short fiction

The “Haunted” Dude Ranch: A Short Story

Cassandra and her ten-year-old sister, Michaela, settled into their assigned cabin of The Kullen Ranch. The parents took their room across the hall. Cassandra and Michaela shared a room with two different beds.

Cassandra picked up the guide on the nightstand. She opened it—only to spot handwriting that said, “Beware of the cowboy ghost and the vampire weasel.”

Cassandra ignored that. She still remembered being told that Santa Claus didn’t exist four years ago, at age eight. She was twelve and would begin seventh grade next month. That writing had to have been a prank or some fool messing around.

Michaela had a guidebook on her nightstand too. She picked it up and read it. She looked up at Cassandra. “Cassandra, there’s this weird message about a cowboy ghost and a vampire weasel.”

“Ignore it.” Cassandra flicked her long, braided locks behind her shoulders.

But there was a whish coming from outside. The wind blew the yellow grass. The sound increased to the inside of this room.

“Cassandra, what’s going on?” Michaela looked around.

“I… I have no idea,” she said.

“Beware of the vampire weasel,” said a man’s voice. “It’s real, all right. And it’s on this property.”

“Who was that?” Michaela bolted up from her bed.

“I don’t know,” said Cassandra.

There was a knock on the door. Their mom opened it. “Girls, is everything all right?”

“Mom, we heard a voice,” said Michaela.

“And we both got a message about a cowboy ghost and a vampire weasel,” Cassandra added.

But the mother tilted her head. “You’re ten and twelve years old and you believe in that stuff?”

“Didn’t you hear it?” asked Michaela.

“Grow up, both of you.” The mom closed the door.

Cassandra hung her jaw down and turned to Michaela.

“What’s wrong with mom?” asked Michaela.

“You don’t think we’re the only ones, do you?” Cassandra asked.

There was another knock on the door. The mother opened it. “Girls, it’s time to have dinner.”

Cassandra and Michaela left. They followed their mom and dad downstairs and outside.

Michaela adjusted her bun and caught up to the father. “Dad, did you hear a voice about a vampire cowboy and—”

“Let’s not discuss that,” he said.

Cassandra said nothing and followed everyone to the patio.

A waiter sat them down. He directed them to the barbecue buffet. They went up and helped themselves to their food.

Cassandra stirred her baked beans. But air swished again—yet without any wind.

“Once again, beware of the weasel,” the same mysterious voice as before said.

“Cassandra, aren’t you going to eat?” asked the mom.

“Yeah, but I heard that voice again,” Cassandra said.

The mom sighed.

“What did I tell your sister about that?” the father asked.

“Since when was I dragged into this?” asked Michaela.

“You girls are to stop making up stories this instant,” said the dad.

“It’s not a story, though,” said Cassandra.

“Enough,” said the dad. “Now there is to be no more talking until your plates are cleaned.”

Cassandra sighed and ate. She considered if anyone else on this ranch had heard the voice? Had it been set that only kids could hear it? Just her and Michaela?

Of course, it wasn’t like she and Michaela had been jinxed with this. But how would they prove to their parents that they did hear the voice and didn’t make up stories?

 

A few hours had passed. Cassandra had changed and did her evening routine. Michaela had already fallen asleep.

Cassandra crawled under her bed covers and turned off the lights. But as she lay her head on her pillow, the swishing sound occurred again. Cassandra lifted herself up.

Rays of light shined from the ceiling. Cassandra covered her eyes. Michaela woke up. “Cassandra, what’s going on?”

A gaseous boot showed itself, followed by jeans, a torso, and a man’s head. Cassandra and Michaela screamed.

“Relax, girls,” said the translucent figure. “You don’t want to wake your parents up.”

“W-who are you?” asked Cassandra.

“The cowboy ghost.”

“Oh my God.” Michaela hopped out of her bed. “I’m telling my parents.”

“No, you’re not.” The cowboy ghost flew and blocked Michaela’s path. “I’m only visible to you guys.”

“What?” asked Cassandra. “Why won’t you make yourself visible to our parents? Or anyone else here?”

“I don’t know,” the cowboy ghost said. “But I tried to make myself visible to everyone. For some reason, I only got you guys.”

“So what are you doing here?” asked Cassandra.

“I’m here to tell you that at nine a.m. tomorrow, the vampire weasel will come here,” said the cowboy ghost.

“In the day?” asked Cassandra.

“Well, it’s supposed to rain tomorrow,” said the cowboy ghost. “So you need to find some garlic and throw it at the weasel.”

“But where are we going to find some garlic?” asked Michaela.

“You’ll need to figure that out yourselves.” The cowboy ghost flew back up into the ceiling.

“Wait.” Cassandra held her hand out.

But the ghost had left.

Cassandra thought about where to find garlic. There was no garden. Guests would not be allowed in the kitchens. Did people put garlic in their eggs?

Although Cassandra and Michaela came from New York, they couldn’t imagine that having garlic at breakfast happened a lot here in Wyoming.

 

After last night Cassandra had not told her parents about the ghost. Neither had Michaela. The mom and dad had not even asked who they’d talked to.

The family walked to breakfast. They held it out on the patio, despite what the cowboy ghost had said.

The clouds had darkened. But no rain fell from the sky. People served themselves breakfast. No signs of the vampire weasel came up.

Cassandra and Michaela stood in line for the buffet. Cassandra eyed the food for any signs of garlic.

But a paw climbed the patio. Cassandra and Michaela gasped. The creature showed its face. It looked like a weasel. It hissed, revealing its sharp fangs. It spread its wings and flew into the area.

The people screamed and ran. Cassandra and Michaela stayed, though, still searching for garlic.

“What are you girls doing?” the father ran to them. “Get away from here!” He grabbed both girls and ran with them off the patio.

“We were looking for garlic,” said Michaela.

“Now’s not the time!” exclaimed the dad.

But the clouds cleared, letting the sunlight in. The weasel shrieked and flew away.

The crowd watched it. It soared far away.

“Guys, you can come back now,” said a waitress.

The crowd returned to the patio.

“I think the sunlight was enough,” Cassandra told Michaela.

Michaela giggled.

 

 

 

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