Rubber Soul

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 10 (v.1) - Eleanora

Submitted: August 02, 2016

Reads: 62

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Submitted: August 02, 2016

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The thought hit me in the middle of a chemistry test. It hit me so hard I almost fell out of my chair.

I almost laughed. But I didn’t want Mr.Marsh to have any reason to give me another zero. It crossed my mind as a random thought about the fact that my only friends were ghosts; the oxymoron came after.

I was living for the dead.

I had met Cooper’s friends three days ago, Cooper four, and each day since had become my only source of happiness, our daily meetings in the forest near Cooper’s old house, my single salvation, my saving grace. They were helping me through all of the horrors of the world.

Because other than the four ghosts I encountered every afternoon at 3 o’clock, my life was falling apart; crumbling from the inside out.

School, as it was, had gotten so much worse since the day Diana thought it would be fun to soak me in artificial, cafeteria pasta sauce. Keeping my head high, let alone keeping it straight, was getting harder by the class.

Gracie and I made amends. Or at least, we sort of did. She texted me one more time, trying to make a last ditch effort to rekindle our dying friendship. I could’ve turned her down right then and there and been done with it, but I didn’t. I told her I forgave her and we could still be friends. Why she still wanted to be friends with her empress’ arch rival was beyond me, but I went along with it. The truth was, I was her friend, but she wasn’t mine. I had lied when I said I forgave her. But, now that I had four new people who actually cared about my well being, I didn’t necessarily need anyone else. I wasn’t Eleanora at school anymore, I was an alter ego that had been constructed to satisfy everyone around me, to meet the unreasonable expectations of high school society. Whether I was being revered by the goth kids or pushed down the stairs by the populars, I just had to deal.

Lunch, was the only totally unbearable period of the day. I could cope in Chemistry, with Gracie telling me about her shopping trips—which I had made a vow to never attend again—and Martin pulling my braid. I could cope in Algebra, listening to Cooper outside on the bench singing a different Beatles song every day at the top of his lungs. But lunch, that was a totally different ballgame.

The day after Diana had poured her meal all over me, I tried to sit away from absolutely everyone. Gracie had made a deal with me that she would hang out with Diana whenever she was around, but when she wasn’t she would hang out with me. If I liked Gracie, I would’ve been angry. But I didn’t care. She had already proven her skills at being the world’s worst friend.

But as soon as I thought I was alone, someone wearing a heavy leather jacket and spiked boots took a seat beside me.

“Levi, please go away,” I said. His lunch box was black and old, fraying at the corners, the velcro matted with fluffy tufts of fabric.

“Like I said before, you shouldn’t be alone,” Levi’s ears swung as he pulled out a roast beef sandwich from his lunch box.

“I’m not alone,” I lashed out. I don’t know why he made me so mad, “I choose to be alone. There’s a difference.”

“Keep telling yourself that,” Levi put in.

I got really pissed.

He starting trying to sit with me everyday, but a few days later, I couldn’t even go to lunch. I know he was just trying to be nice, but the more I talked to him, the more I realized why nobody was friends with him.

Diana had made it her soul purpose to torture and completely destroy my life. I couldn’t even walk down the hall without her snickers and gossip following me, stalking me. I had to stop going to my locker, I couldn’t be predictable. I had to walk to school and hide in the bathroom if I was early. The crowds in the morning would push and shove me; more rumors had been spread. I blocked them all out though, but last I heard I was working as a stripper down on the east side. Not even my alter ego could pull that off.

So, I stopped going to lunch. I began eating in the bathroom. I know that’s gross but the burns on my legs had yet to heal; I wasn’t willing to risk it. And I hate to admit it, but I was scared.

I was more scared of a slutty junior than I was of a couple of ghosts; that was my situation.

But the afternoon meetings kept me going. I met up with Cooper at the end of each day and spent almost an hour holding a fake conversation on the phone as we made our way to the forest. He made me laugh. It was nice.

And Toby, Porter, and Bree were great. Having a conversation with people who had died over twenty years ago is more interesting than you would think.

“Wait, so you can search for anything?” Toby gawked as I explained Google to them all.

“Yup, anything and everything,” I replied.

“So, what’s the point of school?” Cooper said, “If everything is on that?”

I shrugged, “humility and decomposition of you're self-esteem, that’s what it is for.” I had had a rough day; Diana had tripped me in the library and I had been sent to the principal's’ office for making such a racket. They didn’t seem to understand the word “bully”.

Cooper looked really concerned, but he wasn’t looking at me. He was having some silent conversation with Bree.

Out of the four of them, Bree was the only one, up until this point, I hadn’t had a solid conversation with. I had already played an intense game of “Would You Rather” with Toby—that boy had absolutely no filter whatsoever—and explained McDonald’s “All Day Breakfast Menu” to Porter, but Bree, I knew nothing about. Other than that she had taken a strange interest in me since the day we met. I could always feel her eyes on me. It kind of freaked me out.

Subconsciously, it linked me to another question that had been beating at my brain.

“I have a question for you guys,” I said. That turned everyone’s heads. The only other inquiry I had ever made was on whether or not everyone became a ghost; the answer wasn’t something the others were allowed to discuss, so I had been left clueless to what happens after death. I suppose it is better that way.

“Why aren’t you guys, you know, scary? Shouldn’t you be creeping around in attics and graveyards and stuff?” I said.

I found immediately, that it was the wrong thing to say.

Everyone got really uncomfortable. Porter’s face went blank, Toby’s eyes sort of popped out of his head and Bree started shifting around awkwardly. Cooper, sounding dreary, was the first one to say anything.

“Not all ghosts are like us,” he started, “we’re the lucky ones.”

“So, there are actual ghost stories?” I was only curious, “And they’re true?” Cooper looked hesitant. They all did in fact. Like they knew something I didn’t.

Which they probably did.

“What?” I got left out enough, and I didn’t need details if it made them uncomfortable. All their gazes were shifting back and forth between one another. They had developed a sort of muted language that they only could understand. It was frustrating to say the least. “Seriously, you don’t have to tell me, I was just-”

“The stories,” Toby interrupted, breaking the ghosts’ conversation up, “are true. But the way they are told are not.”

I was confused, but also impressed; I had never seen Toby say more than two words without stringing in a swear or dirty joke; it worried me. “What do you-”

“When you become a ghost, you subconsciously have two choices,” Toby continued, holding up two translucent fingers, “you can hover around like nobody’s business and have an existences without any rhyme or reason. You can wait it out doing whatever you please and avoiding whatever you wish. It’s simple. Or, you can take another route...” Toby got dramatically quiet. The leaves rustled a bit. The tips of my ears got cold. “Some people die naturally, some die accidentally, like us. When you’re a ghost, you can take it how you want. We have committed ourselves to that first form of pointless existence. While others,” he spat the word, almost jeering, “take it upon themselves to prove our known stereotype of being horrifying monsters, risen from the dead.”

I spoke up, “the metaphors are nice and all, but you really aren’t answering my question.”

Toby exchanged a look I couldn’t read with Cooper. But it wasn’t Cooper who started speaking.

“Ghosts can’t be seen by living people,” Bree interjected, “until now, I suppose. But every story or speech you’ve heard about first-hand visions of the supernatural are myths. Lies.” She was stony faced. “But we can mess with people’s minds. Make them see things, make them hear things, make them...” she paused, “do things.”

“That’s why people who claim they’ve encountered a ghost are normally alone and have no one else to back them up,” Cooper put in, leaning up against a tree beside me. It was a chilly out; I had worn a pair of earmuffs in anticipation for the long, outdoor gathering.

“So I could be imagining Toby’s six pack right now?” I said. Toby raised his eyebrows. I heard Cooper scoff.

Porter shook his head feverishly, “no, no. Only angry ghosts can do it. Really evil ghosts. Toby may be a bit bad-mouthed, but he’s not that bad.”

“You want me to be mad, fatty?” Toby said, sitting forward threateningly, “because you piss me off every once in awhile.”

Cooper continued for them, “we can’t use it on command. Or at least I don’t think we can. Not unless you’ve had lots and lots of practice. See here, each time you do it, it practically dehumanizes you. Reduces your existence to something that’s not even a person anymore. When you die, you’re still you. But if you start tormenting people, out of pain or anger or whatever, it gets messy.”

“That’s why it’s always people who were murdered brutally that come back and haunt people. Because they’re angry,” I thought aloud.

“Bingo,” Cooper said without the usual pop of his charisma.

My thoughts led me astray, “but then, weren’t you all killed in some sort of brutal way? Cooper don’t you want to be exacting your revenge on whoever pushed you down the stairs?”

Cooper shook his head, “I have no reason. I mean, sure, I hope that guy is rotting in hell but I’m not going to make other people pay for that. I mean, at first I wanted to, but I got over it.”

Porter started talking then, “and they don’t have to be mad about their own deaths. Sometimes-”

Porter cut himself off. Or Toby’s death glare did. All four ghosts became hushed. My impatience got the best of me.

“What are you talking about?” A tiny voice in the back of my head was telling me not to push it, but I knew enough already. And it wasn’t like I was going to tell anyone. Was I really that dishonest?

Cooper gulped, “remember that other ghost I told you about?” I racked my tiring brain. He had mentioned a fourth name among the others; Brian? Ben? Brady?

“Brodie,” Toby answered for him. I nodded warily.

“Well, Brodie was just like us,” Cooper started, “he died from an accidental drug overdose while he and his friend were experimenting with some pills. It was a one time thing, so he wasn’t like a bad kid or anything. He was just-”

“Kinda messed up,” Toby said. Porter shivered.

“It was almost forty years ago now, when me and Bree picked him up. It was only two years before Toby came around. Porter never actually met him. But either way,me and Brodie used to bum around together. You know, doing whatever a ghost is supposed to do. And he was fine. But it’s rough being a ghost when you have ties to the outside world.”

Outside world?

“Do you mean...”

Toby cocked an eyebrow, “the land of the living.”

I shuddered. Porter noticed.

“Don’t worry Elle! It’s not like that with you,” Porter nodded his pudgy head, proud of his input in the discussion.

I turned back to listen to Cooper, gesturing him to go on. He was shaking ever so slightly.

“Well, Brodie had a sister, a lot younger than he had been. Like, only a few months old when it happened. So he kept a close eye on her as she grew up. But she was, different. Back when I was alive they threw people in mental hospitals like that-”

“It’s called autism nowadays,” Porter butt in, “don’t be so mean.”

“I never said it was a good thing Porter. But no matter what she had or was, the kids as school sure didn’t like it.”

I felt myself flinch.

“Lucy, that was her name, got bullied really bad all through middle school. And by high school...” Cooper broke off, “Brodie loved that kid. He spent more time with her than he did with me, you know following her around and stuff. So when he saw the other kids laughing and putting gum in her hair, it really took a toll on him.” Cooper was twiddling around with his fingers; he wouldn’t look me in the eyes. “We stopped seeing him a lot. Every morning he would head out and not come back to the house for hours on end. I got really worried. He started getting distant and sort of, strange. One day, I decided to follow him, just to see what he was doing. Toby came with me...”

On cue, Toby resumed the story, “we went to the school and saw Brodie torturing a bunch of kids in the parking lot after they laughed at Lucy’s backpack.” Toby’s face was pale, even for a ghost, “they were writhing and screaming and shit. It was terrible. We didn’t know what was happening until we got up close. They were clawing their eyes out and other horrible things that Brodie was making them do to themselves. We tried to stop him but he wasn’t even Brodie anymore. He kept going, kept hurting those poor teens who had made a dumbass joke about his little sister’s backpack. Ended up killing them.”

The wind died down; I shivered.

“After that, he fled, but not before he...” not even Toby could continue. The whole world was slowing down, weighing down, upon them all.

“Not until he killed Lucy, too,” Bree concluded.

Talk about a plot twist, “what?”

“He knew it wasn’t going to get any better for her, and he wanted her to be with him,” Bree said.

“We were there,” Toby added miserably, “we saw him crack down after those kids died. He said he didn’t mean to. I suppose that had been the first time he had ever actually killed someone. But it was all too much. After he apologized, he just...changed. Wasn’t even human anymore, let alone the Brodie we knew. Then he killed her. Right there in the high school parking lot. No remorse or nothing. Made her break her own neck. And then, just like that, he left. We don’t know where he is now, or if Lucy ever even came back as a ghost. Personally, I don’t even truly understand why he did it in the first place, sort of hypocrital if you ask me.”

Toby’s last few words were followed by a hefty silence. A laden silence, burdened with regret. I had never been so sad in my entire life; not even the balcony compared. What a horrible story. What a terrible, no good, tragic, atrocious story. I shouldn’t have asked. I should never have asked. It wasn’t some girl-scout troop campfire song. It was a real ghost story.

And it horrified me.

“I’m so sorry,” I said. I’m not sure that was the best thing to say given the circumstances, but I was otherwise speechless. The others were as well; I could see Cooper reliving—or re-dying—the moment in his mind.

“I hate that story,” Porter was curled up in a squishy, plump ball, cradling his legs, rocking back and forth on his butt. I would’ve laughed. But I had forgotten laughter was still an option.

“That’s enough for depressing shit,” Toby burst out, but his voice was high, the charm unnaturally strained, “let’s talk about something else.”

“Why don’t we tell her about that time at the carnival?” Porter suggested, perking up a bit.

Toby blew a raspberry in his general direction, “no. We should most definitely not tell Eleanora about that.”

Bree stepped in, “why not? Because you were the one who followed that clown into the changing room?”

“I didn’t know it was a guy! With the wig and the makeup and the stuffing I couldn’t tell whether it was a hot chick or a hairy dude!”

“What, so you followed him in to check?”

As the three argued, I looked over at Cooper. His eyes were glossed over, staring off into space.

“Hey Cooper. Are you alright?” I said kindly. He snapped out of his transfixed stage the moment I started speaking, but by his tone of voice, he was obviously well aware that I had just witnessed him morally revisit a nightmare.

“Yup, I’m good.”

“You sure?”

He didn’t snap at me as he said, “yeah, I’m sure. Just don’t like talking about it, that’s all.”

I didn’t push it; I had exceeded my reasonable limit for prying questions. But I could tell he wasn’t happy, I could tell that the memory of Brodie was not a good one. That it bothered him. He had spent his last few days making me feel better; now it was my turn.

“So I tried NECCO Wafers again last night,” I said. It wasn’t a lie; while grocery shopping, I had seen a pack while waiting in an unreasonably long line and couldn’t resist.

Cooper’s dulling eyes lit up. He smiled at me, “and the verdict?”

Disgusting.”

Cooper scoffed, clicking his tongue, “your taste buds are trash. Little lying buggers.”

“Maybe they were good back in 1962 but, now, they taste like disks of chalky-”

“66.”

“What?” I asked, caught off guard.

“1966. That’s the year I died. A few months after ‘Revolver’ came out,” he said it as if he was just realizing it. Like it had just all suddenly dawned on him.

I didn’t really know how to respond. I wasn’t great in comforting situations; my lack of friendships had really taken a toll on my already genetically handicapped social skills.

“Can you promise me something?” I said suddenly, before I could stop myself.

Cooper’s eyes were hazy, “sure?”

I took a breathe, “can you promise, that whatever happens, you won’t do anything like what Brodie did?”

That question struck him, he stared at me, wide-eyed. It took him a moment to understand, or maybe he was just thinking it over. But by the way he spoke, it was clear that he was just really confused, “why? Do you think I ever would?”

“No, no!” I said quickly, hoping I hadn’t offended him, “it’s just...I really don’t want you to...you know become something like that. Because, well, I am a human, and Lucy was a human and....well let’s just say that we are under similar circumstances. I just really don’t want to be the reason that you...”

Cooper cocked his head, his eyes still wide.

“Just, promise, okay?” I said.

Cooper was silent for a second. “Look, Eleanora, please don’t worry about that. That’s not going to happen, I’m not like that. Really. I’m not.”

There was a split second, where our eyes met, and for that short, beautiful, moment in time, Cooper wasn’t dead anymore. He was just a teenage boy, seated beside me. But my question was still left unanswered.

So that moment ended as I tilted my head back, gesturing silently to him.

“Promise?”

“On what?”

I racked my brain, “on the quality of NECCO Wafers?”

“Nah,” Cooper batted away the idea, “we need something that matters.”

“How about the talent of John Lennon?”

Cooper’s eyes got even wider, “that’s not something that can be messed with.”

I scowled, rolling my eyes.

Cooper shrugged, “Fine. I promise I won’t turn into some crazed, mentally unhinged, demonic dead boy.”

Cooper sort of got depressed again.

“Are you sure you're okay?” I said.

“I should’ve have said that,” Cooper admitted, putting his head in his hands. He stayed there for a second; my uncomfortable alarm was blaring in my head. But he peeked up at me through his fingers, as if suddenly noticing I was watching.

“But enough on that,” he shook himself out of that wistful mood, as if it were as simple as flipping a switch and turned to me, “how was school? I didn’t even get a chance to ask you on the walk over. Too busy discussing the advantages of vinyls over MP3.”

I stiffened. I didn’t want to tell him about my day. I had specifically started that argument to avoid the topic. But I was cornered.

“It was fine,” I lied, “same old, same old.” I didn’t need him, or anyone, to be worrying about me. Especially him, after what he’d seen and what he knew.

“Good,” Cooper said hollowly. He knew I was lying.

But he didn’t say anything more.


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