They are both ghosts now.
He, because he stopped living. And she, because she continued to grow.
The red “hair” wasn’t so much a biological memory, as it was in remembrance of the red hood that he had dawned, all those human years ago, when first he agreed to serve Beelzebub.
Beelzebub, that fat, lazy, stupid old demon. He had thought that he’d beat the man with the red hair, but he had thought oh so very wrong. True, the man had been young enough to believe that Satan would actually deliver on his end of the bargain – that being providing him with eternal life – but he wasn’t so naive as to think that there wouldn’t be a screw at least somewhere in the mix. The screw in this case was that eternal life only came after death. A bit of a pisser, but for the man with the red hair, more of a barrier than a obstacle.
No, not the kind of eternal life he had imagined at all, this death. But he was above Satan. Hell, he was above God even. And Satan had provided him with a very long life. A long life he spent in study. A long life that he had spent plotting. A life, long enough for him to discover that there could actually be a second type of eternal life. One that even that moron of a devil didn’t recognize. He lived his long life maliciously, and his eventual death – brought about by slowly burning in that old wooden chair – didn’t surprise him a bit. Hell, by the time it occurred, it almost seemed like part of the plan. Not Satan’s, but his. As a result of his studies, he knew that Satan was not yet seated upon his “throne.” No, that wouldn’t occur until the end of days, and the man with the red hair planned on being in his new kingdom – the kingdom of his making – well before that took place. He would never need to deliver on his end of the half-witted bargain. He would never need to do any bidding whatsoever for that piece of shit devil. He would never be imprisoned like all the rest. He was almost there. Almost free. All he needed now was Clive. As through him, the man with the red hair could finally speak his new existence into reality. He would once and for all become alive. Real. For his was the kingdom. And the power. And the glory.
The stage was set. He could feel it. Much like the mighty oak, insistently chiseled in a specific place, he was certain that Clive would fall in exactly the direction he needed him to. And he was certain that Douglas would be similarly positioned as well, becoming crushed in the process. That was always their way, wasn’t it? Dying for their friends in an effort to save them. A salvation that wouldn’t come, not this time. The man with the red hair didn’t need Douglas to die in order for his plan to come alive, but he did relish in the anticipation of watching it occur. This Tia however, was new to the mix. Unanticipated. And unanticipated was not good. It gave the man pause. What was her game? How did she fit in? She didn’t feel like the others. No, in her was something that was, well, different. In her was something that unnerved the man with the red hair. He had been watching closely over the weeks as she became closer and closer with Clive. She was friendly with Douglas as well, but in Clive she had a special bond. She had almost given him something to believe in. A scenario that would be worse yet, should Clive ever figure out that that “something” was himself. This made the man with the red hair nervous. And he was not prone to being so. He had worked far too hard at creating Clive, and he would be damned – quite literally so – if this didn’t work.
He seethed. His plan had to work. It simply had too. Remembering that there was nothing anymore for him to slam his fist against – nor, in fact an actual fist for him to slam it with in the first – he instead twirled in his rage. Spinning in ever expanding circles to release his anger. An anger that seemed to have no end. An anger that seemed to only grow the more it was dispelled. The man with the red hair remembered that sloppy devil mentioning something to him at some point, something about an “abundance” that he would be blessed with. Sadly, he had been young. And not paying very close attention. After he had heard what he wanted, he naturally assumed that the abundance spoke of was a life eternal. Perhaps now, he realized, it was something else…
None the matter. Plans were in place. Clive was ripe for the taking. Or at least would be soon. Very soon. The man with the red hair decided it might be time to “drop in” and see how far along he was. Clive’s father had proven to be a false hope for the most part, a reminder that if you wanted something done right, you needed to do it yourself. The man with the red hair would not make the same mistake. He would not let emotions get in the way. He would go to Clive, disconnect him from this Tia bitch, and tighten the screws even further. The prize was his, his to take. The Mercy seat was once again burning. But this time, burning for him, and he’d be godammend if he didn’t take it. For his was the kingdom. And the power. And the glory. Forever, and ever, amen.
© t – 2o12
“Now Clive, are you sure it was your dad? Like, ‘hand to Christ’ sure?” asked Douglas, placing one hand high in the air and the other to his breast. “You know I don’t believe in that stuff Douglas, but yeah, I’m sure. It had to be him” Clive sheepishly responded. “But what about all that ‘egg jazz’ you used to describe them, m’man? I mean, doesn’t one egg look like any other? How could you ever point to one particular egg n’ say, ‘yep, that there is one of my kin’?” Douglas inquired, affecting a southern accent towards the end that was hardly worth the effort. “Well they do, in a sense, all ‘look alike’ Douglas” Clive responded, ignoring his attempt at lightening the mood, “but each has a certain – well – a “center” to them…” “You mean like a yolk?” interjected Douglas. “Yes Douglas, very funny. No, not like a yolk – but yes – I suppose sort of like a yolk. They each seem to have a different essence buried deep within them. A unique stamp. Maybe even a soul? Truth be told, I never gave it much thought before, because I never really ‘recognized’ any of them until yesterday. Yesterday, when dad showed up.” “You’re still pretty wrecked about it, hmmm?” Douglas plied as he gently placed one hand on Clive’s slightly trembling shoulder. “Yeah” Clive admitted, remembering the puzzling tactic his father had taken of questioning his sexuality. Why? What had it meant? What had he been trying to accomplish with that, Clive wondered. “Well, I find it simply Christ-on-a-cracker stupefying that in all the folk that have dropped in to pay you a visit, not a one until yesterday was anyone you recognized” Douglas exclaimed a little too loudly to shake Clive back to reality. “Well, it is a big world Douglas, and there’s been a lot of death upon it since the beginning” reasoned Clive. “Clive, really m’man, I just can’t see why someone who loved you in life wouldn’t have popped in to visit you again by now. None of the others have been shy about it. It just don’t seem to make sense. Unless of course, there’s certain ones you can see, and others you can’t?” “What does that mean Douglas?” “Clive, I’ve no idea – just bouncing ideas around, until we can untangle this lil web you seem to have gotten y’self all wrapped up in” Douglas replied, while stroking his chin in an attempt to look philosophical.
“We are many, we are legion.” The words came to the forefront of Clive’s mind again. She had looked different from the rest. More “real.” And not like the man with the red hair. No, for all his airs, he was still just a memory. A something no longer human, trying to appear as if it still was. The girl however, almost seemed weighted. More human than human. Clive would have to think on Douglas’ words more when he was alone. There was something to them, something there that he just couldn’t quite see. Not yet. Clive was interrupted from his thoughts by the not-so-gentle tap Douglas had just delivered. “Clive, I gotta tell you, there are times when I sing to m’self, ‘here I am… just a walkin’ down the street… just me n’ my zombie friend.’ Did ya ever think that maybe all these cats are visiting you just because they think you’re one of them already? I mean, look at ya, m’man. Pasty white all over – ‘cept for the rings under your eyes of course – looking like you just lost your best friend. But only after he had just lost his. AND his puppy, to boot. Moping about like your spine fell down into your leg. I mean, Clive, I love you, but you could do with some serious sunshine m’friend. You need to get y’self laid!” Clive smiled at the thought, giggling a little as he replied “oh yeah – easy, breezy Douglas! I mean, mopey pasty white men are all the rage right now. I’m sure the chicks will just come running as soon as they hear I’m on the market.” “Number one Clive, you don’t want a ‘chick’ – they ain’t worth it” Douglas cautioned. “You want a woman.” “What’s the difference?” asked Clive, honestly ignorant. “Well, a ‘chick’ is someone who follows ‘the rules.’ Plays into the idea that a woman is only worth what her potential suitors think she is. Only accomplishes what Madison Ave. tells her she can. A real woman however, is someone who knows who she is, and would respect herself even if every last ounce of sex appeal was squeezed from her like a sponge. She don’t give a shit what the advertisers think, and she relies on her mind, instead of the body that holds it up. Clive, in short, a chick is someone who says ‘Yes’ – even when she doesn’t mean it – and a woman is someone who says ‘No,’ but only when she does.”
Clive was so intrigued by Douglas’ explanation that he didn’t see – and as a result – slammed right into a woman going in the opposite direction. Forcing her to drop her handbag, which in turn vomited its contents all over the sidewalk. “Oh my God! I am so sorry!” Clive hurriedly exclaimed “can I help you with your things?” “No.” the girl responded curtly. Then flashing a smile a touch on the mischievous side, “of course you can, silly. You’re the one that caused this after all!” Clive bent down and helped her return the purse’s contents to their rightful place. Douglas stood firm. Ladies things were ladies things, and Douglas felt much better not knowing anything more than that. Knowing Clive never would, once everyone was straightened back up, Douglas said “Hi, this here is Clive, and I’m his friend Douglas.” The woman smiled before saying “kind of like a horse and his boy, right? He causes all the trouble, and you do all the talking? Well, it’s a somewhat painful pleasure to meet you both. My name is Tia.” Her smile settled in on Clive, much like a warm blanket greets a cold body. For the briefest of moments, time almost stood still. There seemed to be – well – “something” about her. A something Clive couldn’t describe, but still desired after, and for the first time in a very very long time, he found himself smiling from deep within. After years of the world dragging him down, he was almost sure that in her, he’d find sanctuary. Douglas noted Clive’s smile as well, and abruptly announced “well, as we’ve inconvenienced you, I feel that we are simply propelled to take you to lunch Ms. Tia. It is ‘Miss,’ yes?” Laughing, Tia responded “yes, it is ‘Miss,’ but we’ve a problem with lunch. You gentlemen seem to be going in the opposite direction than I am.” “Miss Tia, directions are meant to be changed” responded Douglas confidentially. And with that, the three of them went off to grab the one thing Douglas cherished even more than Clive – lunch.
For his part, Clive couldn’t believe his good fortune. Not only had he literally ran head-first into a beautiful and intriguing woman, but he also spent an entire morning with nary a single visit. Had he only known the truth of it all, he would had felt much different.
© t – 2o12
He sat there, head cocked and wide-eyed staring at her. It had to be a “her,” as of all the visitors he had seen thus far, she was the most “in form” yet. Well, besides the man with the red hair, of course. But he was a thought best left untouched for the moment.
She was young. Barely seven, if he had to guess. He chuckled a little as he imagined himself cutting her open, to count the rings and see. His impromptu and bad humor was interrupted however, by her silently and slowly placing one solitary digit into the air. She lowered her hand, then raised it again with two digits being held up. And again, with three. She repeated this task fluidly and patiently, one at a time, until all ten digits were realized high in the air, directly above her head. Once there, she made merry dancing movements with them, as she spread her arms out in an ever-expanding fan. Coming full circle before bringing them gently to rest in her almost-bosom. “We are many. We are legion.” That had to be what she was saying. Clive could feel it. He knew it to be true. Recognizing awareness spreading across his face, she smiled sweetly, blowing him an almost-kiss before she stepped sideways again through the veil.
Why had he let Douglas escape? Why had he let him go? The questions were stupid of course. Douglas was allowed his freedom, his own peace. He had told Clive that he would stick around, be glad to in fact. But Clive had told him to leave, told him everything was OK. They both needed their rest, he had said. Truth was, Clive loathed to be alone, but he didn’t want Douglas to have to suffer as a result. It appeared that Clive was the only one unable to feel that breath of freedom that Douglas must be enjoying right now. The only one who would never sniff that smell of life-giving freshness, that peace. Clive alone was damned to walk amongst the dead, even while being so woefully alive. Had he only known, the very thing he wanted to lose, was the only thing they were hoping to take.
Unlike the rare occasion when Douglas would tear the curtains back, allowing rays of light in to pierce the gloom, Clive’s room was frigid and tense. He sat there, feeling small, putting it down to another bad day. He was lost deep in thought, but still wary, and almost before “he” came, Clive knew that he would. After all, it might never happen, but Clive had always felt as if it had to sooner or later.
He stood silently before Clive, in almost the same place as the girl had stood earlier. But where her stance seemed to pull Clive towards her, the new visitor seemed to push away. In fact, had they both resided on a curve, she would have inhabited the concave side while this new person would have been splashed across the convex. Clive could tell who it was, even though this spirit was almost unable to keep any form whatsoever. The silence, the slouch, and the eyes – the only thing human-like about him – made Clive very much aware that whatever the others were, this was no angel or demon. This was his father.
“Dad?” The spirit stood silent. Clive tried again “Dad? Why are you here? Are you here to help me? Finally?” Again, the spirit said nothing, but his eyes began to stir. His eyes were unlike those of the living any more, in that they came alive in a wholly “other” fashion. They had a power to them, a raw emotion. By gazing deep within them, you could tell what the spirit was thinking. Sadly for Clive, he did just that. His father’s mind was full to the brim with defeat and fear. Of regret and self-hate. The spirit’s mind was full of negativity, filthy and cheap, sloshing about with all the rest in a disgusting stew that made Clive queasy. Unannounced, the entire mess of it came leaping from his father’s mind and poured itself directly in Clive’s being, almost touching his very soul. Almost.
“You filthy son of a bitch. You’re wrong. Just wrong. You always have been, you always will be. Go ahead, try your best. It won’t be good enough. It’ll never be good enough. NEVER! Look at me, I tried. I hoped. I prayed. I played it safe, played by the rules. Assholes still got more than me, and I’m still gone. Stuck here still, with you, wishing you had never been born. You’re a disease. Filth. Trash. All the years I wasted on you. Loving you. Feeding you. Look at you! Do other people see ghosts? You think that’s normal? You think your queer pansy-ass boyfriend sees ghosts? Sissy faggot piece of shit who sees ghosts, that’s all you are. Oh look me… such the proud poppa! Why don’t you just go and do what you want to do anyway? Why don’t you just die already Clive… juST FUCKING DIE!” And then, after a feeble minute, plaintively “please son. Just die.” None of the words were spoken, but Clive heard every last one of them. He felt them sinking in, taking an all to familiar hold, and quickly became enraged. He was too goddamned old to take this abuse, especially from a dead man. One whom, with the exception of Clive and damned few others, was all but forgotten already. Clive rose from his place, and shaking, screamed back “when does it end??? WHEN? When will you leave me in peace you bastard??? Whe…?” Clive found himself once again cut short. As he was screaming, his father had formed the saddest excuse for lips that Clive had ever seen. With them, he began sucking at the air rapidly, much like a fish does when it’s eating. Once Clive stopped speaking, the air-sucking stopped. “What are you doing? What are you doing to me?” Clive pleaded. Again, as the words – filled with raw emotion – tumbled out of his mouth, his father sucked viciously at the air. Trying to capture… something.
Clive realized too late what that something was, and in reaction, clamped his hand quickly over his mouth. His father, seeing the jig was up, began to shiver visibly. The entirety of his formless form began to wave to and fro violently, while his lips became like that of a hurricane over an ocean. Swirling in wider and faster circles, the lips continued their insane twirl until from them erupted a bottomless scream, painful and true, reverberating and real. One that shred through Clive’s mind and out onto the street below. One that could be heard – not just by Clive – but by anyone within earshot who happened to give a damn. His belabored bellow ended abruptly, when Clive’s former father imploded. Literally splashing all over the floor like a busted water balloon, his essence dribbled through the floorboards, leaving Clive alone. More alone than he had ever been before, alone like his world meant nothing at all.
“We are many, we are legion.”
She had “said” it, and Clive knew it to be true. He now sat praying to a god he didn’t yet believe in, that her message was actually one of hope, instead of doom.
© t – 2o12
* EMI are bastards who don’t like to share. Click here to listen to the prerecorded version of this song on YouTube.
“He” raised what Clive imagined to be a finger to his almost-lips, shushing him about alerting Douglas to his presence. Or at least that’s what Clive assumed he was doing, based on what he knew of the “physicality” of his unwelcome visitors. When they first started making themselves known to him, Clive assumed he was only having some sort of vision problem, in that the spirits weren’t really human in form. No, much like when you break the shell of an egg and the life of it simply runs out all over the place – free of shape or reason – the spirits were very much the same. Their bodies, now broken and discarded, left them free to be. A freedom that also damned them into not being. They could affect human form if they desired, but it seemed almost hard for them to do so. Like a faded habit that they could just never seem to get quite right again. For all but with the notable exception of the man with the red hair, that is. However, he seemed to be so much different from all the rest in almost every aspect. He seemed almost “real.” Though rare in occurrence, he was the one who made Clive’s skin literally crawl with each visitation. The very thought of him was enough to make Clive jump from his seat.
“We have to… I… I have to go Douglas.” “”But Clive, you haven’t even finished your burger, m’man.” “Right now Douglas, I need to leave right now” Clive replied urgently, ignoring Douglas’ concern about the damned burger. Rising quicker than a person normally should, he slammed his knee into the formica top as a reward for his efforts, and left the place with Douglas – grabbing the last of Clive’s burger – trailing behind him. The spirit, the ghost, the “he” – the whatever the hell it was – fortunately did not follow. Clive made sure of it. But had he looked back with a touch more scrutiny, he would have seen the cruel almost-smile that crawled across “his” almost-face, just before he disappeared again into the thin blue air.
Rushing to catch up, Douglas slammed down the last bite of greasy beef before grabbing Clive by the shoulder and stopping him dead in his tracks. “Clive, you want to tell me what in the hell that was about just now? You mind filling in a friend as to why a perfectly good cow had to die today in vein AND I’m all outta breath; when all I wanted to do was to sup with you and a delicious quarter pound?” Clive looked pensively around him, hoping to see no one, and was surprised to see he got his wish. This had to stop. This idea of keeping Douglas in the dark. He was his friend, dammit! So what if Clive spoke and Douglas laughed. Or worse. So what? Clive knew one thing for certain, not telling anyone was bound to kill him, and not in the good way. “Douglas, I need to tell you something” Clive said, almost whispering. “Well, imagine that!” boomed Douglas in response. “Shhh! Keep it down. I need to tell you something that will most likely ruin our friendship. I need to tell you something that’ll make you hate me, because you’ll finally see me for what I am.” “And what are you Clive?” Douglas asked patiently. “I’m a man who sees ghosts, Dougla…” Clive stopped mid-sentence, his heart sinking as he watched the smile that slowly danced across Douglas’ face. “You said you wouldn’t laugh at me Douglas.” “Clive, I’m not laughing at you my friend, it’s just that the kid said it better” replied Douglas. “The kid…?” “Yeah, the kid. The kid in that movie. You know, the whole ‘I see dead folk’ or some such thing. That kid.” “Oh, yeah. But I’m for real Douglas. I’m not making a joke or anything. I really do see ghosts. Spirits. Whatever. They’re all around me. All the time” pleaded Clive. “And what do they tell you, m’friend?” Douglas asked calmly. “Well, they don’t say anything just yet. But with every visit, it seems like they’re getting closer to, well, to starting to make demands or something. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. I’m sorry Douglas, I shouldn’t have told you.” “No Clive, I’m glad you did. At least we now what we have to work with here, don’t we?”
As Clive had previously confirmed, there was no one nearby Douglas and himself – neither alive, dead nor other – while this conversation was being held, but the man with the red hair still heard it all. Unlike the others – those ignorant servants, those has-been peasants – he had figured out how to still listen into the other side. The “other side” as it pertained to him. And he had figured out how to do so without actually ever having the need to step “foot” into it. He duly noted the lack of surprise in Douglas’ response to Clive’s news, as he also relished in the fear that could be tasted in Clive’s hushed tone. Yes, things were coming together quite nicely. And freedom – his freedom – was finally well within reach. Ah yes, if even the man with the power couldn’t keep it under control… Then his plan would truly be unstoppable. How he wished that he could step through the veil to taste just a bit of Clive’s fear and self-loathing, but there was little time for pleasure just now. With an almost life-like hand, he casually summoned one of the others. A being that – had he been human in form – would have looked very much like an older, more fearful, version of Clive. “I believe the time nears where we shall speak” the man with the red hair communicated to the elder Clive-like spirit. “Now, why don’t you run along and pay a long overdue visit to your ‘beloved’?”
© t – 2o12
He remembered his second-to-first time, almost as abruptly and painfully as it had occurred. A terrible abortion, it was over almost at the precise minute it had started. His wilting champion failing to realize that pleasure was a game of duration, one that was meant for two. Her chocolate eyes stared in disbelief for only a moment, before her shellacked lip curled into a vicious grin. Her laughter was much more of a cackle, a grating staccato beat. She was a whore, a prostitute who – feeling pity for him – willingly went “off the clock” to enjoy a bit of lust and satisfaction, and he had left her hungry for more. So much more. As a result, she fed her hunger through hatred, belittling and berating him up till the point where he could finally get his pants secured and his ass out the door. He had failed miserably, and she’d be damned if he didn’t hear about from her. Her laughter could be heard all the way down the hall, and echoed in his memory still.
Oddly, his first time was wholly unlike the second-to-first. With his first time he enjoyed himself. Following her lead, he took the time to feel her fleshy mounds. He explored her curves, as he romped through her manicured forest of delight. He became lost in her, lost to time and to place. Taking impromptu turns between top and bottom as they tussled across the floor, he acted very much like a child in a candy store. And in his excitement, he found her ecstasy well before he found his own. He took her in, and drank of her essence. He took her in – in smell, sight and sound – and her deep throaty moans could also still be heard floating down his memories’ abbreviated hall.
Had he the inclination, Clive would have realized the difference between his first and his second-to-first time. Had he thought long and hard about them both – and then connected the dots with what he was going through right now – he would have come to realize that in the second-to-first instance, the girl was alive. In the first, she was not.
There must have been something about the cheeseburger, now being held limply in his hands, that brought this revery to bloom. A revery that was broken by Douglas’ concerned voice “Clive, the burger won’t jump into your mouth man, you’ve got to grab it, control it, slam it down yourself.” “But I’m not terribly hungry Douglas” replied Clive. “Oh hell, Clive, the burger’s a metaphor. I’m talking about Life m’man, LIFE! You’re sitting here, eyes glazed over, thinking about some such or the other, instead of living in the ‘now.’ Take control Clive, take control.” Clive said nothing for a spell, but only because he didn’t want Douglas to realize that he had understood the metaphor, and he was responding in kind. Clive wasn’t hungry. Not for life. Not anymore. Not since “they” started visiting him. “They,” hmph, what a stupid name to give them. “They”, “Them.” Why couldn’t he just say it? Why couldn’t he just admit that ghosts visited him? Plagued him. What was he afraid of? After all, it wasn’t like it could get much worse, was it?
“Clive, I’m losing you again. Talk to me” plied Douglas. “I can’t Douglas, I can’t. I really wish I could, but I’ve got a head full of trash right now – some really messed up stuff – and I’m scared shitless. I’m really not sure what’s real… and, and what’s not. I guess I just wish I could see how it feels, you know, with my feet on the ground.” “Clive, you’re crushing your burger” soothed Douglas. “Please, put it out of it’s misery already, and do a little of the same for yourself. Look at me, Clive. I ain’t gonna laugh or judge. I’m your friend. Now, give it over. What’s eatin’ at your brain m’man?” “Douglas?” “I’m here Clive.” “Why ARE you my friend? What’s in it for you? You’ve got your head screwed on tight. You could be with someone much healthier right now. Someone fun. Someone alive. Why do you waste your time with me?”
Drained, Clive buried his head in his crooked arms, looking up beseechingly as Douglas responded. “Clive, I believe in destiny my friend. You and I, we met on purpose. Someone made sure of that. I believe that – while we’re not angels – we can act a hell of a lot like them to other people in our lives. I believe that Clive, honest and true.” Tears bubbled up quickly, keeping pace with the unexpected anger building up within him, burning as they drew down Clive’s face. Shaking, he yelped “Are you trying to tell me that you’re an angel Douglas? A Goddamned angel? I mean, I really do appreciate everything you do, but honestly? That’s what you think? You’re my freakin’ guardian angel or something?” Douglas burst out in laughter in spite of himself, shaking his head slowly while he exclaimed “hell NO, Clive! I am no angel! Ain’t no chance, ain’t no way! What I’m saying my friend, is that I think that you’re my guardian angel.”
Clive sat there, jaw agape and dumbfounded. As he did, one of “them” appeared effortlessly out of the thin blue air, standing silently behind Douglas. To Clive’s mind it made perfect sense. After all, it wasn’t like it could get much worse, was it?
© t – 2o12