Saturday, August 06, 2016

Rebeca’s Choice

The house isn’t on a hill. I think that’s it. Part of it. But I don’t know. One by one, everyone just moved away toward the cities. I hear news, though I’m still not sure how it works anymore. But my solitude no longer contains silence, even if no one has been here in at least ten years. The house sits vacant, and nothing else was developed in the valley. The orchard was going to become lots, but everyone moved away. I don’t think it was my fault, but I don’t know. Some things are hazy. Distant, like the memories of a stranger I once was.

Sometimes I don’t recognize myself in mirrors. I’ve learned to cope. I’ve even learned to drown out the sounds of the world, the signals in the air just background noises like the ocean grinding against the shore. Which is why I don’t notice him until he comes inside. The boy is alone with a glowing phone in one hand, wearing shoes meant for hiking. I know of cell phones, though until now I’d never seen one. He cleans off glasses. It is raining outside. I hadn’t noticed.

“H-Hello?” he says, his voice trying to be loud. “Is anyone here? My name is Damien, but everyone calls me Dami. I’m just here to find a haunter?”

I manifest. I don’t normally, but it has been years and he came without the machines and incense and crystals the others came with long ago. And the deepest parts of me like to see them run.

Dami stares at me. I don’t know what I look like to the living. I have had some run screaming. Some weep. A few faint. This boy just looks offended. “You’re a gastly?” he demands.

“Excuse me?”

My voice is the cold wind between places.

Dami pales visibly at it, but stands his ground. “You’re a gastly, aren’t you? Haunters are quite different.”

“Pardon me?”

“I know you’re a Gengar. And a Haunter is better than a Gengar any day. Do I need to level you up?”

“... what?” My voice is strange even to my ears. Even the insane would break and run by now, but there is something within him resisting me.

“Wait, the app update doesn’t mention –.” I have no idea what the boy is talking about, but I see the moment when he flatters, realizing I am real. Humans like to pretend ghosts exist, but they don’t truly like to encounter us and have realize the world they built their lives around isn’t how they understood it to be at all.

“My name is Rebeca.” I think it was that, at least once.

“You’re not a haunter? I really need one for my pokedex.”

“I am the spirit that haunts this place.”

“I know that,” Dami says. “But I really need to find a haunter.” And he turns his phone toward me, showing an image I don’t understand at all. I do hear the phone. Noises coming from it, into it. This is how the world speaks to me though I am here. In energies passing between phones and other places.

I am not sure what to make of this. “I am the only ghost in his valley.”

I am certain of that much. I think there were others, once. But there is only me left.

“Do you play pokemon?” he asks.

“I have no idea what you are talking about.”

Dami grins. He grins at that, in delight. Delight. “Mom and Dad won’t come looking for me for hours. They generally take a long time to anyway,” he says, dusting off one of the couches to sit down on it. “I can teach you how to play it, if you want? You could help me capture a lot of pokemon, Rebeca.”

I have been dead for a long time, and a ghost for perhaps even longer. I draw my nature about me. I can kill, with the cold between places. I can pull a human into the darkness and leave nothing behind. I have done this before. The memory of doing it hovers about me, whispers in voices I almost know.

“Please?” he says. “There aren’t any other pokemon here and teaching someone new will help me remember things too.”

There are shadows in his eyes he doesn’t own. Darkness he somehow sidesteps, and this – this pokemon is the why of it, the how and the means. It is not a power I know or understand, but he stands in the house of hauntings, and I swear I feel smaller. Not in a way that hurts, but still smaller in directions I can feel but not name.

It has been so long since a human came here. So long since my hunger was sated. But he offers his faith as a meal without knowing, and it has no end that I can feel at all.

“Tell me,” I say, and he begins to explain pokemon, and has to explain his phone, and television, and he talks for so long and so fast I am almost wondering if he is going to talk until he keels over and becomes a ghost as well when he gets a message on his phone.

“Oh! I didn’t get a new achievement, but Mom and Dad are looking for me.” He bounces to his feet. “I should find them before they try and take my phone away.”

Not before they get worried. Not before they get scared. He understands his parents even if he does not understand them at all. “They are not good pokemon trainers, then?” I say, using the words he has taught me.

“No. But I think I can be, for you. If you want to learn more?” he asks, suddenly shy.

I am not certain who is more surprised when I say yes.

He leaves, and is not a reflection I carry with my in the mirrors. I walk the house. I float. I try and haunt, in the manner of the haunters in pokemon, but his faith is not the kind to change another. I dust the house, for the first time in many years. I remember everything he has taught me. I think of questions to ask Damien the next time we meet. And I wait.

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