Brand New Eyes

Kara is a ghost. She's being living her afterlife studying her boyfriend's every move and trying out different methods of getting his attention. Kara is minding her own business when someone knocks on the door.
The new neighbor, Jessie, introduces herself and when she's just about to start flirting with Aidan, she notices Kara standing in the background.
Jessie helps Kara realize that she should have movies on when she died but something is keeping her. Will Jessie help Kara move into the light? Or will Kara be forever in the dark?

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1. Brand New Eyes (Short story)

 

I've been stuck looking at the same four walls for two hundred and twelve days. I'm not going to simplify that and say it’s been less than a year because I don't feel like it has. I know that there are one hundred tiles on the kitchen floor and there's a stain underneath the coffee table that looks like a shadow. I can walk through this one bedroom apartment with my eyes closed and not bump into a thing. And if an object were to block my path, I’d walk through. Because I'm a ghost. 

            This place used to be my home, now it's my prison. I’m a felon that's been wrongly accused. I don't know what I've done to deserve my fate. To be honest, I don't even know what happened to me.

            I do remember every Spice Girl song, vanilla ice cream, and my favorite ride at the carnival - the Gravitron. But remembering life makes death worse.

            Each day I watch my former boyfriend, Aidan. I stare at him while he sleeps and it’s almost like I'm still there. Every once in a while I catch him smiling when I say his name. But in the morning his eyes open and he looks past me as if he’s looking through glass. He gets up and makes breakfast without a single word. Then he leaves. I don’t exist in his world anymore and that kills me.

In more positive, recent events of my so-called afterlife, I’ve learned how to turn the TV on and the stove off when Aidan forgets. Mainly it happens when I'm upset, but I have eternity to figure out how do advance these skills. I’m hoping one day he'll notice me. 

I am attempting to move a picture of myself. I have it up in the air, but it drops when I hear the door open. I don't know why I rush in the room to see him. It's not like we can have a conversation. 

Aidan does the same thing every day when he gets home. He goes to the bathroom, comes out, grabs a bag of chips, and sits on the couch watching the news. 
But today there is an interruption in the norm; there’s knock on the door. 

As confused as me, he stands up, looks around to make sure there isn’t a mess, and walks to the door. A girl with long, dark hair stands in front of him. A hint of jealously stirs as he runs a hand through his messy hair. A sign I’ve learned that he finds her attractive.

"I'm Jessie.” She holds a stack of mail. "Your mail was in my mail. I didn't notice it until I got upstairs. I figured it would be better if I gave it to you, and introduced myself as your new neighbor.” She scrunches her nose. “I'm rambling, aren't I?"

Aidan shakes his head laughing. "No. You’re fine."

Her cheeks grow red and she hands him the mail. “Here you go.”

He takes it and says, "Hey, you want to grab a cup of coffee?"

No! This isn’t part of his daily routine. He should be watching TV right now, then get coffee from the cafe down the street. Alone

Jessie is about to accept the invite but she stops with her eyes falling directly on me. At first I think she's glancing around the room, but her entire demeanor changes and she's not nervous anymore. She's surprised. 

"Maybe another time," she tells him. "I have to unpack still. But we’ll have to hang out." Then I swear to me she says, "We’ll talk later."

If I had a heart and blood pumped through my body, my insides would be going wild. She saw me. She spoke to me. I haven't communicated with a living person for so long.

I don't notice when Aidan leaves for his afternoon coffee. For the first time since death I’m not counting the seconds he’s gone. 

There's a knock on the door. I walk over and look through the peephole. It's Jessie. 

"I know you're in there," she says quietly. "Come to my apartment."

"I can't leave the room," I whisper which is stupid because no one can hear me.

"Have you tried?"

I've never actually tried to leave the apartment. Never had a reason to. 

Wiggling my fingers around, I prepare myself. I've passed through objects before but not a thick wall made of cement. My fingertips tingle slightly as they go through. Sort of like an itch you can't scratch.

The hallway is darker than I remember. The forest green walls don't help, not to mention the lack of windows. I can't look around this corridor for long because Jessie motions for me to follow. 

Her apartment is bright, modern with an open area concept and large, white couches that look too nice to sit on. She lets me walk in instead of going through the door and deadbolts the lock behind us. We don't speak until the TV is loud enough that people passing by won't hear the conversation. 

"How can you see me," I ask unable to stay quiet any longer. 

“Hi, I’m Jessie,” she says annoyed. “And you are?”

“Kara. Sorry. It’s been a while since I’ve had to use my conversational skills.”

She pulls her hair into a pony tail. "It's hereditary. My Gran could see ghosts."

"Doesn't it freak you out?"

"It used to," she admits. After pouring herself a glass of water, she sits on a barstool. "What happened to you?"

This is embarrassing. "I have zero memory of the night I died."

Her eyebrows rise. "Does Aidan know you're here?"

"No.” I shake my head. "I've tried to do little things to catch his attention. Nothing works."

Jessie bites her lip. "Is that why you haven't gone into the light?'"

"Maybe." I shrug. "Can you tell him that I’m still here?"

My hopes are high but crash quickly from the expression on her face. 

"I'm not going to deliver news to him that you’re hanging around when you could have committed suicide or something. Losing you was probably hard enough."

"What do I do," I ask. "How do I find out what’s holding me here?"

"We have to find out what happened to you. It sounds like you have PSTD for ghosts."

I give her a cockeyed glance. "Huh?"

"You know how when people go through post-traumatic stress disorder they block out memories?"

I nod.

"It can happen to ghosts too. If they die in a terrible way, they won't remember. Your brain – or whatever ghosts have – is protecting you from the truth. But it’s also hurting you by keeping you here."

The door slams across the hall. Aidan's back. 

"I have to go," I tell her. 

She stands up immediately. "What do I do if he asks me to hang out again?"
Is she asking permission? I don't exactly want them to hit it off but what kind of dead girlfriend would I be if I haunted his happiness?

"Say yes." I stop, think, and add, "Find out how to get me out of here. He deserves to be happy.”

But I don't know if I can watch him be happy without me.

I spend the night moving around the apartment trying to find clues of my death. In life one of my biggest pet peeves was going into a room only to forget what I went in for in the first place. Ghost amnesia is so much worse.

The sun comes up. I barely notice it until Aidan walks past me and into the kitchen. He grabs a bowl, pours some cereal and milk, and finds a spoon. It’s ridiculous when I look back at it, but the way he chews used to drive me insane. I would always put music on during dinner so I couldn’t hear him. I don’t mind it anymore.

Aidan stands up to put his dish in the sink and something drops from his pocket. It falls to the floor and shatters on the tile. Leaning down, he shakes his head. Clear liquid rolls out of the vial. I have this gut feeling I should know what it is. Aidan takes a paper towel to wipe up the mess, then grabs his phone from the counter.

“I need another one,” he says into the phone. There’s a pause. “I know I got one yesterday. It broke.” The person on the other line makes Aidan so angry he slams his fist on the counter. “I’ll be there soon.”

He hangs up, grabs his hoodie, and leaves. I try thinking of a logical answer of what he dropped and why he needs another so badly.

I don’t waste time overthinking the sensations I have while passing through the walls and find Jessie in her bathtub reading a book.

“I think Aidan is doing drugs,” I announce.

She lets out a scream and drops the book in the tub. “What are you doing here!?”

“He dropped this vial of liquid and ran out to get another one. Not at a store. He called someone. A dealer, I think.”

“Kara,” she says slowly. “It’s probably nothing.”

            “Can you hang out with him and ask some questions?”

            She gapes at me. “You want me to see if your boyfriend is a junkie?”

            I clasp my begging hands together. “Please?”

            She rolls her eyes knowing she won’t be enjoying a bath. Tossing her saturated book in the wastebasket, she asks, “Can I have some privacy?”

            I wait for her in the living room, anxious for her integration with Aidan. She comes out with a low cut shirt.

            “You’re supposed to see if he’s a drug addict not seduce him.”

            Jessie groans. “I’m not trying to seduce him!”

            I pass through her wall and into my apartment. Aidan is on the couch more relaxed than he was a half hour ago. The TV is on and sitting on the coffee table are two cups of coffee.

            His eyes shift around the apartment making sure than nothing is a mess when Jessie knocks. Satisfied it’s clean enough, he walks over to the door and finds Jessie standing in front of him. “What’s up?”

            “Want to grab that coffee you mentioned yesterday?”

            “I already went.” He points to the coffee table. “I have an extra if you’re interested.”

            “Did you know I was coming?”

            “I always get two.” He takes the cup to the kitchen. With his back towards her, he adds in cream and sugar.

            Aidan hands her a cup. “It has a shot of espresso.”

            “You can never have too much caffeine,” they say in unison.

            Nerds.

            They talk for hours giving me time for an investigation. In the bathroom I do my best to open the medicine cabinet, just a crack, but I can’t.

            I walk back into the living room, both of their eyes are glued to the TV. Behind the couch I see a picture of myself on the screen.

            The anchor woman says, “Almost one year ago nineteen year old Kara Mitchell was murdered in her apartment. She had been drugged and strangled by the assailant and was already dead when her boyfriend came home.

“Victoria Zeiss was found this morning killed the same way. Police currently do not have anyone in custody.” She stares into the camera, her eyes intense. “Is it a copycat killer? Or a random act of violence?”

            With one press of a button, Aidan takes a deep breath.

            “Are you okay,” Jessie asks.

            “The girl on TV that died almost a year ago; she was my girlfriend.”

            “I’m so sorry –”

            He pushes off the couch. “How could someone copy that?”

            She reaches for him but stumbles instead and uses the arm of the couch to hold her up. “Aidan?”

            “I mean, people are so ridiculous,” he goes on ignoring her. “Creativity is lost in this world!”

            “Jessie.” I go to grab her but go right through. “What’s wrong?”

            Her eyes are glazed over. “Dizzy...”

            In an instant, my head is spinning in circles. I’m trying to focus and keep from falling over but everything around me won’t stop moving.  

            In a flash, it starts coming back. I’m not in my body anymore, I’m in Jessie’s and I can’t move, but my brain is on high alert. Aidan picks us up and takes us into the bedroom. He drops Jessie’s body carelessly on the bed and pulls a gun from his night table.

            “This is for extra precaution. I’d rather not use it. Too messy.” After placing the gun on the bureau behind him, he leans over us. “Did you like your coffee?”

            He gives her a moment to answer knowing she can’t.

            “It was laced with Boost. It’s a couple years old on the street. It’s known for its incredible caffeine high if you use a single drop. I may have given you the entire vial.” He gives a playful “oops” face. Your mind is working overtime compensating for what your body can’t. The paralysis lasts an hour. Enough time for me to strangle you and watch the life drain from your eyes.” He stops and whispers in her ear, “I’ve wanted to do this since I saw you yesterday.”

            She whimpers but it only excites him further. “I was hoping you’d say that.”

            He brushes the hair from Jessie’s face. All this time I’ve worried about him. I was stupid to never realize that he didn’t mourn my death. He slept with ease at night because he murdered me – and he enjoyed it.

Fear is replaced with anger. I’m lifting out of Jessie’s body and his hands wrap around her neck, I’m behind Aidan. Feeding off the anger he’s given me, I use the energy to make the lights flicker and the gun rises to the back of his head, the trigger pulls back. 

            He turns, his eyes growing wide with a mix of confusion and excitement. “Kara?”

For a split second I pity him. He's lost and weak, unable to control his sadistic urges. He killed me to feel powerful, to be in control. The crooked smile I used to find sexy sickens me. I allow the trigger to release. A bullet roars from the gun. In the blink of an eye, Aidan's body falls heavily to the ground, the gun with it. Thick blood pools around his head, seeping into the wooden floor.

I hover unbothered by his open eyes. “Notice me now?”

By Jessie’s side, I apologize. She wouldn’t be on this bed if it weren’t for me. Her hands shake from the Boost. I pray it wears off soon.

She whispers but it’s too low for me to hear.

“Light,” she chokes out. Hand shaking, she points behind me. “Go.”

I smile at the blinding light unworried about what’s on the other side. Whatever it is, I belong there. My sentence here is over.

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