Ghost_of_a_Chance / Pg.

(word count: 2,389)

GHOST OF A CHANCE

Logan Yates thought of himself as the archetypical security guard working on the night shift. Working alone, his site was a commercial/corporate travel agency in a modestly conservative part of town.

Four years out of university, he graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Arts degree, and hoped to use his artistic skills to draw as a career. He pushed himself day and night, through each grueling course, and worked two jobs to pay tuition. He wanted to utilize his talent and not end up like his mother living on Welfare.

However, due to the global recession, a low paying job was all he could muster despite a higher education.

It depressed him, among other things. To think, he spent tens of thousands of dollars for school, and all it got him was here. He felt helpless, as if his future had been ripped away by an unforeseen force that left him utterly defenseless.

"Don't end up like me," he recalled his mother saying to him in his Junior year of high school. "Use your talents to get somewhere in life, be successful; don't waste your life!"

And he agreed, striving, and became Valedictorian in his Senior year, and then went on to attend a prominent university.

But what a waste; all that effort and for what? he scoffed sourly.

After finishing his rounds, he returned to the main lobby on the ground floor. It wasn't a large building - ten floors with an open area view through emerald, transparent glass on each (just by stepping out of the elevator, he could see everything with a single glance) - and a walk-in booking/showroom on the ground floor. The corporate offices were on the top floor.?

?ach round only took him ten minutes every hour at the most.

He paused momentarily, reflecting, hoping one day things would get better, and then returned to the security office that was located at the end of a long alcove hidden behind the elevators. He referred to it, ironically, as a "prison cell", because the dimensions were that of standard six by six prison cell, constructed of concrete blocks, painted white, and with no windows. Inside was one desk, two chairs and the camera surveillance system.

After climbing the three steps leading up to the office, he paused again, noticing the door was propped open. He knew he'd locked it before he began his rounds, so he crept slowly, peaked around the door frame, and surprisingly found another guard inside.

"Hey, what're you doing here?" he brusquely asked the mysterious, young man from the same security company dressed in uniform, sitting at the desk.

He looked Logan's age, about twenty-seven, and had thick blond hair with a thin build. It was a far cry from Logan's fine brown hair and stocky build, a result of poor eating, irregular hours, and a lack of exercise due to his job.

The other guard eyed Logan briefly and then turned back to write something in his small, white, standard security notebook.

Logan snorted ruefully. "No one told me I was training someone tonight," he said. When the guard didn't answer him, he raised his voice. "Hey man, I'm talking to you!"

"I know," the other replied causally, paying no mind to Logan's elevated, irate tone.

"Then why didn't you answer?" he demanded.

The guard put down his notebook on the desk and looked at Logan with a causal stare, not replying.

Logan snorted and calmed himself, then leaned over and looked at the other's name on the front of his notebook. "Shaun Michaels, eh? Like the wrestler?"

"Yeah, but spelled differently," the other replied.

"Logan." He extended a hand to Michaels. The other looked at it, but made no attempt to shake it. Taken aback by the Michaels rudeness, Logan snapped his hand back. "So why did the company send another guard?"

"Because they need someone to fill the slot. Maintenance let me in."

Logan frowned. "But I work here and this is a single guard shift."

"Yes, and I'm that guard now," Michaels said matter-of-factly.

Confused, Logan said angrily, "I'll get to the bottom of this. If I've been terminated, I want to know!"

He took out the site cell from a belt pouch and speed dialed head office, but all he got was dead air; there wasn't even a signal.

"You won't get through," Michaels confirmed.

Logan growled under his breath frustrated after trying twice more without success. Michaels was right. The phone was dead despite showing a full charge. Was he suddenly in a "dead zone", an area with no signal strength?

"What's with the phone?" he said. "It worked before."

Michaels expression mirrored that of empathy when Logan looked at him. "How long have you been here?" Michaels asked gently.

"I was assigned here a few months ago," Logan answered.

"That's not what I mean. I meant, how long have you been here?"

"I just told you!"

Michaels expression was serendipitous. "I see, so you don't know. Yes, of course, how could you know."

"Know what?"

Michaels nodded. "I understand. You're continuing as if nothing's happened."

There was a slight pause whereas Michaels looked thoughtful. Logan had seen this expression before, just before someone delivered bad news. And he feared the worse, that he had indeed been terminated, and this was the security company's "gentle" way of telling him.

Logan met Michaels' sensitive stare, and the other sighed, then said, "You're dead, Logan."

Logan laughed. "Is this some lame April Fool's joke?"

Michaels didn't laugh. "I'm serious. The police came and there was an investigation."

"Stop it. That's not funny."

"Your body was found in one of the underground parking mechanical rooms," Michaels continued.

Logan snorted angry. "Who put up to this?"

Michaels shook his head. "You're totally unaware of it, aren't you?"

"Of what?"

"That you're dead."

"I said stop it! I'm calling head office and reporting you!" Logan went to dial the number, but suddenly remembered that his cell didn't work. "Give me your phone!" he demanded.

Michaels retrieved it from a belt pouch and put it on the desk, and Logan was surprised that it looked exactly like his site cell. It was a small, black, flip phone with a tiny antenna.

"It won't do you any good," Michaels said.

"Stop it, please! This isn't funny anymore."

"Tragic deaths are never a laughing matter," Michaels replied sympathetically.

"I'm not dead! Stop saying that!" Logan reached for the phone, but shockingly his hand passed through it and the desk like some ghostly phantom. He looked at the transparency of his hand. "What the hell?"

"The dead cannot touch what exists in the living," Michaels explained. "Your ethereal form isn't anchored corporally to this world anymore."

Logan continued to stare at his hand in disbelief.

He stammered, "B-but I just finished opening doors with my keys, and used the elevator. The site cell was working when I arrived on shift."

Michaels nodded. "Your ethereal energy is subconsciously projecting your actions because you've trained yourself to accomplish certain tasks at certain times? But now, after this, your mind's eye is finally awakening to its new reality."

"No! It's not true! What happened?"

"From what I heard, you committed suicide."

Anxiety and fear flushed Logan's face. "No - I would never - I'm not capable - things weren't that bad?"

He looked at Michaels sternly. "Wait a minute, if I'm dead - how come you can see me? People can't see ghosts!" he said with incredulity.

"I had a small brain tumor removed a couple of years ago that left me sensitive to certain paranormal energies. I've learned to live with it, secretly."

Logan blinked shocked. He didn't know whether to believe this guy. But from the evidence, how could he deny this? "How long?" he finally asked.

"Three weeks."

Still in denial, Logan asked, "B-but I just came to work an hour ago after a couple of days off. I clearly remember taking the bus here like I always do, and meeting the maintenance worker to let me in?"

"There's been no security here for three weeks since your death," Michaels corrected him.

Logan shook his head. "No, I clearly remember things - "

"It's called loop memory. Time is irrelevant to a trapped spirit especially after an unaccepted death."

"I saw no evidence of suicide in the mechanical rooms when I checked them a few minutes ago. They all looked clean."

Michaels paused, allowing Logan a moment of reflection. "You see what you want to see. To you, the event hasn't happened. In your case, you re-enact events up to a certain point and then loop back, unaware of what transpired later. Your mind is unable to process the event. You're in denial, and you continue to haunt this building, repeating the same day and events over and over again without end."

Logan staggered slightly feeling faint. He wanted to grab a hold of something but knew he couldn't.

No wonder I kept seeing the same people every night doing the same things like some sort of broken record, he recalled. And me, doing the same things, going to the same places, and not just doing my rounds. I thought the feeling was only just déjà vu?

"How. . ." His voiced choked up. "How did I do it?"

"With a kitchenette knife to your heart," Michaels revealed with regret.

Logan felt his chest, as if he could actually feel…

"According to police reports and media bites," Michael went on, "investigators also found a journal with entries of how depressed you'd become, and how over-stressed and financially taxed you were."

"I know I have problems like the next guy, but it hardly justifies suicide," Logan said skeptically.

Michaels' brow furrowed. "Who are you trying to convince?"

Logan's shoulders slumped, and his eyes suddenly sunk dark with grief. He wanted to cry. "I can't believe it." He put his hands to his face, trying to hold back tears.

"Depression can be overwhelming if left untreated, even in short term. It can be caused by many factors, including stress. But mainly, it's caused by a severe chemical imbalance of serotonin in the brain that can lead to suicidal thoughts - even if there is no family history of mental illness."

Logan removed his hands and sighed deeply, with dark sunken eyes. He still couldn't believe it, and yet, this evidence - his now ghostly form - was absolute.

I'm dead, I'm really dead… he reluctantly but finally admitted. "How do you know so much about this stuff? And ghosts?"

"Paranormal research is a hobby of mine," Michaels said, answering the second question first. He pulled out a book from a backpack he brought, showing Logan.

The cover read: PARANORMAL PHENOEMENON, GHOSTS, AND THE SPIRIT REALM.

Michaels produced a lopsided grin. "I have quite an extensive library of these and other books," he said. "I've been collecting them ever since I acquired my second sight -"

Michaels suddenly shivered.

"Are you alright?" Logan asked.

"Yeah, it's just getting a little - "

"Cold?" Logan finished, seeing Michaels exhale a chilled breath. "Like in the presence of a ghost?"

"Yeah," Michaels confirmed. "A sudden temperature drop in an otherwise tempered room indicates paranormal activity, but normally only in the presence of an unhappy or trapped spirit. Theory states, once the spirit fully acknowledges its own death, and why it died, hopefully then it can pass on peacefully to the spirit realm."

Michaels extended his arms out to Logan showing the underside, and across each wrist was a vertical slit intersecting the veins with noticed stitch marks. "I know the reality of depression, Logan. Unlike you, I survived my attempt. And with help from family and friends, I no longer try."

Lowering his arms, Michaels gave Logan an indulgent smile. "Sometimes life can be unbearable with issues in the world today. We live in a stressful society."

Michaels pushed aside all distractions from the desk, leaned in, laced his fingers together with his elbows on the chair arms, and said, "I'm not a psychiatrist, Logan, but sometimes all a person needs is someone who will listen. It's never too late. Even now. Not to sound pedantic, but everyone deserves a ghost of a chance."

Logan nodded slowly. "I thought my problems were my own and I didn't want to burden anyone with them," he started to explain.

"I felt the same way, until I attempted to take my life, and failed. Then I found there were alternatives to feeling depressed, and got help."

Logan signed deeply. "I felt like a disappointment to my family," he reflected somberly. "I took this job to pay the bills, never once thinking of it to be a career of sorts, hoping one day I'd get my chance to use all the education I paid for. But when the recession hit, and the economy collapsed - no one was hiring anyone, especially some kid fresh out of university with no practical experience. This job was all I had to cling to."

He signed again. "In four years after university, I never once asked anyone for help, even when the bills began mounting. I told myself that I could do everything on my own. But after a while, I realized the futility of it all. The economy wasn't getting any better and I couldn't see a way out of my predicament. So I - "

"Sometimes asking for help is the hardest thing to do," Michaels admitted, as to reflect on his own experiences with depression. "There's a lot of negative stigma attached to mental health issues. No one wants to admit depression, or talk about it - afraid of being ridiculed, scorned or shunned. But millions of people suffer from depression. You're not alone."

Logan agreed. "So what now? I'm dead, it's over," he said austerely.

Michaels shook his head. "No, it's never over. Not even now."

He took a deep breath, loosened his tie and unbuttoned the top of his shirt, as if to get comfortable.

Michaels then said, "Forget everything around us, Logan. It's just you and me now; nothing else matters. I'm here to listen, all night and every night, for as long as it takes." And he smiled broadly. "Let's talk."