Dark Comedy - 1st Person
The Ghost Walks
Pearls of sweat cover my brow. My heart beats unsteady. I had a terrible dream: Sebastian, my husband, had gone out to get cigarettes, meanwhile a pandemic and a war had broken out. Nuclear blasts had us living back in the stone age, and worst of all, my mobile phone had been rendered unusable and my social life disappeared along with it. As I dreamt, I told myself to wake up, but I answered to myself that I was not asleep, but dead.
I don’t remember waking up, nor falling asleep, and I feel almost a foreigner inside my own body. Lying on the carpet, I peek at the sunny sky through a crack in the blue curtains. The window needs a good cleaning. Tom stares at me—with all the contempt and disdain only a cat can exhibit—from the comfort of my own satin pillow. His perfect chocolate fur frames the sharpest blue eyes. Lounging on the velvet bedcover and against the damascene blue wallpaper, he looks like a sultan or a maharajah. He’s gorgeous, and he hates me. He doesn’t blink, not even once. He never blinks at me. There’s no fondness or trust between us, only courteous animosity. We both adore the same man, my husband. But he’s away this weekend, at his brother’s stag party, so there’s no need to pretend.
My head feels like it went for a swim leaving my body behind. Did I drink the whole bottle of wine last night? Why don’t I remember? Maybe I have a brain tumour.
I look at Tom, “Blink once if I have a brain tumour.”
Very slowly, he blinks. Once.
“Tsk! You’re awful, you would blink even if it wasn’t true, wouldn’t you?”
Tom stretches on top of my pillow for what seems an eternity, and his claws leave tiny new holes behind. There are a million of those on my pillow already, but none on Sebastian’s. Stretching finished, he walks away.
I follow him into the kitchen and find a bottle of wine, three-quarters full, on top of the bench. The Roomba-vacuum starts its automatic cleaning cycle, beginning at the open plan kitchen. The leftovers of a mushroom risotto are still in the pan on the stove top. Did I cook that last night or the night before? The kitchen is a mess. I’ll clean up later.
The last couple of days seem hazy. I don’t know what day it is, and I can’t find my mobile. I walk to the living room and bump my little toe against the coffee-table’s sturdy leg. Like a wounded animal, I let out a wild cry, but then I have the sudden realisation that there’s no pain. With the precision of a clockmaker, I aim my little toe at the same sturdy leg and bang my foot against it. Still no pain. The cat is right, I have a brain tumour.
Or maybe, I am indeed dead, and the dream was not a dream. I run to the bathroom’s mirror. My green eyes are bloodshot and surrounded by smudged mascara. My roots need to be done pronto if I’m going to continue the ruse of being a natural blonde instead of mousy-brown; the left side of my head already looks like mice have been nesting on it. If I’m a ghost, will my hair stay like this forever?
I walk around our apartment. Everything is covered by a dense layer of dust, even the TV. A collection of spiderwebs join the bookcase to the ceiling. Frantic, I search for my mobile, and miraculously I hear the muffled ringtone coming from the kitchen. I find it inside the fridge. As I grab it, I see “Sebastian” on the screen followed by the low battery notification. And just like that, the phone is dead.
I march to the window. Five floors down, the street is congested by traffic and human-ants rushing to or from work. The Roomba runs straight into my foot, over and over, and I must move to stop the assault. Am I invisible? I hurry back to the bathroom.
The front door opens, and Sebastian’s arrival is unmistakable: the jingle of the keys, the soft thump of the leather wallet landing on the hall table. Tom meows a welcome and Sebastian’s reciprocates by picking him up. “Nettie, Hun?”
His sultry voice sends shivers down my—now invisible—spine. I stay very still, waiting in silence for his scream once he discovers my dead body. And where exactly is my body? I wonder. I quickly check the bathroom, especially the bathtub, just to confirm I’m not just lying there all scattered, legs akimbo, hair looking like a rats-lair—oh!
He calls my name a few more times and the shriek of horror still doesn’t come. Instead, he suddenly stands by the bathroom door saying, “There you are! Why aren’t you answering? You okay, Nettie? Not mad, are you?”
I blurt out, “Can you—” but my voice fails me. I swallow and try again, “Can you see me?”
“Sure!” He says enveloping me in his arms.
His breath is minty while mine stinks, further proving I’m now a cadaver. Maybe he hasn’t found my body yet because I am dead but still inside my body?
Sebastian can sense my uneasiness. “What is it, Hun?”
“I’m… I’m dead. Tom blinked at me. I’m a ghost, but I’m still inside my body.”
“What on earth are you talking about? Why aren’t you answering your phone?”
Knowing he won’t understand, I drag him to the living room, “Come, I’ll show you.”
Tom hisses at me from the dining table as I chase the Roomba around. However, it avoids me every single time, turning away from me if I go too near. I give up and jump on it. “See! I’m levitating! I am a ghost!”
“Gee, Nettie! What’s gotten into you?”
“I’m levitating. Can’t you see?”
“No, you’re riding the Roomba around the living room. Nothing special about that, the cat does it all the time.”
“Precisely. But the cat weighs what? About five kilos? I’m like ten times heavier.”
One of his eyebrows shoots up, “More like fifteen. Nettie, riding the Roomba around the living room doesn’t qualify as being dead, or a ghost.”
“Then how do you explain the dust and the house’s state of abandonment?”
I descend from the Roomba, ethereal and otherworldly. I trace a line on the TV screen, and then show him my dirty index finger and say, “this dust!”
“What about it?” his face crumpled with annoyance.
“Ghosts inhabit abandoned houses, full of dust and cobwebs, duh!” I say, pointing towards the spiderwebs hanging from the ceiling.
“Our house is not abandoned, you’re just not a great… domestic goddess.”
A fly lands on my arm. Am I decomposing already? “Tell you what, I’ll prove it. I’ll walk through the wall.”
Sebastian suddenly turns pale, and rushes to the kitchen, tailed by Tom. “Did you have risotto?” he asks while opening the cupboards.
“I did,” I say facing the wall. Should I walk through our framed wedding photo? Nah, I better keep it simple.
As he walks towards me, holding a jar in his hand, I walk to the wall. “No, Nettie, don—”
But his warning arrives too late. I don’t hear the rest of his sentence as the loud crack of my septum breaking drowns every other sound. Blood flows freely and I feel a bit of pain, but not much. My eyes water up, and everything becomes blurry.
Sebastian grabs my shoulder and turns me towards him, immediately pinching my nose. “Did you use the mushrooms in this tin for the risotto, Nettie?”
I cannot answer him. He’s still holding my nose with one hand, and an unmarked tin in the other. I’m dizzy, so I close my eyes and breathe through my mouth, thinking these things are somehow connected. How can he ask me about what I ate? What’s next? Is he going to ask how much I ate too? Heartless! I think.
An alarm goes off in my head. Maybe these mushrooms are poisonous. Is he trying to kill me? Did the cat tell him to do it? Am I a ghost thanks to a ploy cooked up by the cat, who, aware of my fondness for mushrooms had brainwashed my husband into introducing poisonous ones knowing I would consume them voraciously? Oh, the audacity of the pair!
“Nettie, did you eat the mushrooms? Open your eyes and look at the tin. Did you eat these?”
Reluctantly, I nod.
“How many did you eat?”
And there it is, his heartless second question. “I don’t know. I didn’t count them, you poisonous freak! I hope you and your bloody poisonous cat are happy now that I’m dead.”
“They’re not poisonous, Nettie, they’re… magical. They were for the stag party next weekend.”
“But didn’t you just come back from the party?”
“Gosh, you better have a lie down.”