Dark Comedy - 3rd Person
The Ghost Walks
Pearls of sweat cover Nettie’s brow. Her heart beats unsteady. She had a terrible dream: Sebastian, her husband, had gone out to get cigarettes, meanwhile a pandemic and a war had broken out. Nuclear blasts had them living back in the stone age, and worst of all, her mobile phone had been rendered unusable and her social life disappeared along with it. As she dreamt, she told herself to wake up, but she answered to herself that she was not asleep, but dead.
Nettie doesn’t remember waking up, nor falling asleep, and she feels almost a foreigner inside her own body. Lying on the carpet, she peeks at the sunny sky through a crack in the blue curtains. The window needs a good cleaning. Tom stares at her—with all the contempt and disdain only a cat can exhibit—from the comfort of her 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 her. He doesn’t blink, not even once. He never blinks at her. There’s no fondness or trust between them, only courteous animosity. They both adore the same man, her husband. But he’s away this weekend, at his brother’s stag party, so there’s no need to pretend.
Her head feels like it went for a swim leaving her body behind. Did I drink the whole bottle of wine last night? Why don’t I remember? Maybe I have a brain tumour.
She looks 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 her pillow for what seems an eternity, and his claws leave tiny new holes behind. There are a million of those on Nettie’s pillow already, but none on Sebastian’s. Stretching finished, he walks away.
She follows him into the kitchen and finds 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. She doesn’t know what day it is and can’t find her mobile. She walks to the living room and bumps her little toe against the coffee-table’s sturdy leg. Like a wounded animal, she lets out a wild cry, but then has the sudden realisation that there’s no pain. With the precision of a clockmaker, she aims her little toe at the same sturdy leg and bangs her 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. She runs to the bathroom’s mirror. Her green eyes are bloodshot and surrounded by smudged mascara. Her roots need to be done pronto if she’s going to continue the ruse of being a natural blonde instead of mousy-brown; the left side of her head already looks like mice have been nesting on it. If I’m a ghost, will my hair stay like this forever?
She walks around their apartment. Everything is covered by a dense layer of dust, even the TV. A collection of spiderwebs join the bookcase to the ceiling. Frantic, she searches for her mobile, and miraculously she hears the muffled ringtone coming from the kitchen. She finds it inside the fridge. As she grabs it, she sees “Sebastian” on the screen followed by the low battery notification. And just like that, the phone is dead.
She marches 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 her foot, over and over, and she must move to stop the assault. Am I invisible? She hurries 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 her—now invisible—spine. She stays very still, waiting in silence for his scream once he discovers his dead body. And where exactly is my body? she wonders. She quickly checks the bathroom, especially the bathtub, just to confirm she’s not just lying there all scattered, legs akimbo, hair looking like a rats-lair—oh!
He calls her 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?”
She blurts out, “Can you—” but her voice fails. She swallows and tries again, “Can you see me?”
“Sure!” He says enveloping her in his arms.
His breath is minty while hers stinks, further proving she’s now a cadaver. Maybe he hasn’t found her body yet because she’s dead but still inside her body?
Sebastian can sense her 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, she drags him to the living room, “Come, I’ll show you.”
Tom hisses at her from the dining table as she chases the Roomba around. However, it avoids her every single time, turning away from her if she goes too near. She gives up and jumps 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?”
She descends from the Roomba, ethereal and otherworldly. She traces a line on the TV screen, and then show him her dirty index finger and says, “this dust!”
“What about it?” his face crumpled with annoyance.
“Ghosts inhabit abandoned houses, full of dust and cobwebs, duh!” she says, 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 her 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,” she say facing the wall. Should I walk through our framed wedding photo? Nah, I better keep it simple.
As he walks towards her, holding a jar in his hand, she walks to the wall. “No, Nettie, don—”
But his warning arrives too late. She doesn’t hear the rest of his sentence as the loud crack of her septum breaking drowns every other sound. Blood flows freely and she feels a bit of pain, but not much. Her eyes water up, and everything becomes blurry.
Sebastian grabs her shoulder and turns her towards him, immediately pinching her nose. “Did you use the mushrooms in this tin for the risotto, Nettie?”
She cannot answer him. He’s still holding her nose with one hand, and an unmarked tin in the other. She’s dizzy, so she closes her eyes and breathes through her 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! she thinks.
An alarm goes off in her 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, she nods.
“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.”