Everyone Sees but No One Understands
Ever since they met in front of the wall, that guy had started to follow Zoe around. Be it to the supermarket or back to her building, he was there like a shadow. He didn’t seem to mean any harm but his simple presence was burdensome.
Zoe was coming back from a tiring meeting at the office, in which it seemed she had to come up with a new character in her story, and behind her, all the way from the subway to her neighborhood, she's been followed by the same young man with brown hair and brown eyes.
Feeling like she couldn't handle another day with her newest shadow, Zoe stopped and turned to him.
"I can see you, I'm not an idiot. Why have you been following me around for the past week?" She asked, her tone rising as she was speaking.
“It’s a free country.” Was his simplistic answer. "Let's go somewhere private to speak."
She could feel her right eyebrow twitching. His personality reminded her of an old acquaintance, one that knew when to appear to make her feel like a crazy person.
A younger version of Zoe was going to see what middle school was really like. For a while now, her mother was against public schools but her father convinced her to let her daughter experience new things.
Zoe was looking forward to the new school. She knew that if she was to make real friends, the imaginary ones would disappear. Unfortunately, when her father parked the car, she could already see someone at the entrance. He was looking straight at her and she was sure he wasn’t a teacher.
She glanced at her father and gulped.
“There is a man at the entrance, isn’t there? He looks scary.”
Her father squinted a little to see what she was talking about.
“Yes, there is.” She sighed in relief hearing he could see him too. “He must be your teacher. But he doesn’t look scary at all. He’s even waving at us, look!”
She glanced at the entrance and saw a friendly man waving at them. Well, at least there was a man there and she wasn’t imagining things but she could swear he was different before.
However, when her father left, someone appeared behind her and whispered something into her ear. She didn’t understand what he said because it was in a strange language but it freaked her out.
Zoe had to hide a lot of things from her teachers and classmates. The other students liked her because she was new and because she always found an interesting story to tell them but she was also getting in trouble because of those same stories.
“Stop following me,” she mumbled. She couldn’t speak loud with so many people around her.
“It’s a free world. Besides, you’re avoiding me.” The elder, wicked looking man whispered to her.
“I’m imagining you. You’re not real,” she mumbled as she slipped through the kids in the hall.
The man’s eyes widened and he started to laugh loudly, choking at some point. Fortunately, no one could see or hear him. But then again, that was quite unfortunate, too.
“Just because only you can see me doesn’t mean I’m not real.”
Zoe sighed and made a sudden stop at the girls’ bathroom. She entered a stall and locked herself in before she sat on the stool, pulling her knees close to her chest.
“Now I have real friends and I don’t need imaginary ones.” She closed her eyes and covered her ears. No matter how much she was trying, she could still hear him chuckle. “Leave me alone.”
“Even if I leave, others will take my place,” he whispered into her ear. It sent chills down her spine.
That was all. It stopped and he left her alone. She opened her eyes and glanced warily around her. Everything was normal. Zoe walked out of the stall with a lighter heart and walked towards the sink. She washed her face and rubbed her eyes, thinking just how out of control her condition was getting. That thought amplified when she raised her eyes and noticed the writing on the mirror.
She called the teachers and told them that someone followed her in and wrote that on the mirrors. However, the teachers could only see one thing written on the mirrors:
Fortunately, that was ages ago. Zoe had to transfer to another middle school because everyone came to the conclusion that she was only looking for attention. However, that just proved to her that whatever was around her was not imaginary. She wasn’t crazy but she wasn’t completely sane either. From that moment on, she started to draw everything she could see and change it according to where she wanted everything to lead her to. That led her to Alec. She got a job and she started to work more seriously on Fallen, a story about angels falling down on Earth and mingling with humans. It was nice to create heroes when she only had villains around her.
“Hello? Are you even listening to me?”
She blinked and took a step back when he slapped his palms in front of her. It was too close and he almost hit her nose.
She pushed his hands away from her face and looked around. They were in front of a coffee shop called Camelot. The brunette was familiar with that place, often stopping there for a quick Caramel Macchiato on the way to work. It was proven that the sweetness of the beverage was contributing to her resistance in boring and sometimes conflicting meetings with her editor.
Against her wishes, the guy whose name she still didn’t know pushed her inside. He nudged her towards a table in the back and she complied in the end.
“The staff is going to shove us out when they’re going to close,” she said while watching them clean up, also keeping an eye out for a certain ghost.
“My friend works here. I’m sure he will let us stay and talk for however long we want.”
“Yay.” She grimaced.
Zoe was feeling very uncomfortable just standing there, especially because his brown eyes were focused on her to the point she felt like he could read her mind. As if that wasn't enough, two ghosts appeared on each of her sides, one with his arms folded in front of his chest and the other leaning against her chair.
“I don’t like him.” Andy started, measuring the guy from head to toe.
“He’s a friend of the manager. I've seen him come around a few times.” The second ghost answered. Her name was Danielle and she died some time ago, Zoe wasn't sure when. She had been haunting the shop for a while now and was one of the ghosts that felt the rejection of being helped by the brunette human.
“You've been haunting this place because you had an immense crush on the manager at the moment of your death. Does that sound like you have a solid point? Because it sounds like favoritism to me,” he blurted out, making Danielle uncomfortable. "Just because he knows the manager doesn't mean he's trustworthy." Andy added raising an eyebrow, content with her reaction.
“But he’s only a student. What can he do? He doesn’t even know what’s going on,” Danielle continued to defend the human, making Andy scoff at her naivety.
“You don’t know, either.” Zoe mumbled to the side.
“Did you say something?” The young man asked her, his eyes wide and curious. “Anyway, I’m Ezekiel. Ezekiel Addams.” He smiled sheepishly, “Well, what’s your name?” He asked when he realized she had no intention of answering.
“What do you want to talk to me about?” She finally replied.
“Is that your name?” the boy, Ezekiel, asked jokingly.
It was quite clear that Ezekiel Addams was not as innocent as he looked at a first glance. He wasn't very tall but not too short either; he wasn't deadly handsome but he was above average in looks and body form; his hair was messy and always falling over his big round brown eyes and his hands were rather feminine. Ezekiel was a devilish young man who could very well hide behind his boy next door image and the one thing that was giving him away was the sparkle of playfulness in his eyes and witty behavior.
“Zoe.” She finally replied, thinking about the repercussions that will follow after talking to him.
He nodded and noted her name down.
“Why is he writing down her name? Isn’t that suspicious?” Andy’s words were harsh and were directed to Danielle, who still couldn’t see anything strange with Ezekiel.
“Maybe he’s one of those guys that have short memory.”
Andy scoffed and rolled his eyes. That idea was foolish and Danielle was naive to think Ezekiel was a trustworthy fellow only because he was a friend of the man she liked.
“He learned those riddles by heart so that's definitely not the case. What does he want with Zoe? She’s a weird, overconfident and overly weak girl with nothing to offer.”
Zoe spat a little bit of her drink, causing Ezekiel to frown and suddenly get up. He only wanted to help her but Andy quickly threw his drink on the floor.
While Ezekiel was busy pondering his next move, Zoe glared at the two ghosts.
“What?” Andy was acting all innocent after he did something unnecessary. "It's all for your own safety. He's a suspicious man, Zoe, you don't need curious lads in your life."
"You are a curious lad." She murmured, hiding her face with her hand, seemingly rubbing her forehead.
Andrew's eyes widened and took offense in her statement. The ghost scoffed and disappeared, Danielle leaving soon after. Now that they were alone, Zoe turned to Ezekiel and crouched on the ground next to him.
“Sorry. Here, let me help.” It was the least she could do after Andy’s antics.
“It’s fine. I can handle it.” The boy smiled up at her, using his charm but Zoe wasn't easily swayed.
Unfortunately, their drinks were in glass cups so when Ezekiel’s glass fell, it shattered in pieces. He was careful, but Zoe wasn’t thus she cut her finger in a shard without thinking.
“You’re bleeding.” Ezekiel’s eyes widened and he grabbed her finger to inspect the wound. It was just a scratch but something got Ezekiel to gasp in amazement. “Uh, can blood be so dark?”
She pulled her hand back quickly and covered it with a napkin.
“I only have one thing to ask you.”
They were back in their seats and Ezekiel was acting all business-like while she was silent.
“What did you see on the wall?” Ezekiel was really persistent about that problem.
“Why are you so interested in it?” Zoe urged him to give her a logical response, one that was as far as possible from the truth.
He chuckled and leaned back, playing with his fingers on the table while trying to think how to express what he was thinking.
“I think everyone sees something different. I just want to know what you saw.”
“Well…” she trailed while glancing at her finger.
Zoe really wanted to tell him. It didn’t have the same meaning for him as it did for her so it wouldn’t affect him in the same way, if at all. She got scared because she could read it in the first place and that wasn't his case, but something was holding her back. Her eyes wandered to the side, on the window and jolted in surprise when she saw Mehrdir on the other side, watching with interest.
《Tell him》 he mouthed. She sighed again and looked at the curious Ezekiel.
“It said: Those who do not believe in Hell or Heaven/ Forever doomed in perdition.” She lied through her teeth, making something up on the spot.
“Did it say that?” He asked, not convinced at all.
“Yes. You asked me what I saw. That’s it. I guess everyone sees what they lost.”
“What's that supposed to mean? What did I lose, my rightfulness?” Ezekiel exclaimed in offence but her answer was a simple, apathetic shrug. “What did you lose then?”
“Belief.” She stated coldly.