“Oh my god, Kai. You scared me half to death. What are you still doing up?”
“Mom?” I squinted, looking over at Kayla to see her clutching her chest as a nervous giggle escaped her mouth.
“Of course it’s me. Who else would be outside at eleven at night?”
“Why are you standing in the dark?” I asked, my breathing slowing.
“I think the lightbulb out here is kaput. I was just about to put my key in the door when you opened it,” she laughed, “Aren’t you going to let me in?”
“Sorry, mom. Didn’t expect you so soon,” I replied, stepping aside so she could come in.
“Yeah, it was dead. They said they didn’t need two waitresses. Almost everyone got sent home. There’s a grand opening for another bar down the street. Only a few regulars and a couple stragglers showed up.” She shrugged, stepping inside and nodding to Kayla, “Hello. Who’s your friend?”
“Right! Mom this is Kayla, Kayla this is my mom,” I gestured back and forth, introducing them to one another.
“Nice to meet you Ms. Bishop,” Kayla said respectfully, holding her hand out.
“Whoa, nice manners here. Nice to meet you too Kayla. I’ve heard a lot about you too,” mom said, shaking her hand firmly.
Kayla nodded, meekly, “Well, I was just headed home. I’ll see you both soon.”
“Oh wait, Kayla. Would you like to come over for dinner tomorrow?” Mom offered.
“Sure that would be great, Ms. Bishop,” Kayla bobbed her head, smiling.
“Pish posh. It’s no big deal. And please call me Hannah,” mom chuckled.
“Alright. Thank you, Hannah. What time should I be here?”
“About six? Sound good?”
“Great, I’ll be here. Thanks again. By Kai, I’ll see you both tomorrow,” Kayla said with a wave.
“By Kayla. See you tomorrow,” I said waving back.
“Do you need a ride or anything?” Mom asked as Kayla slipped out the door.
“No ma’am, I’m just down the block, but thank you.”
“Okay. Night,” mom said to her as she walked off quickly down the street, then she turned to me, “Wow. She seems like a nice girl.”
“Yeah, she’s pretty cool,” I agreed, grinning and shutting the door, making sure it locked.
“So, what did you guys do tonight?”
“Watched a movie, ate junk, laughed,” I smiled, putting my hands in my pockets, following mom into the kitchen.
“Sounds fun. I haven’t done that sort of thing for a while,” she said as she hung up her coat and keys on the appropriate racks. “How was the movie?”
“It was. The movie was some gross, indie horror flick. Lots of blood, the actors had no real talent either, but it was comical and the plot was good,” I shrugged.
“Was it supposed to be funny?” She wrinkled her nose.
“No, I don’t think so,” I smiled, “Well, I’m headed to bed mom. I’m so tired.”
“Alright, kid. Night. Love you,” Mom ruffled my hair.
“Love you too,” I said pulling away with a grin and smoothing it back down.
I headed to my room, making sure my mom wasn’t following me. Her room was upstairs and mine was downstairs. Sometimes she would appear outside of the door, needing to say something she deemed important in case she forgot later. My mom was pretty scatterbrained like that.
“Are you alone?” Jude asked, whispering even though he didn’t need to.
“Yep. It’s all clear,” I answered softly, closing the door behind me.
“Cool. Thanks for staying up a little longer. I know you’re tired, but it’s hard when you’re the only one that can see me,” Jude said, beaming at me as I flung myself stomach first onto my bed.
“Yeah sure, no problem. I bet it gets lonely,” I said, fighting a losing battle with a yawn as I propped my head up with one hand to look at him. “So, what do you want to talk about?”
“I don’t know. How’s job hunting going?”
“Good, I guess,” I said narrowing my eyes at him, “I don’t remember telling you about me looking for a job though. Were you lurking when I was talking to my mom about it or something?”
“I was nearby. I wouldn’t exactly call it lurking, I guess. It’s not like I’m a spy or something. I was just here to see you and you were with your mom is all. Stop looking at me like that. It’s not like I’m creeping around like some weirdo,” Jude said defensively as he sat on the edge of the dresser across from my bed.
“I was just asking, Jude. I didn’t mean anything by it. No reason you should get all uptight about it,” I shrugged, rolling onto my side to see him better.
He seemed to visibly bristle, some unknown emotion flashing in his eyes. “I’m not being uptight,” he said firmly, crossing his arms over his chest like a pouting child.
“Okay,” I said putting my hands up in surrender, resigned to not arguing with him, “So, what’s it like on the other side?”
“The other side of what exactly?”
“Like, if you’re dead, isn’t there another side? Heaven or Hell? Limbo?” I questioned in rapid fire succession.
“Not that I’ve seen. There’s a lot of people that are searching for someone they left behind or who left them behind, though.”
“That’s sad. Lots of spirits or whatever, wandering around, lost. Must suck for them.”
“Oh it does. It’s all so unbelievably sad,” he said hovering in the air with his legs crossed like he was meditating.
“I hope I don’t end up that way. I don’t want to be looking for family members for eternity. It would be a terrible waste of existence,” I said.
“What would be worse, is not knowing who you are or what you’re looking for,” he said with a shrug, his icy blue eyes shadowed, his expression wistful.
“Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t think before I said that,” I bit my lip, kicking myself internally for being so inconsiderate.
“No problem. Nothing either of us can do about it. It’s just the way it is, I guess,” he said, his expression hard to read.
“So, I know this is a touchy subject for you, but you don’t remember anything? Like, nothing at all?” I shook my head, pity and compassion filling my voice.
“I know my name. That’s pretty much it though. At least I’m pretty sure it’s my name. For all I know, I could have a completely different name and that was the name of a character in a book or movie that I liked. I can’t remember anything else. I don’t know how old I am, who my family is, how I died, if it was an accident, whether I was buried or cremated and especially not why I’m here. I must be here for a reason if I don’t have a door or lights, but what if those things don’t exist and I’m stuck here forever?” he blurted out, looking so forlorn, it made me sad too.
“Wow. I wish I knew how to help. I’m sorry it’s been so rough you,” I offered, pulling the corners of my mouth in, “We’ll figure this out.”
“Thanks, I appreciate that,” he nodded, with a small smile, “Although, I don’t know what you could do, to be quite honest.”
“Anytime. Yeah me neither.”
“That’s why I came to you, especially when I figured out only you could see me. I wandered around for what felt like forever trying to get someone to notice me. I need your help to figure all this out. I don’t know what else to do. Please help me,” he begged.
“Well, I’m not sure what I can do, but I’ll help any way I can,” I offered, gesturing with my hands.
“Oh I’m so glad. Thank you so much,” he clapped, delighted.
“Sure thing. So, I was curious about something,” I began hesitantly, scratching my chin.
“Okay, shoot,” Jude said, his eyes narrowed with suspicion.
“You say some weird stuff to me sometimes. Like how you couldn’t be around me all the time or that it isn’t safe. Why can’t you talk about it?” I rushed out, sitting up cross legged on my bed so I could see him better.
He immediately jumped, or flew rather, up in the air. His whole being seemed to grow darker and his eyes even looked a bit stormy. He held his hands in fists, his jaw clenched and his chin downturned to look at me from near the ceiling. I could feel the anger rolling off of him like waves and the walls seemed to vibrate with untapped energy. I could tell he was trying not to explode, but that it was a very difficult task for him.
“I’ve already told you, I can’t explain that. Why do you insist on pressing me for information?” His whole body, or spirit rather, was shaking and I could practically see the steam coming from his ears as he fought the urge to freak out on me.
“I’m so sorry,” I apologized, standing up and putting my hands up in surrender, “I wasn’t trying to make you mad. It’s just been bugging me.”
“Well drop it. Please,” he said through gritted teeth, floating slowly back to the dresser.
“Okay. I will, I promise. I’m sorry I pushed you…” I trailed off lamely.
“You should be,” he said in a calmer voice, unclenching his fists as his coloring seemed to go back to normal. “I can’t keep talking to you about things like this.”
“Why?” I whispered, sitting softly back on my bed.
“I just can’t. You’re going to get me in trouble. Let it go.”
“Alright. You’re the one that brought it up again after you told me to let it go,” I pointed out, which was probably a mistake in hindsight.
My books flew off my shelf as he bolted out my window in a gust of sudden wind, without so much as a look back. I rushed to my window to see if I could spot him, but he was long gone.
“Temperamental ghost. I don’t know how to win with him,” I muttered angrily, locking my window as if it would somehow keep him from entering my home again uninvited.
I got ready for bed and brushed my teeth, finally settling under the covers. I was out within minutes of my head hitting my pillow, only to be pulled into yet another nightmare.
I was at the hospital again, this time watching the doctors rush back and forth in a frenzy. They never once addressed me and they kept having to do test, after test, after test on me. The staff of doctors and nurses were trying desperately to find out what was wrong with me, but they weren’t even bothering to keep me in the loop. I kept asking them all over and over what was wrong with me, but it was like I was invisible or something. It was like I was a ghost. No one would look at me when I talked to them, but then when they thought I didn’t notice, they were huddled in groups staring at me and talking in hushed tones. I was in a glass bubble, strapped to the bed by my limbs. I remember feeling frozen as I didn’t have a blanket or even socks to keep me warm. Every time I opened my mouth to talk, I saw my breath in the air like smoke.
Goosebumps formed on my skin and my lips were turning blue. I watched myself from a couple of different perspectives; in the air, from first person and even from the other people’s perspective. I was starting to shake and shiver as the cold seeped into my skin, gnawing at my bones. I kept talking about how cold I was, how I needed a blanket or socks and wondering aloud if someone could turn up the heat, please. Jude was in the corner staring at me, the aura around him growing blacker and blacker. I tried to talk to him, but when he answered me, I was never able to hear what he said to me. He was growing farther and farther away and there was an annoying buzzing noise preventing me from hearing even my own voice.
It was in my head. The buzzing. It was as if there were millions of bees taking up residence in my brain, driving me crazy. I started to grow paler, colder, darker as I began to turn see through. Soon I was a shadow of my former self, a ghost, watching Jude from the corner of the room he had just been standing in. Instead of looking at myself this time, however, I was staring at him in the bed. Watching him fade away as I grew more and more solid all the while. He was disappearing and soon I knew I would lose him. I screamed out into the night, voicing my outright objection, but the only thing I was left with was an empty bed and a deafeningly loud buzzing in my brain. It hurt so much. I grabbed my head and screamed, fading into the blackness as I relinquished my hold on reality.