She tried not to show it but it was clear that she wasn’t used to swearing. But I guess dying is as good a reason as any to take up bad habits. And still I didn’t dare to look at her. Can ghosts blush? If not for anything else I was thankful for my washed out look at that moment, ‘cause God, she was gorgeous. Sure, she was missing the back of her head, same injuries as mine, but I could have looked at that face all day. It’s not like I had anything else to do anyways, so why the hell did I have to be so shy?
I might be callous but I have never been great with silences. “I’m just glad that I made it out of my pyjamas today. Might have been a bit embarrassing to spend eternity looking like Oscar the Grouch. Not that I would really care.”
I could feel her looking at me. I could hear the concern and the pity in her voice. I had heard it often enough, it seemed to be people’s favourite tone when talking to me lately. “Are you okay? I’m sorry, of course not. I mean: How are you feeling?” I already felt sorry for her and silently apologized for being that way. I managed a tired smile: “To be honest, I am a bit disappointed. I had hoped that at least death would be reliable enough to put an end to my existence.” She smiled cautiously at that but it didn’t last long. “You know, I’ve been through this as well. This feeling of betrayal, the world going on while I am missing out on all the things that I was going to do, on the life I was going to live. The sadness of watching my family and friends suffer, the anger at my inability to help them, at how unfair this all is. And the loneliness of seeing the world and not being a part of it. I am so sorry that this had to happen to you, that I didn’t stop it. So the least I can do is be here and listen. Please.”
I couldn’t have her looking like that, ashamed and close to tears. “Listen, this is not your fault. You’ve been through so much and from what I can tell, you’re a cool person and you didn’t deserve any of this. The world is fucking unfair and it sucks that you had to die for some ridiculous, probably non-existent reason when you obviously had so much to live for. I’m not proud of it, but I have been looking for exit strategies before and I probably wasn’t deserving of what was given to me, at least going by how I treated it. So, please, for the love of God, don’t beat yourself up because of me when you’ve got so much shit to deal with already.”
We sat in silence again and instead of awkwardness we felt a kind of companionship. “I know I will have to deal with it eventually but it will take some time until they notify my family and they arrive here, and I’d like to keep busy till then.”
“I suppose we could try and find out how to stop him. Because apparently he is going serial and I want this show cancelled.” I once again noticed that even the most desperate situations cannot kill humour and I was glad to have found someone who knew their way around a joke.
“Don’t you hate it when you have to catch your own murderer?”
“Careful with your girlfriends, lads, Matty’s a real lady killer”, shouted after some pints accompanied by abundant laughter and a friendly slap on the back. “It’s totally cool if you’re gay, Matty. It wouldn’t change anything in our friendship. I just wish that you would tell me”, said in a low and earnest tone after a round of nervous umms. I don’t really know what’s worse. I’ve tried to tell them often enough that I’m perfectly happy without a relationship. Well, maybe not perfectly, but that’s down to everyone thinking I’m repressed, frigid, or perhaps most probably a self-denying homosexual. To be honest, sometimes I wondered why I still subjected myself to these social rituals when I could be reading about characters with much more interesting story arcs than my own. But even the realm of fictional and alternative universes is not free from distracting love interests, and worse, triangles, so I had resolved to reading mainly classic detective novels. Of course I know that they all are constructed and not very authentic, but after another exhausting evening of playful teasing I was in need of some escapism and decided to follow up on Edinburgh’s very own recent murder mystery: Two students – Caitlin and Jenn, both in their early twenties – murdered in the early morning on their way home, one roughly a week ago, the other just yesterday. It was a tragedy of course, but also highly suspicious. They had died by what appeared to be a shot to the back of the head – but there were neither exit wounds nor bullets to be found. In addition to this, the scope of destruction indicated a very old model of weapon. Residents had neither heard nor seen anything; there were no signs of a struggle; police were looking for connections between the victims but they had seemed to have moved in different circles, despite both being students at the University of Edinburgh and living roughly in the same area around Viewcraig/St Leonard’s. It had been part of every conversation at uni, especially since the second murder, and I was too curious to not check it out. It probably wasn’t appropriate to be this excited about the death of two fellow students but I felt closer to being in a story than I ever had before. This was the kind of lady-killer I was interested in…
We had continued to follow psycho ghost after he had appeared again after sunset, determined not to let this go on. Whatever “this” was and however we could stop it, if at all. He seemed to follow the same route as he did when he had killed me last night. As we got closer to St John’s I started to feel sick with nervousness. Caitlin seemed to feel the same and my trembling hand sought hers.
When we turned the corner, we could see a boy our age standing at the end of the street looking around the area that was still cordoned off by the police.
“Do you think he will attack him? Or does he maybe only kill women?” I whispered to Caitlin.
“I don’t know”, she replied. “He does strike me as a misogynist but no matter what gender, it can’t be healthy to be around a previous murder scene at the same time as him.”
I had failed at stopping him before and I was afraid that I would do so again. But now I wasn’t alone and Jenn’s hand gave me a security that I hadn’t felt before. The ghost was moving quickly, so we exchanged a quick glance, nodded and charged forward, hand in hand. But as we reached the one-armed monster and tried to wrestle him down we had to learn that we left him entirely unimpressed. He really did not only seem to ignore us, but to not perceive us at all, and like the late night mist we could not get a hold of him. We screamed for the boy to run, for the monster to leave him alone, but it was as if we were screaming at a frequency too high to be perceived.
When the boy fell down, back of the head blown off by a ghostly pistol, the letdown was worse than I had imagined and I realised how sure I had been of our success, how powerful I had felt not being on my own. And now all that was left for us to do was to help up the newest member of our ghostly support group. He was staring at the ghostly figure walking away and did not seem to notice us at first. When the ghost had disappeared in the distance, he looked at us, seemed to shake off the shock and started chatting away at a surprisingly fast pace. He got so carried away that he even sat down on his own corpse, gesturing wildly, leaving us lost for words in turn.
Tamara was listening to Empty Corridors by Ben Howard while writing this piece.