The new, younger guys just laugh as I talk about the ghost. They can’t imagine how odd and unnatural a dead body looks as it flies through the sky. They don’t believe that the tree the dead man landed in used to be green and growing; the tree now is wilted and without any leaves. It was as if the dead man had somehow taken the tree’s life to gain a portion of life for himself. The young guys think I am talking in riddles and just trying to scare them, but I saw it happen and I have seen the ghost.
It was a terrible accident which resulted in an untimely death. The man was welding on an old asphalt tank and, in his haste, had not taken the proper precautions. The tank had been flushed with kerosene to help clean it out, and those fumes were trapped in the tank. When the man hit it with the cutting torch… well, I feel like we already went over that.
The new guys think that I am making it up, a tale to help them remember to check the tanks before doing any work on them. It it helps keep them safe, then that is one thing; however, it is much more than that.
I have seen the ghost between our asphalt tanks. I have seen a silhouette through the clouded glass in the lab, and no one standing on the other side when I go to check. I have seen smoke blow through the plant and outline the shape of a man as it passes. I have watched as a dozen coyotes poured out of the woods right under the dead tree where the man’s body was found.
They say that I am just working too many hours, and there may be some truth to that. Perhaps it is some chemical side effect of the cross linker that I dump into the asphalt. Hours on top of a four hundred degree asphalt tank with unknown vapors swirling about you can surely have some strange effects.
Tonight as I sit atop the asphalt tank, I realize that I am the only one remaining at the plant that was there when the man was killed. Only I have the real belief in the ghost.
I dump another bag of cross linker, but there is a problem…
Is that an arm?
I quickly get out of the steam and attempt to regain my composure. Too many hours! I go back to the bag, and sure enough there is a whole bag of body parts, neatly chopped into clean pieces. I look at my hands and see that they are covered in blood. My clothes are crimson with the stains as well.
I look toward the haunted tree and see the apparition I knew would be there. The ghost quickly advances on me. With no need of ladders, he is on me in a second. Everything fades.
I wake to find myself staring at the plant from the woods nearby. It takes me a moment to get my bearings, but after a few moments I realize that I am looking at myself. I am dumping the remaining body parts into the asphalt tank. I try to move but I cannot.
I am one with the tree. The ghost switched places with me. Many thoughts rip through my mind as I struggle to accept this reality.
Will anyone now believe in me?
I watch as the ghost (or should I say “I”) runs the asphalt through the mill to ensure that the bone is ground into an indistinguishable powder that will be lost in the asphalt. By tomorrow, this body will be on the road somewhere in north Mississippi. The ghost is a genius at covering his tracks, and I wonder how many times he has done this before. My admiration is short lived as the realization of my prison once again sets in.
I vow to take my body back, no matter how long it takes.