I love Alazne, and I have grown beyond caring about the damage it will cause me to admit it. I love her pale, freckled face, those big hazel eyes that always seem minutes away from tearing up. I love her soft voice, and how intimate feel those few instances in which she speaks to herself at home while she’s conscious. I always yearn for the next time she will get undressed, rest her guitar on her thigh and play for a couple of hours, caring very little about the neighbors. I love how she sits on a stool under a warm shower and pleasures herself for twenty minutes. I love how she spits on her toilet paper before she wipes her ass. I love lying in bed next to her naked body and admiring the pink skin of her nipples or her pussy from a few centimeters away. I love when she returns exhausted from another meaningless day in the office and she collapses onto her wrinkled sheets. I love how she breaks her silence sometimes to admit to nobody that she wants to die. I love how she mumbles in her sleep, and how some nights she barely gets an hour of respite and spends the rest rolling around, half of the time crying. But I hate that I will never get her to look into my eyes. I will never hold her in my arms, nor drink the pain away from her mouth.
Today was one of those days in which I can’t bear it. I exit her place and walk the kilometers-long path to my pal Iñaki’s dilapidated home to spend the night. I don’t bother taking the train today; walking it off will do me some good. As soon as I leave the populated streets behind I feel my anxiety washing away. Iñaki’s place has been abandoned for maybe a hundred years. The guy hates opening up about his past, and I like people who don’t talk much anyway.
Close to nighttime I reach the half-ruined front of his house, all those busted windows and graffitied walls. As I walk through the doorless doorway I spot Iñaki standing in the middle of what remains of his living room, if one can still call it that. He’s staring down at the open pages of a yellowed, piss-stained hardcover novel. He must have read the same words hundreds of times, but I guess it’s better than following the spiders and cockroaches.
Seeing him cheers me up. He always listens. I can’t say that about most people.
“What’s up?” I ask. “Haven’t seen you in what, like a week and a half?”
“Seems like forever, doesn’t it?” Iñaki shrugs. “I don’t know how you can stand living with one of them.”
Carefully, I lower myself onto the ruins of the sofa until it holds whatever passes for my weight.
“Yeah, you would hate it. And I didn’t enjoy all those others, to be honest. They were more like distractions. But this woman… she’s the one.”
Iñaki turns from his book to look at me. I recognize his exhausted expression in the shadowy frame.
“Has she brought someone else over to her place?” he asks.
“Well… not just someone. She brought her soulmate.”
Iñaki chuckles, although it sounds like wood creaking.
“I think that only about one in millions would willingly bring one of us in. And those are crazy.”
“Her music called me. She wasn’t just playing, she was pleading to the uncaring world. It’s just too bad that I can’t give it to her…”
Iñaki wanders out of the room. I listen to his erratic footsteps. He likes to do this kind of shit, he gets fed up with the company that quick and needs to release his anxiety. I don’t mind.
He returns a few minutes later.
“And how long do you plan on staying with her?”
“Until I disappear, like I should have done.”
Iñaki takes a seat next to me. The stars must have aligned.
“Does she hear you at all?” he asks with a hint of sadness. “Sense you at least?”
“I need to yell very loud for that, and she has never understood the words. I don’t like confusing her, she has enough on her plate. She already thinks that she’s this close to losing it.”
“I don’t understand your types. Then why do you stay with someone who doesn’t care nor can sense you?”
Why do I stay? Maybe because I retained some shred of hope, or because Alazne’s all I have now. Hope of what? There’s nothing better coming. There can’t be. We can’t even look forward to the changes in our decaying bodies. And I have no clue if they ever recovered my corpse.
“Sometimes… it gets too much,” escapes from my mouth.
Iñaki sighs deeply.
“I understand. Knowing that all this will come to an end one day, and you will never see any of your favorites again. It makes it even worse that you don’t know when it’s coming.”
My friend stands up from the ruined sofa and wanders out of the room once more. I’ll give him some time to cool down. But I should have caught this guy on one of his silent days, because my anxiety remains strong, and the old weight, the black mass, is pulling me towards the ground.
Around one in the morning, a van parks on the overgrown yard, maybe twenty meters away from the ruined front of this house. I stand on the doorway as three excited guys wearing coats start unloading a bunch of strange equipment.
“What the fuck are they doing?” I ask out loud.
Iñaki is standing next to me.
“Those idiots again. They scouted my place a few days ago.”
“And what exactly are they doing?”
“They blabbered all about it. Some ghost hunting garbage, for that internet thing.”
I roll my eyes. I know all about the internet, but Iñaki hates computers. My Alazne loves wasting her time online, and I usually stand behind her as she watches YouTube videos, browses Reddit, or touches herself. I still don’t know why she bothers going incognito for the porn sites. It’s not like anybody enters her apartment.
In five minutes, the three idiots from the van have gathered their electronic equipment on the nasty floor of the living room. As one of them unpacks something that resembles a video game console, he kicks Iñaki’s open book. The guy turns and notices that it’s a book instead of some ghostly shit, but then he complains about the piss stains. He kicks the book again towards a corner, causing the hardcover to close. Iñaki narrows his eyes. If he could control his powers properly, he would probably poltergeist the crap out of him.
I walk up to the ghost hunter and yell in his ear.
“Get the fuck out of here, punk!”
He flinches and turns towards me. I take a step back, as I don’t want his face that close.
“Did you guys hear that?” the ghost hunter asks, concerned. “It was like a whisper.”
“I’m pissed off, that’s who I am! You want some of this?”
The other two idiots listen in silence for some seconds, then shake their heads.
“No, I didn’t get that,” one of them says. “But this place is promising. Let’s get rolling.”
The three of them have set up a camera on a tripod, and are unpacking stuff that looks like a mixer, a cassette recorder, and a bunch of wires. Also a couple of handheld cameras. They’re talking about frequencies or some equally boring shit. One of the guys is fiddling with his camera’s settings, while another one takes out his phone.
I would have expected Iñaki to curse at them and then walk off either to the second floor or the basement, but he has crossed his arms and is staring at the intruders as if evaluating their performance.
“Yep, this should do it,” says the ghost hunter who placed the camera on the tripod, as he checks the screen of his phone.
They mess with the wires and the cassette recorder until they seem to be done. They look at each other and nod while they smile in satisfaction.
“Let’s do a test recording,” one of them says, and starts pressing some buttons on the device.
“Alright, if there’s any ghost in here, please speak into this recorder. It should be able to catch your voice if you speak loud enough or put enough energy into it. Say whatever you want.”
I look at Iñaki in case he wants to try. He remains still, with his eyes narrowed. Maybe it would embarrass him. I lean in towards the recorder and shout some insults. After twenty seconds or so, one of the guys replays the content.
“You hear that? It sounds like a girl.”
“Can’t quite catch what she’s saying, though.”
“A girl ghost.”
“I’m fully grown,” I say.
They listen to the recording a couple more times. Content, they try recording again.
“We heard you!” one of the guys says into the recorder. “Please talk to us some more. What’s your name? Are you lost? Do you know you are dead?”
It amuses me enough, so I talk into the device again.
“I’m Irene. I would prefer to pretend I don’t know I’m dead, because my demise was pathetic. It happened around twenty years–“
They interrupt me by stopping the recording, and then they listen to it. I can’t hear clearly enough, but as the guys do, they lift their heads and look at each other.
“You heard that, right? She said ‘mommy’. She must be looking for her mom.”
“Oh god. That’s so sad,” one says while the others nod in agreement.
I stomp on the dirty floor.
“There was nothing close to that word in my sentences!”
For five minutes, the ghost hunters walk around Iñaki’s ruined place while they call out to a little girl. I keep insulting them, but they only hear whispers. They say they are going to post this recording online.
“I hope the comment section rips you guys a new one,” I mutter.
Iñaki grunts loudly, which terrifies the ghost hunters. One of them suggests they should leave. What a bunch of pansies. Oh well, it was a good enough night. But the guys decide to stay and instead ask more questions with their cassette thing while they record it with their cameras.
As the guy holding the recorder is about to interrogate us, one of the others pats him on the shoulder.
“That sounded like a demon. Maybe it’s a demon pretending to be a little girl.”
The guy with the recorder seems troubled. His gaze darts between his friends and the corners of the room. He stops the device.
“Should leave this place?” he asks. “I’m getting really bad vibes all of a sudden. Like we are messing with something evil.”
“I would punch you if I could,” I say.
“We already brought over our stuff,” the third ghost hunter says, and snatches the audio recorder. “Let’s get some more evidence.”
He asks for whoever grunted to speak to them. I was going to try recording my voice again, but to my surprise, Iñaki steps forward and speaks loudly, with a grave voice.
“Here I am.”
When the guys listen to the recording, they are amazed.
“You heard that? It said ‘I am’, or something like that.”
“Here I am,” suggests another.
“Let’s get more. What’s your name?”
“That was a name, wasn’t it?” one of the guys says.
“Was it Íñigo?” says another.
“How old are you? When did you die?” asks the guy with the recorder.
Iñaki leans in so his mouth almost touches the recorder. He speaks so resoundingly that it sends chills down my non-existent spine. There must be some ghost magic involved.
“What was that?” the guys say.
When they record again, Iñaki, irritated, insists.
“Go to the basement.”
After the ghost hunters listen to the recording, they all confirm that they understood loud and clear. For a couple of minutes they compare how the hair on their arms has stood up.
“Will you move on?” I ask them, annoyed. “People get chills and their arm hair stands up when ghosts are around. You don’t have to keep repeating it.”
The ghost hunters are too excited to pay attention to me, and they can’t hear me anyway.
“Let’s go, to the basement!” one of them exclaims.
They descend the half-ruined, dusty stairs to the lower floor. I follow them. Iñaki is sticking close, but he seems even more somber than usual.
“Hey, are you that sick of these idiots that you are planning on trapping them somehow?” I ask him.
He gives me a funny look.
“Why would I want them dead?”
“Because you can’t stand them. They remind you of the fact that you’re dead.”
“Being dead reminds me that I’m dead. The boredom and resentment of having so much free time and no way to affect the world reminds me that I’m dead.”
I lack a witty answer to that, so we descend to the basement. The ghost hunters burst out in applause when they step onto the cold floor. Some people get excited about anything.
“It’s so dark…” one grumbles, “and cold.”
“How else did you expect a basement in a ruined house to be?” I ask.
“Do you feel that?” asks another. “The temperature has dropped.”
“You bunch of cookie-cutter bastards,” I tell them.
They ignore me and start setting up their gadgets, some of which they carry on their belts. One guy shines a flashlight here and there, looking for something to catch.
I turn to look at Iñaki, but he’s no longer standing behind me. Instead he’s half-crouched near a corner of the basement as if waiting at the starting line of a race. It looks wrong on such a lanky ghost. He bursts into a sprint that disturbs some dust. The ghost hunters turn towards the sound. Iñaki had put all his effort into the run, and his footsteps had broken into the realm of the fools whose hearts still beat.
“Those were footsteps!” one of the ghost hunters says while he records the general area of the sounds.
“As if someone sprinted,” another adds.
“Where are you?” asks the third as he sweeps the space with his flashlight.
Iñaki’s sprint had taken him to the opposite corner of the basement, and there he hides, unseen.
One of the ghost hunters tries to follow Iñaki’s path along, hoping to catch some evidence, and he suddenly stops and crouches towards a yellowed newspaper on the floor. He lifts it. Whatever he finds under it startles him.
“Oh shit, a ouija board!” The ghost hunter’s voice trembles as he holds the board. “This explains everything!”
“What the hell is it supposed to explain?” I ask.
“They must have summoned the ghosts,” a ghost hunter says as he shakes his head. “Some idiots that didn’t know what they were doing.”
“Some kids, probably,” the previous ghost hunter adds.
Iñaki has returned to my side.
“How come you own a ouija board now?” I ask him.
“It was some kids. They came to drink down here, act tough and have sex. They ended up fleeing, but left that here.”
“What a mess. Watch out, these bastards will end up conjuring a demon.”
The ghost hunters are stupid enough to gather around the ouija board and dare each other to try talking to us. I sigh, but this is my entertainment for the night.
The three so-called ghost hunters join fingers on the planchette. Iñaki and I haven’t even approached them when one of the guys gasps and lifts his index fingers off the small wooden board.
“There’s someone writing!” he says, spooked. “It’s moving!”
“Hey, keep your fingers on the planchette!”
Both me and Iñaki walk up to tower over their shoulders. The planchette is motionless.
“If you don’t help them move it, Iñaki,” I say, “they’ll get bored and leave. Is that what you wanted?”
Iñaki doesn’t answer, and instead he bends his long legs so that his hand can reach the planchette. He concentrates as he nudges the small board to make it spell out something. H-E-L-P.
The ghost hunters freak out for a moment, then laugh nervously.
“You are still recording, right?”
“I think so!” another ghost hunter answers as he fiddles with his handheld camera.
I want to crouch next to the planchette and spell out FUCK OFF, but I have never been any good at moving stuff on the plane of the living. And although some ghosts insist that you can train for these abilities, I never had to train for mine. I don’t want to put in the effort anyway.
I feel like joking around. I turn towards Iñaki’s shadowy face before I have thought of what to say, but the determined look in his eyes unsettles me.
“I need your help, Irene,” he says.
“Take one of these guys.”
I nearly jump back. It felt like he was demanding me to shove a knife into my eye, if I had been able to interact with physical objects for the last couple of decades. The very thought makes me dizzy.
“Hey, don’t joke around with that. I have told you how that feels! You can give these idiots a scare with anything else.”
Iñaki steps closer and places his hands on my shoulders. It feels cold and nebulous. One never gets used to another ghost touching you, even as a ghost.
“I remember your vivid description. But do it for me, just this time. Because this is it. The end of my plan.”
“My plan to make it right.”
“Iñaki, I don’t want to help. Look at you, you are nothing but a rotten soul.”
“Yes, sure. That’s why you come by so often. To gape at a miserable, bitter ghost.”
“It’s better than television.”
“You come by because you don’t want to be reminded that you will never be alive anymore, and you remain among the damned because you haven’t come to terms with it.”
My ghostly eyelids twitch. I want to turn around and leave, but I get the feeling that Iñaki would force me to stay.
“I came by for your stories, and that’s all,” I mutter. “Stop hitting below the belt.”
“Look at me. Look at what I am. No light, no body to speak of. No one would ever know. And you will forget me too, in the end.”
“I’m sure you were a miserable bastard even when you could breathe.”
“And that’s why you’ll help me.”
I close my eyes and try to calm down. Iñaki truly wants this for whatever reason, and he has never been as forthcoming with me.
“Let’s get this over with. It better be important.”
As the ghost hunters wonder out loud how come the talkative ghost has abandoned them, I jump-crouch into one of the idiots as if I were cannonballing into a pool. Possessing a breathing human is the worst feeling in the world. The person’s soul engulfs yours, touches you all over as if it were a thousand greasy tongues, and the more you spend in the body, the more insisting the licking becomes. In the past it made me so angry that I started beating up the people who had come to figure out why my vessel was rolling around on the floor of the supermarket.
I can hear Iñaki to my left, even though I’m trying to get used to looking through someone else’s eyeballs.
“You can talk and move the guy’s body, right?” He sounds impressed. “To be honest, I thought you had been lying.”
“L-lying?!” I blurt out through a stranger’s wet mouth. “Who do you take me for?!”
“I apologize,” Iñaki says.
In front of me, seated on the dirty floor, the remaining two ghost hunters are trembling as they stare at me wide-eyed.
“Jokin, what’s wrong?”
“I think… I feel…” this so called Jokin whispers through his body I’m possessing, because I was distracted.
When I take the control away from him, my eyes roll to the back of my head, and the body becomes limp for a moment. I’m feeling as if I were sliding through goo filled with pubes.
I glare at the two idiots.
“There’s no Jokin here any longer,” I mumble, showering them with spittle as my lips twitch. “Only the devil.”
The two ghost hunters scream. I’m sure they’ll scramble to their feet and run away, but they seem to fear that the moment they turn around, I’m going to pounce on them.
“Irene!” Iñaki shouts. “I didn’t want to give them a scare! Please, listen. You need to get them to break through a section of the wall behind you. That’s why I wanted you to suffer this uncomfortable process. Turn around. It’s a reddish stretch that looks as if the bricks don’t belong, that they were put together by someone who didn’t quite know what he was doing.”
I look over my shoulder as my possessed hands tremble. I can’t see shit, but this Jokin guy had left his flashlight on the floor next to him. I pick it up, switch it on and light up the dusty wall. I spot the reddish bricks immediately. They look as if some mold had grown on that specific area.
The other two ghost hunters are talking to me when I turn towards them again. I haven’t paid attention to what they were saying.
“Hey, I was kidding about being the devil,” I say while drooling. “Typical ghost joke. You must be new at this, huh?”
To his credit, one of the ghost hunters hasn’t peed himself. He’s holding his handheld towards me while staring at his possessed friend.
“Y-you want our help? So you can finally rest in peace? You better not be joking around, Jokin!”
“I’m getting mad with all the licking,” I groan. “Listen to me, you pair of cocksu–… Do you see the wall behind me? That spot with the distinct bricks? I need you to break through them for whatever reason. There must be something behind, I’m guessing.”
“Y-you want us to break a part of the wall?”
“Am I talking into a recorder here?”
“Because you left something inside?”
“I mean, probably! Go ahead and get to kicking or punching or hitting it with something. If you refuse, when I abandon your friend’s body I will follow you home, and for the rest of your life I will witness how you touch yourself.”
The two idiots, excited and scared, run over themselves to reach that dodgy spot of the wall. When one pushes the bricks, they shift slightly. He takes off his shoe and starts hitting them hard. The dust makes him cough.
I stand up with this wobbly body, but I trip and nearly faceplant. The ghost hunters aren’t looking at me, though. I stumble towards them to oversee their efforts.
“You are lacking in power! Puny humans!” I scream through their friend’s mouth. I also drop his flashlight, but pick it up in time to shine it directly at their faces.
“A-are you gonna help us or what?” one of them dares to say.
He has guts, so I shrug.
“Let’s trade places. I’ll be on the left and you on the right! Go!”
We hit the bricks with more intent. This Jokin guy will have to visit the hospital to get his knuckles fixed. Serves him right for being alive.
As we continue damaging our precious fingers, the bricks start crumbling, and soon their pieces pile up into the cavity behind. One of the ghost hunters shines the flashlight at the newly formed hole, and the three of us are hit at once with the old, stale stink of a dead body.
“Oh crap!” shouts one of the ghost hunters.
He reaches towards a trash bag that even these morons would realize it contains the remains of a previously living creature.
I had assumed that we had found Iñaki’s corpse, that he had been murdered and sealed inside the wall, and that was why he had remained nearby and turned into such a miserable bastard. But the almost mummified corpse that the ghost hunter has revealed carefully is far too small. About the size of a toddler.
Because I got distracted, I was pushed out of this Jokin’s body. I return to being a regular ghost, and Jokin falls on his ass and breaks into coughing.
“You wanted us to find this child, didn’t you?!” the ghost hunter lighting the hole with his flashlight says over his shoulder, but then he notices that Jokin has returned to being himself. “The ghost left!”
“Because we managed to help him,” the man handling the trash bag and its contents says solemnly, in a self-satisfied tone.
He takes the trash bag out of the hole and places it on the floor ceremonially. Then he straightens his back and searches his coat until he finds the phone.
“We need to call the police. Maybe this proves a murder or something.”
“Finally, some evidence!” the other ghost hunter says excitedly as he pats Jokin on the back. The previously possessed guy looks traumatized and keeps whining about his bloodied hand.
I don’t understand. I turn around to locate Iñaki, only to realize that he was standing behind me. He’s looking down with sadness in his eyes at the toddler-sized, mummified corpse.
“Iñaki, what…” I begin.
“That’s my daughter,” he says in the thinnest voice.
At first I thought I was imagining it, and the ghost hunters moving around and talking are distracting me as well, but I can’t deny it any longer: Iñaki’s form is brightening to the extent that I can’t consider him a shadow anymore. He observes his own hands as if he just noticed he had them. I can barely tell apart his features any longer when he faces me, holds my gaze and smiles.
“I enjoyed having you around,” he says.
“What… What the hell…?”
Iñaki vanishes. Nothing remains, not even a hint of him having existed.