Oh crap! He was murdered? The way he said that, “I was murdered.” There wasn’t any emotion. And yet, she could feel tangible sadness in his voice… and danger. So why wasn’t she leaving? Maybe because she thought she would not be able to get away? Or maybe, it was something else that was keeping her here?
Can you feel sorry for a ghost? That’s what she was feeling for this thing that sounded so human, so vulnerable, but which also frightened her. Who knows what a murdered ghost might do? She felt a chill race through her body. “You’re not making that up,” she asked, feeling foolish afterwards. Who asks someone if they made up a story about being murdered? That’s just stupid. Provoking a ghost? That’s just idiotic and dangerous. “I’m sorry,” she hurried, “I didn’t mean that the way it sounded.”
She apologized to me? “Oh, I know I was murdered,” he said, forcing himself to sound calm, still sensing her fear. “It’s the only reason I can think of why I’m still here. I have to find out what happened before I can have my… rest.” And my revenge, he thought and quickly suppressed that emotion. The last thing he wanted was for her to somehow sense the violence seething inside him. That would be enough to terrify her.
“Like in the movies,” Shelly asked.
“Yeah. Like in the movies,” he replied, not telling her the whole truth, not revealing the rage he knew was waiting to be unleashed if he ever learned who had killed him. He felt as if someone, or something, had programmed him to explode if he ever found out who was responsible for his death. It was beyond his control and had been his sole purpose for being… at least until she came along. But why her?
Shelly couldn’t understand why she was picking up impressions of anger, rage, from this entity whose voice seemed so calm. It was as if she was sensing, correction, sharing, what this creature was feeling. She didn’t like that at all. She felt threatened by the violence coursing through her body, her lack of control over emotions that weren’t hers. Just what could this ghost- thing do? What did it want of her?
She decided to try and distract him, look for an escape before she got any deeper. If she pretended to be his friend…what had he wanted? A name. Giving him a name would be a token of friendship, a way to throw him off her real desire to get away and not come back. But what name? It seemed to pop up out of nowhere. “I think I’ll call you Allen, if that’s okay,” she said. “How does that sound? Allen.”
“Allen?” He repeated it several times, the rage temporarily side-tracked. “Yes, I like it.” He let out a little laugh. “I was afraid you were going to pick out some medieval name like Sigfried or Olaf, or something that sounds more ghostly. Allen’s cool.”
Shelly suddenly thought he sounded unexpectedly manly, even sexy. Again? Sexy? A sexy ghost? “No. You don’t sound medieval. Your voice sounds like an Allen,” Shelly said, puzzled by her reactions, becoming more convinced she was going crazy. How do you even think for a second that a ghost can be sexy?
“Okay. Allen it is. Thank you. I feel better already. I’ve been very confused,” the ghost, now called Allen said. “Yes, I like that name a lot.”
“I’m confused too,” Shelly admitted. At least we have one thing in common. “What are you confused about?”
How much could he tell her? “It’s like I have unfinished business…something I still have to do,” Allen said.
Of course he has something to do. He was murdered! I’m getting out of here.”Well, I’ll leave you to it then,” Shelly replied, leaning forward to get up from the bench.
“Please don’t be afraid of me,” Allen said again, picking up on her thoughts. “I’m not going to hurt you.” Maybe if I repeat it, she’ll believe me, he thought.
Why am I not running? There was something about his voice that seemed to assure her that he didn’t want to hurt her, but trust a ghost? “I just don’t understand any of this. I’ve never met a ghost before.” Shelly was not at all sure she wanted to know one now. She glanced at her watch. Her mother usually called at eight. “I’ve really got to go. It’s been nice talking to you.”
“Aren’t you going to help me?”
“How can I help you,” Shelly asked, checking her watch again out of nervousness.
“I have no idea. But, one minute I’m walking in this park minding my own business and the next I’m saving your life. That should count for something?”
“Thank you,” Shelly said, realizing she sounded cold. Not a great idea.
“No, I didn’t mean it that way. I just meant, how did I do it? I have no idea what I can
“So nobody ever told you?”
“You would think that someone would do that, wouldn’t you? After all, how does a ghost know what he can really do if nobody shows him? It’s not like the movies after all, I guess.”
“I suppose you have to find out for yourself, pretty much the way we do all our lives,” Shelly said. “Trial and error, my father says.” Like trying one wife and deciding that was an error and then trying another wife, damn slut! She felt the bitterness she always felt when thinking of her father and the divorce.
“That doesn’t seem fair,” Allen remarked, suddenly picking up anger signals from her. “I think after a hard life of learning from one mistake after another, we’d have someone teach us
the ropes of this ghosting thing.”
Shelly sighed. “Life isn’t always fair.” Holy crap, I sound like Mom!
“Hey, I’m not ALIVE anymore. So shouldn’t I get a break after dying?”
He sounds like a pouting, little,brat. A thought occurred to Shelly. “How old are you?” “How old do I sound?”
Great! I’m playing guessing games with a ghost! Why not? If I’m going crazy I may as well go all the way. “Ancient. You sound really ancient!”
“Do I really sound that old?”
“No. I was only kidding. I can’t believe a ghost can be vain. Next you’ll ask me if you sound good-looking?”
He hesitated. “Well, do I?”
“Oh brother!” Shelly had enough. “I’ve got to get back to the dorm. It isn’t safe after dark around here. Too many ghosts!” She started to walk away. “By the way, thank you again for saving me today. I hope you have a great life…I mean after-life.”
“Wait a minute! Are you just going to leave me like this?” Shelly heard her mother saying, “Oh, oh.”
“You can’t just walk away and that’s it. I saved your life. That means you owe me.”
The “Oh, oh” sounded louder, but was it safe to upset a ghost? “Okay. Let’s say I believe you saved me, but what can I do? You are a ghost and I am a new grad student. I can’t help you. I want to help, but seriously?”
He noticed soft brown freckles on her cheeks and nose and a slight dimple in her chin.
She really was cute, even if she looked worried right now. “I don’t know what you can do either? This whole thing is confusing. It’s kind of lonely…or it was until I found you.”
Her mother’s warning was even louder. “I guess it could be lonely, not being able to talk to anyone. How about this? Were you married? Did you have kids? Maybe they could help you?”
“I told you I don’t know. I think I have amnesia or something?” “A ghost with amnesia? This is getting better and better.”
“I guess some things we’re meant to forget after we leave,” Allen said, knowing there was one thing he desperately wanted to remember. He would do anything to remember the murderer. He would make him, or her, suffer the most excruciating death any ghost had ever inflicted on anyone. Until this encounter with this stranger called Shelly, finding his murderer had been his only reason for being. Even now his thoughts were on how he could use this girl to help him get justice. He just wouldn’t tell her. If she knew it might terrify her and he’d lose the only person who might be able to help him.
Shelly shivered, a strange cold draft was coming from somewhere near the bench. She sensed it was coming from this ghostly creature she called Allen. Were there secrets this thing wasn’t telling her? Dad was like that, pretending to love her while he was out having sex with someone only a few years older than she was. Secretive, soothing voice and gentle words aside, this creature was not to be trusted. Hell, you couldn’t trust a man, even alive, so how can you trust a dead one?
She remembered the icy coldness in Allen’s voice when he had said he had ‘unfinished business’. She had a feeling she knew what unfinished business the ghost of a murdered man might have. Whatever it was, Shelly didn’t want any part of it.