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Tales & Wails: Ghosts of the Future

Episode 2: Dare to glimpse into a post-apocalyptic world where ghosts rise from the ashes

Ghosts of the Future

Elana A. Mudgan

When the world burned, Ghosts rose from its ashes.

These weren't ghosts as you know them from old bedtime stories. They were flesh-and-blood people, like you and me. They'd survived the cataclysmic collapse of society, and now they had to subsist in a post-apocalyptic world.

Zanthe was a Ghost who escaped the skeletal remains of a once-great coastal city. The rising tide swallowed her hometown when Zanthe was a child. Her family secured her spot on an emergency airlift evacuation unit, but they didn't have the money to buy their own way to safety. Privatized rescue lifts weren't free, after all—there was no profit in good deeds. It took her family's life savings to obtain one golden ticket for their youngest child.

Alone on the mainland, Zanthe drifted through life. The streets hardened her. She learned to pick pockets and run grifts. Perhaps you think this is the mark of evil—but Zanthe, and those like her, were not villains. They were victims. Like a star at the end of its life, society was collapsing under its own weight. The rich were killing the Earth, and the poor were vilified while fighting for survival.

Though many of Zanthe's urchin friends were plucked from the streets by militarized authorities, she flew under the radar. She used disguises, worked in shadows. The darkness became her only friend, her loyal companion, her faithful servant. She learned to change identities like a chameleon changes colors.

Zanthe bit off more than she could chew while breaking into the estate of a cryptocurrency tycoon. She tried to dismantle the servers that burned energy and scorched the planet, but the cybersecurity system identified her presence and sealed her in a cage. Trapped and terrified, Zanthe waited for the tycoon to confront her.

Two days she waited, without food or water or heat. When the tycoon deigned to appear, Zanthe discovered that her terror had mutated into something new: rage. She hated the people who had destroyed her planet, killed her family, disappeared her friends. The tycoon never saw it coming—who would fear a small, emaciated, trapped teenager? But Zanthe's fury gave her strength. She struck with her bare hands, crushing the man's windpipe when he drew near. She stole the key to her cage: his eyeball. She dug it out of his skull with her fingers and held it to the scanner lock. Her cage opened. Zanthe emerged, transformed.

She'd gained a taste for blood.

Zanthe returned to the streets with a vengeance. She assassinated billionaires and politicians. White collar criminals, the sort of people society would never aptly punish. Despite the surveillance tech and the armed police patrols, she was never caught.

Her deeds gained infamy, though the media tried to cover them up. Upper-class citizens grew fearful as their comrades went missing. They told ghost stories when they gathered in their gilded bunkers, sipping synthetic wine and nibbling lab-grown caviar. They sought to scare each other by swapping tall tales about a young woman who killed people like them for fun. They never fully believed their own stories. After all, they were the ruling class. A worthless nobody could never hurt them, and they knew it.

Zanthe did not exist to them—she was a Ghost. That was her greatest strength as she carved a bloody swath across the ruined world, killing the people who had burned it to the ground.

About the story

I'm a dragon-obsessed writer who loves our planet and all its creatures. I chose to write this to present a twist on the classic ghost story. I think it's timely, since our world is at a crossroads and our society is standing on a precipice. We could save ourselves and the world with us, or we could be too late. Though I hope the latter scenario doesn't happen, it certainly presents a fun playground for dystopian ghost stories!

Follow Elana

Twitter: @dragonspleen

Insta: @officialdragonspeaker

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