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I kinda feel bad reviewing Nightmare Magazine stories once a year. It’s from the people who run Lightspeed, but I’ve never been that into the horror genre. Regardless, I do want to celebrate the season of the spook, so let’s get our scary on.
Welcome to a special Fiction Friday. We dress up in costume and dance with the ghosts, and maybe ride a haunted car or two like in this story. Last year, I did a whole month of scary stories, but most of them were either too dark or too creepy. Luckily, I have a rather tame tale of ghosts and jeeps ready for you guys.
Today’s short story is Ghost Jeep by Micah Dean Hicks, as featured in Nightmare Magazine, originally in Sycamore Review. You can find it here. This is a classic ghost tale for a modern era, so let’s get spooky.
The Ghost Jeep
This story follows a group who once died in a tragic car accident. They and their jeep are now ghosts that wander the night, riding in their world, where time stands still, while the rest of the world moves on. Until a chance encounter with a woman sets them on a path that would make them wish they were still alive.
The most notable thing is the concept that the ghosts live in whichever era they died in for all eternity. It’s an interesting take on the whole ghost story since even if the ghosts lived hundreds, even thousands of years ago, they’d still be part of our contemporary period. Here, the living and the dead live two separate lifestyles.
Another is that these ghosts are seen by everyone, from the looks of things. Usually, ghosts are unable to be seen by the living. Here, they chose to be visible, which would be fun if real life worked like that. Even if I ended up kicking the bucket someday, I’d likely stay to see how this world evolves, even if I can’t interact with it.
But anyway, the story is spooky enough, these guys find a girl who wants to see and do all the things they did in their life, such as take them to a movie theater, which, while abandoned in her world, is functioning in their past. This does get spooky towards the end, as all ghostly tales do. Though the ending is a bit ambiguous, but I’ll let you read that to find out.
It was kind of hard to understand what was happening at first, especially with how everyone can see them, but I understood later on. The relationship with the living character was an interesting development since she wanted to die so that she can join their fun.
Usually, it’s the other way around. Seeing something like this, which again, it’s horror, is creepy enough that it works. How many characters want to actually die even if it means eternal suffering? These ghosts aren’t happy. They want to see the world for what it’s become, not how it was then.
I mean, these ghosts aren’t particularly happy. They relive their past, both literally and figuratively, are stuck in a permanent time loop while the rest of the world marches on, and sunlight makes them disappear forever. Is that a life the normal living person would want?
I loved this aspect of the story and it really takes it to a new level, that she’d be willing to die for love, even if it sends her into a strange purgatory. It did come off as creepy since I doubt death is on everyone’s want list.
I could have had a little more detail on who the ghosts were rather than their relationship with the daughter of a powerful man that ended up in the same accident they were in and living because of it. Like, what did they do prior to their deaths? How did they know each other? They all talked at the same time, but we don’t know much about them otherwise.
This could have been a short story, but maybe double the length. I do feel like knowing more about the character in so few words makes me invested in them more. Even so, I did enjoy how it all transpired.
So we approach Halloween with a ghost story, and one I’d recommend checking out. To be fair, I thought it’d be about an evil Jeep, kinda like that Stephen King story, but I’m glad it was something better. A tale about life, death, and a little love.
Happy Halloween, and remember, the inn is always open. Forever.