I don’t normally link to my short stories here, but I’m proud of a new one called “Lost Animals” that went up earlier this week. It’s about a man hired by private clients to clear houses of ghosts, not using supernatural equipment but a baseball bat.
He’s been storming into abandoned homes, haunted offices, auto-repair yards, and even millionaires’ yachts all over the country, using aggression to overcome his own fears and maintain the upper hand.
The times ghosts truly scare me aren’t from the shock of a dead face staring up from the bottom of a basement staircase; I’m usually too drunk or high for that, too hyped up on aggression. I’ll simply charge at the thing, running after it into a root cellar or climbing a wooden ladder into an unlit barn attic to chase it away. The sights that genuinely unsettle me, that keep me awake at night, are the weird, demented loops I sometimes catch them in, the bleakness of a ghost’s new existence, the never-ending isolation of the afterlife, empty versions of ourselves stuck in routines that have lost all meaning.
After nearly two decades of this—scaring dead people out of their comfort zones—he experiences a slow change of attitude that affects his ability to do the job.
It’s only loosely architectural, but I thought I’d link it here anyway, as the story explores a wide range of spatial situations amenable to hauntings. Check it out, if you’re in the mood for an autumnal read at the height of summer.
[Photo in top image courtesy of U.S. Library of Congress.]
[Image: From Pierre Huyghe, “Les grandes ensembles” (2001)].
A short news items in New Scientist this week describes the work of University of Michigan engineers who have developed a way to, in effect, synchronize architectural structures at a distance. They refer to this as “ghosting”:
When someone turns the lights on in one kitchen, they automatically switch on in the connected house. Sounds are picked up and relayed, too. Engineers at the University of Michigan successfully linked an apartment in Michigan with one in Maryland. The work was presented at the IoT-App conference in Seoul, South Korea, last week.
I haven’t found any more details about the project—including why, exactly, one would want to do this, other than perhaps to create some strange new electrical variation on “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” where a secret reference-apartment is kept burning away somewhere in the American night—but no doubt more info will come to light soon.*
*Update: Such as right now: here is the original paper. There, we read the following:
Ghosting synchronizes audio and lighting between two homes on a room-by-room basis. Microphones in each room transmit audio to the corresponding room in the other home, unifying the ambient sound domains of the two homes. For example, a user cooking in their kitchen transmits sounds out of speakers in the other user’s own kitchen. The lighting context in corresponding rooms is also synchronized. A light toggled in one house toggles the lights in the other house in real time. We claim that this system allows for casual interactions that feel natural and intimate because they share context and require less social effort than a teleconference or phone call.
Thanks to Nick Arvin, both for finding the paper and for highlighting that particular quotation.