“Name?” A woman was speaking, sweet and calm-sounding. Like she was pretending to care.
“Goren.” I heard my own voice say. I was talking, finally. Thanks to that ghost. I could still feel the tingling up my arm, like a series of chilled needles were lingering just beyond my skin. I knew better than to shift position; that would only make it worse. So, I stayed still and endured it. I’ll admit I did tense and untense my feet, but that was not enough of a distraction for my weary brain.
“Your full name.” she said sourly, a distinct bit of impatience creeping into her. My eyes were still closed, but I could feel some disdain radiating off of her. That first nurse must have told her about me.
“Goren.” I repeated, listening to my own voice say my own name. Again. I was sounding a bit distant. The woman sighed, tapping her pen against something metal.
“Your father’s name?” She asked.
“Your father’s brother?”
“Harvey.” Why was she asking about him?
“Is your father still with us?” Not as a living human. Although that was a ghost I hadn’t seen yet.
“He died.” I said bluntly. That sounded so cynical out loud. I could feel my heartbeat flutter, knowing just how much that scared me. Seeing my father as a ghost? Just the thought of that was almost enough to put me in here again. My heartrate must have jumped on the monitor, but we both ignored it.
“How does that make you feel?” She asked. Was she joking? I was in a state hospital; they were not known to joke around. And I already knew she could read my heartbeat. Although I’d rather not think about her watching it – that would only serve to make it go faster. I was still staring at the insides of my eyelids. Glaring red with several marauding blood veins.
“This isn’t about that. Let’s talk about something else.” I insisted.
“Why don’t you want to talk about it?” She asked. Because then I might have to see you. And seeing you could mean seeing anything.
I didn’t explain. If I did, my voice would be dripping with self-loathing. Was that true? How would I know how he really felt. But it certainly felt true. And I certainly felt that it felt true. Because of course I felt that way.
“Do you know where you are?” She asked.
“In the hospital.” I shifted to tilt my head away from her. I felt like a toddler, stubbornly keeping my eyes shut. My hand began to grow cold. That was not a good sign.
“Good. Do you remember why you are here?”
“Yes.” How could I forget?
“Are you willing to talk about it?”
“You’re giving me a choice?”
“I never wanted to. . .”
“I know.” She interrupted me. My unspoken words clung to the tip of my tongue, jamming my mouth with dry air. A silence came and clung to the room, our only solace the vague humming of the electrical work. It was incessant, droning. Was I really going to talk about what put me in here? Vaguely, I heard her shift position. I’m sure she introduced herself, but I could not, for the life of me, remember her name.
Ahem. She cleared her throat. I suppose that was my cue. I should quit being childish, right? But keeping my eyes shut was so much easier! I could feel a freezing, airy massage moving up my palm – I knew I’d see someone there. But, slowly and begrudgingly, I did open my eyes.
It was Serena. I’d estimate her age at about ten years old. She was dressed up for some sort of occasion in a lace-covered, black holiday dress. Why was she still here? I didn’t know. But she was bouncing up and down with her thick, fancy-made curls, half-blocking my view of whoever it was that I could glimpse sitting behind her. I ignored whatever Serena said, choosing instead to look beyond her.
“I think you need to talk about it.” Declared the woman I’d been speaking with. Her eyes were staring into me, the brown of her iris framing a prodding abyss. I blinked, wondering if she was right.
“This is all confidential.” She clarified, gesturing with her hand to encompass what I thought I glimpsed as an old-style clipboard. “And it has no bearing on your residence.”
I thought I sensed some humanity in that. And what else? Empathy? She grabbed something from the table and reached it towards me: a clear cup of water. I tried to pull my arm out of the hospital sheets, maniacally detangling it like I was yanking up a stubborn vine. But of course that didn’t go right.
She gave up waiting and put the rim to my lips. I felt the rush as she tilted the water towards me. The rim itself was stiff, almost batting my teeth. I drank, feeling a pleasant, cooling soothe in my throat. But then it stung when it hit my stomach. Willfully, I finally got my hand out to grab it from her. I’m not helpless!
But then I saw my injuries. Well, I saw what felt like a miniscule portion of them. I had burn lines running up my arm, and bandages around the area between my index finger and thumb. How did that happen? All I remember was firing a gun!
Overtly-sweetly, the woman wrapped the cup into my grip, manually arranging my small, boney fingers with her’s. She gave me a rather patronizing smile, with a little tilt to her head.
Well, at least I knew how seriously she’d take me.
I gave the requisite awkward grin in return. I’d been informed by staff that I’d have to talk to somebody. Maybe if I scared her enough she’d just let me go.
I know. Wishful thinking.
But I began my monologue, adding in some dramatic flair:
“This wasn’t a dark nor stormy night. It was just a regular, everyday sort of night. One that could have happened to anyone. I didn’t choose this. You know that the events just sort of happened. They pulled me into them. Me, the hapless victim.” I could feel my voice trailing off. By now, she had retrieved my water cup and backed her way into her seat. She held a pen, poised and at the ready, her eyes intently watching me. I pointedly ignored the child ghost I felt playing with my fingers. But that chill was starting to spread up to my shoulder.
“I am the sole inheritor of my father’s wealth. That’s been enough for me to live reasonably and comfortably alone.” I emphasized the word alone but she was already scribbling away with her pen. I took in another breath:
“I own my father’s old home, but I have no real work or goals in life. I suppose I was a ripe target. But, of what? Even I don’t know.” My dramatic façade was cracking, breaking into a near ramble. I think I was somewhat dodging the real subject. Although, she had brought up my father, and now I couldn’t quite refocus. She was staring at me. Her pen was poised in her grip, like a team’s banner at the ready.
“Get to it! I want to know what happened!” Serena was screaming at me, trying to climb up and jab her way into my viewpoint. The cold of her touch was creeping up, threatening to encroach on my torso and ribcage. Her knee made it up to the bed next to me, but she repeatedly passed through the real-world object. Involuntarily, my heartrate climbed. I didn’t need her screaming like that.
“It’s alright. I’m here to listen. I don’t judge you for any of this.” The woman was trying to reassure me, gesturing again over her clipboard. Her eyebrows had begun to fall towards the outer edges, a distinct blend of pity and intensity growing in her eyes. I can’t stand being pitied. Even in her, I could still see Shelley Osborne, someone who I was desperate not to think about.
I took in a deep breath, starting again:
“I don’t think I’m insane.”
“You’re not.” She interrupted me.
“Well. . .”
She was running a recording device. I hadn’t noticed it before, but now I saw the thin clip wire and dot-like lens around her ear. Seeing tech like that made my skin crawl. I could almost feel on my own skin where the wiring ran against her’s, like a fiery itch was burning just above the surface. Maybe it was better to just get this over with.
I began again:
“It all began with a dream. . .