Harrison Kim

The October Editor's Pick Writer is Harrison Kim

Please feel free to email Harrison at: kdharrison@live.ca

harrison kim

by Harrison Kim

There was always too much going on in my head. I preferred to be on my own with my thoughts, because they took up so much space. If I was in crowds, or with others, I couldn’t think. My mind jumbled and cracked as I tried to sort out and understand the noise around me.

I bicycled way out into the hills to live at an old ranch, built a hundred years ago and abandoned for decades because of its remoteness. There, I created my own personal ghost town. I could be alone in quiet wilderness with my inner voices. Before this, I’d cycled through the mountains burning off energy, yet it always seemed that something perched just inside my ear, whispering.  “Keep away from the evil in the world,” it told me. “You can only trust yourself.”

The abandoned ranch sat by Gwen Lake, twenty miles into the mountains from the town of McBride. I hauled supplies up on my bicycle, on which I’d attached a small trailer. When I arrived, I began to relax. All the ghosts in my head could come out and move around, without society’s eyes and ears monitoring me, without its rules telling me what I could and could not do.

The process began early: on my first day there, under the morning sun, when I stared into the shallow little lake, pondered my own reflection and thought “Who else is back there… because we’re the sum total of our histories.” 

All that morning I thought specifically of my brother Lance. Could I bring him out of my head and into the world? I heard his voice inside my mind every day. He’d passed away five years before from a drug overdose. “Watch out around that corner,” he might tell me, or “It is a good day; the wind is with you.”

Unlike him, I was lucky enough to gain scholarships and go to University. I completed a local history degree. my goal was understand the world around me through knowing its past. I couldn’t figure out the present, it went by too fast, and the future couldn’t be predicted. 

Lance had the same adaptability problems as me. He compensated in less constructive ways.  While he needled his way into drug addiction, I earned satisfactory grades. I lived for and with my studies. When they ended, I had nothing to accomplish, except to wander and visit the historical places I’d known in my head.

To manifest Lance by the lake, I focused on memories of how he looked; how he moved. It was much easier to concentrate in the complete wilderness quiet. By the evening, I thought I saw his lanky silhouette moving down by the old horse barn. Later that night, by my campfire, I perceived him rocking on a log across the flames from me. His pale face remained obscured by smoke, then clearly revealed as the breezes changed. He appeared much younger than when he passed. I waved, played my guitar for him, his favorite tunes by Leonard Cohen, while he shimmered in the smoke.

Later I noticed him wandering around the fields and standing by my bicycle. He liked to ride when he was alive. I approached hopefully, but he faded away. If he didn’t want to interact. I could accept that. I felt much less lonely just knowing Lance was here.

The next day, I thought of Marilyn Monroe. She was the closest person I’d ever had to a girlfriend. I heard her voice in my head from time to time saying “We should go for a soda,” and “I believe that everything happens for a reason.” 

Forming her was even easier than Lance. I thought and imagined what she’d look like, from images of all her posters and movies, and the stories I’d read. The waves on the lake lapped back and forth. and after a few hours of concentration, I noticed Marilyn walking along the shore in a dress the color of whitened birch bark. 

She stepped right by me without a word. “Hi,” I said. Marilyn turned and looked out at the lake.  On the other side of the water, I noticed Lance. My brother and Marilyn stood looking at each other. I saw them shimmer, then I lay back to absorb the scene and listen to the waves.

Over the next few days, I thought up several more ghosts. Outlaw Billy The Kid was a hero of mine, a misunderstood boy who fought back with gunslinger skills. I’d always fantasized getting back at my foster parents and the authorities who took me away from my real Mom and Dad. 

I  played out scenes of Billy wreaking vengeance on my behalf. I sat by the campfire, strummed a western medley on my guitar and thought of the Kid. He appeared after a few hours, next to Lance and Marilyn, long-fingered and pale, wearing his big black cowboy hat low on his forehead. 

Next I created Judge Begbie’s ghost to balance the outlaw. Begbie was known as the “hanging judge.” He travelled and administered frontier justice in the ranching area when the cattle industry was at its height. I’d studied his legal methods and court rulings at great length, and immersed myself in his persona, imagining being the Judge and making decisions to keep the frontier safe.

Last, I manifested Chief Victor, one of the original indigenous Chiefs of the Gwen Lake area, a hero known for his hunting skills and his quiet yet strong peace-making character. Like the others, I gleaned Victor’s image from old photos and portraits stashed back in my brain. 

The voices in my head quieted and disappeared as the ghosts manifested outside of it. Five of them were enough to relax my head. I watched them shimmer and pondered the question. “What is the purpose of this new life?”

“You’re a very intelligent thinker,” my psychiatrists used to say. “You could gain some insight if you took your medication.”

I didn’t agree with the medication part, because it erased my inner world, the part of life that gives meaning and purpose, but I did think a lot. Perhaps ghost-creations could be considered some kind of self-therapy. The personalities could all be aspects of my inner psyche. I didn’t need medication. My head felt clear and free, with the ghosts all out on their own. I spent time fishing and writing, playing guitar while staring up at the stars, watching the five ghosts shimmer around the abandoned ranch. I no longer felt alone.

After ten days, I reluctantly cycled into town for supplies, an all-day ride there and back. My empty panniers and attached supply trailer bumped behind me as I pedaled down the hills.

The closer I rode to civilization, the louder the whispers behind my ear became. As soon as I turned out onto the main highway, I heard the noise of traffic. With the noise, the whispering reminded me that there’s a certain evil in the world, and it lies in wait. 

“Be careful,” a voice said. “Be ever vigilant.”

As I hauled my groceries down the steps outside the store, I noticed two unkempt young men parking a rusty brown van. They went in to shop as I loaded up my supplies. One passed me. “Didn’t think there’d be any homeless bums in this town,” he said. He presented as a fidgety, thin fellow wearing a long jacket two sizes too big.

I did not reply. The other fellow, bearded and shorter, shrugged and kicked a rock into the side of the building beside me. Then he smiled. “Having a good day?” he asked. “You sure got a lot of stuff.”

Some might call that a friendly tone, but I knew he was being sarcastic, making fun of my ragged camouflage clothing and the bicycle full of cans and groceries.

I looked away, strapped down my food load and pedaled back to the hills. My feet moved into in the mantra zone and my mind wandered. I tried to keep my thoughts on the road; in the moment, but they kept moving back to the two young men in the van. Their faces had looked dirty, sly. 

Maybe they were running away from something. I kept hearing a faint engine noise, and almost made some wrong turns. As I rounded one corner, I heard a roaring coming up behind me. I leaped off my bicycle and pushed it into the trees. Within a moment, the brown van went by in a whirl of dust.  

I waited for a few minutes and kept riding. In an hour or so, I arrived above the ghost town, and stopped in surprise. The van sat by the old barn.

I saw the two young men throwing a frisbee or a football. They yelled and ran around. My mind started to jumble. Where were the ghosts? I’d hoped the ghosts would scare any strangers off. Was that Lance down by the lake? I moved up behind the hill with my supplies, pushing the heavily laden bike into a copse of aspens.

The danger that whispered at the back of my ear suddenly spoke loudly.
“They’re trying to take over your land.” 

I watched the young men chop up wood and light the campfire. I smelled the smoke coming up over the hill. They must have noticed the place was recently used, but they didn’t care.

Then they started target practicing. They pulled some long guns out of their van, stood and aimed at the barns and outbuildings, and fired. A few holes blasted through the old walls.

I had manifested the ghosts from my own mind, into the absolute quiet of this place. Now I couldn’t see any of them. Maybe silence was the only space they could shimmer in. I was the only one who knew them.

Peace was the purpose of my life; I had a place right here and it had been taken away. My thoughts whirled, and I felt my heart pounding. How dare these kids usurp my life? How dare they make me alone again? 

Angry tears rolled down my cheeks. I heard another gunshot, then the ghost voices inside spoke my head again, “Get them out. Take them down,” came the whispers, growing louder as the gun blasts echoed. 

With their support, I felt a rush of energy. I looked at the smoke curling from the campfire, and within my mind heard the stern voice of Judge Begbie. “Justice,” he commanded. 

I understood what Begbie was saying. These boys were committing crimes, damaging my ghost town, usurping the rightful inhabitants. I heard more shots, and a voice yelled, “You got the roof of that barn real good!”

“I need another beer,” shouted the other one.

Chief Victor spoke in my head. “I will be your quiet tracker,” he told me. 

“You will help from inside my mind?” I asked

“I want to be free to roam again,” said Victor. “I will do my best from within or from without”

“I will also tread lightly,” said Begbie. “We will administer justice together.” 

“And I’m here as part of the family,” said brother Lance.

Marilyn laughed “I’ll be watching, and maybe I can distract them.”

I heard Billy the Kid chime in for the first time. He had a high, nasal voice and a sinister laugh. “A man shouldn’t allow himself to be dominated like that.”

“I hadn’t thought of it that way,” I told him. “But you’re right. They’re kicking me out and they couldn’t care.”
I heard glass smashing. “They’re breaking all the windows,” Marilyn said. “They’re getting drunk and crazy.”

All my ghosts were talking now, giving different advice.

“They need to be taught a lesson,” Billy The Kid’s voice sang above them all. 

“I don’t trust them,” I replied. 

“I can’t blame you,” said Lance. “I agree with Billy. You can’t let people push you around.”

People exploited me and my brother our whole lives; they wouldn’t let us be free to live how we wanted. They stuck us in foster homes and group residences.Teachers, bosses, psychiatrists; they all held us back.

Lance didn’t make it, and now I existed alone. Only when I rode my bicycle I could get somewhere, travel down the highway and feel peace by myself, discover a refuge in the mountains, in the silence of the wild.

“You must take away their guns,” Begbie said.

“You must expel them from your territory,” the Chief’s voice chimed in.

“We’ll move down on them while they’re asleep, and administer justice,” said the Judge and Billy, in unison.


I sat on the hill with the ghost-swirls around me and dozed until just before dawn, wrapped in my sleeping bag. I awakened to the call of loons on the lake.

I stretched up, rubbed my head until my eyes opened fully, then flowed with the ghosts inside me down towards the ranch. The phantoms carried us along in a whirl of guitar sound from the back of my brain. Music helped blot out the noises of the world. With the fanfare in my head, I felt brave and battle-ready.

The boys’ sleeping bags lay near the campfire. One head stuck out. The other young man lay on his side with his face inside the bag, in my favorite fetal camping position.

Chief Victor led me around the side of the van, and showed me the keys in the ignition. I pulled them out. I saw two light rifles in the back.

Behind them lay a newspaper article showing a photo of two sleeping bags sprawled on the ground, indistinct heads appearing from them. Another photo showed a burning vehicle.

“Suspicious deaths discovered thirty miles south of McBride,” read the headlines. “Victims van found on fire.”
“This is dangerous,” said Lance. “Careful, brother.”

I froze, wondering what to do next. 

“Let’s take their guns,” said Billy the Kid.

I rolled up the newspaper and grabbed the rifles. We headed for the barn, where I checked the rifles. Loaded. I bent over to read the entire news article.

Apparently two people were randomly shot and set on fire twenty miles south of McBride. Their van had burned black on a recent clear-cut area. “This puts a whole new perspective on these boys,” said Judge Begbie.

“It’s a bad scene,” said Lance. 

Chief Victor’s ghost stepped out of my body. He showed me some ropes hanging in the barn. 

“We could run over there right now and tie them up,” he said. “You’d be a hero.”

“Maybe we should just use the van, drive out of here, and inform the police,” I said.

“One kid’s already waking up,” Victor said

“I can go over to distract them,” said Marilyn.

We all stepped forward, silently.

One boy rolled over. His eyes half opened as Marilyn manifested. 

“Are you real?” I heard his voice slur. Or maybe that was a snore.

“What’s happening, man?” the other one mumbled. His head poked out of his sleeping bag, his nose pointed towards the rising sun. 

I darted over towards the boys, carrying the rope over my shoulders, and one of the loaded guns.  Chief Victor stood over the smaller boy.

“Who the hell are you?” asked the kid, raising his head. “You just step out of a Western?”

“We know what you’ve done,” I said. I held the rifle, looking down at the two boys. 

“Please, just tell us, who are you?” one asked. The boys’ eyes looked half closed; puzzled.

Then I thought if I put the gun down, we all might wake up to a different place, a more peaceful dream. The lake shone in the rising sun, and the loons called. All five ghosts stood around the boys. I needed to ask a few questions.

“We saw that article in the van,” I heard myself talk in Lance’s voice. “You guys killed those people.”

“No, man,” one kid said. “We haven’t hurt anyone”

“Yeah, we’re gamers,” the other kid’s voiced sighed as he breathed in and out. “We came up here to free our minds; it’s all part of a game.”

“How do you mean, you came up here to free your minds?”

“That’s the whole story,” said the first one, his voice cracking. “This whole adventure. We’re here to camp and have fun.”

I looked over at Judge Begbie, who shook his head. “You know you made us ghosts up,” he said to me. “But how can these boys make that newspaper clipping up?”

I saw my ghosts shimmering all around the still smoking campfire.

“Do you see my friends?” I asked them.

The first boy said, “I can see you.”

“He’s looking into your mind,” Chief Victor told me. 

“And I must be looking into theirs,” I said.

“This gun is real,” I told the boys.

“Please, sir, what are you going to do with it?” one kid asked.

Billy the Kid spoke through me for the first time. “No one would ever find your dead bodies up here.”

“Whoa,” the first boy replied.

“You’re talking to Billy the Kid,” I said.

“This is crazy,” said the boy. “Please, I want to wake up.”

The other kid rubbed his face and turned it up towards us. “I can’t wake up,” he moaned. “I’m in my dream and I can’t wake up.”

“Did you kill those people in the news?” I asked the boys.

“We didn’t kill anyone,” he said. “We’re just gamers. Please, let us go.”

The boys’ eyes looked open now, and they gaped at me as if I’d just come out of a time machine.

“How can I hear you if you’re dreaming?” I asked the kid closest to the campfire.

“Please, let us go,” he pleaded.

“They’re speaking through your mind,” Lance said. “Like us.”

“What should we do with them?” I wondered.

“Kill them,” said Billy the Kid. “They’ve disturbed our peace.”

“Bury the bodies in the forest,” Chief Victor advised.

“You’ll have their van and their guns,” Lance agreed. “You can take them anywhere.”

I saw Marilyn Monroe walking out by the lake. I remembered she’d met a sad end. I didn’t want to involve her in any violence. 

I raised the gun, then lowered it. It was something I didn’t have the guts to do. The ghosts helped me out.

“Let me pull the trigger,” Billy the Kid said. “I know how to shoot.”

“Yes, let Billy shoot,” said Judge Begbie. “He’s an expert.”

I felt The Kid’s arm move mine, and his hands take over my fingers.

I aimed at the first boy’s head and Billy fired.

The shot rang out true. The first boy’s body jerked. The echoes fell away across the lake.

The second boy’s mouth gaped. He started to scream. Billy the Kid shot him two times in the head. Then we finished the first boy off with a few more bullets.

Judge Begbie sounded solid and convinced. “It’s vigilante justice,” he said, “but justice done.  They should never have trespassed on your ghost town.”

“You have to hide the bodies,” said Chief Victor.

The sky stretched up forever above them, like in a western movie.

I unrolled the newspaper, and set it down on a log. I sat and studied. The date of the paper showed a time two weeks in the future. The bodies in the photo resembled shapeless, burned shadows, almost like the boys in front of me. 

I looked down at the lake at Marilyn Monroe shimmering on the shore. I’d leave her there in peace as the rest of us put the bodies in the van. I put the newspaper on a stump by the campfire. The print shimmered and faded, then shimmered again.

The ghosts and I hauled the dead boys into the vehicle, still in their sleeping bags. The phantoms worked inside me to lift the heavy torsos. “We are one,” Lance said as we worked together clearing the site of any presence the boys were ever there.

I drove the van ten miles south over old logging roads.

“We may as well follow the newspaper script,” said Billy.

This time, I held all the ghosts in my head. I drove carefully, up a hole-pitted road ten miles into an old clear cut. “This is hard to do,” said Chief Victor, “but it makes sense to burn everything.”

“Once you make a decision, you need to see it through,” Judge Begbie agreed. “You’re doing the right thing.”

“I want to see the flames!” Billy the Kid laughed, in his high nasal voice. The Kid was the most solid in appearance, and his voice rang strong.

My brother said “I’m with you all the way, Jackson.” 

I dug away the foliage around the van, to make sure the upcoming fire didn’t spread. There’d been a lot of rain, so I was confident. To distract myself, I concentrated on the beauty around me, and the warmth of the sun. I searched around for some wild blueberries. I tried to keep thoughts of the boys out of my head. It took a long time for the sun to go down.

After it did, I siphoned a gallon of gas out of the tank and poured it on the van and the bodies. I sparked some birch bark with my lighter, and threw the burning, curling fire starter at the van. The gas caught, and flames roared high.

I began to walk back to the ranch, ten miles in the dark. The Chief shimmered ahead to scout for wild animals, I could see his outline moving down the blackness of the logging roads. That eased my fears. Whatever else happened, my ghosts were with me.


Two weeks have passed since the boys died. If we can believe that future-dated newspaper I found in the van, today is the day that the authorities will find the burned-out vehicle with the bodies inside it. We’ll see if this is the case. If so, the future as well as the past can be manifested, and I will look for clues for the next month’s events. 

The only thing that’s changed here at Gwen Lake is that there are two more phantoms roaming around, the ghosts of the two boys.

I see them every day, down by the lake or up on the hill. In the evening, they come in with Lance and Marilyn and the others to hear me play guitar in front of the campfire. I take requests from inside my head, and across from me the ghosts shimmer, their faces come and go behind the woodsmoke and flame, and I play Leonard Cohen or Ed Sheehan.

The boys’ presence was a bit disconcerting at first. These two phantoms replaced the warning voice that used to sit behind my ear, that voice that told about the evil that lies in wait. Those evils are now ghosts. My inner world is at peace, the purpose of righting the wrongs in my head completed.

Harrison Kim nightmared up a few story ideas, such as “The Voices Behind Him,” while teaching at a Forensic Psychiatric Hospital. His stories have been published in Piker Press, Liquid Imagination, Literally, Bewildering Stories, Hobart, Horla and others over the past year.  He’s from Victoria, Canada.

His blogspot is HERE