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"We need ghosts in every story." She leaned back in her chair.

"I don't think that's what we're about. Our readers aren't buying us to read about ghosts."

"They don't have to be about ghosts, " she said. "We could just put them in, but we don't have to have them as the central focus."

"You mean like background trees?" I asked.

She stood up and glided towards the water cooler. "Something like that. I want to normalize it. Make it common enough that it doesn't sound so shocking when they really are the focus of the story."

"You want us to be the only ghost-centered publication in the metro area? That's going to completely change our demographic." I didn't see the conversation as going anywhere anymore. If I got into a debate with her, it just meant the rest of the afternoon was going to be wasted.

I could carry on without her. She needed me more than I needed them. But on the idea and creative side, I couldn't afford to lose her team without having to restructure anyway.

"You could introduce other underrepresented subcultures too," she suggested. "It could be a way to attract other readers interested in a wider variety of topics."

I sighed. "Where is this coming from? Why are we going in this direction all of a sudden?"

"We've been talking. Among ourselves. Sorry if we didn't bring it up earlier, but considering how much my team contributes to the organization, we were hoping for a bit more influence on the editorial side."

"You know your team can't do anything without me don't you?" I was starting to get irritated.

"Don't be mean," she said. "We do appreciate what you do for us, but we also know you wouldn't be nearly as successful if you didn't have us here."

She was right, but I wasn't about to admit that to her face. I just wanted to minimize disruption to what was a good thing for me at that point in my life. It seemed what they were after was just an ego thing, nothing of any practical importance. If that endangered what I'd spent so many years of my life building, that didn't sit well with me.

"How about we start slowly?" I asked. "Some stories but not every story and see how it goes?"

"You're willing to give it a try?" she asked, suddenly brightening.

"As long as it doesn't hurt circulation," I answered.

"You won't regret it." Her mood had flipped. "The team is going to make sure you won't regret it."

I wanted to temper her enthusiasm. "You know this is a business too right? We have practical goals to attend to. We have to keep the lights on. We have operating costs. I've got people who depend on me."

"Right, right," she agreed breezily, as if the matters of the world meant nothing to her. "I think you'll see a marked improvement in what the team can do when they have more control over editorial."

"I hope you're right. You know I'm taking a big risk with this right? Sometimes I wonder what got into me when we started this whole thing."

"You make a decent living," she said. "You're a fairly respected member of the community."

"For how much longer," I wondered. "We obviously have different goals. I feel like I'm on a tightrope all the time with you and your team."

"We've been loyal to you for decades," she countered. "You don't trust us to continue on your side?"

"It's not good for my health. My nerves get the better of me. I'm grateful for all you've done through the years, and the others you recruited to your team, but I can't shake the feeling that we're always one step away from total collapse. You're lucky none of you have to worry about that."

"I remember what it was like," she said. "It was like being stuck in a prison of your own mind."

"Yeah, tell me about it," I answered. "So what's it like to finally be free? Sometimes I wonder if I will ever see things your way in this life."

"We just have different concerns when we stop worrying," she said. "But it is still possible while you're alive. Doesn't always happen for everybody, unfortunately. My team isn't all that special. Some found their answers early, others not until they were on the other side."

"That's what I'm afraid of. I don't want to wait that long. I want peace and I want it now."

"Maybe I'll get the team to do some stories on that," she suggested. "I think it will help you."

"Do what you want." I could feel myself giving up. "I'm tired. I should be heading home. I need sleep."

"You do what you have to, to stay healthy," she said. "You know how much we need you. Come back tomorrow morning and we'll pitch you some stuff. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised."

"I hope so," I said, "I hope so," putting on my hat and opening the door. I turned around to say goodbye, but she had already disappeared.

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