With nothing but the thin, black hoodie to protect me from the rain, I shrunk back under my hood, gravestones barely visible in the steam of the summer rain. Why I had ever thought it was a good idea to come out here was beyond me, the bed I had left at home suddenly much more inviting. If it wasn’t for my flashlight, I would have tripped over every grave coming, and as it was, I heard Opal before I could see her.
“Hello, Ari.” With a jump, I turned to face her where she stood, leaning against the battered fence. “Sorry about the weather, but I needed to talk.”
Squinting to try and see her face, I was met by a wave of rain. “What about?”
“Oh, y'know. Stuff.” She said it so nonchalantly, as if she had all the time in the world. As if I couldn’t already feel my pants soaking through.
“Care to elaborate?”
She shrugged. “Yes… and no, I guess.”
I could have slapped her, but refrained. Give it five minutes, then just leave anyway.
“What are you talking about?”
I didn’t have to be able to see her clearly to know she looked sharply left then right, worriedly. “No one else is here, are they?”
“Nobody else is crazy enough to be out in this weather.”
"Good point..." She shuffled on the spot. "This was a bad idea, I shouldn't be talking to you now."
"Right..." This wasn't like Opal. Usually I understood at least half of what she was going on about. “What’s wrong? You’re scaring me."
She looked like she was on the verge of tears. "Sorry, I'm being stupid." There was a loose thread on her t-shirt, the anime logo blurred through the rain. "It's just that..." She turned away, not wanting to meet my eyes.
"Just tell me. You dragged me out in the rain, at least tell me what's going on." I had given up on my hoodie now, completely soaked through. Shivering, I began to tap my foot.
Opal laughed. "Sorry, I forgot that you'd get wet."
I squinted at Opal. "So are you, aren't you?" I could barely see her through the rain, but now I noticed that she wore no coat and yet didn’t seem cold.
She laughed again, this time without the happiness. "I think this is the only time in my li- ... only time I can remember where I wish I was."
Confused, I frowned. "Please just explain what the hell you are going on about."
"Have you...erm...do you...er..."
"Spit it out already!"
I laughed. "My what?"
"You can see me, right?"
With no warning, she jumped towards me, trying to grab me by the shoulders.
"Anika, you have to help me."
Her hands went right through me.
Screaming, I jumped back. "What the hell?"
"You don't know?"
"No, I don't!" Backing away, I pulled my clothes tighter around me. The cold didn’t seem so chilling, compared to this. Surely, it was just a trick of the light. Like a rainbow, maybe the light was just bent in the rain.
Opal took a step back. "Okay, okay, I'm not going to hurt you. Calm down, please!!"
"But ... You..." I reached out, and swiped my hand through Opal's arm, leaping back and screaming again.
"Please stop screaming! I'm not going to hurt you, I promise! It's still me, Opal!"
"What are you?"
Glassy, caramel eyes met mine, a new sadness to them. "Dead."
"What? How is that possible?" I swallowed, trying not to scream again.
"How what is possible? That you can see me? Or that I'm dead?"
She sat down on a nearby bench. "I guessing that you've heard of supernaturals? Demons, witches...necromancers?"
"Of course." I sat down next to her, now oblivious to the rain.
"Good. Now… Guess which one you are."
"Human?" We all were, this was some kind of joke.
Opal snorted. "You wish."
"What are you saying?"
"You are not like other people. You have powers. Pretty impressive powers if you ask me." She paused for a couple of seconds. "Much more impressive than mine but that's not the point. Think about it. Have you ever seen some people that others don't? Did you ever see someone who didn't look normal?"
"I... I don't understand. I'm just observant. And I have an overactive imagination." I had been told that since I was five.
"That's just what you want to think."
"It's not funny." This was just like Opal with her dark, twisted sense of humour. "Stop it."
A dog walker walked by and stared at me. "You'd better get your mobile out or he's going to think you're crazy." Opal muttered.
"But I'm talking to you."
"Not to him you're not. To him, you look insane."
"No change there then." I muttered, getting my phone out as Opal suggested.
"Good girl." She stretched and yawned. "You know, it's been a long night and you should know who you are by now. So...see you at school tomorrow."
She tried to ruffle my hair, hand just going straight through my head.. "Oops. Guess I can't do that anymore."
"Right." I blinked. "I still have no clue what's going on."
"You will. See you soon little necromancer." She wandered off into the rain and disappeared.
"Necromancer?" But Opal was already gone, leaving just me sat alone on a soggy bench.
Thankfully, my house was located just half a mile from the graveyard, my bike tires screeching painfully along the dangerously slippery road. To be honest, there were three possible scenarios in my head. The first, and definitely the most attractive, was that this was all some odd dream and it would turn out I was curled up in bed asleep. The second was that Opal was pulling some elaborate prank, and I would find myself the laughing stock of the school tomorrow. I would prefer that to the final one, though. I knew what a necromancer was, of course, the clichéd “I see dead people” and wouldn’t really be opposed to that and the lack of effect that would really have on me. It was Opal’s possible death that really worried me. We weren’t best friends, not by a long shot, which was partly why I was so surprised when my phone buzzed at five to midnight on a school night. We did, however, know each other well, and nobody wants to see someone they know die.
Least of all me, after what happened to Bryce.
The thing about being dead is that, well, it kinda sucks ass. Seeing as I’d never died before -probably- I didn’t really have a frame of reference on how to act. Sure, I’d seen plenty of horror movies with ghostly activity, whether it was moaning in the night and rattling chains or throwing lamps across a room because hey, why not? You’re dead, and social constructs no longer apply to you (not that they particularly did anyway) so why shouldn't you throw that lamp across a room? Go wild!
Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work like that in real life…. Uuh....real...death?
For starters, no one could actually hear me. I could moan and bitch and wail to my heart’s content and no one would give a shit. I mean, what’s the point in complaining if no one can hear you?
Secondly, rattling chains and throwing lamps would be quite a lot of fun if that was physically possible at all. After I left Ari in the park, I did try to pick up a few stones and sticks and any other moveable object, none of them moving an inch no matter how hard I tried. So that was Plan B out the window.
Thirdly, I tried just walking around, as normal undead people generally do. That too, wasn’t particularly successful.
I had scowled, stamping my foot through the floor and into the ground, having a nice ghostly tantrum whilst one or two people walked by, oblivious to my presence. There were plenty of things that pissed me off about being dead but simply walking had to be top of the list. I mean, my legs had never been that amazing but at least I knew how to actually use them. Just put one leg in front of the other, over and over and over again and boom! You’re walking! Simple as that. Trying to walk when you didn’t have legs however, was a tad more difficult. Well I mean, I did technically still have legs. Two pairs of them in fact. However, one pair was incorporeal and made out of some abstract substance and the other pair was attached to a dead body, making both of them rather fucking useless.
To move, I had to will myself forward, to focus all my energy on it. If I wasn’t just a soul floating in midair, I would imagine that it’d get tiring pretty quickly.
So yeah, I can’t say that being dead was my favourite thing in the world. Not by a long shot.
I half leant, half fell through the wall of chewing gum stained lockers lining the main corridor of Greenlake High. Students rushed past in their ugly bottle green blazers, screaming and jostling each other, the occasional textbook being thrown about whilst some poor kid grabbed at it desperately. I wrinkled my nose. Being dead and all, I guessed that I technically didn’t have to be here anymore, but I’d promised Ari that I would. I frowned, looking out for her in the sea of green. She didn’t stand out much, which was both good and bad; good as it meant that she could blend into the crowd and void detection from certain...people, bad as it meant that I couldn’t actually fucking find her.
I felt bad about last night too. I hadn’t been the most helpful, making her stand in a graveyard in the middle of the night when it was absolutely pissing it down, scaring her half to death and leaving her with a half assed explanation before just buggering off into the abyss. Yeah, nice job Opal. Nailed it. I’d never been great at explaining stuff when I was alive and the fact that I was no longer breathing didn’t really help matters.
Truth is, the graveyard hadn't been the first place I'd gone to last night. My thoughts had been jumbled, disconnected, large blackouts in my memory. One moment, I was in my room chilling and the next? I was staring down at myself, watching as my blood stained that ugly mould coloured carpet I’d always hated. Huh. I had thought. That’s new.
I’d moved then, though I wasn’t sure how. The gaps in my memory were getting larger, my thoughts changing shape and becoming nonsensical. I had heard footsteps coming up the stairs and then suddenly I wasn’t there in my room anymore. I was on a pier. Quite possibly the saddest pier I’d ever seen. The wood was cracked and rotting, covered in barnacles and seaweed, littered with old grease stained newspapers and tangled fishing line that refused to break down. The waves were choppy and foaming, crashing against the side. It was drizzling too, that sort of depressing misty stuff that somehow gets you more soaked than regular rain does. Something stirred in my memory. I’d been here before. When and who with I couldn't say, but something about this place was definitely familiar. A man sat on the end of the jetty, his line cast out to sea, though it seemed unlikely that he’d catch anything in this weather. I had frowned. The weather…? There was something about it that seemed….off. I shook my head, as if by shaking it I could somehow dislodge the answer from my mind.
The fisherman. I could ask him.
Wait, how did I even get here?
Nothing. No answer. Maybe he didn’t hear me over the wind.
I shook my head again.
“HEY!! EXCUSE ME!! I NEED SOME HELP!!”
Still no answer. Why didn’t he hear me? It wasn’t that stormy, was it?
I had got closer, only a few metres away.
“Sorry to interrupt, but I really need some help. I don’t know where I am?”
The fisherman didn’t react at all. I felt panic creeping up in my throat.
Why didn’t he hear me, I’m right next to him, he should be able to hear me, maybe he’s deaf, maybe I’m crazy, maybe-
“Hey!” I’d reached out, grabbing at his waterproof. My hand went straight through. I opened my mouth in a silent scream.
My hand… it...what the fuck is going on?!
The answer hit me then, squarely in the chest, so obvious that I couldn’t believe I’d only just realized.
The wind and rain. I couldn’t feel it. I couldn’t feel anything.
You're dead,dumbass. I mean you were looking down at your body. It really took you this long?? Not quite Sherlock Holmes are you?
I had taken a deep breath, trying to organize my thoughts. (Well, I say breath, but really it was more like just opening my mouth).
I needed to talk to someone, someone who could see me. A necromancer. That's what I needed.
I had needed to talk to her anyway actually and in fact, I still did, considering my piss poor explanation last night.
I was still looking for her when out of the corner of my eye I noticed someone staring at me. I turned my head. A Year 7 in a too big hand-me-down blazer was stood there, his eyes wide, expression frozen. I raised an eyebrow. Jeez, what was his probl- oh.
To everyone else racing past, all they could see what a completely normal row of ugly battered lockers. To this kid, however, this poor naive kid who clearly had no idea what the fuck he was actually looking at, all he could see was a chubby pink haired girl in a shitty anime t-shirt with half her body floating through solid metal. Not generally what one would see on their way to French on this lovely Thursday morning.
“It’s rude to stare you know.” I snapped. The look on his face was unnervingly similar to Ariana’s the day before, a look of utter disbelief and fear. It wasn’t a look that I was used to seeing, well not directed at me anyway, and I wasn’t particularly fond of it to say the least. It made me feel cold somehow. He was literally looking right through me. My skin crawled. It felt wrong, this kid who probably didn’t even know what he was watching me.
I snarled, lurching towards him, stopping only inches from his now thoroughly terrified face.
“I said back off!”
He let out a loud yelp, backing off so thoroughly that he hit into a group of Year 9’s.
Fortunately, Ari walked past at that moment, narrowly avoiding the collision. My face lit up. Bingo.
She jumped, clearly not expecting the shout. A slight shudder went through her as she noticed me floating there. She was probably hoping that it had all just been a bad dream.
Sorry pal. This is one dream that neither of us are going to wake up from anytime soon.
A sharp movement of her head indicated that she wanted me to follow her. I obeyed, drifting through the corridor behind her, away from the kid who was now getting beaten by several 14 year olds’ sports bags. She lead me further down the hallway to her locker, where it was a lot less crowded. We’d be able to talk more easily here. Remembering the night before, she took out her phone.
“So…” She opened her locker, avoiding eye contact with me. “You’re really....uuh...”
“Dead?” I grinned at her like this was all some big joke. “Yeah, I am.”
I looked closely at her. Her face was paler than usual, large grey bags under bloodshot eyes.
“Uh, did you actually sleep last night?”
“About yesterday...In the graveyard. What did you mean?” She interrupted, blatantly avoiding my question. That’s a no then.
“What did I mean about what?”
A small frown passed over her face. “You called me a necromancer.”
“Yeah I did. You know what a necromancer is right? Someone who can see all the spooks and ghosties that go bump in the night.” Another stupid grin, trying to lighten the mood.
Stop smiling, you fucking idiot, you’re probably just scaring her even more.
She closed her locker door, finally turning and making eye contact with me. There was a look in her eye that I couldn’t quite decipher. “I know what a necromancer is Opal. I just wanted to ask-”
“Oh my god Ariiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!! Did you do the biology homework last night? Who’re you talking to?”
A ball of pure irritation came hurtling down the corridor, like an Ari-seeking missile. I cringed.
“Ooof. Sorry bud, I gotta go. I’ll talk to you later okay? And I promise I’ll explain everything. Properly this time.”
The undecipherable look disappeared, replaced with pure panic. “What?!” She hissed. “No, don’t leave me with he-”
“Too late!! Sorry!” I yelled, throwing myself through the lockers and into the next room. I had enough problems on my plate right now without that. I would keep my promise to Ari even if it kill- well. Let’s just say that I’d keep it.
No matter what.
I would rather have spoken to a ghost than to Georgia, any day. If anyone asked, we were 'best friends’, but that hadn't been the case for a long time.
“Ari!” She squealed. “I tried to call you last night. Why didn't you answer?”
“I...Uh… I was out.” True, but illogical. Damn the creation of mobile phones…
She wasn't phased, though. “I need your help with the biology homework.”
Thankfully, the bell went.
I searched around for Opal, but she was either hidden in the crowd or gone.
“Come on, Ari!”
Reluctantly, I followed her. How she had any energy at this time in the morning was beyond me, but then she had probably had a decent amount of sleep unlike some of us.
As usual, the day started with an assembly, but something was different today. There was none of the usual chatter going into the hall, just silence as we made our way to the seats.
It didn't take me long to figure out why. Opal’s face, a hundred times larger than life, was plastered across the projector screen.
A snort broke the silence. “They could have used a better photo of me.”
She sat behind me, glaring at the screen. It wasn't that bad a photo, taken last summer with her eyes squinting in the sun, her tongue hanging out.
“Last night, we received some terrible news.” Mrs Stone, the headteacher, stood at the front of the room. “Opal Siegel tragically took her own life.”
“Like hell I did!”
I tried not to chuckle. Not an appropriate time.
“We just want everyone to know that suicide is never the answer. There is always another solution, no matter how terrible you feel.”
Looking around the room, everyone else was frozen in shock. As a slideshow of Opal’s life played, soundtracked horribly by Aerosmith’s Don't Want To Miss A Thing, tears started to fall from the eyes those who knew her and those that didn't alike.
Which, of course, Opal found hilarious. “Why this song?” She snorted. “They sure didn't mind missing me when I was alive.”
I locked my neck, refusing to look behind me. They may not have been able to hear her, but I knew that if I burst out laughing, they would sure as hell hear it.
And then, she got up.
The only sound was the electric guitar of the song, turned up too loud and mismatched with the slideshow. That, and Opal.
“Whoooooo!” She waved her hands up and down in my face, ghost style. “Whoooooooooooo!” Even louder, she did the same but to Leon, sat in front of me.
Skipping up the aisle, she shrieked. “Watch out, kiddies, there's a ghostie about.”
I was keeping it together. Just. And then she got to the stage, air guitaring across it like her life depended on it. In an unfortunate term of phrase.
“Hey, guys, I'm back from the dead.”
I snorted, turning it into a sob as people turned to look at me. Especially Leon. Poor Leon.
There was a disgusted shout from the back of the room. “This is sick!”
“Oooh, Ari, look, another necromancer.”
“Sit down!” I hissed. The song was coming to an end, and we would be dismissed soon. I didn't have to keep it together for long.
A few people stared at the guy yelling in the back, but he was dragged out. How disrespectful of him…
I felt sorry for the guy. Had Opal not found me last night, I would probably be doing the same.
The music died down. “And for my next trick…”
She stepped inside Mrs Stone. I kid you not, she disappeared.
There was an awful second when I thought she might have possessed her, but thankfully Mrs Stone spoke.
“It is with great regret that we say goodbye to a real, hardworking student.”
Opal's head appeared through her stomach. “Why, am I leaving?”
That was it. I was gone. Everyone turned to stare, tears pouring down my cheeks.
“Is she laughing?” Someone hissed.
I covered my face, continuing to laugh.
“She was my best friend.” I managed to choke. A collective aww spread around me.
“Come on, you don't need to stay here.” My art teacher placed a comforting hand in my arm, leading me out of my seat. “You too, Leon.”
With a sigh of relief, I followed her out, stealing a glance at Leon. As Opal's cousin, it was understandable that he had been taken out of that assembly, unless you remembered that they hated each other's guts. When her parents disappeared, she was forced to move in with her aunt and uncle. And of course their son, Leon.
Arguably, as her friend, I was obliged to hate him, too, but it had never quite worked out. In fact, quite the opposite… I blushed.
“Y’alright?” He muttered, awkwardly, looking stubbornly down.
“Mmhm.” I smiled, wiping my tears. “You?”
“I hear wedding bells!” Opal fake vomited behind me. “Have I ever told you how gross it is that you're in love with my cousin?”
“Only every day.” I coughed out.
“Glad we're on the same page.”
The art teacher left us in the canteen, supplied with a bottle of water each. Leon promptly made his excuses and slunk off, leaving me alone with Opal again.
“You need to stop making me laugh.”
“It's not my fault I'm hilarious.”
With a sigh, I lay back in my chair. “Why do they think you killed yourself?”
“Because they're fucktards.” She said, laced with irony. “Who think that I can apparently stab myself, and wring my own neck.”
“That's what happened to you?” I shuddered.
“I… I can't remember.”
“That's probably best.” I tried to say brightly, but it didn't affect her mood. Being dead would probably do that to you. “Who would do this?”
“I'm glad you asked.” Suddenly brighter, she mimed unrolling a scroll. “Leon, Georgia, Marcey-”
“This is just a list of people that you don't like.”
“No, no, there's more than that, I promise.”
Still skeptical, I pressed her for more information. “But why would they kill you?”
“Because of what I am.”
“Georgia isn't homophob-”
“Not that!” Laughing, she got to her feet. “Allow me to show you my party trick…”
Pulling the most constipated face I have ever seen, she tensed.
“Please tell me you're not taking a shit in the middle of the-”
I was cut off by a great beast erupting from where she stood. Easily three times her size, it growled as it stepped out of her, head to the sky.
I leaped out of my seat, screaming and running. It was only when I reached the other side of the room that I realised it was just sat back on it's hind legs, staring at me. Opal's golden eyes stared out at me with amusement.
Cautiously, I took a step towards her, hand outstretched. The closer I got, the more I began to shake. Covered in thick, white fur, the wolf also had patches the same candy floss pink as Opal's hair.
About halfway across the room, I noticed Opal's shape, perfectly aligned with the wolf. Transparent, like a clichéd ghost, she moved when the wolf moved, to stand on all fours. She was stood, too, only her head aligning with the wolf’s.
“Is that you?”
She nodded, enthusiastically.
“Well, that is one heck of a party trick.” I tried to laugh, still tense with amazement.
The bell made me jump.
Pouring out of the assembly hall, students filled the tables around me. Somebody tackled me from behind, high pitched sobs suffocating me.
“I just can't believe she's gone.”
When her arms were removed from my face, Opal was gone.
“Why would she do this?”
“I can't imagine.” I replied, flatly.
“Are you doing ok? Everyone saw them drag you out.”
“Perfect “ A little in shock, but that wasn't to do with Opal's death anymore.
“Although I thought I was your best friend.”
“Of course you are.” I said carefully. “You're my favourite person living on this entire planet.”
All tears forgotten, she beamed.
“Good, maybe now she won't kill you.” Opal appeared behind me, making be jump.
“What's up, Ari?”
“Just spooked… Opal…” Hopefully she would get the message not to sneak up on me, now.
Seemingly sympathetic, Georgia nodded.
“Well, it is hard to be a lesbian in high school.”
“Shut the hell up.” We replied in unison. Or at least I said 'hell’.
“Don’t make it about that. Just don't.”
Enough people had given her flack about her sexuality when she was alive, she did not need it when she was dead. Georgia had always sensationalised it, like having a gay friend made her a benevolent, all accepting saint.
“But what else did she have to be depressed about?”
With an eye roll, I removed myself from the conversation. As an extremely middle class vegan, Georgia never had a worry in the world that wasn't skin deep.
I pretended I hadn't heard, already in the corridor.
“Can we please get out of the crowds? I'm sick of people walking through me.”
I nodded, heading for one of the doors. It was empty outside, with last night's rain still pouring down.
I huddled under the side of the building, trying to shield myself from the sky.
“Explain, now. From start to finish. From the looks of things, I've been out of the loop long enough.”