Summer in California is the season to sleep with no blanket. To have no fear of the dark. The heat does this to us. Makes us feel invincible. Or so I thought.
~ ~ ~
It was the summer of 1984. While most 14 year old kids were running around, mowing others’ lawns just to hear the sweet “Who ya gonna call?” from Ghostbusters, I was not. My step-mother who owned a Cadillac Cimarron was the only person I was interested in buttering. A well-worded compliment about her sausage curls was all it took to get the $3.48 I needed; I was ready to watch some ghosts get busted.
The movie brought a new perspective of life to me. My friends had always told me that I needed to get my brain checked because of my psychotic love for ghosts. However, watching Ray Stantz channel his love into destroying paranormal activity was new even to me. Looking in the mirror, I thought I shared similar facial features with Ray, so it made sense to me to take a shot at behaving like him as well. I tripped over my feet rushing to find my three partners in crime who would quite literally jump off a bridge if I told them to. So I shared my plan with them to create my own ghost-busting team. They did not jump off the bridge – instead they laughed at my idiocy, reminding me that Ghostbusters was only a movie and Ray was only an actor. My head told me to listen to them, but of course, my heart was already one with Ray.
I began researching paranormal activity – scavenging for books with covers that fell apart when touched. I learned nothing. In fact, the more I dug for information, the further I seemed to be getting from any answer. My heart also began to lose faith in my ghost gods from above. I finally decided to cut off all strings between me and the paranormal world when I threw away the signed Ghostbusters costume, which I had coerced my sausage-curl step-mother into buying.
~ ~ ~
People always say that the moment you lose hope is when miracles happen. That is what I thought would happen when I released my heart from the clutches of the ghost world. But no miracle came knocking on my door. Thirty-five years have passed since that summer. My forty-ninth birthday has also disappeared, as nonexistent as the smoke from the single candle I blew by myself. My seven-days-a-week job as a cashier is severely unstable, and my ex-girlfriend boss refuses to let me take a summer vacation for even one day. Quitting is a topic I talk quite passionately about to anyone who will listen, but the only person who ever stays long enough to understand my pains is Alastor. As a frequent “customer”, he often dawdles into the store, with a book thinner than my bank account. He never buys any item but simply sits next to my register, so I have made it a habit to release my feelings towards my boss to him; he merely nods his head while his nose almost touches the yellowed pages of his book.
A week goes by and his slender body fails to appear. I do not believe I have an emotional attachment to him, but there is a peculiar aura in his absence. Feeling oddly energetic after not seeing Alastor for eight days, I go on a venture after work, to find him. As if it is destiny luring me, I watch as my feet carry me to a bookstore. The building’s sign looks as if it was bought yesterday, but that is where the cleanliness ends; splintering wood frames the glass door, which is decorated with a web of cracks.
As I touch open the door, a familiar, musty scent snakes its way through my nose. However, there is not a book in sight. Dust fills the empty space with each step I take. A few discolored shelves are bunched up in a corner. I ramble across the room clenching my feet to quiet the squeaking of the ancient floorboards. I notice some movement behind a shelf, and Alastor peeks his head out from the side, breaking a smile across my face. I fail to notice his grave expression as I reach out to grab his arm. But my hand swipes through air. I reach again, only to make a little swirl of dust appear. Alastor widens his glazed eyes as he lowers his head. His fingers loosen, dropping his book, and for the first time I notice the title. How to Possess the Living is written in elegant script across the front. I take a step back as he advances towards me. No dust rises when he walks. His hair does not shift even a millimeter. I use all my might to release some sound – some cry – but my chest only sinks deep. Alastor’s spindly fingers reach out and stroke my face, leaving my jaw muscles numb. My senses jolt back as soon as he pickes up a shard of broken glass from the floor.
Panic overwhelming me, I tear out of the store, unable to make apart shapes and buildings as a gray shadow casts overhead. Air burns through my lungs as I gasp for more breaths; then something bumps into me, forcing me to look up at the dark gray night. I lift my head to see a well-built young man coming near and scanning me – as if to assess what damage he has done. The man seems to be the safest option; I attempt to translate to him that a ghost is following me, but the numbness in my jaw spreads and chews on the words coming out. He looks behind me and sighs as if I’m only hallucinating. My heart expands as he pulls out his phone; yet I only hear three beeps and he jumps back into his car, driving off. I frantically scan the area, then run to grab a random lady walking on the street. I point to Alastor, trying to get her attention, but she pulls out pepper spray towards my face and bolts in the opposite direction. Losing all hope, my breaths get caught in my throat and I look forward to my doom.
Instinctively, I glance behind and immediately regret my sudden, rash decision; Alastor has two identical Alastors beside him. My stomach threatens to return my breakfast when an arm sticks out of Alastor’s stomach, and a whole new body emerges, completely identical from the sinister smile to the glass weapon. I know there is no escape, but I sprint like a madman all the way to my apartment, the Alastors some distance behind me. Time is running out. They are getting closer. I pull on my door, but I do not have my key. Where could it be when I need it the most? I scramble down the road, trying to open the door of any house in the path. The Alastors approach me from behind, and I can almost feel their icy breath on my neck. Miraculously, a door opens. I enter a medieval era, with royal sofas and ornate frames surrounding large mirrors. I slam the door and begin shoving the furniture against it. Then a hand appears, reaching through the mirror. And another, crawling through the window. I keep smashing the mirrors with chairs. Covering the windows. Barricading the doors. But they keep on coming. I squeeze into the smallest corner I find, my ribcage slowly being crushed, holding my breath, hoping they will not find me. Then I see their figures in the dark. Dozens of them. All carrying the sinister smile of Alastor. New bloody limbs spurt out of them and their sneers widen. They slither towards me, and everything goes black.
I open my eyes, realising I lost consciousness for a moment. I look down and see my dark outline, intact. I’m alive. A tear dribbles down my face. Then I lift my head up, and through a cracked mirror I see my blood filled eyes staring back at me. He has succeeded.
Rose loves solving mathematical problems whether it be at school or even at home. During her travels, she always keeps a Sudoku book with her to constantly challenge her mind. Even then, her distraction keeps her from completing any single puzzle so she has many unfinished books.