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Caribou

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A caribou scrapes its antlers against the outside of the post office, waking me up. The things are always feeding on the reindeer-moss that grows at the base of the walls. As you would imagine, I’ve tried removing the plant, but despite my best efforts, it keeps growing back. I wait in bed with hopes that the noise won’t continue, as I have many nights before.

I should never have taken this job.

Not that I had a choice, with this being the only housing I could find and the job coming with the quarter. I suppose it’s not the worst work there is, but it still seems like such a meaningless waste of my life. In regards to the job itself, the only bad parts are the loneliness and the occasional loud night.

When the previous worker trained me in, he told me that the scraping at night was the ghost of a previous owner who had locked himself outside. The poor man died scraping his bare hands against the siding, in a vain attempt at survival before succumbing to the bitter cold. The worker told me the story like he really believed it.

Who in their right mind is frightened of ghosts?

The scraping returns, louder than before, and I get out of my small bed with a tired groan. I quickly wrap myself in my coat, boots, gloves, and hat. A loud moan of wind greets me when I open the only door. Snow drives into my small living space, temporarily blinding me. Before I step out, I grab my rifle which hangs on the wall.

Outside the only light is a small bulb hanging above the door among a slew of icicles. I soon move out into the dark, pushing my boots down through the banks of snow. Thick clouds block out any possible moonlight and nothing is visible except for the post office.

As I trudge around to the back of the building I see the caribou, a frail and sickly looking beast. I fire a shot above its head, away from the office. The creature flees with terror, scurrying ungracefully through the snow. It seems to be lame in one of its legs.

Satisfied that it shouldn’t be returning, I trek back to the front door. It opens with a firm shove from my shoulder. Damn door, always sticking. I swear I’m going to get trapped outside like that ghost one of these days. After shaking the thought out of my head, I hang the rifle up, seal the door shut, and go back to bed.

Once again, the caribou rams its antlers against the wall. I sigh aloud; there’s no use trying to scare the poor thing away again. I could shoot it of course, but the thought saddens me somehow. Seems wrong to kill the animal just to get some sleep. Besides, I would also have to deal with the body later.

Rubbing my eyes, I stand up to look out my only window. A cold pot of coffee and a few scattered letters sit on the cluttered table before me.

Who in their right mind is frightened of ghosts? Certainly just meeting one would confirm that there’s something awaiting us after our death, that there’s some kind of afterlife in store. Even if the ghost was malevolent, imagine the comforting implications of meeting such a being.

Instead, nothing strange or supernatural ever bothers to venture into sight of our perfectly predictable path. Nothing breaks the mold or moves against the pattern. Nothing offers any relief from the terrifying lockstep of our lives. It’s not like the movies; there are no miracles, no monsters under the bed, and no experiences after death. Our lives are just a series of meaningless jobs leading up to a cold rational demise and eternal non-existence.

The sickly caribou limps into my vision before collapsing in the snow; its life meaningless and insignificant against the blizzard.

Are people frightened of ghosts because they can’t bear the alternative?

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