Time no longer has any meaning for me. I drift through it rather than taking an active part in it. It’s a difficult situation to be in, but I’m learning to live with it. At least, I think I am. I still get a creepy feeling in my gut whenever I try to remember anything from before. I just can’t seem to pull it out of the ether and into my consciousness.
Everyone I see is a stranger, even though I know this must be false in some way. I’ve spoken to others like me, and they are here because it’s familiar. They hover around their loved ones, drinking in the last bits of life before they melt away. Others never leave, but the difference is, they know why they’re here. What does that make me?
A ghost with amnesia?
I’m standing by a tree watching a dog chase after a Frisbee when something happens. I’m watching the Frisbee when suddenly my gaze lifts slightly and I’m staring at… Well, he isn’t familiar in the sense that I know him, but everything in my being sizzles.
I stand up straight and before I make the conscious decision to follow him, I’m doing it.
He looks like a typical teenager – black jeans worn a little too low, V-neck Tee that hugs his thin waist, and a beanie flopping on his head. He even has the swagger down, like he knows he’s cool and wants everyone else to know it too. I couldn’t possibly have liked boys like this before, so why the sizzle now?
I follow him most of the day – into a music store, down the street to buy some weed from the corner junkie, then to a friend’s house where they spend all day in a haze of smoke and music. Part of me wishes for the oblivion they find. They laugh at nothing and doze off in the midst of the thumping bass and the pounding drums.
Did I do this when I was alive?
None of it seems familiar, but the sizzle never leaves. It doesn’t get any stronger though.
I finally decide to leave. I’m just getting depressed and I honestly don’t know what to do.
When I step outside, I’m stopped in my tracks by a voice speaking to me. It’s been a long time since I’ve spoken to one of my kind.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” She’s leaning against the building on the opposite corner. She looks like a gypsy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen or known a gypsy, but that’s what pops into my head. Long black hair, black t-shirt and a long colorful skirt that sweeps the ground around her.
“Who are you?” I ask, even though I don’t expect an answer.
She tilts her head to the side and just watches me.
I smile and start walking down the street in the opposite direction. I’m not in the mood for a cryptic gypsy.
Trouble is, she won’t leave me alone.
I see her everywhere. She doesn’t speak to me again, but I know she’s there, following me, watching me. It makes it supremely uncomfortable to do what I do when I know I’m being watched. Is that how The Living feel when I watch them?
It could have been a few nights, it could have been twenty, but at some point I realize she’s not going anywhere so I might as well see what the hell she wants. She makes it easy enough. She’s sitting on a park bench watching me watch some kids play on the swings.
“I’m not looking for anything.”
She tilts her head and I think she’s going to ignore me again but she doesn’t.
“Sure you are.”
A cryptic, smug gypsy. Even better.
“If you knew the answer, why’d you ask?”
“I didn’t know. Sometimes it happens like that, but sometimes you just get weird feelings and follow them around for a day or two.”
“I suppose you have first hand experience?” I sound sullen and bitchy, but too late to change it now.
“If I said I did, would you believe me?”
I want to keep throwing snark at her, but I’m not sure how much of my shit she will take before simply walking away. I don’t think I want her to walk away.
Finally, I say, “I don’t know.”
We sit in silence for a while, but it’s an active silence full of thoughts that battle their way around my head in a swirl of longing and hope. I really hate asking for help, but I’m not sure I have much choice.
“Can you help me?” I ask, breaking the silence.
“I’m willing to try if you are.”
I nod my head and our shaky acquaintance begins. Shaky because I don’t think Anne likes me very much. (We finally exchange names – she’s Anne and I’m Chloe. It almost sounds like a fairy tale…) Honestly, I can’t decide if I like her either. I think I hold it against her that she seems to have her shit together, whether she was like me before or not. She never really answers that question, but I don’t have anyone else breaking down my walls, offering their help, so I’m pretty much stuck with her.
“So, who’s the guy?” she asks as we walk along the bank of the pond, a breeze blowing her long black hair behind us.
“I don’t know. I got a weird feeling when I saw him, so I followed him.” She’s silent next to me, so I glance in her direction and keep talking. “That’s never happened before. I don’t recognize anyone or anything around me. Every other spirit I’ve talked to seems to have some idea why they’re here.”
“I think you’d be surprised.” Her smile is sardonic and she’s back to being cryptic.
I stop, frustration melting off my words like ice cream on a hot summer day. “Look, do you have any answers, or are you just having fun at my expense?”
She keeps walking but somehow her words carry back to me on the breeze. “I think you should keep following him. He holds the key to your memories, but you need to be open to knowing the truth.”
I jog to catch up to her and put my hand on her arm. “What do you mean, open? Of course I want to know the truth.”
She stops and turns her head to face me. Her gaze bores into me, cutting deep. “The truth is difficult to bear, even if you know in every fiber of your being that you’re ready for it. I just want you to be prepared, that’s all.”
Am I prepared? I don’t think anyone can really prepare themselves for this scenario, and as time stretches on, I start to realize that maybe I’m not ready, that I’ll never be ready to know the truth.
I follow him for days. He goes to school. He smokes weed. He hangs out with friends. The sizzling feeling is always there, but it doesn’t increase or decrease. It’s just a steady buzz in my blood.
I start to realize, though, that memories are coming back in slow degrees, but it isn’t like a big reveal. I don’t just wake up one morning and ta-da! I have my memories back.
No, this is a slow torturous process – glimpses of faces and pops of color. One time, I’m stopped in my tracks by screams echoing in my skull and it lasts so long, I fall to my knees and grab my head.
Anne is there, beside me, and once again asks, “Are you sure you want to know?”
I can barely move my head it hurts so much, but I throw a look in her direction. “I can’t stop it now, even if I wanted to.”
I have to hand it to her. She helps. More than I thought possible. If nothing else, I’m not alone and that makes it more bearable.
It finally happens at a football game, of all things. It’s an away game so it’s across town. I hang out in the back of the bus and let the lull of pre-game talk and bullshit waft through the air around me. It isn’t until we step off the bus and I take a look around that I realize I know this place. It’s familiar.
I suddenly wonder if maybe I’m hanging around this guy, not because he was familiar to me in my life, but because he was the one who ended it.
The thought paralyzes me and I fall to the ground once again as more images come rushing back.
A football game…
A haze of smoke and blaring music.
My screams echoing through the night until it is silent once again.
Left to rot in a hole where I have yet to be found.
Dread fills me. The helpless weight of knowing there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it raises bile in the back of my throat and I choke on a sob.
No one can prepare you for it. No one can save you from it. Memories are a terrible weight that I wish I had left alone because even now, I no longer want to carry them.
This week’s flash fiction challenge thrown down by Chuck Wendig was to take someone else’s character and write a story under 2,000 words (mine comes in around 1,560). I chose the character written by JQ Davis. I loved the ghost aspect and pretty much everything about the character. I suppose I went the obvious route, but I honestly couldn’t think of anything more original. I hope I did justice to the character, though, and that you enjoy my dance in this character’s world.