Shelly inched closer to the edge of the bench, her hands ready to launch her forward. “Are you saying you have no memory of anything before me?” Keep him talking. Wait for the right moment.
He sensed her tension and knew what she was thinking. If only he could stop her. But how could he do that? He hesitated before answering, “That’s right. I have no past before you.” It wasn’t time to tell her the whole truth yet. She was still huddled at the far end of the bench, but her feet were now on the ground. “I wish you weren’t so afraid of me,” he said, deliberately softening his voice for her. “I told you I am not going to hurt you. I mean it. I protected you while you slept. I’d never hurt you.”
Shelly thought his voice was soothing, not like her father’s raspy voice when he shouted at her mother before hitting her with his hand. This voice sounded sincere… if he was real? She still couldn’t see him, so how could he be real? Now was the time to run, but something was holding her here. Perhaps there was something about the disembodied voice that made her believe he really meant her no harm? “Are you still here?” Shelly peered into the darkness, hoping he had left.
“I’m trying to remember things. I haven’t talked to anyone before. I’ve tried, but nobody could hear me…until you.”
“Just my luck!” Shelly let out a nervous laugh, thinking again it must be shock from seeing the other jogger attacked so brutally. “Mom says I find every stray—“
“I’m not a stray. I saved you from that creep.” He wished he hadn’t sounded so irritated, desperate, but he was. She had to stay. It was his only hope.
Shelly’s eyes automatically found the dead mugger again. She’d almost forgotten about him. What did he mean he had saved her? “You said that before.” Somehow he…this thing must have killed that mugger… Not safe. Distract him and escape. No more fooling around. “Okay, how did you save me? I remember seeing that guy stabbing the other jogger and then suddenly he’s falling flat on his face. I’ve never seen anything like that before.” The picture of the mugger slicing up his own chest sent a shiver through her. She had to shut it down. “Where’s the girl?”
“That bastard thought he was attacking you,” the voice interrupted. What the hell was she doing out here by herself at this particular date and time? There had to be a reason why she was here when he was. Was it an accident? He didn’t think so. She was meant to be here. He had to tell her or she would leave. It might take forever to find someone else who could help him. “I don’t want you to be afraid…You were his target--”
“Me? That makes no sense. I saw him, He was way ahead of me. He was after someone else. I saw him stick his knife into this poor girl… and then…there was nobody there? It looked like that girl vanished into a puff of smoke or something? I saw the knife. That girl must be lying somewhere. Can you help me find her?”
“That ‘poor girl’ was me,” the voice said, “I was the other jogger.”
How could that be? That would have been funny if she hadn’t seen the knife thrust hard into the girl’s back. “Stop joking. This is serious.”
“I’m being serious. That girl was me.”
Shelly thought he must be an idiot. “That girl was you? I don’t understand?” Shelly wished she could see his eyes to see if he was telling her the truth, but she couldn’t see any of him, only trust the voice, and that she wasn’t willing to do. “How could that guy see you? I can’t. You sound like a guy, not a girl? This is insane!”
He could hear the agitation in her voice. He had to keep her calm. “I don’t know. I was wandering around, minding my own business, when I saw this creep stalking you with a knife. For some reason, I couldn’t let anything happen to you. Suddenly I was running in front of him, and you. I have no idea why? When he tried to thrust his knife into my body, he fell right through me. That was a hell of a surprise! I was just desperately trying to help you.” I had to, he thought, wondering what it was about this girl that had forced him to protect her. He’d never thought of anyone in the park before, so why her?
Shelly thought he sounded like he really believed he had saved her. And suddenly she had a flashback of the knife being plunged into the female jogger’s back. I could have sworn it was a girl? God, that knife must have hurt! “Did it hurt? I mean the knife…when he got you with it? I’m confused. He did stab you? Or didn’t he?”
He was surprised by her questions. Did she care? Could she care for someone she didn’t believe existed? “I didn’t feel a thing,” He replied. “I am tired though. I guess saving your life
took a lot of my energy. I’m like a ghost of my former self.” He let out a bitter laugh. “That’s a joke.”
Shelly didn’t laugh. She was stuck on the word, “Ghost”. It had not occurred to her before that this invisible creature might be a ghost. I’ve been watching too many movies, she thought. There’s no such thing as ghosts.
“Yup. Saving you took a lot out of me,” the voice continued. “I barely had enough strength left to drag you up onto the bench. Thank goodness you’re a light-weight.” He guessed she weighed about a hundred and ten pounds…five foot one or two…taut muscles, but not body- builder type…smaller breasts, but hard to tell in that awful yellow suit. “I would have had to leave you on the ground if you were fa...less light.”
“Thank you, I guess,” Shelly murmured, still thinking she must have hit her head.
“You’re welcome,” the voice said. “It’s funny. I’ve been stuck here a long time, and you’re the first person who can hear me…except for the creep, and I have no idea how that happened? Damn, I’ve tried to talk to others, really hard.” He studied the girl’s face. I like her eyes, blue, kind of innocent looking…no make-up…dirt on her forehead makes her look like a bad, little kid. But why her? She has a nice enough face, but why of everyone else I’ve tried, can she hear me?
Shelly had the oddest feeling he was studying her. But how could she know that? “So I’m really not cracking up? I’m not in shock? I’m really having a conversation with a…with a…with a ghost?” Shelly felt frightened again as the realization she was talking to a ghost seemed the only possible explanation. But aren’t all ghosts evil and scary? “I never believed in ghosts? Are you sure you’re a ghost?”
“I’m pretty sure. There’s nobody around here to tell me.” He was still examining her face, her soft lips, no lipstick or gloss, and light blue, barely blue, eyes. He felt a strange stirring
inside him, the same feeling he had experienced before he jumped in front of her attacker. He classified the feeling as some instinctive, unexplained, need to protect her. It was a feeling he had not felt before as he had watched countless humans in various places in this and other locations around the park, some not behaving all that nicely either. He had often tried to scare those naughty teens in their cars away, but had never succeeded in materializing enough to do that until now. Hell, I couldn’t even flick a pair of panties away, he thought, amused at the memory of a pair or lacy panties hanging on the front seat of a car while a boy and girl were going at it hot and heavy in the back. Get back to work, he scolded himself. She has to be the key, he thought. Somehow he had to keep the connection going. “What is your name?” he asked, trying to keep his voice soft, afraid he might scare her off, but wanting to keep her talking.
“My name?” I’m not going to tell him that! Nobody will believe this, Shelly thought, trying not to burst into irrational laughter. Like I’m going to tell anyone? They’ll think I’m crazy. I think I’m crazy!
“I told you I won’t hurt you,” he repeated, his voice gentle. “I’d just like to know who I’m talking to. You don’t have to be afraid of me. I’m not a bad kind of ghost…” At least not to you, he thought, hoping she did not pick up on the anger inside him, anger which erupted unpredictably when he thought about how he had gotten here, why he was still here.
“I’m not afraid of you,” Shelly lied. “I know if you wanted to hurt me you could have done that, just like you said.” It sounded right, but you never know with ghosts? If he is a ghost and not some vicious demon? What a mess this is!
“Thank you. I’m glad you believe me.” He sensed that she did not, but there did seem to be a slight, very slight lessening of her fear.
Shelly was not the type to be afraid. She enjoyed trying new things, taking risks. That worried her mother before she let her go away to grad school…like she could stop her once she made up her mind. “Just stay away from strange men,” she had warned. Who could be stranger than this character, Shelly mused, but still there was something about him… “My name is
Sheila…but I like Shelly,” she said, knowing her mother would not approve of her talking to a stranger, especially a ghost.
“Shelly? I like that. Hi, Shelly.” It’s a nice name, he thought, suits her…unlike that awful yellow thing she’s wearing.
“Hi.” Shelly relaxed a little at the soothing tone of his voice. “You really don’t know your name?”
“No. I’ve tried hard to remember, but nothing pops. Hey, why don’t you give me a name for now? You’re the only one who can hear me anyway.”
Shelly was getting a feeling that this was getting in too deep even for her. “It will make it easier for us to talk to each other,” he continued.
Shelly gasped. Talk to each other? Does he see a future to this. “I’ve got to go now?” Shelly wondered how he would react.
“But we just met? Surely you can stay a little longer,” he said, his voice smooth, friendly, not at all threatening.
He really does have a nice voice. Just my luck to meet someone with a nice voice who just happens to be dead and with amnesia! “I have to go,” she repeated, hoping the ghost would take this calmly. So far he had been pretty good, for a ghost that is. “It has been a real plea…very
interesting.” She couldn’t bring herself to say it had been a pleasure. “I wish you luck.” She lifted herself off the bench, still unsure if her legs would hold her, praying whatever this thing was it would not be on top of her the instant her feet hit the ground.
She can’t leave. “Shelly, I need your help. I think I’m still here because I was
murdered.” It was his one chance to keep her talking. What woman would not be curious about a statement like that?
Shelly stopped moving. Damn! And I was just about to leave.