Monday, February 11, 2013

'Ghost in the Machine'

‘Ghost in the Machine’
by Troy Blackford

In the months since the car accident which claimed his life, my father’s old computer has sat silent and unused in the dusty, long-unentered room he kept as a home office. The old man was the only one who ever went in there, and only he knew the password to unlock the now ancient desktop. To the surviving family members – my mom, my brother, and I - the computer was useless.

Still, when it came to getting rid of it, so far something has held each of us back. We weren’t exactly champing at the bit to get in there and erase the signs of the guy’s life. That luxury was already being provided by time itself; we weren't anxious to speed the process along. He may have been a bit rough, but he was, after all, the old man.

Sometimes I stick my head in that old office of his and just take a few big whiffs. They say that of all the senses, the olfactory is the most apt to trigger memories. I can definitely sense enough of the built-up decades of the man's presence lingering in that front room to trigger a barrage of recollections, even months after the guy had last set foot in there.

What my father used to spend his time up here actually doing, I’m not too sure. One day, I suppose, I could flip on the dusty old antique upstairs and try to figure out the man's password. Maybe he set a really stupid password hint, one that’s so easy to guess that he might as well not even have a password. Lots of the older folk do that.

It’s like a generational thing.

But, for now, I’m more than happy just to keep it on my ‘to-do’ list. Because as soon as I actually try, it won’t feel like an option any more. As soon as I try, I’ll either succeed, or fail. And as long as I keep putting it off, it’ll feel like something I have a choice in doing. The last thing, really, involving my father’s life that I can say that about.

So I think I’ll just keep it under my hat for now.


That's it for the sample of 'Ghost in the Machine!' Things only get worse from there, I assure you. I know it isn't easy to see how this ends up being terrifying, but if you want to find out what all the fuss is about, check out the short story collection 'For Those With Eyes to See,' in Kindle and in Paperback.


  1. A wonderful, digitally creepy story, reminiscent of Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected, and a great way to start my morning.
    A Troy Blackford tale and a steaming mug of coffee; it doesn't get better than that!

  2. I would type some inspirational response, but I gotta find my can of canned air and clean out the crunchy bits inside my keyboard!

  3. This was an epic story! It started off so nice and then it got progressively creepier! I liked that there were two distinct voices in this piece. Great ending! You really know what you're doing!

  4. Creepin dude....but really good. :-)

    Sharon Jones

  5. This was a seriously great little story. Very vivid characterization from the Dad. Could have possibly used a bit more time for William to simmer in between reading each note, I think his anxiousness could've been played up a bit more. Very creepy (and enjoyable) though!

  6. This really drew me in. As much as I can't handle the horror genre when it comes to things like movies and so on, I enjoy reading it, since my imagination can control how creepy things get. :p This wasn't that kind of creepy, but that doesn't mean I didn't still enjoy it. I enjoyed this immensely.

    There were so many great lines in this one. Here were my favorites:

    "I tried watching some shows off the DVR, but realized after a while I wasn't really watching them, just looking at them."

    I read this and I was like YES. I know what the narrator means. I don't think I ever would have come up with the words to describe it like you have here.

    "I tried going to sleep that night. I got to know the pattern on the ceiling pretty well. But that was about it."

    Again, I can totally relate. Haha.

    "You may have suspected about the separate pieces, but never the whole."

    I imagined someone cackling and rubbing their hands together evilly and doing the whole shifty-eye thing here. Hahaha. Loved it.

    "I began to cut my hair differently. You didn’t even notice. That’s not the kind of thing you see – it was too plain and pedestrian, too obvious. You never see a thing which might bear directly on a situation, or a fact which is clear to all. You only notice meager, insignificant, trifling things – and for this you call yourself subtle."

    I really liked this line. I found myself both in awe and disgusted at the father.

    "I knew because you, William – for all your subtle perceptions and rarefied personality – are insanely, intensely, absurdly predictable."

    I liked this line because in a way, it's the kind of line where you can replace the name with any name and it would work in just about any context.

    "This is the point where you feel a hand on your shoulder, and I, at long last, come home."

    VERY nice ending. Especially the last six words. I can't describe it (ironic, I know, since I consider myself a writer too), but whenever an author can close a story in a way that a smile just kind of tugs at my lips, I consider it a win. There was something about that line that kind gave me mixed feelings of nostalgia and relief.

    As you know, I'm not the type to just give lip service. I was impressed with this. To close, a couple more compliments:

    -I commend your ability to write accessibly. Too often am I turned off by writers who just try to flaunt the "big words" every chance they get to make the rest of us scramble for the dictionary to figure out what half of them mean (mostly the ones that turn out to be considered "obsolete.") When you do use them, you give enough context so we don't have to reach for one. I compare this much to my experience with reading from the sci-fi and fantasy genres (and I read a LOT of those). In them, I tend to come across a lot of "original" vocabulary. When I have to constantly interrupt my reading to refer to some sort of glossary to figure out what those words mean, or remind myself of their meaning every so many minutes/hours/what have you, it annoys me to no end.

    -For me anyway, despite the gender difference, I felt like I was William reading and anticipating. There were enough hints that you already suspect from the get-go that something more is going to happen here, but you don't let all the tricks out of the bag until the end. It made for a faster read. I don't necessarily go out looking for quick reads; it's more like I want a story or book that I just can't put down (which then makes the reading process go by faster), and for me that's exactly what happened here.

    In sum, great job! I know I don't comment often -- in fact, this might either be my very first or my second comment, but I'm so bad at keeping up with websites in general, even my own. So don't feel bad. Hahaha.

    Speaking of which...I supposed I should tend to the 10+ drafts that have been sitting in my WordPress queue for the last two weeks...

  7. A good read and creepy story!!

  8. Great story! gripping!

  9. Enthralling and suspenseful. I loved it. While reading it, I couldn't help but think of my own Dad's secret mind.

  10. I am SO glad I didn't read this at night! Woah! Wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it!

  11. ....So much of my little daughter's imagination I see...hope she reads your work to know how amazing it her school....they suggested we get the stories were too surreal and dark.....but I see through your work....a new walking through random thoughts in the mind....will keep reading what your posts...feeds me...

  12. Hi, in Märchen, fairy tales they say 3 is a lucky number and it was. This story made my day and what with scribbling along when there might have been someone secretly manipulating you and evil
    is behind that very keyboard. Happy though that I could call this
    scribbler William for some time and enjoy in my own creepy feelings with some playfulness that you allow us to have when using a computer for you speak for us and we do not have to speak for ourselves. We surrender and do it happily, beeing creepy and childish and not mature and we see and indulge and leave it to fiction and wake up and finish scribbling knowing that it is us who have done that task and nobody took over and we turn the key to our lives. Thank you so much.

  13. Troy that mind of yours is so damn amazing. This is yet another one of your tales that pulled me in deep. I literally read this story in disbelief, the deeper I got, the more amazed I was. I love your tales, hope you'll something new for your fans to read soon. You have truly found you gift & we are blessed for it. Much love, D

  14. I couldn't take my eyes away from the screen! Amazing! @AmyDes92

  15. I really enjoyed this story. I picked it at random and will definitely read more of them :)

  16. Great story -- keeps ya right to the end!

  17. Delightfully creepy turn to a seemingly mundane situation. Bravo. :)

  18. As soon as it comes out, I'm buying. I loved it.