Persuasion's Worth Something
Much like a living person, she invited the ghost to sit. It was a boy with messy black hair, round face and eyes that reminded her of a lost puppy. He was of Asian descent but it was obvious he lived most of his life in the United Kingdom; his thick accent was the greatest hint.
“You scared the guy a few minutes ago, didn’t you?” She asked with no real surprise in her voice.
“Yes, I did.” The ghost answered with a bright smile, barely suppressing his laughter.
“Was it funny to you?”
“No, but your explanation was.” The boy answered before he reached out towards her, “I’m Kim Kyung Jae, but people call me Chen.” He stuck his hand out expectantly but Zoe stared at it for a few seconds before her eyes moved up, to his face. “Ah, right. You can’t touch me,” he mumbled and rubbed his neck nervously.
“I have a bad feeling about you, just like when Andy first appeared to me.” Zoe mumbled, shifting on her seat uncomfortably.
“Did you invite him to sit too? Gave him a bit of tea, maybe?” The ghost asked innocently, his wide big eyes staring intensely at Zoe’s poker face. If he squinted, he could see her chin tensing at his foolish words.
“No. Andrew invited himself in, asking for help. I told him what I am going to tell you: I’m not the ghost whisperer.”
“I knew an Andrew too,” He suddenly started, shrugging off the vibes she was emitting, “We were colleagues in university. We had the same major, though I’m pretty sure I was better than him.” He reminded her of someone but she couldn’t quite pinpoint whom.
“You died. He died. You will probably meet at the corner street.” She was sarcastic, but he didn’t catch on. “How did you die anyway?” she asked.
Chen laughed nervously, shifting in his seat. Zoe raised an eyebrow when she saw his ears getting pink.
“You’re not dead,” she concluded.
His eyes were glistening with life, unlike Andy’s empty orbs, which only meant he didn’t get through the barrier yet.
“I’m dead, but not really. I’m in a coma. There’s been a lot of fuss over last week’s chain accidents caused by a drunk driver.”
“I know about it. He came crashing into a bus returning from Manchester. Everyone survived though,” she remembered, seeing no relevance to why he came to her.
“Barely. As you can see, I’m not a survivor yet. Even worse is that my parents want to detach me from the machine that keeps me alive.” Chen explained, sighing heavily at his parents’ rash decision.
“Won’t you die, then? Isn’t that good?”
Was that supposed to be a joke? Because he felt appalled more than anything.
“No. No, I want to live. I will wake up but I guess my body needs a bit more time. Go and tell them that.” The boy ordered her with a frown on his face.
Zoe stared at him for a few minutes before she started to laugh loudly. He wasn’t sure that was a good response. She got on her feet and walked into her room, leaving him confused.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Chen asked, following her through the wall.
Zoe's room was incredibly messy for how neat she seemed in looks. There was only one window illuminating over her double bed, which was half unmade and half looking like she doesn't even touch it, let alone sleep on that side. Spinning around so he could take in the surroundings, Chen noticed the way she seemed to have a lot of space available yet instead of using it in her favor, she was depositing either stacks of books or clothes.
"Maybe you should clean up from time to time. I'm a man and this-" he mumbled as he reached out for a randomly thrown bra next to her dresser, probably too lazy to actually get it inside. "-this is not pleasant to see in a lady's room."
Zoe spun her chair around, throwing him a look of annoyance, before she returned to her desk, which was next to the door. If Chen wanted to mess with her, he could easily open and close the bedroom door, hitting her desk every single time and thus annoying her until she'd eventually snap. But he didn't want that; he wanted her help.
"Can you just go and talk to my parents? My father is a strict man but he's not been able to stand by my side every day. Mum is easily swayed by words which gives you the best opportunity." He gave another shot, walking so close to her that if she would suddenly get up, she'd walk right through him.
“I hate meddling with people and their issues.” She answered in the same ignorant manner.
"Have you even done it before?!" The boy yelled, half of the biggest stack of books falling to the side. "Have you done anything to help anyone in your life?!"
"No. There's no need to get involved when life follows its course."
“If I am here, pleading for you to do nothing but talk to my mother, then I'm sure life is following its course. It wants me alive not dead." He said coldly, walking towards her bed and sitting on the edge.
Zoe scoffed and turned towards the young adult, her left eyebrow twitching slightly under the pressure.
"You're reading the signs as you please not as they are."
Chen scoffed and grumpily folded his arms in front of his chest.
“He told me you'll be able to help me. I want to live and the one person that can help is-is such a-” He didn’t have any word to describe her.
“By the way,” he stopped and looked up at the brunette with hope in his eyes, “Who told you that I’m able to help you?”
“A guy was there when I got out of my body. I think his name was Mehrdir. I assumed he was a reaper or something of that sort.”
Her eye twitched very ugly so. She really wanted to bang his head against the wall even if that would be useless.
“Mehrdir is a greed demon.” Zoe explained, “Everything he does is for his own interest. When he helps someone, he expects something in return.”
“Oh...” That was literally everything that came out of his mouth. It suddenly made sense why she seemed to be so pressured by his presence. "Does that mean he lied?"
“Demons are tricky. There’s no way to know who is a demon and who isn’t so I'm not blaming you. The best way to hide is to be in the open.” Zoe added, trying to sound as if she wasn't scolding him too badly, "It's hard to say if he lied or not because it all comes down to circumstances."
Chen nodded before he suddenly jumped on his feet and grabbed his head in pain. Zoe's eyes noted how his legs were slowly fading away and sighed, leaning back against her chair with a heavy heart.
“I think they’re doing something to me. I have a terrible headache.” The ghost muttered in pain before he disappeared completely.
Zoe really tried to forget about the young man and concentrate on her work but she ended up drawing him. She moaned and ruffled her hair when she realized she couldn’t just forget about someone who was dying and was probably going to haunt her later on.
One way or another, she found herself in the hospital. His family was somewhere around there and she really didn’t want to meet them. Unfortunately, she met his mother at the reception when she asked for a Chen.
“Thank you for helping me. The nurse was very stubborn.”
Mrs Kim glanced at her from the corner of her eye, suspicious how the woman knew her son.
“Are you a friend of my son?”
That was the point of no return, the moment she had to lie in order to fulfill someone else’s desire. She needed a good reason, one that would place her high in the emotional pyramid of this family.
“I’m his-um-girlfriend,” she lied, trying to look like she believed herself.
“Are you Jane?”
Zoe had no choice but to nod. The mother suddenly hugged her and begun to act more like a mother than a stranger she just met.
“So he told you a lot about me?” She patted the older woman and tried to keep up the nice act.
“Yes, of course. You’re everything he talks about when he comes home. He must like you very much. Thank you for loving my son.”
Zoe frowned when she heard Mrs. Kim sobbing in the crook of her neck.
“Yes, yes. No problem.” Zoe mumbled, patting the woman awkwardly, hoping she will let go of her soon.
The mother stopped crying and let Zoe go after a few more minutes. The woman was far shorter than Zoe so when she let go of the tall woman, Zoe immediately straightened up.
“Kyung Jae was a talented singer. I hoped he’d wake up and sing his favorite songs again but this happened. He entered the coma and it doesn’t look like he will wake up ever again. My precious son.” Mrs. Kim started once they started to walk towards Chen’s room.
“Are you going to detach him from the machines?”
“I don’t know what to do anymore. My husband wants that but I still have hope.”
Only when they entered his room did Zoe notice just how big the damage to his body was. He was all bandaged up and had a tube for oxygen down his throat. She shivered when she saw it. But, aside from that, Chen’s ghost was there too. He was surprised to see her there.
“You know, we talked about this before.” Chen raised an eyebrow when she started to talk. She tried to look at his body instead of his partial ghost and even grabbed his arm just to look more mournful. He could feel warm energy coming from her but also annoyance.
“Did you? Did you talk about death?”
“We had an assignment for class. We had to sing as if one of us was going to die.” Chen walked closer, amused and curious of her story. “I said that I wouldn’t really want to be kept alive if I would be in big pain. I’d prefer to be released. But he was such a joyful guy. He said he’d fight until the end. I think Kyung Jae would like to live.”
Chen stared at her with soft eyes and a warm smile. He felt like hugging her. She sensed that and plunged her nails in his hand, forcing him to back off.
“That hurt!” She did it again. “Just wait until I wake up!” He threatened childishly. Chen still had a long way until he was going to walk around as if nothing happened.
His mother was in terrible pain. She wasn’t thinking clearly and was holding onto a fake thread. That fake thread was Zoe. Mehrdir probably realized that and told Chen to ask her for help knowing Zoe could psychologically manipulate the woman into her favor.
“I don’t want to tell you what to do but I think you should wait a little bit more. It’s been only a few days. Wait another week. If he can’t breathe by himself then you can detach him. Someone smart said once that you should believe that fate is the optimal combination of choice and chance.” Mrs Kim looked really pleased by Zoe’s words. She hugged the young woman once again and thanked her. “Can I stay a little bit more?” Zoe asked, knowing she already gave the woman what she needed.
Mrs Kim nodded and left.
“Wow. That was actually quite creative. As a matter of fact, I am a joyful kid.”
“I saved you. You better wake up in a week. I don’t want to be haunted by your mother.”
Chen smiled contently, watching Zoe with different eyes than when he first barged into her apartment.
“What you said about death,” Chen started when he saw her walking towards the door. “I think you would actually fight until the end, too. You’re not afraid of death but that doesn’t mean you don’t like life.”
“You don’t know anything about my life. Oh, by the way, your mother thinks I’m Jane. It was the only way to get to you. You better tell her a story when you wake up.” She stopped and rubbed her chin. “If you remember, of course.”
She only laughed to herself and left.
Walking down the halls without a mission to look forward to was highlighting the reason Zoe hated hospitals. They were filled with ghosts and demons. She had never met an angel but then again, she could only see the darker side of the world.
On the way home, Zoe could finally think about her own life. She had to recognize that she felt good after being a well-doer. She did something good with her curse, but Chen was the only ghost that she helped while still being partially alive.
“You helped Chen.”
She rolled her eyes and walked in the park. Unlike most places, the park was full of happiness and bright colours. Not many ghosts or demons were around.
“You didn’t really give me a choice. You sent him to me in the first place,” she mumbled, still mad that he sent a ghost to her for help. Mehrdir chuckled and sat on the bench. She had no other choice but to sit next to him. “Why did you send him?” she finally asked the dreadful question.
“I told you to make friends in high places. When he gets better, he will look for you.”
“No, he won’t. He won’t even remember what happened.”
Mehrdir leaned back and crossed his arms in front of his chest. He looked like he didn’t have any problem with what he was doing.
“He is a special case. He and a few others will become your companions in the future. Have you watched Constantine?” She didn’t see any connection to her issue but let him continue. “Well, even Constantine had friends who would often come and rescue him when he needed.”
“That’s only a comic book.” She shrugged it off swiftly, “Demons that powerful will never come to Earth. As you said, the hole is too small.”
“But you haven’t seen it, have you?” The demon asked, “Just listen to me and accept any help that comes to you. Not many have the chance that you have,” he mumbled before he disappeared.