Rubber Soul

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

Chapter 5 (v.1) - Cooper

Submitted: August 02, 2016

Reads: 61

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Submitted: August 02, 2016

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First thing’s first, I’m not a stalker.

Seriously, the definition of a stalker is “a person who stealthily hunts or pursues an animal or another person; a person who harasses or persecutes someone with unwanted and obsessive attention”. I am none of those things. Sure, I may have searched for that curly haired girl around at school the next day, but I had no intentions of harassing or persecuting her with “obsessive attention” or harming her in any way. Also, there’s no need for me to be sneaky; I’m a ghost, I’ve got stealth written into my biology. Besides, she can’t see me so technically it’s like I’m not even there, so technically, if I’m not there, I can’t be stalking her.

Thinking back on it though, and rereading that horribly worded explanation on my reasoning, I guess maybe I was being sort of stalker-ish. Jesus, what is wrong with me. Why in the name of hell am I writing this down.

Either way, whether I am legally labelled a stalker or not, Toby had been right about where the curly haired girl went to school.

The next morning, after an anxious night’s sleep—yes, ghosts can sleep, and, extra bonus, we can dream too—I dragged Toby out of the Gelberman house and walked all the way to Clifton High School.

The night before, Toby had promised he would come along with me; whether he had been conscious of the decision or not. I had kind of caught him off guard.

“Hey Toby,” I had said. He and Bree were in deep conversation at our dining room table in the attic of the blue house. Porter had dozed off on the moth-dusted couch near the chimney. His snoring was shaking the whole damn room.

“Yeah?”

“Well, I was wondering, uh, would you, um, or actually could you come with me to Clifton High school tomorrow?” I don’t know why I had been so nervous when I asked, but I kept scratching my neck while I was talking like I always do when I’m jittery like that.

“Sure, sure, kid, whatever you want,” he hadn’t really acknowledged me, just sort of nodded his head a bit. But I actively took note of his commitment. Toby may have been a dickhead sometimes, but he never went back on his word.

So here we were, two ghosts trekking across town at 7 o’clock in the morning. I had gotten us up early because school started at 7:22. The only reason I knew that was because I went to Clifton when I was alive. That’s another reason I had brought Toby with me. I had no intentions of walking down those forsaken hallways alone; the last time I had made the perilous journey had been more than forty years ago. It was Toby’s old school too, but I guess he didn’t have the same emotional ties as I did. The lingo-lockers and painfully colorful floor tiles reminded me of living, and of Ben, my old pal. It kind of depressed me a bit if I thought too much about it.

The expedition took longer than I had anticipated. We didn’t reach the front doors until around 7:40; first period had already begun.

I had had History 2 for first period when I was in Junior year. The teacher had been this nasally old dude whose name has totally slipped my mind. But I’ll think of it eventually. Unless he was actually a warlock like everyone had written on the paper towel dispensers in the boy’s bathroom, then he was most likely dead now.

“Good memories,” Toby commented sing-songy as we stood anxiously outside the main entrance. Not much had changed, except there was one of those plasticy buzzer things next to the door. We didn’t have that kind of security when I was alive.

I was kind of worried. I don’t really know why but I was trembling like a leaf. But all I could think about what that curly haired girl. All I wanted to know was her name.

Toby exhaled a happy breath, “c’mon then.” I followed him inside, passing silently through the glass doors of the school. It was weird not having that stupid stressful heavy school-feeling threatening to decapitate me as I strode into the lobby. Not to say I wasn’t stressed though, because trust me, I was.

The hallways were basically empty. There was an old frazzled looking lady sitting behind a window in the lobby whose lazy eye was freaking me and Toby out. But other than that it was pretty quiet. Which would have been great, if our reason for coming was to chill and sightsee the rusty bubblers; it wigged me out to think they still hadn’t replaced them in over fifty years, that had to be violating some sort of health code or something.

It was all exactly as I remembered. The lockers had a fresh new coat of paint as did some of the walls, but the layout hadn’t been renovated since my last visit. It was kind of bittersweet; sweet because I was walking through my High School hallway as a dead person and bitter because I was walking through my High School hallway as a dead person. See the irony?

“I made out with Ariel Tubman in that closet,” Toby helpfully pointed out as we passed down another hallway. “Oh, and I grabbed Lyndsay Andrews’ butt at that corkboard. Hoa, wow, I almost forgot about the time I banged Cynthia Rose in that-”

“C’mon man, that’s gross,” I said, “I don’t need to hear all about your High School sex life.”

“Tough luck kid,” Toby grinned, “you’re the one who dragged me along. I’m taking my own trip down memory lane. And I am as good at commentating as I am at-”

I would’ve puked at what Toby was “just as good at” if I had any functional gastrointestinal muscle as a horrific image popped into my head. At least after death you're not nauseous.

“Holy god I’m never going to be able to erase that picture,” I shuddered. “C’mon let’s search around.”

We spent at least an hour poking around different classrooms; but we couldn’t find her anywhere. And every room I checked leaving empty handed made the rock in my stomach gain a couple pounds. My chances were getting slimmer by the minute.

While I was sneaking around a bored-to-the-brink-of-death class of Freshman math kids, I peered up at the clock. It wasn’t even eight yet. It had only taken twenty minutes to scan the entire school.

After having no luck, I reconvened with Toby back in the main lobby.

“Are you sure you’ve seen her around here?” I was getting sort of frustrated. Wanting something was a custom I wasn’t used to; fifty years clean and you kind of forget how to react to things like this.

“I thought I did a couple weeks back,” Toby was casually picking at his fingernails. We were sitting on the lip of the stairwell. “The only reason I remember her was because she looked, I don’t know.”

“What?” I asked, intrigued.

Toby scratched the scruff of his neck, “well, I’m no expert or anything, but she looked sort of, um, depressed I guess. Reminded me of Bree.”

I tried not to let that bother me.

We sat at the lip of those stairs for the next few hours. Or at least I did. Toby kept getting up to do god-knows-what. I was convinced that if I sat there long enough, I would see her. That’s all I wanted. Was to see her one more time.

Jesus, that’s so sappy. I’m such a moron.

At the very least, I just wanted to know her name.

People passed by, migrating from class to class. They all looked so miserable. I really wished they didn’t. You don’t know how much you actually like something until you’ve totally lost it. Believe me, I would do anything to walk those halls again without worrying about somebody’s outstretched arms going straight through me. It’s actually really maddening to watch real, living, fleshy teenagers go around all mopey and gloomy and stuff pretending like they’ve got it bad. It’s offensive. Kids these days don’t know bad. Or at least they won’t until they die, then they’ll be begging to go back to that sophomore year math class that made them want to slit their throats with a protractor.

Either way, I sat in the lobby of Clifton High School for almost three hours, just watching people stroll by. About two hours in, Toby was totally done with the whole fiasco.

“Dude, it’s no use,” he said, “I’ve got stuff to do.”

I knew he didn’t; he was probably just getting down on himself. I didn’t blame him for that so I didn’t argue. “I’ll see you back at the house.”

Toby kinda left like he wanted to tell me something but I never found out what it was. Even now. But it did kind of bother me while I was sitting there, watching the world go by, watching time go on.

I was determined to see the curly haired girl again. It wasn’t like a creepy obsession; I’ve already established the fact that I am indeed not a stalker. Seeing her again just sounded, I don’t know, nice. I hadn’t been very happy about anything for a long time. And I wasn’t about to let it slip away.

But around lunchtime, even I was losing hope. Don’t tell anyone, but if I could’ve, I probably would’ve cried.

Shit. I take that back. Forget that line right now. I never said that.

I started to leave. Started to give up. But then-

“Eleanora!”

I don’t know why the sudden shout spooked me so much but I nearly fell down the stairs, but gravity doesn’t really apply to me, so suck it physics.

My heart also defied about 1 and 1/2 of Newton’s laws as I felt it do four back-flips and a 360.

For once in a long while, Toby Anderson had been right. The curly haired girl was walking towards me down the hall, a weird looking kid with some of the strangest ear piercings I had ever seen in tow.

I was totally frozen to the spot. There she was. I didn’t even know how it was physically possible to be that beautiful.

That’s so dumb. Oh, god.

But something was wrong, like really wrong this time. She looked either really pissed or really sad. Just like she had yesterday at the mall, except only now she wasn’t trying to hide it.

The boy was telling her something but I didn’t catch the meat of the conversation. There was only one word I was focusing on.

Eleanora.

I knew her name.

Eleanor Rigby. You know you’re in it when a Beatles’ lyric is the first thing that comes to your mind.

Something must have been said that sent the girl over the edge. Storming away, Eleanora left the emo kid dead in his tracks. Without even thinking or considering how friggin’ creepy I was being, I followed her out. She had to give some piece of paper to the lazy eyed secretary before stomping through the doors. She was walking sort of strange and her jeans were stained with something red. For a second I figured it was a bad idea to follow her; especially in that state.

But five minutes later I was stalking six paces behind her down the sidewalk. She didn’t have a car, I quickly found out. She was wearing a green striped shirt and acid washed jeans. There were splashes of whatever was smeared on her pants splattered up onto her shirt; which eliminated one of my previous assumptions on how she obtained those stains.

I stayed behind her for a couple of blocks. Sure, I felt kind of like Max Cady from Cape Fear—the 1962 one, not the 1991 one; I saw them both and the older one was better—but I wasn’t some crazed rapist so I figured it was okay. Besides, like I keep saying, she couldn’t see me so therefore it didn’t matter. She would never know.

I don’t know if that made me feel better or worse.

She was crying by the fourth block. It ripped my dead soul in two. But I couldn’t say anything, I just got to watch. Worst of all, it wasn’t even like a full out breakdown; she was trying to bottle it all up. That only led to a lot of sniffling and shaky breathes. I wished she would just cry. My mom had always told me it was better to let it all out. But maybe her mom wasn’t that kind of person, what did I know?

But she managed to hold herself together for a full hour, which is how long it took to reach her supposed home. Eleanora’s house looked really unkempt; the grass in the front lawn hadn’t been mowed in weeks, the ebbing gardens were disheveled and mangy, pale blue paint was chipping off the side of the house. It was just overall sort of crumby-looking. But I did like the shade of blue.

I didn’t follow her inside; that would be crossing a line I was already tiptoeing on. But I didn’t leave either.

I don’t know why but I just couldn’t get myself to walk away from that crappy blue house, away from Eleanora. Maybe I was scared, I don’t know.

I just couldn’t stop thinking about how she had been crying, and how she had looked so empty. So sad.

Leaning up against some big-ole oak tree that dominated the front yard, I just sort of stared at the house, trying to imagine what the marvelously tragic life of Eleanora Something must have been like. What was her favorite color? Her least favorite soda? Her first pet’s name? I sat there for a while, pondering over Eleanora’s life. Foolish, aimless questions that meant absolutely nada to the average-joe. But I was—and still am; this isn’t one of those stories—dead; stupid shit like that amuses me. Stuff you can’t have is compelling. That apple thirty feet in the air over the pool of piranhas is always the reddest. Unless you’re picking granny smith, then I think they would be green. Or yellow. Whatever, nevermind.

Hours passed. I didn’t really think that much. I just sat there. Time doesn’t go by faster when you’re dead, it just sort of flows a bit better, like you don’t ever get bored. You’re just sort of...tired. It’s weird. You’ll just have to wait ‘till you die to see what I mean.

It was starting to get dark, but it was November, so it couldn’t be much later than five. If I had a choice, I would’ve stayed underneath that oak tree all night long, watching that house and the stars pop out but I didn’t want to worry the others. Porter was a Nervous Nellie as is; I didn’t want to give him another heart attack.

Plus, I wanted to talk to Bree. I don’t know why but for some reason I got really anxious about it. Like rabid butterfly stomach sort of anxious.

I almost started sprinting back to the big house in the blue field when the front door of Eleanora’s house flung open and slammed shut less than a moment later.

My gut told me to leave, to let her walk away and go wherever the hell she was going, but teenage boys are stubborn. And not to mention, stupid.

Eleanora was wearing a black zip-up sweatshirt with the hood turning her head into nothing more than a lump of fabric. She marched down the driveway and took a sharp left turn. I had to move a little faster this time to keep up with her; she was on a mission. And I couldn’t help but wonder what had gotten her so worked up.

She was crying now. And this time, it was actual tears. She seemed angry and sad and scared all at the same time. Girls are just so complicated.

Or at least that’s what I kept telling myself. She’s just going into town to get some pizza or something, or maybe some gum. Teens like gum these days. A short shopping trip to the local five-and-dime was adequate. Maybe she was just really upset she had run out of Altoids or something.

But she passed the mall and she passed the movie theatre and at least four gas stations, all while balling her eyes out. I really just wanted to know what was wrong. That’s the only reason I didn’t break off and leave her behind.

That anxious feeling hadn’t gone away though.

It was pitch black by the time we reached the center of town. It was more like a city; I hadn’t been here in years. It was at least a twenty minute drive from my house, and Eleanora had been walking for over an hour. There were a bunch of tall office buildings where there had once been a dusty baseball field. That’s where I had played my last baseball game.

Before I died, of course.

But holy god so much had changed. A K-Mart had taken over Lennie’s Pizzeria, but that didn’t surprise me as much; me and my friend’s had all know Lennie was on his last dough flipping days. And the car garage where me and Ben had earned our first dollar was now a Chipotle. That one made me mad; damn fake Mexican food.

But some of the new buildings were skyscrapers, tall enough that they seemed like they could touch the clouds. Well, not really, but they were taller than any commercial bundle of bricks I had ever seen. Don’t get me wrong there had been colossal superstructures when I was alive, just not here. Modernization had reached even the farthest corners of urban life it seemed.

Car exhaust was visibly smogging up the air in the cramped roads beside the sidewalk. It was so noisy, the beeps of horns, the shrills of engines; everything sort of blended into one big blob of chaos. It was nicer without all the modern hubbub and jostle of day jobs. I missed the 1960s.

Eleanora ignored everything. She didn’t stop to listen to the sweet-voice street performer, didn’t respond to the sunglass vendor who was stuffing merchandise down the throats of every passerby in sight. Invisibility saves you from overbearing marketing at least.

I had absolutely no idea where she was going as she took another turn down a musty, dark alleyway between two brick buildings. Graffiti ranging from riveting saharan prairies to horribly obscene gestures was splattered across the muddy red surfaces encasing the alleyway. There was a dumpster at the end, shrouded by shadows that was stinking up the place. I was starting to get sort of worried.

I didn’t notice the door until Eleanora pulled a bobby-pin from her hair and picked the lock. It was pretty cool; all she had to do was wiggle the piece of metal around a bit before the door clicked open. It would have been even cooler if it hadn’t been so illegal.

I had to walk through the metal frame of the door; that’s how quickly she slide it shut after sneaking through the sliver of space she left for herself. No matter how many times I do it, I really hate having to walk through solid materials. But I wasn’t really focused on the foul feeling of concrete passing through my body making me want to heave, I was more busy being concerned about Eleanora.

And why she was breaking and entering.
The entrance, or exit, depending on your perspective, led to a storage hallway. All the lights had been turned off for the night, everything had a sort of blue glow.

Eleanora was racing up a stairwell, her footsteps rushed but suitably silent.

What was she doing?

I followed her up and up and up. Up until floor 27; and only because there were no more stairs for her to climb. She wandered into a wing filled with boring cubicles. I saw photographs of smiling babies and terribly lit school pictures as we passed by. I still didn’t know what she was doing. But my hunch was starting to creep up on me.

She soon reached the end of the pastures of cramped office space. Another door greeted us. I felt the breezy fall air blow through me the moment she swung open the door.

It hit me.

I knew why she was here.

Shit.

Maybe I was overthinking it; I was already panicking.

Just don’t lock the door. She wouldn’t. I was crazy.

CLICK.

No, no, no, no.

Eleanora bolted the door from the outside before stepping onto the balcony herself. I ran through the door, I didn’t even notice the subtle impact. I didn’t care. I was freaking out.

The balcony was high, so high. And the fall awaiting beyond the railing was long.

Eleanora was sobbing, but her posture didn’t say so. Her chin was held high. But it wasn’t. Or was it?

I could barely see straight. I tried to grab her arm, in spite of myself, but nothing happened, my hand glided dead through her, like it always did. She was shaking real bad now. I was scared.

But so was she.

I wanted to scream, wanted to beg. And I started to. I shouted her name as loudly as I could. But she couldn’t hear me. No one would hear me. There was nothing I could do. Because I was nothing; I don’t exist. I am dead.

And no one would ever know.

My heart, shriveled and bloodless beneath my ribs, was thumping in my ears, jolting my entire being. She was climbing up onto the railing, the soles of her sneakers squeaking.

I couldn’t take it. It didn’t matter who she was, what she’d done; she didn’t deserve this. Nobody deserved this. And I knew what was lingering, waiting for her 400 feet down.

I had been through it before.

“Eleanora! Don’t!” I wailed it, shouted it with everything I had.

And she paused.

My entire being collapsed in on itself.

She had paused.

Like someone had called out to her.

Like she had heard me.


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