DORIAN GRAYLING - PECULIAR THINGS
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by Dorian Grayling
~In which a ghost doesn’t know they are a ghost~
Someone stood in front of the mirror, their vacant brown eyes melted through the polished silver and back into themselves. They waited for the other them to look away. They at least hoped the other them would stop copying every move they made.
The right arm went up; the right arm went up. Left hand tickled chin; left hand tickled chin. Pulled seven funny/horrible faces in the space of just under 2 seconds; pulled six funny/horrible faces in the space of just under 2 seconds. I’ve won thought the person on this side of the mirror before they realised they had forgotten about the first face they pulled. They lifted their finger and drew in an area that had become condensated by the intimacy of their breath. They wrote the name Sam as if trying to confirm something.
They exposed their forehead by pushing their dark hair back from their face and prodded at the lines. Valleys they thought, valleys on my forehead. They pushed at their drooping eyes, crowsfeet that might as well be entire crows around my eyes they stopped the ridicule there knowing it would do no good to continue.
It was chilly in the room, not so much that Sams breathe was visible but cold enough to raise a few hairs and cause the odd shiver on every intake of breath. The two Sams stared unrelentingly at each other until, simultaneously they looked away. It was almost like it had been scripted.
A sound spread from the kitchen. A metallic popping sound that signified the toast being cooked.
On the short journey to the kitchen another sound greeted Sams ears. The sound of the television. I must have left it on they thought to themselves. Even though they had only just woken up. The news was running a story about nothing in particular, as per usual. Some celebrity was alive and apparently that deserved the attention of the masses. They picked up the remote and pressed the off button. The newsreel kept spinning. Again and again they forced the button but nothing ever happened.
Sam pressed the button on the screen itself but still the news reeled on. Now detailing something insignificant about the weather, which after a quick look towards the window it appeared was entirely inaccurate. It was not as the weatherman had announced, raining cats and dogs, it was snowing mini polar bears. Perfect penguin weather.
Deciding that the electronics must have gone on the ageing beast of a TV they decided to pull the plug out but grew distracted at the sound of the post coming through the letterbox. They counted as six letters impacted on the floor with a soft flump sound. When they reached the door however, there were only 3 letters. Each one must have landed on its end before falling flat. Picking them up and sifting through them Sam finds that two are addressed to a Manny Quinn and one is addressed to The Occupier.
There’s never mail for me, Sam thought, Who is this Manny Quinn anyway? Toast! Sam thought with excitement.
There was no toast ready when Sam skipped into the kitchen. There was the smell of readied toast and a plate of crumbs by the sink. Weird.
Time to brush my teeth Sam thought.
The tap was running.
“Ok something peculiar is happening here!” Sam said aloud. Voice husky from sleep and not at all recognisable as their own.
On the mirror Sam saw that the writing was still there, although it had changed shape and now read Manny. As Sam approached the mirror a sharp noise interrupted. The shower had thrown itself into life. Sam stood perplexed for a second that felt like a small eternity. Then regaining what little sense of normality remained they pulled at the shower door. It was stuck, the metal handle grew slippery with the growing moisture in the air and eventually Sam all grip and fell back with a hard thump on the floor.
Sam didn’t know whether it was growing anxiety or even fear that had started to creep into any train of thought they may have had but the fall didn’t hurt anywhere near as much as it should. They winced more as an instinct then anything else.
The door creaked open and the sound of the shower grew momentarily but as Sam stood the door shut again as if a gust of wind had pushed it. There was no draft. The door was once again stuck shut. Your mocking me aren’t you Sam thought aloud and then corrected their own bad grammar. Then in a fit of what might be rage Sam wiped the mirror clean, waited for it to steam up again and wrote Perculier things.
They decided to switch off the main water supply but that meant finding out exactly where the main water supply switch was. The first port of call was under the sink in the kitchen. Sure enough there was a lever there but after a brief struggle with friction the shower still sung from the other room.
Sam knew the electrical trigger switches were in the cupboard under the stairs which descended briefly under the house. In there was a switch that read ‘Mains Supply’ that had to be it. Again struggling against the friction and years of not being touched the switch came free and the incessant drone of the shower died and the look in Sams eyes eventually came alive, if only with a brief glint of success.
The floor in the bathroom was wet and vaguely foot shaped ovals of water lead to the kitchen sink. The mirror was now blank, a sweep of clear silver was steaming up as Sam watched. The radio in the corner was singing some rancid hip hop song, the clock read 11:11. Sam had had enough and dashed towards the door which despite its state of being unlocked would not open. The handle rattled, the door shook in the frame but it never came open.
Sam turned back to the house, claustrophobic and trapped for who knew how long. Let me go they shouted and started to walk back into the house. Nothing happened for a second then a picture at the end of the corridor fell, stopped, changed direction then fell again, this time all the way to the floor. The glass cracked but it was delayed. At least two seconds after it had hit the floor the sound splintered the air and the unfamiliar picture lay splintered.
The back door began to rattle but only briefly and then it was open. It didn’t close. Sam leant back against the kitchen counter and sunk to the floor. A sigh of relief escaped and misted in the cold morning air.
~In which a ghost doesn’t know they are a ghost~
Someone lays in bed, their eyes closed but their mind very much awake. A thumping anxiety slashes through their head. The encroaching morning light hurts, even through the thin veil of their eyelids but still they hold off from opening up to the world. Instead, in a blind fumble they fight for a cup laden with water that sits precariously on the edge of a coaster, which in turn lays precariously on the edge of the bedside table.
As the hand grasps at thin air it catches the edge of the coaster and forces it over the edge, the cup lands with a dull throb that echoes in their head on the carpet by the bed. It doesn’t sound like a break but in some attempt to catch it before impact the eyes have come open and can clearly see that a crack in the handle, it breaks at their touch. They pick up the pieces and replace them on the bedside table whilst rotating around to stand up. Their feet meet with the squelch of the carpet and they recoiled propelling themselves over the puddle.
In the kitchen they find the last two pieces of bread, a day past their sell by date and put them in the toaster. Impatient they move through the open plan to the living room and turn the TV onto standby and press the programme up button on the side of the monitor. The news is on, telling a story about new clues in the case of a woman who disappeared from the area nearly 3 years ago. The person isn’t remotely interested and hunts down the remote. It isn’t in the obvious places and so a search ensues, lifting the cushions, throwing magazines and eventually finding it back in the kitchen.
Before they can return to the TV their toast pops. No butter in the fridge and nothing to spread from the cupboards, looks like I’m eating it dry they think great. In some vein attempt to moisten the meal they pour a glass of water and drink it intermittently with the toast. Half way through the second piece they notice a green stain to the underside of the bread. Their gag reflex kicks in and they barely manage to swallow and keep down the bite. Throwing the plate into the sink and the remaining toast through the window they retire to the bathroom to rinse their mouth.
Turning the tap on they fill a glass and catch as much water as they can in their hand splashing themselves with the cold water, at first it stings but after that it refreshes the skin it caresses. They look up into the mirror and, although they see themselves staring back, they are greeted by three letters. S-A-M. their heart rate quickens until the throbbing in their head is matched by the throbbing in the chest and as if thinking it will help they swipe at the mirror, wiping the letters away and replace them with some of their own. M-A-N-N-Y. their handwriting is much more a scribble then the previous occupant.
Heart rate still high Manny talks himself down with thoughts that ghosts don’t exist and that if they do they can’t hurt him. He turns on the shower and after a brief pause to remove his boxers and let the water heat up he steps in. Almost as soon as he turns his back on the door to face the waterfall the entire structure starts to shake. He braces against the walls trying to convince himself that it is a small earthquake.
The water splashes off him and scolds him into moving to one side. There is a penetrating thump as if someone had fallen outside. With a hint of hesitation Manny pushes at the door handle. The room outside looks normal, there is nothing there except a growing amount of steam. For no more then a second the swirling mist positions itself into the almost perfect silhouette of a person but the swirls continue and the figure is gone.
Manny closes the door and lathers his head with shampoo, letting the water run down his skin in an attempt to calm himself he rubs the excess all over himself. The bottom of the shower quickly becomes a torrent of foam and bubbles as he washes his hair out. He sits for a while letting the water ricochet off his head lost in thought. He tried not to think about anything strange, instead just thought. He grabbed the conditioner from the rack just above his head but was interrupted when the water ran cold and then ran off.
With a sigh he stood up and tried to fiddle with the buttons on the shower module with no luck. The occasional drip leaked and nothing more. This ghost better stop fucking with me he thought getting out. The mirror now read “Peculiar Things” Manny let out a snort of annoyance and brushed it off not bothering to retort. After trying the taps here he notices his glass was still full and leans down to try and wash the conditioner out.
There isn’t enough to get it all out but he gets as much out as he can and then rubs it dry hoping the friction might pull out the rest of the conditioner. It goes some way to achieving this but the hair still feels mildly sticky. As a distraction he turns on the radio and with a stroke of good fortune one of his favourite songs is on. He starts singing along and dances around the bathroom splashing the floor. It’s not the most elegant of manoeuvres but he seems to think he can pull it off. In retrospect he may learnt to think he has the rhythm of a mushroom.
He spins and without completing the ridiculous pirouette he stops and focuses on the counter in the kitchen. There are letters there, where there was nothing before.
That’s it I’m going out he thinks and heads for his bedroom to get dressed. Manny chooses the first things he comes to, navy jeans and a white T-shirt with an indeterminable design on it. He quickly runs through to turn the TV off and as the sound dies he hears an unnerving rattling. Following the noise he sees the front door shaking so violently it could come off the hinges at any moment.
He focuses on the door hoping it will stop and as his gaze intensifies he sees a blur in front of it. Taken by surprise and losing his focus the blur disappears. He soon regains what little of his composure he has left and refocuses. As he does this the door stops rattling and he again sees the blur. This time the apparition is facing him. He can barely make out the outline but it is definitely feminine in shape. It flickers and in that instant it seems to move towards him. A second later the movement is unquestionable. Mannys breathing intensifies, his heart is pounding beyond anything he has ever felt and his fear is palpable.
He steps back, keenly aware that at this point in all horror films he should be tripping over some toy or other and with a strange awareness makes sure he is flat footed all the way. Down the short corridor. Earlier than expected he hit’s the wall and knocks one of the pictures down, the corner lands on his shoulder interrupting his concentration. The ghost disappears as he looks away and paranoia kicks in. Unable to regain his fix he tears through to the kitchen and out of the back door, only fumbling briefly with the key.
© Dorian Grayling 2011