Sunday, 12 May 2013

Paul Hong

What do you think your neighbourhood will look like in 10 years? How about 50 years? 100 years? Tell us what you think about Paul Hong's short story and what you imagine your neighbourhood will be like in the future.  


"Hello, please provide your name and unit number."
     "Erin and I'm in unit 7905."
"Hi Erin. How may I help you?"
"I think this building is haunted."
"Erin, if we understand you correctly, you're telling us that the Shepard-York Tower 19 is haunted?"
"Can you elaborate on your assertion. For example, why do you think the Shepard-York Tower 19 is haunted?"
"The basement is haunted. The bike room to be specific. I saw a ghost there."
"We are concerned with your well-being and we'd like to hear more but perhaps you could send us an e-mail. The following --"
"No, I don't want to send an e-mail or leave a message. I want you guys to address this now. I can't live in a building that's haunted."
"Erin, the Shepard-York Towers has one of the highest safety and satisfaction ratings amongst  high density housing solutions in the new GTA and --"
"Except it's haunted."
"Okay, Erin, tell us why you believe the basement of Shepard-York Tower 19 is, in your words, haunted?"
"I just started a new job and the subway commute is horrible."
"The new LRT system endorsed by mayoral candidate Mefistofele Ming will ease congestion by at least thirty-three percent. If you'd like to find out more --"
"No, I want to tell you about the ghost. I don't want to hear about Mung."
"Mefistofele Ming is the official mayoral candidate endorsed by the Shepard-York consortium."
"I don't care."
"So today I thought I'd try biking to York. They have those lanes and I figured might as well."  
"So I went down to the bike room and get my bike and see that it's flat."
"Did you notify maintenance services? For an extra ten dollars a month --"
"Yes, I called them and they told me another one would be unlocked for me."
"That's the appropriate course of action."
"So I get another one and I'm getting it out when I notice there's someone else in the room with me. Of course, there was no one in there when I came in. I mean, I would've noticed some guy in white just standing there when I came in."
"Was he standing by the door?"
"No, the other side. Standing against the far wall. I thought, could it be possible I somehow didn't see this guy. So I basically ignore him and then look at him again and realize he's dressed entirely in white. White shirt, white trousers, white socks and shoes. He's even got a big white sun hat. It's all really old fashioned looking, too. You know the way the pants come up to here and are really baggy and all the buttons. At this point, I'm a little freaked out and thinking I should finish up and leave. But this guy is still standing there staring straight ahead like I wasn't even there."
"How old was this man?"
"He was an old guy in his sixties probably. Even though --"
"He wasn't doing anything? Was he a resident of the Shepard-York towers?"
"No, he wasn't doing anything and he clearly didn't belong."
"But how do you know he was a ghost?"
"Well, let me finish the story and I'll tell you."
"So, I'm freaked out and I'm getting out. I put my bike back and I didn't even lock it up again. I start heading out when he suddenly moves. He sorta bends down like he's going to pick up something from the ground but all the while looking straight ahead to see something. At that point, I said enough of that and got out of there and ran to the elevator and went up to my place."
"When did this happen?"
"Earlier this morning."
"Did you tell maintenance?"
"Tell them what? I saw a ghost? No, I didn't say anything but I'm still kind of freaked out about it. I'm not going back down there now."
"We will access security cameras now. Please wait. It seems you are right. There was another person in the room with you and it does seem like he appeared out of nowhere."
"See? A ghost."
"We will look into this."
"Please keep this to yourself until we have ascertained the nature --"
"I already told my sister."
"Your sister who lives in Shepard-York Tower 26?"
"We will send her a notice as well."
"A notice for what?"
"To keep this quiet. It would be best to say nothing about it until after the investigation."
"What are you guys going to do?"
"Investigate the --"
"Are you going to find out who the ghost is?"
"We will let you know once we concluded our investigation."
"I heard that this used to be a cemetery. That's why they built all these towers here because this used to be a cemetery."
"Who told you this?"
"Thank you, Erin. We will get back to you."
The line went dead. After a moment, Erin called her sister.
"I told them about what you said."
"What?" Ellen asked.
"The thing about how all this used to be a cemetery."
Ellen sighed. "I told you to keep quiet about that. I'm not supposed to know that. Damn it, Erin, why'd you open your mouth about that to them of all people?"
"I didn't tell them you told me."
"I wouldn't be surprised if you start having mysterious water problems or your heating goes kaput in the middle of winter --"
"Just because of some rumour?"
"It's not a rumour. We live on what used to be a cemetery. They cleared it about sixty years ago and kept it quiet. People were paid off, the rest were just pissed off but they couldn't do anything."
"But they moved all the bodies, right?"
"I don't know. Seems kind of awful, if they didn't. Anyway, the point is it's all hushed up stuff and you go blabbing it to management of all people."
"What do you think they're going to do to me? You're being paranoid. All I saw was a freaking ghost of some guy in white and now you think management is --"
"You shouldn't underestimate what management is capable of."
"It was just a ghost," Erin mumbled.
"I wonder who it was."
"Some old timer who was buried here, I guess. He looked the part, that's for sure."
"What was he doing?" Ellen asked.
"I don't know but there was something weird that I didn't really mention to --"
Erin paused and then continued, "He was kind of bending forward before he disappeared but I think he was bending over because he had just thrown something underhanded."
"What do you mean?"
"I think he was bowling."
"Yeah, it didn't occur to me then but it looked like he was bowling."


Paul Hong is a Toronto-based author and librarian. His short stories have appeared in a number of Canadian literary and art journals. He is the author of Your love is murder or the case of the mangled pie (Tightrope Books).

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