The Monster of July

Damian's life changes when one of his professors turns out to be an acquaintance he had erased from his memory. Demons from the past will come haunting him again as their relationship evolves, dragging them both in a rollercoaster of drama, angst, and yes, sometimes a bit of joy.

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1. The Stranger Who Showed Up at the Funerals

           Do you believe in ghosts? I’m asking because, sometimes, I have the feeling that some events in my life were influenced by one. Unlikely twists of fate, nearly impossible coincidences… It’s possible that what we call ghosts are simply the lingering effects of people’s existence after they die, like an after-image that our eyes keep seeing even though there is nothing left to see, or the wake left in the water after the passage of a boat. Maybe you’ll understand better if I just move on with my story.

 

            On the day of my grandmother's funerals, the sun shone way too bright and the sky was an indecent shade of blue. My grandmother passed away one week after suffering from a heart attack, one fine afternoon of mid-July. She had retired about seven years earlier from a faculty position in the Biology department of one of the best universities in the country. Some of her former colleagues were now mingling with family and friends in the funeral parlour.

            I just stood there, in front of the closed coffin. There lay the grandmother with whom I had read my first stories, who secretely fed me chocolate cake when my parents weren't there, who always believed in me no matter what... Suddenly, I felt that stupid tightness in my throat. Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry... Just like that, tears started rolling down my cheeks. I wiped them with the sleeve of my suit jacket, but more kept coming. I was going to leave the room when a blurry tissue appeared in my field of vision. I took it and blew my nose in the most pathetic way before looking up to my benefactor. He was a youngish good-looking man I had never seen before, wearing the mandatory black suit and sorry facial expression. He was too young to ever have been one of my grandmother's colleagues, not part of the family...

            "Are you Dr. Jenkins's grandson?" the stranger asked.

            "Yes, I'm Damian. And you are..."

            "Daniel, I was one of her students. My condolences, Damian."

            I had nothing to add, so I simply nodded and edged my way outside of the parlour. I felt a little bad for not having a better go at making conversation, but I thought that if I spent one more minute in there, I would just start blubbering like a little kid. At least, chances were, I would never meet him again.

            Or so I thought.

 

            A few weeks later, I started my first year of university as a psychology major. My dream was originally to become a writer, but that didn't agree with my mother's plans concerning my existence. Since I didn't have the grades to make it into either medecine or law, I thought psychology might be the next best thing.

            I arrived to my first class ten minutes early. I stood in the entrance for a moment. A bunch of students were already there, chatting as if they had all somehow become best friends on the first day of the semester. I sat on a chair next to a girl with dutch braids and a loud voice. I took out my phone and started reading some novel. I hadn't finished one paragraph when I heard the loud voice asking, "Hey, what are you reading?"

            I looked up at the girl who was now leaning over my shoulder. Without thinking, I shielded the screen of my phone with my hand.

            "Great Expectations..." I replied.

            "Oh, yeah, they made us read that in high school. Are you coming to the party next week?"

            No was what I meant to reply, but because of this stupid personality I have, here was my actual answer, "Maybe, I'm not sure."

            "You should come!"

            "I might have some stuff..."

            "Friday night? Haha!"

            Then, some guy, probably one of her new best friends, decided to chime in, "I think you should come. It's a great opportunity to meet people from our cohort." What was that? Who were these people? Why were they insisting I should go to that party?

            I was saved by the entrance of the one I assumed was the professor. He looked younger than I expected any university teacher to be and... he also seemed strangely familiar. I stared at him for a good two minutes, at which point my eyes became dry, my vision blurred slightly and I felt recognition jolt me in my seat.

            "Hi everyone, I'm Dr. Daniel Lewis and I'll be teaching Introduction to Behavioural Neurobiolgy" That was the tissue guy! He was a university professor! Teaching this class! Goddammit.

            I squirmed in my chair and lowered my gaze, reasoning that if I didn't look at him, he wouldn't look at me either. The minutes trickled by and at last, the class ended. I packed my things. Daniel, a.k.a. Dr. Lewis, was talking with a couple of students, so I took advantage of the situation to leave unnoticed. I cherished the freedom of the corridor for a split second, thinking my strategy had succeeded... when I heard him call me from behind.

            "Damian?"

            I deliberated for one moment whether I should pretend not to have heard him and just keep going. But I hadn't been raised like that and I turned around to face the awkwardness.

            "Yes... Nice to see you again, Da... Dr. Lewis."

            "Haha, call me Daniel. What a coincidence that you're taking my class!"

            "I was thinking the same thing..."

            I lowered my gaze and noticed Daniel was wearing a black tie with blue pinstripes. Because I wasn't sure if staring at someone's tie for an extended period of time was polite, I shifted my gaze to the floor. There, danger averted.

            "Actually, I just started here as an associate professor," Daniel continued. "It's nice to see a familiar face." I looked up again and he smiled in a friendly manner.

            "Oh, congratulations."

            "Thanks. Hum, are you in a hurry? Would you like to go have coffee?"

            In this world, there were many things I didn't understand. For example, the creation of the universe, quantum physics, my mother... But at this moment, the greatest source of wonder was this: why was it that, when I was trying my best to go unnoticed, people were intercepting me left and right to incite me to socialise?

            "Well, my next class is at 2pm..."

            "Great! Wait a second, I'll just go grab my stuff."

            Here we go.

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