When I woke up from my first proper dreams in around twenty years, I felt as if I had been born again. Even ghosts should enjoy such breaks. Now I truly understand what some ghosts had meant when they went on about how remaining in the grey, dreary afterlife was their punishment. As I lay on my back on the bed of a man whose body I had hijacked, and despite the pain in my injured ribs, I couldn’t stop smiling. Being alive was a wonderful thing.
Even as I take a shower I voice my plans for the day, because I’m quite sure my ghost roommate must be appreciating my new body. Ghosts care that little about privacy. In any case, today I intended to walk to the library located in the city’s old town, so I can use their computers to order a ouija board as well as a monitor. I also brainstorm out loud other ways I can ensure a smooth flow of communication with my exceedingly attractive new ghost friend, but I can’t come up with anything new, and it’s not as if the ghost is contributing. I suppose she just wants to stay in the past.
Once I finally leave my new base of operations, I walk along the outskirts of the city towards its center. Waves of green countryside to my right, fancy, private housing developments with pools to my left. A bit further, happy children play in a colorful playground under the watchful eye of their relatives. By the time I start passing in front of restaurants and a supermarket, both the constant discomfort in my ribcage as well as the effort I need to put into moving this body cause me anxiety. Now that I’m alive, I have to carefully manage how much time I can reliably spend outside given my energy reserves, which I will need to refill and preserve. It feels as if a clock is ticking right next to my ear. Had it been this way around twenty years ago?
I check Asier’s wallet, which is now mine, and I realize that I still have in there the prescription that the doctor gave me. At least I can look forward to being pumped full of painkillers like some video game protagonist.
Once I reach the path that passes along the half-ruined wall that encloses the city’s old town, I come across more and more living people. My anxiety increases. It feels wrong that so many consciousnesses can locate me in spacetime and look at me. And there are way too many people in this world. I guess human beings endure because we can get used to any old shit. I just hope I will learn to tolerate it as well.
As I venture through the narrow streets of the old town, I avoid a group of tourists with cameras hanging from their necks. I already know that the library is located near the church, because I had come a few times as a ghost to pass the time. Only because I had been feeling lonely, and it soothed me to watch people pulling out their cell phones and taking selfies in front of the old buildings. You never know when the stars will align and your dead mug will show up in some random Instagram photo.
I enjoy my first time using a computer in two decades, but after I create a new Amazon account, because I don’t know Asier’s account nor his password, I find out to my dismay that I can’t pay with Asier’s credit card, because I don’t know his PIN. I almost panic in public. You need money to live, and I have spent many years dead. Everyone who could remotely write me a recommendation for a job application is a ghost or moved on to the beyond.
How on earth am I going to steal this guy’s money? Should I get rid of my current body and find some conveniently dying rich guy to possess, one who carries in his wallet a paper with his personal codes?
I wander around in a daze, and I eventually decide to order a coffee at an outdoor bar with a beautiful view of the nearby, sparkling Txingudi bay.
“What would you like to order, sir?” The blonde waitress asks me with a kind smile.
“Sir?!” I blurt out absentmindedly. “Ah, nevermind. Just some random coffee, please.”
“Rough day?” she says as her gaze focuses for a moment on my conspicuous head wound.
“You have no idea. You can still pay things with coins, right?”
“That’s right. It’s worse for us if you pay with a credit card for an order of an euro and sixty five.”
“An euro and sixty five?! Do you personally piss on the coffee or something?!”
The waitress laughs.
“It’s pretty much the same price as everywhere else.”
“Well, that’s messed up.”
“I don’t make the rules, I’m afraid.”
“Then maybe you should, if you would write on the rules that coffee should be cheaper. People need to constantly earn money to keep existing. It’s a nightmare.”
“A nightmare indeed…”
I check out the waitress. She seems mildly amused by my rant. I need to dispel this awkwardness I’m feeling right now. I should ask her out, but I’ll probably say the wrong thing and piss her off. Maybe I could compliment her on something, but what? Her eyes? Her hair?
“Your eyes are pretty…” I say awkwardly.
The waitress chuckles at me.
“Um, thanks?” She smiles. “I’ll bring you your random coffee, sir.”
I watch her sashay away from me while I feel like an idiot. I slump down into my chair, wanting nothing more than to never move again.
I end up spending most of Asier’s cash on groceries, because I’ll need to shove food and at least water into this body every single day. As I was walking back home, near old town’s wall I feel someone’s intense gaze upon me. A burning hatred. I stop and shrug as if to cover my neck. Is a murderous ghost hunting me down or something?
When I look around discreetly, my gaze stops on the face of a blond man who looks as if he came from Eastern Europe. He keeps staring at me with fury in his eyes, and as soon as his companion, a younger, scrawnier slavic man notices why his pal isn’t paying attention to him, this second man glares at me as well. He comments something to his partner while gesticulating towards me as if I’m not witnessing this interaction.
They must have confused me with someone else. I don’t care what their deal is, but in any case I want nothing to do with this shady pair. They might be robbers or kidnappers. Who knows what’s going on in this shitty country nowadays. I hurry up towards Asier’s home while trying to lose myself in the crowd.
Once I’ve returned to my stolen base of operations, I realize that I forgot to buy the painkillers. Oh, well. I prepare myself a proper meal, which I botch because I haven’t cooked anything in two decades, and I was never into cooking to begin with. In the end, my stomach doesn’t care much. After I sit on the sofa and I put some ice on my battered chest, I find myself being able to think more clearly. I’m technically the credit card’s owner, or at least it would seem to be the case to the average bank employee. Also, I have a note that the doctor printed and that explains that my brain doesn’t work well any longer! I’m sure the bank will agree to change my PIN to a new one, if only because they feel sorry for me.
The bank fell for it. Fools! I walk away from the employee’s counter with a new magic code that will open the doors for me to steal as much money as I want from this dead guy. Near the entrance, I shove Asier’s credit card into an ATM, then I anxiously wait until I can find out how much money is waiting for me.
Asier had hoarded nearly three hundred and twenty thousand euros.
I blink, and keep blinking for a while. That can’t possibly be right. I study the screen: it doesn’t seem to be a mistake. I take out the card, insert it again, push the PIN code on the keypad. None of those things change the figures on the ATM screen. I made nearly three hundred and twenty thousand euros just by stealing a dead man’s corpse.
“Oh fuck, I’m rich!” I shout. “I’m fucking loaded!”
The middle-aged woman that was using the ATM to my right gets startled, but then smirks.
“Is that right? Can I get some?”
She rolls her eyes.
“I meant money.”
“Either way, no.”
This random woman tries looking at my screen, even though I couldn’t be clearer with my body posture that I don’t want her to do so.
“Are you really loaded?” she asks.
“Yes! Three hundred and twenty thousand euros is a lot of fucking money, you know.”
My newfound friend’s jaw drops.
“Shut the fuck up. There’s no way you have that much money.”
“Wanna bet? Check for yourself, decaying woman,” I say as I step aside and let her see the figures on the screen.
“Well, I’ll be…”
“And the best part is that I don’t deserve any of it.”
I immediately regret that someone knows how rich I am, so I leave the bank in a hurry and then walk around until I return twenty minutes later. I check Asier’s recent movements. No entries suggest a regular paycheck. The dead man must have been a bum, a wealthy one. I sigh. Maybe I’ll do some good with this money, starting with buying plenty of things I want. Maybe I’ll burn it all, one stack per week.
I run back to the library, and Amazon finally allows me to order not only a couple of fancy ouija boards, but also two call bells and a voice recorder. And a new monitor, one of those aimed at gamers. My heart beats loudly. I will buy the entire world.
Ever since I hijacked this guy’s life, I hadn’t felt that the decision to approach Alazne was available. As if I were in a video game, I needed to fulfill the condition of being able to pay for the date I wanted to invite her to. How could any guy show his face to the beloved he wants to conquer, if he can’t even flaunt his disposable income? That I remained a woman inside didn’t change anything: Alazne didn’t know I existed, and she needed an excuse to care. Everyone cares about money. Once she’s trapped by the money pit, I can entice her with more juicy and intimate treats, like this penis I can’t wait to test.
There must be something ingrained in men’s brains regarding the peculiar relationship with their hanging boy, because I feel the urge to photograph it, print like a hundred of them and paste them all over the city. I needed people to look at it. Strangers, even. I am so proud about it that I can hardly contain myself.
In any case, I have unlocked the decision to approach my beloved Alazne. With the amount waiting to be wasted in Asier’s account, and assuming that I would spend exactly a hundred euros per date, I could invite Alazne to two thousand and three hundred dates! Wait… That doesn’t sound like much at the end of the day. Is my math off? That’s like six years worth of dates. How the hell would I bankroll the rest of my life? I should look into investing.
In the present, I have bigger worries to handle. For example, how to keep my pulse steady as I finally get off at the bus stop from which it will only take walking for two minutes until I reach the apartment building where my Alazne lives. It’s an unremarkable five-story bulding almost sandwiched between a parish church and a Civil Guard station, the kind of home where I always imagined that mainly employees of small shops as well as retirees live. At this hour of the morning, close to midday, the only ones in these streets are housewives, old people and those perennially dependent on the welfare state. And as I stand awkwardly next to the front door, which likely came with the house when it was built in the seventies, I miss for the first time all my former privileges as a ghost. Alazne must be inside of her grotty apartment, and yet I can’t see her, hear her nor in any way anticipate her state unless she decides to come out through this very doorway. Given someone as reclusive as my beloved, who when she could get away with it wouldn’t leave her home for a few days, it might be a matter of pure luck whether I end up finally meeting her in person as I wait outside of her place.
I didn’t bother coming up with a plan. I simply hoped that I would fulfill my dream of staring into Alazne’s eyes while being acknowledged by her. And even if she does come out, what the hell could I say to her? I’m a stranger. I know her well enough that a tall, mostly well-built male stranger close to ten years older than her would make her feel small and insignificant, and hopefully horny.
“What the hell are you waiting around here for?”
It’s an older man with white hair, dressed in a blue tracksuit and walking his brown Maltese dog.
“You are glaring at me too confidently for someone who walks such a small pet.”
“Do I know you?” the man asks.
Back when I was a ghost I never had to bother getting a feeling of this neighborhood, but the gated residential building right in front, as well as the bunch of new security cameras, a couple pointed my way, suggest that living around here isn’t getting easier.
“My girlfriend lives in the area,” I say while trying to hide my annoyance. “I’m just waiting for her to arrive.”
“You don’t need to wait so desperately. I’ve seen this girl of yours, and she’s no beauty.”
“I said she’s no beauty.”
Now I’m glad that I inhabit a well-built, taller than average man with hair on his chest. I turn to face the guy and stare down at him.
“Old man, piss off or I’ll clog your large intestine with your pocket dog.”
“What did you say?”
I transform my hands into fists.
“I’ve had it with people listening to me and looking at me when I’m talking in public, and now people bother me when I’m merely standing in silence?! You human mosquito!”
“What did you call me?”
“Leave me alone!”
I walk off while shaking my head. I don’t think about my destination until I face that wandering away from Alazne’s apartment building would defeat my plans. I end up leaning against the wall on the opposite side of the building, and I just hope that the nosy, self-appointed neighborhood watchman doesn’t bother me again.
I don’t know how many minutes pass as I rub my eyes slowly to contain my anxiety. Even the noises of the passing cars sound like they demand something of me.
“Damn it, what are you doing?” I say to myself as I face that I can’t stand here and do nothing for much longer. “You’re a fucking pussy.”
At first I think that I’ve fallen into my habit of daydreaming to escape from an unpleasant situation, which has been my main defense mechanism in decades, but as I perk up and hold my breath, I can’t deny it: that’s the sound of someone tuning a guitar, and it’s coming from the third floor. My Alazne is preparing herself to disturb the entire neighborhood with an hour long session of playing and singing other people’s songs. It’s the first time I hear her play without the faded filter that the afterlife applies to everything, but it’s not the first time since I met her that I have been envious of an instrument.
I sit with my back against the wall of her apartment building, on a pavement coated with decades of dried dog piss, and I remain there for as long as she plays. Her muffled voice sends chills down my spine. A few people pass by and shoot me glances, but I couldn’t care less.
When my queen finishes her improptu concerto and I hear her closing her window, I can’t control the grin plastered across my mouth. As I stand up carefully to avoid further pain to my ribs, a couple of old women chatting nearby look up at the third floor, and one of them tsks while shaking her head.
“That girl… What a lost cause.”
“What a pain in the ass for the whole neighborhood,” adds the other.
“I feel bad for her parents… But then again, they should have seen this coming.”
I take a deep breath. I’m leaving for the day, having failed my mission. I’ll have to figure out a better plan. It’s a shame that despite being allowed to listen again to my beloved’s gift to mankind, I had to get reminded of how this planet needs a new cycle of meteor impacts.
I only got to stake out Alazne’s building one more time, after midday, and I didn’t even get to listen to her play the guitar. At least I know she’s alive, well enough that she can bother the neighborhood with her music. Still, she’s likely still depleting her unemployment benefits to avoid returning to the workforce. I can’t imagine how she’s going to handle not having money to pay even for food. But that’s where I come in! She can have most of my money, and also my body, and my soul, and so on.
I also end up staying at Asier’s house the following day, because Amazon informed me that one of their minions was going to bother himself or herself driving up to my place and handing me my shit. Except for the monitor, that is supposed to arrive some day in another package.
I pace up and down the house, at one point almost slipping on a book thrown on the floor. The painkillers make me feel all drowsy, although it isn’t an unpleasant sensation. When my doorbell finally rings, I pump my fists and jump for joy before running to the door. I open it. A small man is holding my package. He asks for my signature. I just draw a heart with Alazne’s and my names in it. The delivery man doesn’t seem to care. I take the package.
“You have no idea how glad I am that you performed this task for me, good man,” I say gratefully. “It saved me the effort of figuring out how to locate these individual items and bring them to my place by myself! Truly, the civilizations of the living are magical constructs.”
“Uh… thanks,” replies the delivery man, and then drives off.
After I close the front door, I turned towards the living room to leave the package on a table when I spot my reflection in the mirror. I don’t know how my opinion about this body’s features changed so quickly, but I find myself not just good looking, but downright handsome. My cheeks are chiseled, my jawline firm and rectangular, my eyes deep-set but piercing…
“My whole body is pretty damn hot,” I say to myself in the mirror.
I turn to the side.
“Damn,” I say as I admire my toned chest. “I am super good looking. I hope you are agreeing with this, my lovely ghost roommate. And speaking of ghost roommates, I want to communicate with you as soon as possible!”
I walk into the living room and, while whistling a happy tune, I place the package on the dining table. After five minutes of joyful unpackaging, I set up one of my fancy new ouija boards. I sit comfortably, rest my index fingers on the planchette and I speak clearly to my ghost friend. I feel the characteristic chill; my roommate must be standing next to me.
“I am ready! This should be easy for such a poltergeist geek like you, girl. Use my body, or however that works, to spell your name!”
The planchette starts to move by itself under my index fingers, and spells out two letters: H and I. The small wooden board returns to the center.
“Well done!” I cheer. “Hi! Hello back to you! I want your name now.”
The planchette spells out A, then L.
“Al? Is that you, Al?” I ask hopefully.
The planchette spells out A, then Z, then N.
“An? Anal? What the hell kind of name is that?” I ask indignantly, then I scratch my forehead. “Wait a second, did I get that right…?”
The planchette spells out E. I almost fall from my chair.
“Wait, Alazne?! Ah, you have heard me mention her so much that you wanted to prank me! You little devil! You got me real good.”
The planchette spells out KIDDING.
“It’s not funny!” I yell. “You tricked me and I fell for it! Nah, it was quite funny. First impressions are very important.”
The planchette spells out MY NAME IS KATERYNA.
“Ah, that sounds like the real thing for your Eastern European features!” I say cheerfully. “What a lovely name! I hope the voice recorder does its job properly whenever we get down to that, because I want to hear your sexy accent. I’m sure it will give me such tingles…”
YOU ARE A DIRTY GIRL.
“At least you noticed that,” I wink in her general direction. “Well, is there something pressing that you wanted to make me understand to begin with? We can get that out of the way.”
I WAS FIANCÉE.
“Another one?!” I yell, angry. “This Asier bastard must have been used to setting up beautiful girls as his solid platforms, promising them a long relationship cushioned by his hundreds of thousands of euros and this nice house, while on the side he fucked whoever opened her legs for him! Dirty scumbag!”
I DID NOT KNOW.
“Yeah, of course not. That’s why you killed yourself. I can understand how you feel, or rather, I can’t understand because this isn’t something that should have happened to you, and it’s all that fucker’s fault!”
I shouldn’t be this upset. I’m supposed to be the experienced ghost here, Kateryna’s senpai. I’m making a mess out of this meeting, as usual.
The planchette spells out KILLED.
“Huh?” I ask, almost dazed.
Kateryna killed Asier and then herself. That’s what all this means. No, wait a second. I’m jumping to conclusions.
“A-are you saying that you want… for me to kill myself?” I ask nervously.
The planchette spells out WHAT.
“What do you want me to do?” I ask with a dry throat as my heart beats rapidly. “By killing myself, it would bring us together in death and we could fulfill your love for me. Is that it? No, that’s ridiculous. Stop being so depressed and think rationally!”
That word calmed me down. It means Kateryna is not asking me to kill myself.
“Alright,” I proceed. “Let’s get down to serious ghost business. You hated Asier, so you remained on the afterlife plane. But now that Asier has gone to the beyond, why do you remain as a ghost? Not that I’m complaining, mind you.”
The planchette spells out STUCK.
“You’re stuck here?” I repeat.
WANT TO LEAVE.
“Why haven’t you left already then?”
“Ah. You are bound to this world as long as you don’t bear any children so your lineage would continue. That solves the case of why there are so many random ghosts roaming the afterlife, I suppose. Well… Maybe I could figure out how to impregnate you, if you would have my seed.”
The planchette’s metaphorical jaw must have dropped. It spells out REALLY’
“Just a joke, Kateryna. I don’t think you would be able to carry a kid, what with you being a ghost and all.”
I sink my teeth into my lower lip as I try to figure out how to get Kateryna off her plane of existence so she could go meet her loved ones in the beyond. I wipe the sweat from my forehead.
“Where are you from anyway, Kateryna? I need to know for some reason.”
The board spells out UKRAINE.
“I should have known. Hottest women on the planet. I spent some time there during my first years as a ghost, you know? I wanted to have sex with all of you.”
NOT ALL OF US ARE HOT.
“Yes you is, girl.”
YOU JUST HORNY.
“Yeah, that too.”
I begin to ponder Kateryna’s words. This ghost has been… trapped in the afterlife for some time. She is bound to stay unless she manages to get pregnant. How was it fair that some ghosts could just float away into the skies, metaphorically speaking, and never look back, while other spirits got trapped on their dreary plane?
“Well, I’m a bit dizzy,” I say. “I’ve been gulping down those painkillers, and I hadn’t read this much in decades. Don’t worry, I’ll figure out how to transmit this body’s semen to you. Even though I’m in love with Alazne, I will gladly do you this favor. Anything for my lovely roommate.”
The planchette moves on its own.
YOU ARE A SWEETHEART.
My heart skips a beat.
“Oh, I would kiss you if I could! You know I would. I hope you have been sleeping next to me these past few days, or at least witnessed how I touched myself. I want you to feel real welcome here.”
“Well, I want to also provide for you. I want to be a good man. I know that spending the afterlife alone is harrowing, so I will never leave you. If only there were more men like me around, the world wouldn’t be so terrible.” I sigh, then roll the tension out of my shoulders. “Anyway, Kat, I need a break. You have gotten me all heated up.”
I stand up and stretch my arms, then I walk down the hallway towards the bathroom. Ah, this life is so great.