“The Ghost Writer” Short Story

*Author’s Note: On my 33rd birthday, I asked my twitter followers to give me prompts for a 3-hour writing marathon and in exchange, I would give them a 500-word short story. The following prompt was given by @Prot0zoa1:

“The stainless steel doors slid open with a sharp hiss. Captain Woods stepped onto the bridge, the medals on his breast reflecting the flickering light from the nearby dying star.

“3 hours to event Captain”

Captain Woods nodded at the Ops officer. Perhaps his retirement would be peaceful after all. Hell of a last mission for a man of his tenure, though.”

In reality, a nurse shuffled Gideon Woods away from the window as he stared into the calming, picturesque setting sun.

“Right this way, Mr. Woods, it’s time for your medication,” Nurse Riley said as she gently pulled his shoulders towards the nurses’ station. His slippered feet shuffled in protest, but she was taller and stronger than him.

“That’s Captain to you, Medic! I will not be talked down to by an inferior officer!” Gideon lamented, shuffling his tattered spiral notebook at her, the scribbles inside indecipherable to most people. An orderly ran up to them, eager to help, his eyes glued to the notebook behind thick black framed glasses.

“Let me help you, Nurse Riley!” This pipsqueak of a recent graduate did his best to wrestle the notebook away from the demented Mr. Woods, much to the elderly man’s chagrin.

“I’ll show you what we did with insubordinates back in my day! Into the airlock with you, Ensign!” Mr. Woods commanded.

“Why is it every time I stop you from making a fool of yourself, you end up threatening to kill me, huh? I thought we were friends, Mr. Woods!” Tom tried to joke with the dementia patient, giving him a jovial punch on the shoulder. Gideon reared back on his unsteady, arthritic limbs as if to swing a haymaker at tiny Tom. The punch was easy to duck. Nurse Riley caught Mr. Woods before he fell and broke another hip.

“Thanks, Tom. Can you put his notebook in the locker for me? I think Mr. Woods needs a shot today.” Nurse Riley was a tall, strong German woman with no problem managing the patient and she could have cared less about his scribble book if the poor old guy didn’t freak out like he’d lost his security blanket if he didn’t have access to it. She almost loved the sweet look of anticipation on his old face when she handed it to him every morning.

“Medic, I told you to put that Ensign in the airlock! We’ll show him who’s Captain around here!” Gideon shook a liver-spotted fist at Tom.

“Aye aye, Captain… Right this way, your crew is waiting…” Nurse Riley soothed.

“Sure thing, I’ll go put it away right now!” Tom scurried off to the nurses’ station, but instead of locking up the notebook in the safety cabinet, he slipped it into his backpack when no one was looking…

Later on… in his attic bedroom at his grandmother’s house, Tom transcribed the cryptic contents of the madman’s notebook into a novel… which was due at the publisher tomorrow. Under the pen name Max Slater, no one knew that the best-selling author of the “Star Trials” series was none other than little old Tom Tully.

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