17 minutes later . . .
I left the bathroom, glancing up at the writing several times.
Help us, John.
As I’m making my way down the hallway, back to the living room, I see Ricky looking up at me, his face locked somewhere between amazement and disbelief. The apartment is back to normal, all of the furniture resized for human living. The colors are back too, and I don’t mind saying that even though they paint everything with happy tones, and mood enhancing paint, it’s a bit of a relief.
“This is incredible, Jack.”
“My name is John . . . I think,” I say slowly. I explain what just happened for the last who-knows-how-long. My pulse is soaring. So many things are starting to come together. I tell him about her, and how she took my arm and wrote the message on the mirror.
He squints at me, then down at the translations, and then he’s up on his feet, fast-marching to the bathroom.
This is the break we’ve needed in all of this. This girl—my dead companion—she reached out from beyond, and we have finally made a connection. Something nobody can doubt.
Ricky walks into the bathroom and stops in his tracks.
I’m right behind him, feeling like a prophet. Feeling like somebody who has been blessed with this new gift. I have a sense of self, and I think, for the first time since I woke-up in this life, that I may soon have all of my answers.
“What the fuck?” Ricky blurts.
He probably thinks I’m messing with him. That this is some game of mine, playing off of the excitement caused by the translation of the Book of Sorrows. I enter the bathroom and look up at the mirror. And then I see why he’s perplexed.
What had been a simple message to me just seconds ago, is now just a series of squiggles and dots and dashes and incoherent nonsense. The same writing found in the Book of Sighs. Damn.
I don’t know what happened, I tell him. When she was here she used my hand to write the letters with the aromatherapy soap.
Ricky glances down at the bar of soap, picks it up, sniffs it, and then turns around as if the bar was scented with gasoline. “You better not be going gay on me,” Ricky says as he takes one more sniff.
“The writing!” I say, bringing him back to the point of all this. The writing is the same as the Book of Sighs. That makes sense. I was on the other side . . . kind of. Somewhere between, I try to explain, not sure about the logistics of it myself.
His eyebrows raise as he takes a whiff of the berry scented bar. “Kind of nice, actually.”
I shrug. I’ve got taste.
“Hundred-and-ten percent queer,” he adds, “. . . but nice.”
We finally agree that the writing is the same on both the mirror, and in the book. I then tell him everything that happened with her. And we find ourselves at a crossroads. One of those what-now moments.
“I need some time to assimilate all of this,” he says as we walk back to the living room and sit down on my bed.
I flip on the television, and we watch the local news as ideas buzz around in our heads.
“You might,” he says slowly, “. . . want to erase that stuff on the mirror.”
But that’s proof, I counter. Actual evidence of ghost activity.
“That’s nothing but a bunch of lunatic scribbles. Your new caseworker sees that and you’ll not only lose your job as a tard-farmer, but they’ll have you loaded-up with anti-psychotics until your eyes pop.”
But it means something. It’s important to me.
“It was a moment you and some poltergeist shared,” he reminds me. “This isn’t Bridges of Madison County. You can’t pine for a dead chick. Unless you want a job in the morgue?”
I realized how others might look at my message on the mirror, and be less understanding than Ricky. Fine, I say. I’ll erase it. But we still have problems. This thing is coming to a point somewhere close.
I talk as I’m walking back to the bathroom. I think we need to get professional help. And I want to find out if my name is John.
“Your name is Jack,” Ricky yells, “until we find out otherwise.”
She wrote, Help us, John. Not Jack. John.
I wet a small cleaning cloth with blue liquid that I use to keep the bath basin free of soap scum. I have cleansing bubbles that do all of the work for me, so that all I have to do is spray and wipe. With no hard scrubbing. I notice, as I’m wiping away the scribbles and markings, that the light is soft yellow, a result of the 75-watt light bulb in the bathroom.
I miss the cool blue.
I miss the girl.
“Jack!” Ricky yells, and I can tell from his voice this isn’t a joke. “Get in here, you have to see this!”
So far, all I’ve really done is to smear the Vanilla Bean soap tracks, making the mirror completely unusable. Frustrated, I toss the rag into the sink and head out to the living room. Ricky, he’s sitting there on the bed, his legs together. He’s leaned forward watching the television like it has some hold over him.
I watch him, the lights and colors of the news broadcast reflecting opposite and upside down in his eyes. He’s unflinching. Captivated.
What is it? I say.
He doesn’t answer, he just points to the screen.
I join him at the edge of the bed, standing beside him and looking at the television. There is footage of a bunch of police officers around a car accident. They’re saying something about a hit-and-run accident near the Dallas Public Library, just a few minutes ago.
Oh, no. I look at Ricky, his eyes wide and concerned. Then back to the television broadcast. No way is this what I think it is. No way.
“. . . The driver, Rupert Singleton, was hit from behind in an alleged hit-and-run incident at the northwest corner of . . .”
What’s going on Ricky? I ask under my breath—as if somebody else might be listening. And really, given what all has occurred in the last three or four days, it might not be paranoia.
He takes a big slow breath, standing up. “Jack, we need to get the book and get the hell out of here. My parents have a place outside of Dallas that nobody knows about. We’ll be much safer.”
“What are you talking about?” I counter. “We don’t know if this has anything to do with the book. This could be some freak accident.”
“Are you an idiot?” Ricky asks. “Really, after all of this . . . are you going to tell me that you think this is just part of the mystery of life? Bad luck for old Rupert, it must have been his time? Is that really your position?”
And I know that Ricky’s correct. I know that he’s being more reasonable about this than me. But, even though I see what is happening, my mind doesn’t want to accept it. Because if I admit to myself that this is all related, that means we’re partly responsible for Rupert’s death.
And then, why stop there. I suppose I could have warned my caseworker that the spooks were checking him out. My life—all five months of it—is cascading completely out of control. I’m not sure if I’m a harbinger of life, or a messenger of death. And for me, this is a very difficult pill to swallow.
“Okay, Ricky,” I say. “You’re right. Whoever is willing to kill Rupert with a car, is certainly willing to do the same or worse to two deadbeats like us. But I don’t think we should go and hide. That will only prolong this. Eventually, they’ll find us. We go back to where this all started.”
We go back to Ms. Josephine.
I’ve read the book. I’m ready. It’s time that I stopped running from all of this and man up. Man up, or back down. That’s what Todd Steele says. I’m done running from this thing. There’s no more hiding in my fears, camouflaging them with my neurotic behavior. I’ve been using my amnesia as a crutch for long enough.
I can see the dead. Big deal. Worse things could happen. So I see shadowy spooks. So what? Some people see things that don’t really exist, so who am I to complain. I have a gift, even if it’s an accidental one.
It’s time to start using it.
I nod to Ricky. He nod’s back, saying, “You need to see that translation of the Book of Sorrows.”
Why? I say, reaching for it.
“That note on the mirror in the bathroom, it called you, John?”
“Well,” he says tapping the sheet, “. . . that chapter, number twenty-three, it was written by St. John the Divine. I think . . . that is the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Revelations. The one we don’t read about in Sunday school.
“. . . and there aren’t 23 chapters of Revelations.”
“Oh.” Something tells me I need to pay attention for a change.