How To Plan A Rodeo With Only Bulls & Clowns

“What I am proposing here is nothing short of a complete and total terrorfest.” Shara finishes her proposal to the three other ghosts gathered with her in the attic of the sorority house.

“I love it. I’m in,” Blake signs on.

Shara weighs the situation. If Blake says yes, then Kiera will say no, because that is how it always goes. The love that drove their desperate suicide pact in life had dissolved in death, and the two had been engaged in a cold war ever since they had crossed over into whatever this existence was. That means the deciding vote will come from Catherine, so Shara makes a final plea to her specifically.

“You know what I’m talking about, Catherine. You have been here the longest. You were haunting these halls before any of us. Don’t you miss the good old days when we were actually scary? I know you need this as much as I do, if not more,” Shara pleas, knowing how susceptible the elder lost soul is to that kind of sentimental manipulation.

“Don’t get me wrong. I like the idea. And as far as plans go, I don’t think I could have made a better one myself. I just don’t think it will work. They’re too far gone.” Catherine responds, shrugging her shoulders in a weak conciliatory gesture.

“Yeah, no way it will work,” Kiera chimes in as expected. “Why even bother?”

“Failing is better than not trying at all,” Blake throws in some support. “We literally have nothing at all to lose.”

“I don’t know about that,” Catherine quips. “There is faith, hope, confidence – and probably other things we could lose. I am fatigued by failure. If I am going to give it my best, I need to really believe in what we are doing. I’m just not quite there yet on this plan, but that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to consider it with some revisions.”

“What kind of revisions?” Shara asks defensively.

Shara is the most recently arrived ghost still remaining of the seven to commit suicide in this building since its construction, and the twentieth anniversary of that event has her feeling anxious to accomplish something. And since about the only thing a ghost can accomplish is messing with the living, that is what she feels she must do. Otherwise she is considering visiting the furnace room. No soul has ever come back from the furnace room. Even thinking about the forbidden chamber makes her shudder, but whatever is in there cannot possibly be worse than being a ghost in the 21st century.

The young women who now live in this sorority house are always staring at a screen. Not only does this make it nearly impossible to get their attention, since they are rarely looking around them to see what is happening, there is also something about the screens themselves. They are not the warm light of old televisions, which looked the same to ghosts as humans. The new screens, especially the ones on phones, flicker maddeningly. It is unbearable to the ghosts, and seems to blind the humans from seeing them.

“Well,” Catherine explains, “just because we get their attention doesn’t mean we are going to scare them. You know how it is. They just try to take pictures or videos, and then go online to share them and talk about it. Your only plan here is to ‘be really scary’ – but what exactly does that mean?”

“I can vomit blood on command,” Blake offers.

“Okay, maybe I don’t have much new to offer there, but that seems like the easy part. It took me months to figure out how we could shut the power down. The hard part is done. I am sure that we can think of something scarier than Blake puking, if we put our heads together.”

“He could tell one of his high school football stories,” Kiera remarks snidely. “Those make me want to dive head first into the furnace room.”

“Or Kiera could go into one of her hysterical fits about how nobody ever understood her,” Blake fires back. “Nothing could withstand the horrors of her make-believe hardships.”

“Not tonight, you two,” Shara warns with ferocity. “You two fill up every day with your petty squabbles and passive aggressive comments. You’re probably about one third of the reason I can barely take it here any longer. So shut up and help me figure this out. You owe me. And you owe it to Catherine.”

The former lovers share a rare moment of mutual shame and regret, and Catherine gives Shara an approving wink.

“I think I have an idea,” Catherine shares. “They aren’t scared of us because they aren’t scared about things beyond themselves. We cannot scare them as ghosts. But maybe we can find some way to scare them using their insecurities about their personas. They may not fear us, but they would be mortified if their reputations appeared to be in jeopardy.”

“Brilliant!” Shara exclaims, while doing a little ghost victory dance, which differs from regular victory dances only in degrees of visibility.

Slowly the four ghosts, now working completely together towards a common goal, manage to form a coherent plan that all of them can agree to take part in. They do not need for the young women they are haunting to actually even see them at all, although they still plan to use Shara’s method of creating a power outage in order to reduce the number of technological stimuli, while providing an air of confusion and mystery to loosen their victim’s defenses.

The next part, however, will take a bit of preparation. They need to study each of the house sisters and figure out what they are insecure about. They need to understand how they do and do not want to appear to others. Enough information to know how to appeal to each subject’s particular image and identity schemes will need to be collected, which could take a few months.

“I can live with that, even if it doesn’t happen until after my twentieth anniversary,” Shara reassures the others. “Just so long as I know something really great is coming, I can hold on.”

A few weeks before the members of the sorority house are scheduled to leave for the winter holiday break, the quartet of mischievous remnants put their plan into play. On a Tuesday night, around nine o’clock, they shut the power to the whole building down. It is not an easy task, and drains them of what precious little energy any of them still possess in this overlapping spirit realm. The remainders of their strength will be spent over the next several hours whispering into the sister’s ears. Things like…

“You post about being an empath, but deep down you know you do it because you are scared you are actually a narcissist, which is true.”

“It doesn’t matter how many Black Lives Matter memes you like or share, you only do those things because they are easy, but you would never sacrifice your privilege or do anything which actually cost you something, you closet racist.”

“Nobody really believes you when you say you’re a bisexual. It is obvious to everyone that you are actually repelled by homosexuality, and only say that hoping nobody catches onto you.”

“You lie about having trans friends. Not because you haven’t tried, but because you are so vapid and shallow, anyone who is actually interesting or abnormal in any way finds you to be completely repulsive.”

…and so on.

And it works.

Over the next week the house goes from dull and peaceful, to chaotic and bellicose, as the young women try too hard to prove themselves and become competitive and combative in the process. The four ghosts watch as the sisters tear each other apart, all trying to outdo the others to appear to be the most woke woman in the sorority. By the time Christmas vacation begins, the fractures are so great that they will continue to provide drama and entertainment for the rest of the school year. Or at least until spring break.

In reflecting on events during the quiet of the next summer, the entire affair is summed up best by Kiera, who in one of her rare moments of insight remarks, “If you can’t beat ’em, disjoin ’em.”

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