horror story

Alcohol and Ectoplasm

 

Alcohol and Ectoplasm
 
04.04.2010

There’s a certain appeal to the drunken haze at the bottom of a six-pack; an even greater appeal attaches itself to the soft bruise colored oblivion nestled deep in a bottle of Jack. Or rum. Tonight it’s rum. 
But before then, before that lovely haze filters out the edges of consciousness into the spinning vortex of sleep—before then, the ghosts come. They touch her shoulders, lift her hair gently with their ectoplasmic fingers and whisper in her ear. Their touch feels like ashes. Their breath smells like rotting rose buds left on gravestones after a rainstorm. Not all together unpleasant, Amy thinks. 
She brings her glass to her lips and swallows the last of her drink. It tastes cheap, like bottom shelf rum and the off brand cola. The sticky sweetness lingers on her tongue and oozes down her throat like molasses.  She lets her head rest against the back of her chair, lets her eyes lull to half-moons of contentment. 
Thin ghost-fingers run down her neck, stronger than the others, but she hardly notices. They touch her cheek, slip up her nose and spin her thoughts with tiny spider hands; pale, delicate hands with blue vein lace visible below the skin. They lead her up towards a set of storm gray eyes framed in thick black lashes that match the volumes of hair spilling over the ghost’s shoulders and into her face. The ghost’s nose is slightly upturned at the end, her cheekbones are high, and her mouth is a wide gash of red lipstick. 
 
Rosalie… 

Amy sits up too quickly. The small amount of light in the room makes her wince. She walks over to the window and pushes at the curtains until she can see the dark outlines of buildings slightly shorter than the one she lives in. They stretch out towards the city, shining several miles away like a twinkling beacon of estranged hope. She believed in that hope once. Before…

Rosalie.

Amy shakes her head and tries to dislodge some of the cobwebs put up by Rosalie’s pale spider-hands as she makes her way back to her desk chair. Her desk is by the kitchen. She spins to look at the time on the microwave, but the blurriness at the edge of her vision makes her squint. She rubs her eyes with the heels of her hands.

Did I fall asleep? 

Rain begins to hit the window. Big, plump sounding raindrops carry the smell of wet earth between the cracks in the wooden pane and into the apartment. After a moment, the smell of roses and cinnamon churns the air.
It hasn’t rained in twenty-two days—not since the day at the hospital. 

Not since…

Amy waves her hand in front of her face to put some breathing room between her and her ghosts before leaning forward to dig through the wreck on her desk for her glasses. She pushes at a stack of papers, nudges a pint glass; the glass tips, falls and shatters on the scarred hardwood floor. The crash echoes through the apartment, bounces through the empty corners and scares the dust bunnies. 
  In the half-light the glass slivers look like stars glistening against wood-knot constellations. Amy stares down at them for a full minute before letting a convictionless curse fall to join them. 

If you press your hand into them you’ll have stars in your palm,” Rosalie’s voice says inside her skull. 

Amy snorts. “You’d like that,” she mumbles aloud.
“You’d like it more.” Rosalie’s voice comes from behind her, full volume and lush. The other ghosts are gone; Rosalie is the only one determined enough to stay. She smells like cinnamon gum and rose oil, she smells like she always did when she was alive.
Amy lets out a sigh that seems to pull all the strength from her body and plops her head down on the only clean spot on her desk. “Why can’t you just leave me alone?” The edge of the desk bites into her forehead.
“I miss you.” She sets her hand on the back of Amy’s skull, soothes Amy’s unruly hair with her phantom fingers and watches Amy shiver at her touch. 
Amy sighs, rolls her head to the side and gazes up at Rosalie. Her heart twitches, a lump forms in her throat, and the backs of her eyes sting with unshed tears.
“What do I feel like?” Rosalie asks Amy. She tilts her head to the side like an inquisitive child and strokes Amy’s hair again; presses down through the static singe of Amy’s cropped dyed locks and caresses her cranium, runs the wisp of her index finger along Amy’s lambdoid suture. Amy shudders, squeezes her eyes shut.
“You feel like straight menthol dropped onto my skin,” she says and pulls away, “or like dry ice in a cut.”
 
***

03.13.2010

Amy walked into the hospital with her head down, rainwater still dripping from her hair.   To her left, a nurse stepped out from behind the big receptionist’s desk to ask Amy her name and who she was here to see.  Amy’s voice shook when she spoke, suppressed sobs clinging to her molars. She saw the nurse’s eyes soften before she turned and asked Amy to follow her to the end of the short hallway. Amy bit the inside of her cheek. 
The room smelled of bleach and vomit. When the nurse pulled the curtain closed and stepped out a hush fell on Amy’s shoulders. It made the steady beeping of the heart monitor too loud. She wanted to rip it off the wall and hurl it out the window. She wanted to scream. 
The starchy hospital blanket twitched. Amy stepped up to the bed and took the hand wrapped mostly in gauze; the fingers gave a gentle pressure as they tried to wrap themselves around hers.  A metallic, faintly rotten, smell slipped up Amy’s nostrils. That was when she noticed the blood caked under Rosalie’s nails, the brown-red flakes peeking out from under the bandages starting at her wrists, wrapping up her arms and waving over most of her body. She looked like a moth wrapped in its cocoon, or a spider’s meal trapped in webbing. There was a faint rustling further up in the bed: the sound of a head turning to the side—like when they were kids and they’d lie on the Sunday paper to make silly putty comics. 
Amy squeezed her eyes shut. She didn’t want to look up. She started to cry.
Rosalie groaned. What was left of her eyebrows were knitted together as she tried to focus through the morphine-haze on Amy. Her eyes looked like London fog over water, her pupils only small pinpricks in the distance.
“It’s okay,” Amy told her, “I’m here now. Everything will be okay. Don’t try to talk. I’m here. It’ll be okay.”
Amy watched Rosalie’s eyes relax at the sound of her voice, saw the tension in her body leek into the hospital bed to mingle with the small bright-red smudges slowly oozing from some of the bandages covering her body. She reached up to brush one of the few remaining wisps of Rosalie’s hair which had escaped from the gauze wrapped around her head when she’d turned. It felt like charred silk. She watched Rosalie’s eyes close. If she could have seen her mouth, she could have seen what was left of Rosalie’s raw, cracked, lips try to smile.
The nurse quietly peeked around the curtain and motioned for Amy to follow her out into the hallway. Amy turned back to Rosalie and whispered she’d be right back, but the steady rise and fall of the blanket told her Rosalie had already fallen asleep. 
“She’s exhausted,” the nurse said in a hushed tone when they were both in the hallway and tried her luck at a sympathetic smile. “She refused to let herself sleep until you got here.” 
“I got here as soon as I could…My phone was off. I was in a meeting and…” Amy began, but the nurse gave her a look that said she understood, things like this were no one’s fault. Amy shifted from one foot to the other, guilt seeping up from the carpet and eating through the bottoms of her shoes. If she stood still for too long the souls would melt to the tile floor. 
The nurse was young. She was taller than Amy by a good couple of inches, she may have been as tall as 5’8”, but was plagued by the apologetic stoop most tall people develop. She was pretty. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a messy pony tail and her nose was small, her eyes expertly lined with kohl, but she had on those thick-rimmed hipster glasses Amy had seen the kids who hung around Starbucks wear.  Rosalie would have made a comment about them; something about how terrible current fashion was to make a pretty girl want to hide her eyes behind something so ugly. Amy simply wanted to rip those glasses off the nurse’s nose and stomp on them. 
“… critical condition. There is still a chance of internal bleeding—”
Amy shook her head. “I’m sorry, what?”
“When she came in she was in critical condition. It’s a miracle she made it here at all, to be honest. I saw the pictures of the cars. But just because she is relatively stable now doesn’t mean everything’s 100%. With as much as she was knocked around there is still a chance of internal bleeding and most of her skin is the same as an open wound from the burns. We’re going to have to monitor her for infection, but this is the best hospital this side of the country for skin graphing so—” She was cut off by a loud beeping from Rosalie’s room. Her eyes got wide before she turned and ran back inside. 
Amy’s mouth hung open. She heard people running down the hall and saw three other nurses turning the corner, running towards her; towards Rosalie. 
Amy burst through the curtain before she realized she’d moved. She ran to the opposite side of the bed from the nurse and took Rosalie’s hand.  Her fingers were cold. 
The beeping was deafening. It was like different pitched fire alarms were going off in Amy’s brain. Rosalie’s face was pale and her eyes were closed with the barest slivers, like crescent moons, peeking out from singed black lashes.  She began to rub Rosalie’s hand to try to warm it up. 
“Rosalie?  LiLi? LiLi, it’s me. Open your eyes, LiLi. It’s Amy. LiLi, it’s Amy. I’m here. Open your eyes. Please, open your eyes!” Tears made her hands slick as she tried to make Rosalie’s hand warm; rubbing it, then holding it between the two of hers like she did the winter of their third anniversary, spent in Central Park under the millions of Christmas lights, crunching through the snow. “LiLi, open your eyes!”
 
***
 
04.03.2010

“Aaaamy. AmyAmyAmy. Ammmmy, open your eyes. Amy, sweetheart, wake up.” 
Amy’s eyelids peel apart. Rosalie comes into focus slowly, her ebon hair falling softly over her shoulders, her fingertips reaching towards Amy’s cheek—
No.
Rosalie is dead. Dead and burnt to pale gray ash and bone splinters. Bone that looked like charred flecks of kindling the night after a bonfire rose into any of the crisp October nights spent huddled together under the stars. Bone that now floats off the shores of Saint Augustine. 
Amy presses her fingers to her temples, trying to dislodge the memories. She can hear Rosalie’s voice, her laugh, see her smile twinkling in her eyes… 
Rosalie pointing at Amy with her fork, a chunk of cheesecake speared in its teeth; her hand covering her mouth, her eyes teasing.  
Rosalie skipping playfully down the crumbling cobblestones of King Street; her hand extended for Amy, calling for her to hurry.
Rosalie pressed against the coral composite walls of the Spanish fort, fingers tangled in Amy’s hair, pulling her closer; her mouth—hotter than the hottest of Florida summers. 
 
Rosalie covered in a sheet, hospital nurse scratching down the time of death.
 
“Amy…. I’m so lonely…” The apartment smells like roses and cinnamon.
“Me too,” Amy whispers to the dawn peeking over the windowsill. 
 
 
Amy leans over the edge of the bathtub, fiddles with the knobs until she hears the ancient pipes groan, heavy with water. She lets it wash over her hand until it reaches a lovely temperature of scald before stripping naked and stepping into the tub. She turns her back to the showerhead, presses one hand flat against the wall to remind herself to stay upright and closes her eyes. Red blossoms spread over the skin of her back and creep around to her chest where the water hits her. She can’t feel it—her insides are cold. 
She opens her eyes when she feels pressure, slow and firmer than the constant streaks of water, run down her cheek. Rosalie’s body is distorted through the water droplets clinging to Amy’s eyelashes. She blinks and Rosalie is gone— no —she is laying in the bottom of the tub, skin black and peeling, pink muscle oozing clear fluid. What looks like chunks of burnt bread from the bottom of the toaster float towards the drain, clogging it. A clump of Rosalie’s black hair wraps around Amy’s ankle. She rolls her eyes up to Amy and stretches back what is left of her lips from teeth that seem impossibly white, like a shark’s. The skin splits in the corners of her mouth and blood leeks down her chin. 
Amy screams and takes a step backwards. Her foot slips out from under her. The back of her skull crunches when hits the tub’s spout. 
 
Limp on the bottom of the tub, head wound seeping, Amy’s eyes flutter. She feels Rosalie wrap her peeling fingers around hers before losing consciousness. 
Rosalie hums to herself and rubs her ectoplasmic thumb over Amy’s paling knuckles. The dull red water in the tub rises and washes over the side, spreading over the linoleum like diluted sangria. When Amy finally leaves her body, Rosalie is waiting.  

I’ve missed you so much…


 
Author's Notes/Comments: 

The formatting isn't quite right, but you get the idea.

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