The Dancer Arc
Sadness. If there was one thing she remembered that would be it. A profound, unstoppable sense of sadness. Time had ceased to mean anything in the world behind the world. There was a feeling, very slight and subtle, of something trying to take her away. She resisted it. This was where she had to be, the place she could never forget. It meant everything to her. This room, where she’d dreamt away the days. This place, where she was robbed of all the hope she ever had. Of course she couldn’t leave. It was her place of pain, of loss and her most precious treasure. She had nothing without it. She couldn’t leave it. She could feel that strange power again. Her hands that had been unable to touch for so long, could now touch and feel. Even though everything was cold, just feeling the textures of things again was a miracle. Looking at all the things in the small space she’d called hers, she longed to touch them all. Her hands reached out beyond the curtain that couldn’t be raised and she absorbed herself in all the sensations around her.
Esha had come home at around ten o’clock that night with her study group friend Shari. Shari owned a car, which was a luxury Esha didn’t have. Esha had thought up a lot of convincing arguments to get her mom to take out a loan so she could buy one.
“Do you know how dangerous it is taking the subway train or a bus at night? Do you know how much earlier I’ll arrive at college if you buy me a car? Do you know how many errands I can help you out with…”
But Fumiko never wanted to hear any of them. She firmly stuck to her argument, “Esha, do you have any idea how much our already high carbon footprint is going to go up if you drive a car every day? Do you know how much damage is being done to our world by all those emissions from cars on a daily basis?”
These were her mom’s very logical and compassionate ways of saying, “No way am I gonna take a loan out with the bank after I’m still paying off the loan on this apartment!” But she’d never use those exact words.
Esha sighed as she turned on the lights, Shari pushed in front of her, heading for the kitchen. “You got anything to eat Eshy? I’m famished.”
“Help yourself to whatever you find. Be sure to check expiry dates.” Esha warned. She was thankful to Shari. If it wasn’t for her, she’d definitely be sitting on a bus or riding the subway around about now and clenching her teeth every time someone got on, eyeing them up and down whilst clutching her stun gun.
Shari emerged from the kitchen smirking and carrying two neatly wrapped up onigiri that her mother often bought. When she smiled, it made her usually pale white face look radiant. Shari had short black hair, her bangs on one side covering her brown eyes. Her characteristic movement was to always flick them out her eyes before saying anything. Shari sat down on Esha’s sofa and started looking around for her game console, which was usually located in a drawer under the coffee table.
“In my mom’s room,” said Esha, “She’s found some interactive yoga games and she’s been using my console every day!”
“Doesn’t that annoy you?” Shari asked, walking towards her mom’s room.
“Nope, we get more discounts on games the more we buy from the store so…”
Esha heard a crash coming from her own bedroom. Shari obviously hadn’t heard as she was still walking towards her mom’s room. Esha walked into her own room and flipped the light switch. Scanning the room, she noticed that the crashing sound had come from a book of hers that had been on her bedside cabinet and was now lying open on the floor.
“Strange,” thought Esha. “The windows aren’t open.” She walked over to get the book, putting her half eaten onigiri on the dressing table. Putting the book back, she peered around again. Walking towards the door she reached for her onigiri. It wasn’t there! It was on the opposite end of her long dressing table. At the same time, the familiar cold shiver and skin crawling sensation she always had started to pulse all over her body. Beads of sweat broke out on her forehead. She knew what it was.
She moved slowly towards the door, hoping that nothing else would happen. As she was passing the dressing table mirror, she looked at her reflection for an instant. An image flashed in the mirror. It was a young girl wearing a white night gown. She hung, suspended in the air. Her cold gray eyes pierced Esha’s soul. Her head was slightly cocked to one side and her wild, unkempt blond hair resembled a scarecrow’s. That wasn’t what made Esha’s heart pound faster. It wasn’t what made her break into a run for the door and bound through it. It was her legs. Instead of legs, two bloody stumps dangled where legs should have been.
Going back in the room later with Shari was pointless. She could still feel the spirit, but she couldn’t tell Shari that. She decided to keep it to herself. Gawking at the mirror, she couldn’t see anything. Shari had left a little after that and Esha decided to spend the night in her mother’s room.
The next morning, Esha woke up with a fresh determination to do something. She couldn’t stay in a house with a spirit that was driving her crazy. And that image she saw last night. Was that it? Was that the ghost’s appearance? Esha shuddered and decided to hunt down Kalem as soon as she arrived at college. Walking into class, late as usual and hair probably looking even more unkempt than usual, she sat down next to Kalem. He looked over at her, this time his pen was inserted beside his ear.
Leaning in closer he whispered to her, “I don’t know when the spirit will speak through me, so you’ll just have to shadow me today.”
“Great,” thought Esha. As if things weren’t bad enough, now she had to follow Kalem around like a stalker. So, that’s what she did. Shari seemed to love it.
She came up to Esha during recess and grinned knowingly, “Soooo, are you and Kalem an item? You can’t seem to leave him alone. He, on the other hand, doesn’t even seem to know you’re alive.”
Esha turned pink and turned her head away, “There’s nothing between us. I just…need his help…with…something.”
“Something?” asked Shari, her tone was even more annoyingly like a matchmaker, “Well, you better get on over there honey. Now could be your chance. Looks like he’s just staring at the wall.”
“Shit!” thought Esha. “The spirit’s going to channel.” She rushed over to Kalem and hooked his arm in hers, quickly bolting into the nearest empty classroom. Going in she noticed Shari giving her a wink and her face got hot and flushed again.
“My name in my previous life was Kane.” Kalem’s voice said behind her. Esha turned and looked at Kalem. Just like last time, he looked like he was in a trance. “The spirit in your house is a wandering ghost. It is unable to find peace. It’s also being aided, but I cannot speak of this matter now. You need to seek out a man going by the name of Audas. Tell him of the wandering spirit and he will be able to advise you.”
Just as before, Kalem blinked a few times and returned.
“Do you know this Audas he’s referring to?” questioned Esha nervously.
“Obviously.” said Kalem. “He’s my dad.”
Audas fanned himself as goblets of sweat trickled down his bald head and wet his chubby face. He was a middle aged man, and his stubbly chin gleamed as the afternoon sun peaked through the curtains in his room. He sat upright, in a meditation posture, but his belly was large enough for him to rest a book he was reading on. He would meditate for about half an hour, and then bring his concentration back to the book for about half an hour. Sometimes he could spend all day doing this, but it really worked up an appetite. Audas peered at the incense burning nearby; the columns of smoke were rising in a different direction.
“Hmmm, I’ve got visitors coming.” He mused. Just as he finished that thought, Esha and Kalem walked into the room.
Esha still couldn’t believe it. The mystic who was going to help them with the ghost in her room was Kalem’s dad? And on top of that, he didn’t really look like the spiritual type. He’d started munching on a huge bag of potato chips as soon as they entered the room. Audas offered Esha some chips. She reluctantly took them and thought about how to explain her situation.
“That’s quite a rare ability you have.” Audas said suddenly. Esha was taken aback.
“What are you referring to?”
“Feeling the presence of spirits, ghosts, entities. Though I can imagine,” he looked her right in the eyes, “You’d rather not have it.”
“Well, getting shivers when I walk through a pleasant park on a sunny day, or tingles running up my spine when I go to an art gallery isn’t my idea of a blessing.” Esha shot back.
“Blessings can seem like curses at first,” returned Audas. “Anyway, I’m sure you didn’t come here to sample my favorite potato chips or to whiff my expensive sandalwood incense. Right, Kalem?” Kalem seemed to be deliberately ignoring his dad.
“I have a ghost in my bedroom,” said Esha bluntly.
“Oooh. But there are so many kinds of ghosts and each one is not quite the same. Each one has a different purpose and truly some have no…purpose at all.” Audas said.
“Kane said it’s a wandering spirit. He said to come to you for help.”
Audas’s eyes widened visibly on hearing this. “Kane sent you. I see then. A wandering spirit you say?”
“Yes. That’s what I said.”
Audas turned around and waddled over to a very old looking trunk in the corner of the room. Taking something from around his neck, he seemed to unlock it and then opened the lid. Esha edged closer, wanting to get a look at the contents of this trunk. Audas noticed her and moved his bulky frame to block her vision.
After some time of scrimmaging in the trunk he let out a victorious, “Found it!” Turning around he held up a pair of pretty ordinary looking glasses in his hands. Esha scrutinized them closely, thinking she was missing something.
“These are going to help us to exorcize the ghost in my room?” Esha asked doubtfully.
“Not just these.” Audas motioned with his jaw over to a huge doll of a scarecrow that lay slumped on a chair. “That too.” He said with a smirk. Esha couldn’t help but think they’d just wasted their time.
The subway ride home was safer because Kalem was with her, but embarrassing because she had to carry a ragged doll of a scarecrow. She’d tried convincing Kalem to carry it. It didn’t work.
“The only time I’d carry something like that is on Halloween. Even then,” he said like he was going to burst out laughing, “It would still look hilarious!”
Esha was thinking up various punishments she might be able to inflict on Audas if all this turned out to be a hoax when they arrived at her apartment. Sliding the key into the lock, she realized this was the first time she’d ever had a guy over at her house. Alone with her. Then, looking at Kalem’s distant expression she sighed, “Nothing to worry about there.”
Every step she took seemed really cautious. She watched Kalem, who looked as if he was just strolling the aisles at school. “Don’t you feel nervous?” she whispered.
He turned to face her. “Actually, I’m petrified.” She realized he was being serious; he just had some trouble expressing his emotions in a natural way.
Esha’s hands shook as she turned the handle and opened the door to her room. Pressing the switch, the room came into view. She couldn’t believe what she saw. Her bed, which was usually right next to the window, now stood upright against the wall. Her quilt and pillows were on the floor. He closet was upside down with its doors hanging half open spilling an array of her apparel from its guts. The dressing table’s mirror had been shattered, all its drawers pulled out and her brushes, combs and cosmetics were scattered all over the room. Kalem walked in quite nonchalantly and stood gazing at the upside down cupboard.
“You like pink, don’t you?” he said as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
Esha couldn’t believe the situation she was in. Her room had been ransacked by a spirit. Her remedy for the situation was a pair of spectacles, a scarecrow doll and a boy who commented about her clothing in the midst of what looked like a poltergeist attack.
She put the scarecrow down on a chair. “Gimme those glasses would you?” Kalem removed the glasses from his pocket and passed them to her. She snatched them and put them on. In hindsight, she would have done it slower as the sight that met her eyes almost stopped her heart.
In the middle of the room, between her and Kalem, hanging about a meter in the air was the same girl she’d seen in the mirror the previous night.
Esha grabbed her mouth in horror as the spirit turned around to face her. Kalem obviously couldn’t see it as he kept asking, “What’s wrong? What do you see?”
The spirit’s eyes were no longer gray. They were an almost flaming purple. Her nightgown hung from her thin body like rags. It was soiled with blood splatters that had turned dark red with time. That wasn’t the worst thing. The worst thing was the two stumps where her legs must have once been. Blood dripped in a rhythmic pattern from them. Drip, drip onto the floor.