Every year, the boys of New Hash are charged with decorating the ghost in the town’s lodge. The event, known as “The Festival of Lucidity,” has been a tradition since the town’s founding.
This year, Octavio, Hernando, and Luis are handling the decoration. They’ve been working all year on their planning and the festival is just days away.
The three boys sit beneath a decayed veranda surrounded by the handcrafted decorations donated by the townspeople.
“If we use the white paint and coat the box in memory tint, we can lock the ghost down for decades, according to this book,” says Ocatvio, his head buried in a copy of The Ancient Hermetic Order of Stillguard.
“I don’t think they want us to lock the ghost down for that long,” says Luis, “This whole thing is just a trick to keep the town under control. It’s a tactic, man, and we have to fight against it.”
Hernando rolls his eyes, but says nothing.
“I’m just saying,” starts Luis, before Octavio cuts him off, “We’ve heard it Luis. We get it. But we’re in charge of decorating the ghost, and if we don’t do it, we’ll be in some serious shit.”
The three boys sit in silence.
“So I think we should still do the decorations but hide the white paint,” mumbles Luis. “That’s what I was trying to get at.”
“What do you mean?” asks Octavio.
“I mean like, we use the white paint as a primer. Then do the traditional decorations on top. Like the best of both worlds, y’know?”
“Why would we do that?”
“Because like, look,” Luis is frustrated, but continues, “If we can shut the ghost down for decades, the lodge won’t have to do this stupid shit every year, but like, they don’t want that. But like, we do, so like, I don’t know. It might work. I just don’t trust this whole thing. I don’t trust the lodge and I don’t trust the ghost. Not after…”
“Nah, I get it,” interrupts Octavio. “We do this without telling anyone and maybe the town can finally move on.”
Hernando nods his agreement.
“But what if the lodge just… keeps doing the festival?” asks Octavio. “If they don’t know we bound the ghost, they won’t know they don’t have to go about this ridiculous festival every year.”
“Yeah,” says Luis, “But like, look, if the ghost is bound, there’s no worry anymore. It can’t…” Luis trails off.
“Okay, yeah, I get that. Like, when the seniors last year fucked up the decoration and it consumed.” Octavio stops. The boys can’t bring themself to talk about what happened to the last group in charge of decorating the ghost.
“I don’t think we should do the memory tinted paint,” says a boy.
“Why not?” screams another. “It will lock the ghost up for decades and we won’t have to go through this stupid shit ever again.”
“But it’s against the rules. There must be a reason it’s against the rules.”
“Who says it’s against the rules? It doesn’t say that anywhere in our guide.”
“It’s just assumed, man.”
“Whatever, I think we should do it.”
“I disagree, if we mess it up, it’ll just make everything worse.”
“So what, how can it be any worse?”
“Lets take a vote.”
“I say we use the paint.”
“The yes’s, have it, then.”
“So now what.”
“Get the book, we have to get this right.”
It’s the day of the festival. Octavio, Luis, and Hernando enter the lodge, wearing their ceremonial gowns. Luis looks sick to his stomach.
The lodge is a large open room, built out of logs. It’s the type of place that makes you feel older when you walk inside.
“Do you think we did the right thing?” Luis asks neither boy in particular.
Hernando frowns and lowers his head.
“It’s done,” says Octavio. “Now we see if it works.”
A priest instructs the three boys to sit on a platform behind him.
“It is my honor to introduce the ghost decoration committee this year,” announces the priest, “These boys have been exceptional students of the lodge, brilliant in the community, and excellent studies in school, and I cannot think of anyone better suited to take on the ceremony after the issues last year. Boys, stand up, and let’s all give them a round of applause.
The boys stand. The onlookers in the lodge clap politely.
“Bring out the ghost,” says the priest.
A man wheels out a large coffin-shaped box adorned with hand crafted decorations. It looks almost like a Christmas tree. Glittered skulls, laced devils, and symbols constructed from popsicle sticks dangle off the box. The boys tense up.
“Welcome, ghost, to our annual feeding!” the priest exclaims. “I trust the boys have treated you well.”
The lodge grows cold as the box opens up. Sound stops. Not as though it’s silent, but as though the world is suddenly incapable of producing sound.
Luis is the first to get it. His vision blurs. The world flickers out of three dimensions and into two before his sight goes parallax and he collapses.
Hernando and Octavio drop to the ground.
Sound flushes back into the room. The temperature rises back up.
“Success for another year, then,” says the priest.
A loud sigh echoes through the lodge as the onlookers gasp for air. Boys are nothing if not predictable.