Going to be quick tonight. I’m writing based upon a prompt from one of my favorite writing podcasts, Writing Excuses. This one is from Season 5, Episode 33.
"I know some people have said that rooms get colder when there are-" Charley turned away from the thermostat he had just turned down to fifty-five degrees, focusing his attention on the pair he had invited into his home with a slight frown to his lips.
"A common misconception, Mr. Williams. It’s actually a juxtaposition of that belief," Clara Munson interrupted as she helped her partner take off his brown coveralls. The two were dressed in a similar fashion to the iconic characters from the movies that they supposedly shared a profession with except that they had no nuclear reactors strapped to their backs. Nor had any women asked him if he was the master of anything lately. Charley did, however, have a grown man stripping down to his boxers in the living room.
Charley took a few sideways steps towards the windows and then said, “I’ll just shut these curtains too.” The curtains were drawn but it did not dim the room very much as the afternoon light showed through the mostly sheer curtains. He lifted his hand to his chin as he surveyed the stuff scattered across the room. The pair had come with their own supposedly specialized equipment but none of it looked futuristic or even useful. A wash basin, two box fans, a cooler, a blanket, and a box of tissues. The woman, whose name was Carla Munson, was filling the wash basin with water and then set it in the middle of the room in front of the man.
"Good idea. Thank you. The less the light interferes, the better." Billy Munson, the now mostly naked man, pulled over a chair from the dining room to the wash pan and sat in it. He began pulling off his socks while Clara walked around the room with her hand raised up, carrying one of the box fans. She seemed to find what she was looking for as she set the box fan down and angled it towards Billy before turning it on.
"Of course," Charley murmured in agreement as if he had a clue what they were doing. Unlike others of their profession who charged hourly rates they only charged a flat fee for their services. It had seemed a good deal. Now he was definitely starting to wonder. If his wife came home from work early to see this…
"It shouldn’t take long, assuming this room cools quickly." To emphasize her point, Clara opened the small cooler and took out a plastic bag filled with ice. Billy grimaced in anticipating as he slid his bare feet into the wash basin. Clara then emptied the bag of ice in the basin with a splash.
The blanket and tissues were left aside but otherwise everything else seemed setup. Billy sat with his feet submerged in ice water, box fans blowing directly at him, and mostly naked, in the middle of Charley’s living room. He looked calm, as if he did this every day for a living which Charley supposed was true although he wasn’t sure what exactly Billy was doing.
Clara retired to the living room couch and casually picked up a magazine from the coffee table and began leafing through it. After a minute of watching the man subject himself to this, Charley had to ask. ”Okay so what are you doing?” His voice did not sound has irritated as he felt but he definitely snapped. Both of the Munsons looked at him in slight surprise, although Billy was now visibly shivering so he wasn’t able to stare evenly.
"We’re rendering services as you requested, catching your-" Clara began to explain before she was interrupted.
"No I mean this!" Charley waved his hand in Billy’s direction. He could feel a scowl forming.
"Like Clara said. We’re trying to… to… catch-aaachooooo!" Billy sneezed loudly, his head whipping forward with the power of the sneeze. As if the couch had a hidden spring board, Clara was at his side almost immediately, the tissue box in hand.
"Gesund-" Charley started.
"Don’t say it!" they both exclaimed in unison. Billy thrust both hands forward as he exclaimed to emphasize his point. Charley stopped mid-word. Clara pulled a tissue from the box and offered it to Billy. Billy blew his nose then instead of folding the tissue opened it up slowly and showed it to Clara. Charley found himself stepping slowly over and trying to look over Clara’s bowed head.
"Try and sneeze one more time," Clara advised, pulling out another plastic bag from the cooler and depositing the used tissue. Billy only nodded. It took him another thirty seconds while they stared at him quietly. He grew paler was they waited, and his entire body was shivering but finally he sneezed again. The tissue paper was ready. Clara clapped excitedly this time as she examined the contents of the tissue, before throwing it in the bag. "In two!"
Billy was now looking rather worse for wear. He sniffed loudly and there was very obviously mucus in his nose. He had a somewhat unfocused look in his eyes and now they were bloodshot. When Clara instructed him to pull out his feet from the cold water she actually had to lifted his feet for him. She asked Charley to turn off the fans while she wrapped the blanket around Billy’s shoulders.
"Thank you. There there. Let’s get you home where I can get us some nice chicken soup," she cooed to the man, who was being coaxed to stand and get led to the door. She cast a glance at Charley and mouthed ‘I’ll be right back,’ before leaving. Charley scooted to the window and peeked out behind the curtains. She helped him into the back doors of their van which let Charley caught a slight glimpse inside. There seemed to be a bed in there. Clara obviously covered him with more blankets before closing the doors.
"Well that should do it," Clara said as she re-entered the house and began gathering their tools. "We’ll mail you the bill once we’ve determined the removal was successful. Shouldn’t take longer than two or three days. Bill gets over them quick in the summer even if it knocks him out." She was nearly done packing when Charley found himself able to speak.
"Wait that is it? You gave the man a summer cold and you are going to charge me for it?" He placed a hand on his hip and stared at the shorter woman. She had another thing coming if she thought she was going to hustle a Williams.
"Exactly. Glad to be of service! I’d shake your hand but well you know." Overburden with all her equipment in every hand, she stood at the door waiting for Charley to open it for her, which he did. It was only polite.
"You should be completely ghost free," Clara said as she descended the steps to their van, the words ‘Munson Possession Specialists’ written in bold on the side. "Gives us a call if you hear even so much as a wail. Have a good evening!"
They drove away just as his wife drove up. She was thrilled with him surprising her by meeting her at the door and didn’t notice how confounded her husband was until she suggested they retire early for the evening. That night he fell asleep exhausted and wasn’t awakened by a single creek, moan, or wail.
So if you didn’t figure it out. The writing prompt was: “Any time you’ve caught cold you’re actually being possessed.” I decided to take it a step further and create a pair of characters who made a ghost-busting career out of giving themselves colds in haunted houses, in order to get possessed, where they could then transfer the ghosts away from the client (ostensibly to deal with them in some other fashion back home). And Munson Possession Specialists were born! I thought the take on the idea was a little clever, if I do say so myself.