Mystery of the Shadows
The dark figure looked down at the backpack. He then looked up at the boy, running along the fence rows trying to keep himself from panicking. He could not help but smile at it, as though it was a reward for his hard work. He picked up the backpack, looking at it like a connoisseur would look at a fine wine.
Really? He thought. My own inner description of my surroundings is that pretentious? Or is that the fault of the author? I wonder if anyone else knows about the guy spying in on our lives. Maybe I should tell somebody-
“Cal, the boy’s gone, who are you talking too?”
The spirit whirled around to see a fellow ghost behind him. However, as she was so close to him, he could see her short blond hair fall at neck-length, her dark skin, and brown eyes. She was giving him a cross between a disappointing stare and a confused frown.
“How did you-?”
“In our Shadows we have close-range-telepathy, remember?” she asked.
“Oh yeah,” Cal replied, mildly chuckling. “That’s probably the reason he ran off in such a hurry—I was frightening the shit out of him.”
“You and just about…” Eva said as she looked around at the dozens of ghosts blended in with the night. “Everyone else here forgets their thoughts can be transmitted to another by just having them.”
“Sure did,” Cal said sarcastically. “And I’ll never do that again.”
“Telepathy or not, you still scared him half to death,” Eva said. “I think you may be a bit proud of that. Do you really get some pleasure from that?”
“Don’t act you’re trying to tell me what to do again,” Cal replied. “You’re not my guardian.”
“It doesn’t matter!” Eva said sternly. “We could have really had a chance to communicate with someone who was still alive! And you chased him off for the sake of a sick joke!”
“I didn’t do anything that bad,” Cal replied. “Besides, you’re forgetting, we’re ghosts! He wouldn’t have tried talking to us anyway. None of the humans do.”
“That’s just an excuse,” Eva replied. “Whether or not that’s true, you would have done it anyway. Because you just have a sick sense of humor.”
Cal glanced to the side, looking sheepish while Eva hung her head.
“Some of us would really like to have…talked to him,” she said. “It’s not like we get much company from the other spirits here.”
“Then why didn’t you go out and talk to him?” Cal asked.
It was Eva’s turn to embarrassed now.
“I…I was a bit…shy-”
“See, there’s your excuse,” Cal replied. “I scare one little kid and you accuse me of ruining your chance for friendship when, in reality, you wouldn’t have gone there in the first place.”
He beamed her a facetious smile while Eva recoiled in defeat.
“It still wasn’t right of you to do that,” she rebutted. “You-you were just trying to get attention—like a kind of immature jackass.”
“Well at least I don’t expect to get attention by shrinking away from everyone I’d like to talk to,” Cal replied. “You idealize people too much if you believe they’re just going to walk up to you, as a ghost I might add, and treat you normally. At least when I a scare passer-by, I know I’ll get some kind of reaction.”
Eva sighed, no longer wishing to press the matter, before she turned to the sound of footsteps. At the last second she recognized the footsteps before attempting to bolt. She stopped when a strong hand grabbed at the back of her neck. She saw Cal beside her stopped by a similar hand on the back of his neck. Appearing between the two of them appeared a man in his mid-twenties with neat black hair and a somewhat bored expression.
“I thought I told you both to stay away from the living,” he said.
“I wasn’t doing anything!” Eva cried as struggled against his grip.
“Oh, can’t you just lighten up?” Cal groaned. “I was having fun some fun.”
“I told you two to not bother with the living!” Mason said. “You can’t antagonize them anymore! I don’t care what you’re excuse is, attacking them is out of the question!”
“But I wasn’t!” Cal shouted. “I was just messing around with him, scaring him a bit! He left and dropped his bag! He’s fine and long gone!”
Mason looked over Eva, his brown eyes softening.
“Is this true?” he asked.
Eva nodded as best she could.
Mason released them from his grip before apologizing to Eva, as he looked at Cal almost disdainfully.
“Even so, it’s not right what you did,” Mason said. “Scaring them is still likely to cause harm and spread panic among them. You’re quite the child.”
“I tried telling him that!” Eva said. “And, yes, he is a child.”
“I resent that,” Cal said.
“But there’s a reason Mason doesn’t want us ghosts bothering humans!” Eva cried.
Cal gave her a deadpan expression.
“Oh, I forget what that reason was again,” he asked sarcastically.
“It’s that ghosts who get lonely and wish to communicate with the living often try end up scaring them,” Mason said sternly. “As they keep scaring them from failed attempts at talking to them, they become envious of the living and will sometimes just outright attack passing humans. I didn’t want you guys to turn out like that, or anyone else for that matter.”
“Like we haven’t heard it the first dozen times,” Cal said. “You say this so often I’ve memorized it by now.”
“Then why bother chasing him?” Mason asked.
“It was fun!” Cal exclaimed.
Mason sighed, having nothing more to say.
“It’s not like we have much else to do,” Cal said. “Waiting around, listening to all these spirits angst about their problems, it doesn’t put much anyone in a good mood.”
“I know how you feel,” Eva said. “They don’t really do all that much except drift in their own world, left to their own thoughts. It does make you long for real human company.”
And with that the three of them let out a collective sigh in understanding.
“I understand,” Mason said. “It does…get lonely around here. I guess there’s not really much more to say…it’s the reason we’ve stuck pretty close together. But, there’s another reason I can’t have you guys interacting with humans again.”
Eva and Cal looked up at him, noticing the graveness in his voice.
“What would that be?” Cal asked.
“The Underworld,” Mason said. “I’ve been getting a bunch of weird gargoyle goons from there coming and telling a few of us that, so long as our souls are in stasis in this graveyard, they don’t want us attacking anymore humans. In fact, they implied they wouldn’t want us talking to living humans at all anymore.”
Eva’s mouth dropped slightly at this while Cal stood obviously confused.
“What?” Cal asked.
“Why would those from the Underworld care?” Eva asked.
“Not sure myself,” Mason said. “But they said the reality of human souls given physical properties is too much influence for them. They acted as though we should be their responsibility, but in the end can’t control us. All they can do I suppose is punish us if they find us pestering people.”
Eva sighed, looking down at herself.
Alan laid back in his bed, tossing against the covers as he was lost in thought.
Damn. He thought. My parents were already going to lay into me for getting into detention but now that I lost my backpack, they say I’m grounded until I get it back. But I lost it at that graveyard after I threw it at the ghost…maybe they won’t be there during the day. Yeah. That girl said they come out at night. If I go there in the morning and retrieve my backpack, I’ll be able to run back to school before it starts so long as I go an hour early. I just hope they aren’t there…
Alan crept down the street the next morning, a faint fog hanging in the air. He yawned in cold air while he rubbed at his eyes, slightly red with morning crust still present.
I can’t remember the last time I got up this early. Alan thought. To think, I survived that graveyard just for the opportunity to go all the way back to get my backpack…back. I hope the audience doesn’t hold that accidental rhyming against me. Well, I guess I was right in the author giving me a bit of protection back there…didn’t he?
Alan almost stopped in his tracks.
Wait a minute. Alan thought. If the author of this is just an observer of the events taking place then…I’m on my own with no protection. Damn.
Alan took a large sigh of breath before he hung his head low and stopped in front of the gate where he exited the graveyard yesterday. He looked around, seeing neither his backpack nor the silhouettes of any spirits, so he walked through the open gate.
He started down the concrete path, almost tip-toeing down it.
No ghosts yet. Alan thought. All I have to do is just swing in, get that backpack, and be on my way.
Alan continued down the walkway, turning his head left and right, looking for his backpack.
Where is it? He began to panic. I know I threw it at the ghost not far from this gate. Did…did one of them take it? They must have because otherwise it would be here.
Alan decided to walk farther down the walkway, becoming anxious the further he distanced himself from the gate, hoping that if he ever met one of the spirits he would have a place to bolt to. Alan began looking around, expecting silhouettes to loom in the cover of the fog at any moment. He tried staying calm but his mind kept turning back to the shadow that loomed over him the other night.
It was as he looked over to his right side he jumped back. Coming towards him was what looked like a girl with blond hair and dark skin, but her figure looked very…faint. Alan couldn’t put his finger on it but she looked as though her body had the density of the mist surrounding them.
“H-hello there,” the girl said nervously.
Alan jumped back, almost losing his balance as he felt his legs shake. There she stood, looking at him with an uneasy smile. She slowly approached him, holding out her hand in gesture.
“I…um, I saw you the other day…I think,” she said. “My name’s Eva.”
“Um…Alan,” he replied. “You were the thing chasing me the other day.”
“Um…no,” Eva said. “That was my friend. I saw you…from afar, I guess? It’s nice meeting you. Or anyone really for that matter. What’s your name?”
Alan, still hesitant of the girl, reached out to touch her hand with his. However, when he felt of her hand his passed through it, feeling as though his skin was vibrating.
“Sorry,” she said as she pulled her hand back. “Force of habit.”
Alan stared at her, scared to speak and feeling as though he would run at any moment. However, he knew he couldn’t show up to school today without his supplies and even if he did, he’d still be grounded. Best to play along with her, he supposed.“Um…okay,” Alan asked. “What do you want?”
Eva looked a bit sheepish, almost reluctant to reply.
“Well, um…” she stammered. “I suppose I wanted to apologize for my friend Cal’s behavior the other day. It was rude of him trying to scare you like that.”
Alan smiled uneasily, trying to stay calm despite periodically looking back at the open gate at the end of the walkway. He was about continue speaking before, out of the corner of his eye, appeared another figure. No, two more. He saw them drift/walk towards him, where he could see them standing in front of him. One was an older bow brown hair with sharp, shifty-looking eyes and a mocking smile while the other had very neat-looking hair and a stoic expression that intimidated Alan.“Eva,” the taller, stoic one said. “What did I say?”
“Long time no see!” the younger man, brighter eyed one exclaimed.
“I…I just wanted to meet with Alan,” Eva said. “That was all. There was no harm in it Mason.”
Mason’s eyes quickly shifted from Eva to Alan, sighing a little.
“What are you doing back here?” Mason asked. “I thought you would have been too scared from Cal chasing you.”
“It was rather unexpected,” the boy next to Mason said.
Alan looked down at the ground, feeling an odd mix of sheepish and nervous as he talked to the ghost, playing with his thumbs.
“Um…my backpack,” he replied. “I lost while I was being chased out of the graveyard. I wouldn’t have come back unless I really needed it but…I don’t know where it is.”
Mason turned to the ghost beside him, the one Alan presumed to be Cal, giving him a slight glare.“Where is it?” Mason asked.
Cal gave a sheepish grin and shrugged.
“Beats me,” Cal replied. “I did nothing with it. In fact, after Eva griped at me I think it just kind of vanished.”
Alan groaned before feeling a shot of adrenaline go through him, his heart race with panic. The fear that arose in him was for two reasons, the first being that if he didn’t return home with it, his parents would raise hell with him as it contained all his school supplies including instruction sheets his teachers had sent as well as reading schedules. The second was for his own sake that, without it, he may not catch up with the rest of his class and fall behind, never going to college like he originally planned in order to gain a better life for himself.
Hmm. Alan mumbled within himself. I guess all this ghost stuff isn’t near as scary as real life is. Oh damn, what am I going to do if I can’t find it…
“Hmm,” Eva hummed out loud. “Backpack, eh…? I think I actually saw that somewhere farther back into the graveyard, last night. I thought it was discarded junk like a bag at first but now that you mention it…”
Alan turned to her, his jaw almost dropping in surprise.
“I can’t recall where exactly it was…but it was yellow in color wasn’t it?” she asked.
Alan nodded in reply, containing his excitement as best he could.
“Do you mind showing me?” Alan asked.
“I don’t mind,” Eva said. “But be wary of other spirits as, even in the morning, they still have some presence.”
“Presence?” Alan asked.
“What Eva’s trying to say,” Mason explained. “Is that our forms as ghosts are as solid as human beings and more powerful during the night than during the day. The closer it is to the night the more power ghosts like us have. We call this presence a Night Body.”
“How is that possible?” Alan asked. “How…how can ghosts have bodies?”
“It’s kind of complicated,” Eva explained as she led Alan off the walkway and onto the park’s grass. “We really don’t know anything except that whoever’s buried here doesn’t ascend to the next life like most people do soon after they die.”
“Well, can’t you exit the graveyard?” Alan asked.
“Doesn’t do much,” Cal replied. “I tried it once at night but when I exited the graveyard into the city but my solid body faded and I became intangible like I am during the day. All I could do is watch as living people performed acts I never could again, which is why those buried here usually don’t leave. Apparently, whatever keeps us grounded here only exists so long as we stay in the graveyard.”
“I’m sorry,” Alan said. “That must be sad.”
“It’s not all bad,” Eva said. “We can do this.”
She lowered herself down to his torso and slipped her wispy form through him. What came over Alan next was feeling as thought his insides were vibrating with a cold wave of energy. Alan turned his head to see Eva’s wispy frame protruding from the other side of his body.
“Neat, huh?” she asked.
“Please stop,” Alan whimpered before she complied.
“That seemed like something I would do,” Cal said.
“It’s not wise to keep harassing him, Eva,” Mason said. “After all, we’re not entirely sure of the effects we can have on the human body.”
“Good point,” Alan said, still holding his stomach. “That was the strangest feeling yet.”
“I said that the first time I walked in my Night Body,” Mason said. “It was pretty weird at first.”
“Hey,” Alan replied. “Speaking of which, how did you guys die in the first place? You all didn’t die together, did you?”
Eva sighed while looking somewhat sheepishly at Alan.
“Well, no, Alan,” Mason said. “None of us new each other before being trapped here. We met up basically to escape the loneliness that grew on us.”
“Yeah,” Eva replied. “For example, I was with a friend of mine while my mother was away. I lived in a pretty bad neighborhood and…well, someone broke in and let’s just say it was a burglary gone wrong. I saw my best friend die and…I never really could do anything.”
The four of them stopped in their tracks, looking away almost in embarrassment, Alan being the most apprehensive to speak.“So that’s how it happened,” Mason said. “For the longest time you would never tell us. I finally understand why.”
Cal gestured to himself.
“I guess I should tell you about my life before I kicked the bucket,” he said.
Eva sighed as Mason moved over beside Alan.
“Get ready,” he whispered. “You’re in for quite a show.”
“Alright,” Cal said as he lifted his hand up into the air. “It all started in high school when I found my true calling.”He spread his arms wide apart with sarcastic smile.
“My passion was theatre drama!” He exclaimed. “I was discovered one day at a local theatre tryout, astounding all of the judges with my charisma! I felt like a star!”
Alan lurched forward in hushed laughter. He turned to Mason and Eva to see their reactions weren’t all that different from his.
“And so, every day!” Cal continued. “I trained hard to hone my talent on stage, dedicating long hours to it! Not only that, but I worked hard at my schoolwork, knowing that it was the only way to get into the best theatre schools in the country! Eventually my spectacular grades in high school and college got me accepted into the acting school of my dreams! I was so elated, and the first weekend there I had the biggest party of my life!”
Then Cal looked down, sort of sheepishly with a touch of sadness.
“But,” he sighed. “My life came to a grinding, tragic halt when I was a bit tipsy at that party and this girl…she was coming onto me! We standing on the edge of the balcony, and I was about to grasp her beautiful body, glowing in the moonlight! But alas, I missed my grasp at her and fell from the edge of the balcony, hitting my head about three stories down. And that is where my tragic tail ends, as I was buried in the graveyard as this place was my childhood home, preventing my soul from ascending to the here and after.”
As soon as he was finished Eva and Mason began clapping their mist-like hands together so Alan decided to join in.
Pretty fabulous performance. Alan thought. He must not have been taking that very seriously though, otherwise that story might have been pretty sad. It may be he just doesn’t want to encumber everybody else with his own problems.
“I got to hand it to you Cal,” Eva said. “You sure do put the ham in Hamlet. But, I don’t think you’d make a good actor. I think directors would want someone who could, well, you know, act, not just make a buffet of the scenery.”
“Says you!” Cal reacts by throwing an invisible scarf over shoulder and puffing out his chest. “Plebs like you just wouldn’t understand true art!”
That gave the three of them another good chuckle before Alan turned to Mason.
“Um, Mason…how exactly did you die?” Alan asked.
Mason looked surprised at first before turning somewhat stoic. He couldn’t seem to look Alan in the eye after that question, preferring to turn away.
“Mmm,” he groaned. “I’d rather not talk about it.”
Eva and Cal nodded in reply, seeming to understand with needing to be told. Alan could only guess a similar question came up and Mason would give a similar reply. He was actually somewhat surprised the other two gave their cause of death at all.
“Um…so,” Alan said. “Where’s my backpack?”
Eva scratched the back of her head.“I think it’s over here somewhere,” she replied and led them deeper into the graveyard. “It may have changed location since I last saw it.”
They walked through rows of headstones before Alan saw his backpack, lying next to a headstone. However, it was in the possession of someone. In the clear space where there was no fog he could see his backpack being held by the wispy form of a small boy who couldn’t be more than eight years old, grasping at its strap while his sullen face pressed against the body of the pack.
“Oh my,” exclaimed Mason.
“What’s he doing?” Cal asked.
Alan stood there, confused over what to do. He was at least relieved that no one or nothing menacing had taken it, but his emotions at that point were…ambivalent, to say the least. The boy’s green eyes at that point couldn’t really be looked at as sad, near as much his expression was tragic. Alan squatted down, trying to get a better expression of the spirit’s face, still not sure what to do.
“What is this?” Mason asked. “He looks like he’s holding onto that thing for dear life. It’s kind of strange.”“I think I recognize that headstone,” Cal said. “From what I could hear at his funeral exactly a week ago, a little boy died in a car crash along with his parents. As sad as that was, his parents were both buried in their home town while this boy had been requested to be buried in this town, where he’d been born. So while his parents ascended to the next life, his soul has stayed anchored here.”
“He must be pretty lost and confused without having his parents with him,” Eva replied. “That backpack could be a reminder of what his life was like before he died. It’s possible he found it and dragged it all the way out here and won’t let go because it’s all he has left of the human world.”
Alan squinted at the boy, looking closely at him, as the boy stared back with uncaring, sullen eyes.
“Surely no one will care to talk to him during the day,” Eva finished.
Alan stood up and took a step closer to the boy.
“What should we do with him?” Mason asked. “Should we take the backpack away from him? If so, would that hurt his feelings too much?”
“I’m not sure,” Eva said. “If we did take away that backpack it might scar the boy too much and he’d be even more sullen then he is. At least we weren’t children when we were buried here. Alan what-”
She paused to watch as Alan knelt down in front of the boy, grabbing at the backpack strap along with him. He beamed at him a warm smile. The boy, confused at first smiled back before letting go of the backpack. His smile stuck in their minds before the boy drifted away, disappearing into the mist.
The four of them stared at where they last saw the boy, in a strange mix of confusion and wonder.
“What…what was that?” Cal asked.
“It seemed like Alan communicated something to the boy,” Mason said. “Before…before he just vanished. Like they were both at peace for a moment. Alan, what happened?”
Alan turned to Mason and shrugged nonchalantly.
“Hard to say exactly,” he replied. “I guess, I just kind of felt it out and…well, he returned to normal. I hope.”
“You know,” Eva said. “Sometimes we ghost accidentally let out thoughts that become messages to others. Maybe that young boy sensed what you were feeling and, since it was something akin to happiness…I don’t know, felt happy himself. It’s possible you gave him the reassurance needed.”
Alan beamed her a smile before realizing it and giving another shrug and a sly grin.
Don’t want the audience to think I got all mushy after that. He thought.
“Yeah, well,” he said. “I knew I could I do it all along. It was nothing, really. I’m surprised I didn’t do it sooner.”
“Really?” Eva asked. “Because to me it looked as though you were kind of surprised as well. Are you sure…?”
“Wait a minute,” Cal exclaimed. “How can he do that when ghosts like us even hate talking with each other? Isn’t it rather odd a living human changed the kid’s attitude so suddenly? Eh…I guess that’s what kind of powers the protagonist gets. Oh, wait, you’re the protagonist?! Then that means…oh…I’m just comic relief.”
Mason clamped a hand down on Cal’s mouth, to which Cal glared at him with disdain. Alan took notice that while solid objects couldn’t phase them, another ghost sure seemed quite solid.
“To be honest, that ability could actually come in handy,” Mason said. “I’ve never seen anyone communicate with spirits just like that before. I do find it rather strange but, these spirits that wonder aimlessly through here don’t really talk to each other that much, like they’ve lost any and all will to socialize. If you have that ability to communicate with spirits like that…maybe we can utilize it to further communicate with the ghosts of this graveyard.”
“That’s perfect!” Eva shouted. “If we do that then that means the ghosts here won’t be so lonely anymore!”
“If you can use it correctly,” Cal said sourly through Mason’s hand. “For all we know this could have been a fluke. In fact, it feels like a fluke more than anything if you ask me. We’d have to test it to find out.”
“When did you become so pessimistic?” Eva asked dully.
“About the time I found out I wasn’t the protagonist,” Cal said.
“You mind coming back here?” Mason asked. “See if we could utilize that thing you just did?”
“I’ll come by after school. Don’t have much to do anyway.”
The three spirits walked Alan to the open gate, as placed his backpack strap around him.
“We’ll be waiting for you,” Mason said. “Don’t hesitate to come back.”
“We’ll need your help if we want to heal these spirits of their pain,” Eva said. “I think you’ll be of great use for that!”
“Don’t tell anyone about this,” Cal said. “It may turn out for the worse.”
Alan nodded as he left them behind, heading off to school.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, Cal2x4Write a Review