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Chapter Nineteen – Ghosts In The Tiki Bar

Back to Chapter Eighteen

Meanwhile, in The Tiki Bar…

Marigold, apparently talking to thin air, “You can come out now.” A wispy, insubstantial figure in regular colony overalls appears over one of the bar stools. Marigold can see right through him. “Whatchoo been up to, Bob?”

“Nothing much, just watching the drunks. As usual.”

“Why do you hang out here?”

“Hey, most of the station is pretty boring.”

Another semi-transparent figure materializes, this one a man in a pressure suit sans helmet. “Tell me about it. Nothing like the non-stop laugh parade that is watching someone perform maintenance on the solar panel dust removers.

A third figure appears, this one a lithe once-young Chinese woman. “王八蛋! You can’t believe how boring it can get around here. At least in this spot people sometimes tell funny stories.”

Bob asks, “I know I can’t drink it or even touch it, but could you put a cocktail down in front of me here so I can pretend?”

“Coming up.” Marigold reaches under the bar for a tiki mug made from a battered can. “Well Jing, what do you do when there’s no one here?”

“Float around, daydream. Count up the mistakes I made in life. Sometimes we play tic-tac-toe.”

“We’d play chess, but none of us can keep the whole board in our head.”

Marigold is wondering, “Bob, do you think coming to Mars was a mistake?”

“Yes. No. Yes. Well, maybe not. We all gotta go from something sometime. At least I saved a lot of lives when I fixed the reactor, even though it killed me.”

The ghost in the pressure suit objects to this. “Feh! At least you died with a purpose. I suffocated when I holed my pressure suit with a screwdriver. ‘First man on Mars’ The ironic glory. I was also ‘First corpse on Mars.'”

Jing is mumbling. “去你妈的白人”

“Shit, Jing. Don’t be so bitter.”

“Don’t be bitter! I come here for the science and look what happened?!!?”

“People are terrible.”

肏你妈. I could write a book.”

“But you can’t write a book. We’re just stuck hearing you bitch about it for eternity.”

“混蛋. Marigold, give me a cocktail so I can pretend to throw it in his face.”

Marigold is curious. “Why are the three of you even here? Shouldn’t you be in some kind of afterlife?”

Mark looks glum. “This is where our corpses are.”

“Unfinished business.” adds Bob.

Jing looks down where her feet would be. “The proper burial rites have not been performed.”

“If you ask me, those conditions would apply to a lot of deceased colonists. How come you’re the only ones I see?”

“Oh, there’s more of us, believe me. In fact, there’s a guy over in the corner there” Bob gestures with his head, “He never moves or speaks. Just stands there, head down.”

“We we just happen to be the friendly ones.” adds Mark.

A warning from Jing. “Some just float around in confusion. Some are angry. Stay out of the tunnels.”

“What the schmeck does it mean to be a ghost on mars anyway?”

“Shit if I know. Anyone here get a manual?” Mark’s looking around knowing the answer. “I thought not.”

Marigold pours himself a Mars seltzer. “So, unfinished business. ¿Claro?

Jing: “Died in violence.”
Bob: “That’s a story for another time.”
Mark: “I was supposed to be an explorer and I died on the first damn day!”

“Wait – I think I hear someone coming…” The three ghosts vanish quicker than they appeared as two off-shift engineers enter the bar.

“Hey Marigold! How they hanging? Say, whose drinks are those on the bar?”

“Haven’t been touched. They’re yours now if you want them.” The pair sets themselves on the barstools. “Say, you think there’s ghosts of ancient native Martians around?”

“Ray Bradbury would think so.”

“I guess we’ll just have to wait around and see.”