I can feel your eyes boring into me. Can’t get enough of it, can you?
“Want to sit down?” I say, turning ’round.
You come and stand next to me, but you don’t sit down.
“Want to buy me a drink?”
You shrug and call over to the barman, “Club soda, and whatever,” indicating me.
“Club soda? You spill something down yourself?”
You don’t answer; instead, you sit down and put a photo down in front of me.
“What are you, some kind of cop?”
“No cop, this is my brother-in-law, he’s gone missing.”
“And, he was last seen here going off with a girl like you.”
“There must be thousands of girls like me in this city.”
“Nope, not like you. A few sure, maybe a hundred, not like you.” Is that a compliment, or do you know something? But you’re right: there are not many who look like me.
“Go speak to the other ninety-nine and then get back to me.”
“I’m starting with you.”
Yeah, it’s his picture, the asshole. I knew I shouldn’t have come back here, not this soon.
“Don’t know him.”
“You didn’t even look.”
“I don’t have to; I don’t know any of them.”
“But you were with him, right?”
“Maybe. You know how many men I’m with.”
“Since last week?” Yeah, dum-dum; since last week, you want me to count them. You think I’ve got their phone numbers and names.
“I don’t keep a ledger. Hey now, I got a look at you, you’re kind of cute.” I turn and look at you fluttering my eyelashes.
“I’m married,” you say, holding your hand up and showing your wedding ring like Van Helsing brandishing a cross. You think that’s going to protect you; you have any idea how many married men I hook up with? Men like your brother-in-law.
“All the best ones are. Besides, your friend was married right?” See, makes no difference.
“He’s not my friend, but, yeah, to my sister.” But he still came sniffing around looking for tail. I remember him alright, asshole.
“Maybe she’s better off without him?” Trust me, she is; not that she has a choice.
“Yeah, that’s what I said, but there’re kids too.”
“Let it go,” I say. “Wherever he is; he’s not worth it.”
“Can’t do that. I made a promise.” Can’t you see? I’m trying to give you a break. He’s an asshole.
“He done this before?” I ask, like I have to ask.
“Couple of times; he’s always come back.” Sure, after you’ve pounded on him. You aren’t doing that girl a favour, or the kids.
“So maybe he’ll come back again, once whoever he’s shacked up with kicks him out. Or maybe he’s dead. Maybe he hooked up with the wrong people or just snorted the wrong stuff.”
“He’s not shacked up with you, then?” You must be nuts: that’s not how it works, not even with real hookers and definitely not with me.
“You really think so?” I laugh.
You shrug. “Maybe, I’m just asking.”
“Nope, quick and dirty. That’s how they like it, guys like him.”
“So where’d you drop him?” You just won’t let it go, will you?
“Look, I’m a working girl. I told you; I don’t know anything. You’re not a cop, so leave me alone, unless you’re doing business. You know, my kind of business.” You sure don’t know my business or you’d be running. Go on, get out of here, before it’s too late. Don’t you have a family, too?
You pause. I’m guessing you’re thinking about my kind of business, but I guessed wrong.
“Just tell me, and I’ll be on my way.”
“You are on your way, now leave me alone.”
Well, I never thought this would happen. A metal barrel pushes into my back. You think you’re going to scare me. You think that you can hurt me?
“Wow, you are pleased to see me.” You don’t laugh at my joke. Maybe you don’t get it. Old movies are not everyone’s thing. You’re not going to shoot me, not here. In fact, you’re not going to shoot me any place. I can tell. You’re not the type.
“Let’s go,” you say.
“Can’t a girl finish her drink?”
“Alright, alright,” I get up and head out.
It’s snowing outside. You take off your jacket and offer it to me.
“Here, you got no coat.”
“I’m fine, trust me.” But you insist. You think I can feel the cold; I can’t feel anything.
“Say, what’s your name anyway?” I ask.
“Bill, what’s your name?”
“Bill, eh? Nice to meet you, Bill. My name is Candy.” My name is Candy, for tonight, for you.
“Is that your real name?”
“I ain’t got a real name, not now.” I said it out loud. You made me do that, Bill. How’d you manage to make me do that? It’s almost like I’m alive again. Damn you, it’s like I can hurt again.
“What do you want, Bill? This won’t do anyone any good. Can’t you just let it go?”
“Where’d you go? Where’d you take him?” Cripes, use your imagination, I could have taken him anywhere. “I want you to take me to where you took him.”
“Sure, honey, I’ll take you to heaven, no charge.” Again with the wedding ring; you really think that makes a difference. Well, maybe it does; to you at least. Sweet.
I hail a cab, and one stops. The cabbie looks ’round.
“Hundred dollars,” he says, “I stop in the park and get out for ten minutes. You don’t leave anything behind, clean up.”
“No, no,” I say laughing, “this one’s a big payer. You go where I say and drop us off.”
The cabby looks at you and then says, “Okay, but still one hundred dollars.”
“Fine,” I say and screw some notes up and ball them to him. He unfolds them and checks them, then he nods.
“Where to lady?” Yeah, you can become a lady for a hundred bucks.
We settle into the cab and I lean into you; got to play the part, Bill. You’re so awkward; it’s like you’re a child.
“You ready for this, Bill?” You look back at me, but this time, you don’t point to your wedding ring. I slip my hand onto your thigh, and you shift away. Don’t do this Bill, don’t be decent. It makes things so much harder.
I direct the cab through the streets. I don’t want to take you there. Why? I guess I like you, I guess I’m trying to save you.
“Here, take your jacket back,” I say, but you shake your head; a gentleman, I thought they were all dead. You must be the very last one, Bill, the very last one in this whole shit city.
“Stop here.” The cabbie stops and looks confused. I guess he was expecting us to stop at some fancy hotel or at least some kind of hotel.
You look ’round at the factory units and warehouses. Most of the street lights are out.
We turn under the railway and onto my street. It is the silence you notice first: just suddenly no noise, no cars, no voices. Most of the houses have trees growing out front, so there’s not much to see, just the road and fences ’round the old yards.
“This one,” I say and step through the gate. “Watch out, the path’s a bit rough.”
You manage to avoid tripping up on the loose slab. You don’t mention the boarded up windows or slipped slates on the roof. You don’t mention the weed-choked yard or the collapsed steps on the porch. But you see it and surely you know.
I walk up to the porch and you follow me. You still don’t get it. You’re so dumb.
I turn and look at you. I should give you one last chance.
“What’s this?” you ask, “a crack house?” If only Bill, if only.
So that’s what the gun is for. You found him in a crack house before. You think you’ll find him sitting on his butt smacked out of his head. You think a whipping and pointing a gun will bring him back. Well, not where the asshole is now, not unless you can raise bones; he won’t be coming back. Your sister should move on, she’ll have to move on. Can’t you see where I’ve taken you? Can’t you guess what kind of a house this is? Can’t you think who lives here? Can’t you smell it?
“You really want this asshole back?”
“It’s not for me. I told her that he’s no good, but she begged me. ‘What’re you going to do?’ I said. ‘If he don’t want to stay, then he won’t.’”
You should go home. You don’t want this. I don’t want this. It does not need to happen. You got a life, Bill, run while you can.
“Can’t you just say you did?”
You laugh and shake your head.
“How’d you end up like this, anyway?” you ask. “You seem okay; you could get a job or something.”
“This is a job. Besides, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“What is this? You going to tell me about how I can turn my life around? You going to hand me your pastor’s phone number?”
“I’m just saying you don’t need to live this life. What’s the future for you, anyway? I mean, look at this place. Is this the best you can do?”
“Yeah, I mean I could have done so much better, like maybe if you and me had met in high school, we could have been childhood sweethearts. You could have like saved me from myself. Is that what you mean? I could be ironing your shirts before you head off to work, and get dinner on the table for my man getting in.” Don’t be an asshole, Bill.
“Nah, I don’t mean that, I’m sorry. It’s your life and I’ve got no right to judge.” At least he has the decency to look ashamed.
“Too darn right you don’t, you don’t know nothing.” You know nothing, you got no right to make me feel this way. It’s not fair, Bill, it’s not fair.
“You could tell me.”
What can I tell you and what good would it do? I want to tell you. What good would it do? None whatsoever.
“It’s too late for that.” Hell, it’s too late to save you, nevermind me.
“He’s not in there,” I say.
“Then why’d you bring me here?”
I open my mouth to tell you but the words don’t come out. What words could I use anyway?
“There’s no one home, just leave.”
“Is this where you live?”
“I told you: I don’t live anywhere.”
“Your pimp is in there, isn’t he?”
Last chance, last try, please. Why will you not listen to me? I put my hand into yours and look into your eyes; kind eyes, Bill, you got kind eyes.
“You got kids?” You nod.
“You shouldn’t be here, you shouldn’t be taking this risk.”
“I got to, for my nephews.”
“They’re waiting for you; inside, they’re waiting for you.”
“What are you? I mean, really, you’re no hooker.”
“Bait. I’m live bait, now go.” There: I said it. How much plainer can it be? I tried to save you, Bill. I really did. You would not listen. Can’t you feel it, waiting?
You’re pushing past me and walking up the porch step. You kick the door open and in you go. I know what comes next, and usually I don’t care. Most guys deserve it. It is no worse than what they did to me; when I was real, when I was alive. But you’re different, Bill.
I listen to the shots. Bullets won’t stop them; you can’t stop those fucking monsters with bullets. And then the screams come, your screams, and then they stop. That’s worse somehow. Ancient hunger rips out your throat; teeth and claw; they begin to feed. I done good tonight.
I sit on the sidewalk and watch the bats flicker back and forth in the dark. I try to shut it out, to shut down. If ghosts could cry, I would.
FIRST PUBLISHED IN https://terrorhousemag.com/ghosts-cry/