mean? Unless the readings from the black box are coming from something else..." Jim turns to hand Seth the box. "Green..."

Seth rummages around, then meets Jim's eyes as he hands him the box. Jim's eyes are wide. '

"Seth," Jim whispers.

Seth's throat immediately closes, his stomach rumbles violently, and his hairs stand at attention. Should he turn and look or simply RUN?

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