After two strikes into my abdomen, walking my way back home, just those three streets I had to traverse, involved manipulating carefully this borrowed flesh and bone robot of mine, or else the pangs of pain gushing from my bruised guts would shoot through my whole body. Although this time I don’t feel about to shit myself, I suspect that Oleksiy has fucked me up even worse by causing some internal bleeding.
I finally reach our peaceful, quiet gated community next to the local graveyard, and when I close my home’s door behind me, I feel relieved not only for having survived another day of venturing through the broken outside world, but also for knowing that Oleksiy has already confronted me. I had kept in the back of my mind his threat of harassing me again, that first time when he stopped traffic with his 4×4 in order to annoy me. But he has already said his piece, and punched me twice, and left with Kateryna’s laptop, so that’s done. Another shitty chapter of life left behind.
Now I’m thirsty. As I stagger towards the kitchen I cross a cold spot, and my skin feels as if I had walked through cobwebs instead. I open my mouth to apologize to Kateryna, but I cough first.
“S-sorry, Kat. Didn’t mean to walk through you.”
In the kitchen, I pour myself a full glass of grape juice, then sit at the free-standing counter to drink in peace. I’m getting a bit woozy, but the cold, sweet juice lifts my spirits.
The call bell rings, even though I’m sitting close to the ouija board. The planchette spells out DID YOU REALLY DROWN YOURSELF IRENE.
“Yes, yes I did.”
COOL WE ARE SUICIDE SISTERS.
I drink some more juice. I need its innocent, positive taste when my intestines keep screaming at me for my mistakes and terrible decisions.
“Yeah, we both took the cowardly way out because life hurt too much,” I mutter, “and we propagated our pain to the people who cared about us.”
The planchette rotates slightly. It slides towards the left side of the ouija board for a few centimeters, only to stop, hesitate, and head to the opposite side.
THEY HURT US TOO DIDNT THEY, the planchette spells out.
“They did. Kateryna, whenever either Alazne or I brought up your death before, you always answered with the cryptic ‘killed’. Now it’s suicide?”
I finish the juice. The kitchen is too quiet, and my pain is pulsating. It feels wrong, as if I suffered more damage than two strikes at full force to my belly. I hope that motherfucker didn’t rupture my intestines, because the idea of shit sliding between my internal organs is too nasty.
I had forgotten that I was talking with Kateryna, and it disturbs me to notice out of the corner of my eye that the planchette is moving.
“Everything feels fucking complicated some days. But how so, in this particular case?”
THEY KILLED US BUT WE ALSO KILLED OURSELVES.
I hunch over the counter and rub my eyes. I don’t want to think about my first life, back in my original female body. I don’t want to recreate the memories of me standing at the edge of that cliff and for a moment knowing that I had to correct the mistake of having existed. I get up wearily from my chair and I take a deep breath.
“Kat, I’ll need to talk with you later, but first I should evacuate my bowels.”
The planchette is quick to spell out IRENE YOU DONT LOOK RIGHT ARE YOU OKAY.
“Yeah, yeah,” I mutter.
I shuffle towards the bathroom, then I approach the toilet. I pull down my pants and underwear, sit on the toilet seat and I power through the churning pain to push out a long, semi-lumpy turd, which plops loudly in the water. After I finish shitting, my heart flutters. My ears begin to ring, my vision becomes wobbly. I fall off the toilet seat and I’m too slow to move my hands, so the cold, ceramic floor hits my chest. I lie still as the ringing in my ears fades away. I can’t tell if I feel so bad just because of the punches or also because of the primal fear of having struggled through a confrontation with those two goons. I want to live a quiet, peaceful life free of Ukrainian rapists.
A bubble of cold air enters through the closed bathroom door. First I get annoyed, because I think that Kateryna wanted to entertain herself by watching me shit, but I suppose that me falling to the ground made enough noise. I hoist myself up, then sit down again to wipe my ass. I guess that Kat is paying attention as I spit on the toilet paper to remove the residues better. When I finish, I stand up and I place my hands on the edge of the sink. I try to steady my breathing.
“I would repeat that I’m okay, Kat, but I’m actually not. I can tell you that much.”
I unbutton my shirt, take it off and then raise my undershirt to examine my wounds in the mirror. The punches left two misshapen bruises near the side of my abdomen, with the color of overripe raspberries. I had expected them to look way worse, that Oleksiy had stamped the shape of his fist on my skin, but these bruises don’t give a hint of what caused them. The worst area is a finger-shaped patch of skin so purple as if blood has concentrated right under the surface. I dare to touch it. It’s tender, and I can tell that this is the wound that causes me the most pain when I move or stand a certain way. Is it serious? I’m not a doctor.
The three toothbrushes in the cup shuffle as if someone is trying to shove her hand in there. Alazne’s toothbrush takes flight and maneuvers in the air to orient itself towards my bruises, as if pointing at them.
“Yeah, Kateryna. A guy punched me real hard there. It wasn’t random either. Let’s go to the kitchen so we can talk about it.”
I exit the bathroom while I hold a palm over my bruises as if I was trying to prevent getting disemboweled. It must be some instinctive drive to signal that I’m hurt, and it feels pathetic, so I take my hand off. Aren’t hard strikes into the abdomen one of those things for which people go to the hospital? Alazne will leave her class in a short while… I guess I’ll have to power through the pain, and only resort to medical help when it’s clearly too late.
Once in the kitchen, I pour myself another glass of grape juice. If only everything was as pleasant and tasty as grape juice, the world would be a glorious place. I sit at the free-standing counter and take a deep breath.
Kateryna’s cold spot floats on my right, in front of the ouija board, and her closeness raises the hairs on my arms. I would have thought that my body would have gotten used to my roommate’s presence already, but it keeps raising alarms. Must be programmed in.
The planchette spells out WHO WOULD HAVE PUNCHED YOU MY BABY.
“First of all, I want to clarify something: did you swallow an irresponsible amount of pills and lay down in the bathtub to die?”
The planchette leaps, but as soon as it lands it glides to spell out DID I TELL YOU I DONT REMEMBER.
“No, you just repeated ‘killed’ over and over whenever I pried into the uncomfortable matter of how you escaped the plane of the living.”
AM I SO PREDICTABLE.
The spot where I touched that bruise keeps burning. Maybe I should find out how many painkillers I have left from the time my ribs hurt.
“Listen, Kat… The person who assaulted me is some Eastern European, football-loving thug called Oleksiy. Does that say something to you?”
OH NO THATS MY BROTHER, the planchette spells out frantically.
“Yeah, I figured as much. No, actually I didn’t figure it out at all. My mind must have thought that linking every random blond, Eastern European guy to you would be inappropriate. The world isn’t supposed to be that small. But I guess that you guys did move from Ukraine to live in this area, and you died in this city, and those brothers of you wanted revenge, so those facts did raise the odds that any blond, Eastern European people I came across might have been related to you. I was too busy caring about the rest of my life. In any case, I met both your brother Oleksiy and your scrawnier, more eager to cry brother Hadeon. Cool name, Hadeon, by the way. It’s like something from some fantasy novel. Hadeon the Destroyer.”
WHY THE HELL DID HE HIT YOU.
“Why? Because you died and I’m wearing Asier’s corpse and Asier led you to kill yourself,” I say angrily. “And he truly did, didn’t he? It’s all the fault of that cheating cocksucker. I’m sure you were so happy being alive and enjoying this luxury, only for that decaying cunt to pull the rug out from under you by cheating with whoever opened her legs for him.”
SO NOW THEY WANT TO HURT YOU.
“They intended to hurt me, or make me confess that I killed you, or who the fuck knows. Who would cheat on you? You were the hottest woman in this rotting world. Who has you as his fiancée and then discards you for some inferior creature? Is this current brain of mine damaged from birth?”
YOURE THE HOT ONE.
I sigh, then sip some more grape juice. My heart is beating hard, and I want to ruin something.
“Well, thank you. Anyway, what does it make you feel that your two remaining siblings are so distraught over your suicide that they have been marauding around Hondarribia looking to fuck Asier’s shit up, meaning me these days?”
I DONT GIVE A FUCK ABOUT THEM.
That throws a wrench into my mental machinery, making me question whether I had followed her planchette-typing properly. But what else could she have said? I have only known Kateryna to be caring and understanding, except for that first time she flung random crap at me with her mad poltergeist skills.
“Why wouldn’t you care, Kateryna? Oleksiy and Hadeon are your brothers and they are truly grieving because you have disappeared from this world, or so they think. They didn’t believe me when I said that you remained as a ghost.”
THEYRE IDIOTS THEN.
“How can you say that about your own brothers? This callousness is unlike you, Kat.”
IRONIC ISNT IT.
“What do you mean?” I ask, confused. “What’s going on with your brothers then? I thought that knowing that they grieve for your suicide would have given you some perspective on your actions.”
THEY DONT GRIEVE ABOUT THE RIGHT THING.
In moments like this it annoys me that I can only follow Kateryna’s surprisingly quick ouija typing, which is stripped of emotion as if I were talking to a computer.
“They’re grieving over your death! They would obviously rather have you alive. The fact that they don’t is a loss for them. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? I mean, I know you’d rather be alive than dead. I would too.”
I TRIED TO GET AWAY FROM MY BROTHERS.
“Why would you want that?”
WELL FOR REASONS. The planchette returns slower than usual to the center, and then it slides to add HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU HAVE.
I pull out my phone, a move that causes an electric pang of pain to course through my intestines, after I had managed to push those constant alerts into the back of my mind.
“Agh… If you are asking seriously, my beloved girlfriend, who is also your beloved friend, is leaving her writing class in about twenty minutes. I’ll have to call her then, because we were supposed to meet in the street. I’ll tell Alazne to head straight home, I guess. I have no clue if I’ll confess the mess about your brothers.”
I slide my hand along my face.
“Please, talk to me about those two goons first.”
OLEKSIY IS OLDER BROTHER HE LOVED TELLING ME WHAT I SHOULD WEAR.
“Ah, one of those possessive older brothers whose first priority is protecting your dignity, huh? I only know that from movies and such. I’m an only child.”
PROTECT MY ASS HE ALSO TOLD ME WHICH BOYS I COULD SEE.
“Yeah, I understand how that would be a major issue.”
KEPT ORDERING ME TO RETURN HOME VERY EARLY ALTHOUGH I ONLY STUDIED AND WENT OUT WITH FEW FRIENDS IN AFTERNOONS.
“I wouldn’t like to be told shit like that. It’s like, leave me the fuck alone, you know?”
HE SAID EVERY MAN WANTED TO FUCK ME EVEN MY FRIENDS FATHERS SO I SHOULD COVER UP.
“He was right about that, though. Many women would want it too.”
HAD A HABIT OF SLAPPING MY FACE WHEN I DISAGREED.
“That fucking demon! Damaging your face is like defacing a wonder of the world!”
My fists tremble against the surface of the counter. Who would look at Kateryna’s perfect visage, with those big, slightly slanted emerald eyes and those full lips, the picture of perfection, and think ‘oh yeah, I’m going to slap me some of that’. Oleksiy is a terrorist!
HE SAID I WAS BEAUTIFUL BUT COULDN’T SHOW IT.
“That’s true, though, the part about you being beautiful,” I say, pained. “There’s not a single day that I don’t mourn your passing.”
OLEKSIY IS AVENGING HIS SISTER BUT NOT ME YOU KNOW. The planchette hesitates, as if Kateryna doesn’t know how to word something. Then it glides around to spell out HE NEVER LET ME BE MYSELF.
I run my fingers through my hair. The physical pain is preventing me from focusing on this conversation properly. During my second confrontation with Kat’s brothers, I had taken Oleksiy for a hothead, a bit simple-minded, but ultimately an honorable man who wanted justice for his sister’s death. But it looks like the guy is a tyrant who intended to hoard Kateryna’s beauty for himself.
“Alright, that’s enough about your big brother, I think… And what about that Hadeon dude? A bit twitchy and quick to cry, sure, but he truly cares for you.”
Kateryna’s planchette spins rapidly at my last statement. Is she simply twirling it absentmindedly? It slows down after a few moments, then spells out I DONT WANT TO TALK ABOUT HIM.
“After how much you opened up about Oleksiy, I’m surprised… But alright, that’s your prerogative. If you ever want to speak up about anything, you know I’m here for you.”
NO I DONT WANT TO TALK ABOUT HIM BUT I WILL.
HE OFTEN TRIED TO WATCH WHEN I CHANGED MY CLOTHES OUR MOM THOUGHT IT WAS FUNNY.
“I’m, ah… Okay…”
HE FOLLOWED ME AROUND EVERYWHERE TOOK PICTURES OF ME NAKED.
“And this is when you lived with your parents, right…?”
SOMETIMES I WOKE UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT AND HE WAS STANDING THERE TOUCHING HIMSELF I PRETENDED NOT TO SEE.
“Well, I admit I’m having a hard time sympathizing with him.”
ONCE I SAW HIM STEALING MY USED PANTIES FROM THE CLOTHES BIN AND THEN HE SNIFFED THEM.
“That’s… That’s pretty grim, Kateryna. Why didn’t you or your parents do something about it? Or you simply never told them?”
SHE DIDNT BELIEVE ME.
“Your mother, right? What a bitch. I know that’s a hard thing to face, but it’s not like most people would make it up!”
I KNOW RIGHT.
My poor Kateryna. I want to give her a hug, stroke her beautiful sunflower-colored hair and tell her that everything is going to be alright, but I can’t do it because she’s a ghost.
WORST TIME WAS WHEN I WALKED INTO MY ROOM AND HE WAS BEATING OFF WHILE WHISPERING MY NAME AND HE CAME INTO MY PANTIES.
My eyes twitch.
“I hope the bastard caught genital warts.”
DIDNT HAVE GENITAL WARTS MYSELF.
“I don’t mean from you, just in general, like from a whore or something…” I rub my eyes. “You know, I try to put myself in other people’s shoes. As I told you I was an only child, but I think that if I had been your sister, I would have done worse things that diddling myself while sniffing your pussy smell from your panties.”
The planchette remains still as if judging me. I swallow, and I’m about to apologize when the small board moves again to spell out REALLY SWEET THANKS WHY DONT WE GET NAKED RIGHT NOW.
“… I’m so sorry, Kateryna. I was probably joking. I wish you had grown up in a normal family, although I literally don’t know anyone in this new life who had a normal family.”
YEAH ONCE I ASKED MY MOM IF HER BROTHERS TREATED HER LIKE THAT WHEN SHE WAS YOUNG AND SHE SAID THATS HOW THINGS WERE.
“So she did know what was going on, that whore. You can’t trust anyone in this world. I’m beginning to understand why you killed yourself, Kat.”
NO THATS UNRELATED TO MY FAMILY.
I feel a bit sick, as well as overwhelmed, and I don’t know what else to say. I gulp down the rest of my grape juice, and in a few seconds I end up burying my face on my forearms, crossed on the counter. However, the call bell rings. I lift my face enough so I can witness the planchette spelling out words.
I LEFT MY PARENTS PLACE SHORTLY AFTER BECAUSE I MET ASIER AND HE WANTED ME AND HE HAD A HOUSE AND SAID WOULD MAKE ME HAPPY.
“You may have jumped into that too quick, I think.”
I WAS NEVER HAPPY BEFORE BUT I THOUGHT MAYBE THIS TIME.
Her words squeeze my heart. I blink a few times to disuade the tears from forming.
I WAS LONELY AND SCARED OF BEING ALONE.
“And you had the terrible luck of allowing yourself to be seduced by a monstrous serial cheater,” I say in a low, regretful voice. “I can’t imagine what you feel when you look at this stolen body of mine.”
NO I LIKE IT BECAUSE ITS LIKE ASIER DOESNT EVEN HAVE HIS BODY ANYMORE YOU KNOW.
“Ah, so me possessing what remains of his cowardly self is like spitting in his face daily.”
The planchette takes its time to move. Then it spells out SOMETIMES I THINK ITS NOT FAIR HOW LIFE TURNED OUT BUT I HAVE TWO BEAUTIFUL FRIENDS.
I was feeling vulnerable because I had been assaulted and I have to endure the pain in my guts, but after Kateryna’s loving sentiment, I let myself cry. I sniffle for a bit as my shoulders tremble.
“Thank you, Kateryna. I love you too.”
I stand up and blow my nose into a paper napkin. I address the planchette as I wipe my eyes.
“To be honest, Kateryna, I had thought of assuaging your brothers’ grief by introducing them to your ghostly self, but I think they can fuck right off now.”
YES DONT DO THAT BUT WHAT IF OLEKSIY PUNCHES YOU AGAIN.
I chuckle and dab the last of my tears.
“Thankfully that won’t happen. I showed them the doctor’s note that mentions clearly that I am not lying about having lost most of my memories, even though I am lying, so they realized they won’t get any answers from me about why you killed yourself. They also wanted your laptop, because Asier hadn’t returned it to them after you died. It seems that your panty-sniffing younger brother bought it for you, maybe as an apology for wanting to come inside you.”
The planchette slides around nervously, and at times I am not sure which of two letters Kateryna intended to spell, but I believe she meant YOU DIDNT GIVE THEM THE LAPTOP DID YOU.
My facial muscles go slack while a sickly cold spreads from my stomach. I approach the ouija board.
“Yes, I gave it to them, Kateryna. It seemed that Hadeon wasn’t lying about having bought it for you, and that was a quick way to get them to leave me the fuck alone. Why… is that a problem?”
I WROTE SOMETHING FOR ASIER IN THERE BUT IT DOESNT MATTER NOW THAT HES GONE.
“I guess it wasn’t… anything good,” I say with a thin voice.
NO I MENTIONED THAT I LOVED HIM VERY MUCH.
“You still cared for him after he ruined your life through cheating, huh? I guess it can be hard to let go.”
THAT WAS SARCASM I WROTE WHAT HE DID TO ME AND NOBODY KNEW.
I feel dizzy, and I can’t tell if my cold sweat is due to the possible internal bleeding, or that I imagine those shady brothers finding Kateryna’s text and getting their confirmation that Asier wasn’t innocent in their beloved sister’s suicide. Before my legs get wobbly, I sit down on a stool next to the ouija board.
“Why… would you write it? Just for Asier, so you could get some revenge after you died?”
YES TO HURT HIM ALSO FOR THE UNIVERSE IN GENERAL I GUESS.
“Alright, I don’t–“
PRINTED A COPY AND LEFT IT ON THE FLOOR OF BATHROOM BEFORE I DIED BUT ASIER TOOK THAT ONE.
So it’s her suicide note. If Oleksiy and Hadeon scour through Kateryna’s laptop even just out of curiosity, I’m sure they’ll come across that one document. I don’t doubt that Kateryna would have named it ‘suicide note’ or ‘fuck you Asier’ or some other conspicuous title.
I wipe my forehead with part of the tissue that I hadn’t moistened with mucus.
“When… When would Asier have been able to get rid of your printed suicide note? Your brothers told me that the police were the ones that found your corpse.”
YES I CALLED THE POLICE BUT ASIER ENTERED THE HOUSE A COUPLE OF MINUTES AFTER I DIED PURE COINCIDENCE I THINK.
I bury my face in my hands, and then close my eyes tight as I massage the sides of my head. I want to sleep for ten hours. Kateryna gives me a short break, but then she dings the bell to attract my attention.
ASIER FREAKED OUT AND EVEN MORE WHEN HE READ SUICIDE NOTE SO HE FLED WITH IT.
“I’m guessing that the police took its time reaching our gated community,” I say with a raspy voice, “maybe because they thought there is only a graveyard here, like everyone else has said. Asier must have had a strong enough alibi. And the neighbors don’t pay attention to anything in this place.”
ASIER BARELY SPENT TIME IN THE HOUSE AFTER I DIED BECAUSE I DISCOVERED MY POLTERGEIST POWERS.
“As worried as I am now, I would have loved to see that. Just to be there as you flung picture frames, statuettes, and possibly knives at this stupid body.”
I ALSO TRIED TO SCREAM BUT LOUD NOISES ARE HARD TO MAKE.
“Yeah, I couldn’t do that at all back then… But what now, Kateryna? Your brothers are going to go nuts, aren’t they? What the fuck do we do?”
Kateryna takes her time to move the planchette.
I AM SORRY I CANT THINK OF ANYTHING BUT THEY DONT KNOW WE LIVE HERE DO THEY.
I throw my hands up in the air.
“I don’t know! Do they?”
I DIDNT TELL THEM.
It’s getting harder to breathe. As I tap nervously on the floor with my foot, I keep pushing buttons on the screen of my phone almost aimlessly, except when I return to the list of contacts. I’ll have to calm myself down enough to call Alazne in a few minutes. If I hadn’t given away Kat’s laptop, I could have called the brothers over. Kateryna would have had to struggle through the humiliation of not only talking to those bastards, but also pretending that Asier didn’t harm her and that she just killed herself out of general sadness, or anything that would absolve my current self of any wrongdoing. But Oleksiy and Hadeon might have read the suicide note already, so at any point that big bastard is going to call my phone and threaten me. Two guys like those… They might genuinely want to cut my head off.
When I hear the key entering the front door’s lock, I hurry like a cat to the hall. As soon as Alazne notices me she beams as if merely seeing me made her happy. In the middle of the pain in my guts, and my anxiety for what might be cooking somewhere in this city, I get a warm reminder of what matters. I hug Alazne tightly as I kiss her, and she lets her arms hang to the side, one holding the keys and the other the laptop bag, as our tongues caress each other. When we pull away, Alazne’s eyes are glistening.
“It’s so wonderful to return home and be in your arms,” she says softly.
I rub her shoulder over her cardigan. I hope my smile is steady enough.
“Do you want to drink something? I was hanging out in the kitchen, talking with Kateryna.”
“Yeah, I’ll be with you in a second. Let me leave the laptop bag in the living room, then take a pee.”
Alazne gives me a quick peck on the lips, then heads towards the living room. I walk to the kitchen, which is down the hallway, while my bruises complain about me having dared to squeeze my body against my girlfriend’s. As soon as Alazne is out of view, the worries that have been torturing me for the last thirty to forty minutes return. I hadn’t been ruminating about how to explain our problem to Alazne, but about how to deceive her about it. I’ll need to remain constantly on guard to patch any holes in my lies that she might see through. I feel stretched, as if I was being tortured on a rack. Five minutes ago, while I myself peed, I stood in front of the mirror and practiced again how the facial muscles in this stolen face look when I tell lies, in case they sound as ridiculous and cruel, when aimed at the love of my life, as they constantly feel to me. Just making Alazne believe that Irene was someone I knew from twenty years ago, an old acquaintance whose suicide I regretted, already kept me on edge, and now two violent bastards know my phone number and want revenge for someone whom Asier might have pushed into killing herself. I’m sinking deeper into the tar pit, and I’m close to drowning.
In the kitchen, I take a clean glass and pour some grape juice in it. It’s good that Alazne enjoys it almost as much as me, which justified buying enough that I won’t miss it. Next to the ouija board I left the printouts of the bus tickets for our incoming trip.
While I stand and worry, my mind in a fog, waiting for Alazne to come, I notice the planchette moving. It spells out DONT BE SO NERVOUS THATS YOUR GIRLFRIEND.
I speak close to the cold spot that indicates where Kateryna is standing, so there’s little chance that Alazne will hear me from the bathroom.
“Believe me, Kat, if you were in my position, knowing that the love of your life wouldn’t want to be with you if she truly knew you, you would go grey from stress. Fortunately this body’s hair was already greying, which camouflages my despair.”
The planchette slides off the ouija board and then towards my hand, which I had placed on the counter. The small wooden board touches my skin. It feels cool, although it’s likely because Kateryna’s ghostly hand must be brushing mine. Then the planchette returns to the board to spell out IT WILL END IN TEARS.
“You ended in tears, and so did I. So does everything, as long as you see it coming.”
I was staring at the planchette while Kateryna spelled out something I could barely retain, when I realize that Alazne’s footsteps are approaching us. I gesture towards our ghost roommate to stop. My girlfriend comes in, she sighs out of relief at the glass of juice and then downs a quarter of the liquid in one gulp.
I feel my heart beating as if it were some small animal huddled against my ribcage.
“So, how did the writing class go…?”
“Pretty good.” She says, then it merely takes her a look to spark her curiosity. “Why are you so nervous?”
“That obvious, huh? Yeah, I have never been good at this. Would you tell me in detail about your class first…?”
Alazne frowns, worried. She approaches me slowly and then puts her hands on my chest. When she looks up at me with those big, hazel eyes, which seem to have been born to look sad, I want to confess even if it would ruin everything.
I lift my shirt to show her the bruises on my abdomen.
“What the…?! Who did this to you, my love?”
Alazne reaches with one hand to touch the worst area of the bruises, in which the skin is so purple that I have wondered how the hell will it regain its original color. However, she stops herself before her fingertips make contact, likely because she knows it would hurt me.
I speak as calmly as I can. The situation is troublesome enough.
“Remember when you sent me that sexy pic of your bare midriff and I couldn’t answer quick enough because some random guy was accosting me? Well, he returned with his brother, and they weren’t harassing me randomly. Turns out Asier– I mean, the version of me before the accident knew them.”
“Are you alright? Is it bad enough that you need to go to an emergency room?”
Alazne’s expression evidences that any threat to my being is a threat upon her entire existence, and as I know, she can’t handle the notion that I might one day disappear to leave her alone in this world.
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll be fine.” I say dismissively, even though my voice is beginning to tremble. “Anyway, the brothers confronted me, and it ended… Well, you see the results.”
“But why would… What kind of relationship did they have with you before the accident? I know that you don’t remember them, but did they explain it at least?”
I let go of the shirt, so the fabric conceals the bruises again. I only chose to admit to Alazne that I had gotten punched because either today or in the following days she will see my naked torso.
“It seems I dated their sister and it ended badly. She was hurt, and they haven’t forgiven me for it. Those two morons were venting. I mean, if they were trying to hurt me seriously they would have done way worse than this.”
Alazne rubs her forehead while looking down towards my bruises as if she could still see them.
“Maybe. Maybe not. Should… We should go to the police, right?”
I keep my voice relaxed and calm.
“And tell them what? That some guy punched me in the abdomen two times, but I don’t know their names and I don’t know exactly why because I lost my memories? I doubt they’ll do anything. I mean, people commit far worse crimes and they are walking down the street later in the same day.”
Alazne looks up at me with fear in her eyes.
“What should we do?”
I give her a confident look, then gesture towards the printouts.
“This is sudden, but I don’t feel too safe in this city at the moment, so I have bought bus tickets and made reservations at a spa hotel. I don’t think those two idiots know where I live… Still, I think I need to relax.”
Alazne is bewildered. She shakes her head slightly, and looks around as if trying to find the words.
“Y-you have already paid for everything…?”
“I’m sorry, Alazne. Obviously I hope you come with me, but I feel horrible about doing it without asking you first.”
She has lowered her head, and her eyes are unfocused as if she’s looking far into the distance, several kilometers underground. I want to keep apologizing. Alazne was pushing herself slowly to figure out how to manage her anxiety, and she had only started walking through the city alone. Now not only she needs to worry about dangerous people hurting the one living person she cares about, but I also try to drag her into a sudden trip. She must be so dazed that I have no clue how she’s going to react.
“O-okay, but go where?”
“To Gijón, and likely Oviedo as well. They are four hundred kilometers away, but a bus takes us straight to Gijón.”
Alazne blinks a few times.
“Why those cities in particular?”
I hold her shoulders gently. Her bone structure feels so fragile. I realize that I was holding my breath, fearing that my beloved girlfriend would have stepped back. I can’t describe the warmth that floods me when I get to look at that pale skin and her smattering of freckles on the bridge of her nose, her upper cheeks and around her eyebrows. I want to kiss every one of them. I need to protect this precious woman, keep her safe. I possessed a dead man’s corpse so I could prevent Alazne from hanging herself with that sheet-noose of hers, but I couldn’t even predict that Kateryna’s brothers would be searching for me to ruin my life. What mess have I gotten her into?
“As you know, I’m trying to write down my experiences, although today I was interrupted by those two shitheads… And I realized that some of my earlier memories are tied to that area, particularly Gijón. I already knew that I would have wanted to go in the near future to figure out if they awaken more memories, but I figure that I might as well do it now.”
Alazne smiles softly, and despite this trouble I have laid on her she seems pleased, as she always does when I open up about my shattered past. Which doesn’t belong to Asier, but to me.
“That’s good, then. We won’t just be hiding for a while. It will help your recovery. Alright, but when are we leaving?”
I want to scratch the back of my head, and also apologize again.
“Tomorrow at 6:45. The bus will depart from the train station’s grounds in Irún, but I’ll call a taxi that will drive us there. I have already checked that they work that soon. It means we’ll have to wake up that much sooner.”
Alazne takes a deep breath and slides her hands over her hair, which she tied in a ponytail when she went to pee.
“Yeah, I know…” I lower my voice, contrite. “It fucking sucks to wake up that soon, let alone for a plan you had no clue about merely a few minutes ago. I can only apologize for how sudden this is. However, you will be able to sleep the entire way there if you want.”
“H-how long will the ride take?”
I don’t want to say it, because it feels as if I’m digging a hole straight down as I’m standing at the bottom of it.
“Wow, that’s… It sucks, for sure. Well, I guess I’ll put on my earphones and listen to music. Also sleep. I hope there is a bathroom in the bus…”
A rush of tenderness overwhelms me. I embrace Alazne, and she takes a deep breath and rests her face on my chest. I don’t care that hugging her worsens the pain radiating from my bruises.
“I love you so much, Alazne. I hate that whatever kind of life this body led before I started living again has ended up splashing you. I only want to make you happy.”
“I know. I am happy just being with you. Also, I have never been in a spa.”
Alazne kisses my chest over my heart. When she pulls away from our embrace, as soon as she turns towards the ouija board she looks shocked as if she had forgotten something important.
“Ah, Kateryna! What are we going to do with you during our trip?”
The planchette spells out JUST LEAVE ENOUGH FOOD IN MY BOWL AND ALSO CLEAN MY SANDBOX.
Alazne and I laugh. My spirits rise. I feel elated because my beloved’s smile has returned.
“It’s only a few days,” I say. “I can leave a playlist of albums in a loop playing in the living room.”
NO THATS OKAY I WANT SOME SILENCE FROM TIME TO TIME.
I worry, though. Kateryna is terrified of leaving the house because any bored ghost might decide to bother her, maybe even follow her. But at the same time I was glad that Kat stopped trying to take walks through the neighboring graveyard, because one never knows if any of the penitent ghosts might develop a crush on Kateryna’s voluptuous shadow. In that case, Alazne and I might end up living with two roommates or more.
Alazne puts her hand on the counter next to the ouija board, and she looks at it with a friendly smile, even though my girlfriend understands that Kateryna is standing next to her. Our ghost isn’t looking at the world through the board.
“I know, Kateryna. Why don’t you just come with us? You can get in taxis and buses, right? We’ll carry a couple of ouija boards, so we will be able to talk to you as long as we are alone.”
WHAT NO NO NO NO.
I can’t agree with my Alazne here. Any small distraction would end up with Kateryna getting lost in the middle of potentially nowhere. Not to mention that Alazne and I, being alive, would be traversing the streets along with other breathing, decaying bodies, but who knows what crazy bastards Kateryna might come across in that same spot of the afterlife? Alazne is asking our resident ghost to expose herself to hundreds of other shadows, which for her is like telling someone with arachnophobia to spend the whole day in a room full of spiders, or in Australia.
“I mean it, Kat,” Alazne insists. “Just stick close to us, hold my hand, to make sure that our vehicles don’t leave without you. We can have a good time.”
WELL THATS VERY NICE OF YOU BUT I WOULD BE A SPOILSPORT.
“Yeah, she’s not going to do it. I’m not sure if I told you, Alazne, but Kateryna is terrified of ghosts.”
“I-is that so?”
“Yes, I haven’t known many ghosts who are scared of other ghosts, but… But then again Kateryna is the only ghost I’ve ever interacted with, of course! Anyway, she’s too scared to walk around in public.”
The planchette interrupts us to spell out PATHETIC I KNOW.
“For most intents and purposes, she hasn’t left the house in years,” I add, suddenly feeling sad. “I’m sure she would love to go with us, if it was possible.”
Alazne shakes her head while she stares at Kateryna’s bubble of cold air with pity.
“But that’s horrible,” Alazne says with a thin voice. “So you’ll never leave the house? Will you always be stuck here?”
I DONT THINK ABOUT IT AND BESIDES I LOVE YOU BOTH.
“We love you too, Kateryna,” I tell her, “but you know that our bodies won’t last long in the grand scheme of things. Unless you get over the fear of your kind, you’ll spend a lonely eternity. And that’s if you are lucky and no other ghost claims this house.”
OH NO THAT SCARES ME.
I don’t want to worry her more, particularly when we are about to abandon her for a few days.
“It’s somewhat unlikely, I suppose… But even if you can ride out the loneliness for two hundred, three hundred years, eventually they’ll bulldoze this house to build, I don’t know, a nuclear waste facility. Because you know that human civilization won’t last much longer. We’ll never get through the Great Filter. So your plan needs revising.”
“That’s pretty pessimistic,” Alazne says. “What you need, Kat, is hope.”
I look at Alazne in case she’s become a victim of the body snatchers. During her last depression she gave up on life again and she only left the bedroom because I took her by the hand.
YES I THINK I WILL GET OVER IT EVENTUALLY, the planchette spells out.
Alazne gulps down the rest of her grape juice, which she seemed to have forgotten about. She sighs and looks towards the fridge.
“We’ll need to prepare a light dinner, then pack our luggage. And I’m sure that by the time we get to Gijón we’ll realize we have forgotten something important…”
As Alazne opens the fridge, which bathes her in its white light, and she leans into it, I rub my hands and start pondering how to reach a city around four hundred kilometers away without dying along the way.
“Alright, I’ll prepare some sandwiches for the road. Thankfully Asier– I had a couple of suitcases hidden away. And please, Alazne, tell me later how your writing class went.”