No one believes it and no one who I explain the situation to nods in understanding and holds me; there is no one to tell me that my world isn’t falling to pieces. No one says I did the right thing.
So I have to keep reminding myself that I am not to blame, because if I don’t I’m going to believe the lie as much as everyone else does.
I don’t want that.
They were two: one of them by the mouth of the alley to make sure no one would see what was going to happen. Usually I was better at getting away, better at staying hidden and staying low, but for some reason today just wasn’t my day.
Both easily towering above me, they cornered me in a dark and run-down alley with no chance to escape their plans. There was nothing I could do – what could me, a guy who’d somehow missed the memo that I was supposed to grow out of this childish body of mine, possibly do against two guys who had arms as thick as my neck alone?
They were chanting that same stupid song.
Little ghost, little ghost, don’t you have someone else to haunt?
So I was cornered, backed up against the literal wall in a dark alley in the middle of the city. It was supposed to be only four in the afternoon, so why was it so dark in here? Why is it that the light dared not penetrate into this place?
Why was there never someone there to help me when I needed it?
The smell of the trash was rather offensive, coming straight at me from the dumpster that had definitely seen better days. A cat took off when he came closer – a nameless person from my school, who I’d never spoken to and that I’d never bothered, but then again that’s just how it is with bullies I guess – and when my back hit the wall I squeaked a bit.
When I think about what happened, I can’t remember his face, not for the life of me. I imagine that my mind is trying to make me forget, but I can’t let myself do that and begin believing everyone else. I can’t believe what he tells me.
No matter what, it’s not my fault. It can’t be.
He laughed as he approached, his face backlit by the streets and thus cast in shadows, refusing me the right to at least try to identify him. Maybe if I had been able to do that… well, I don’t know.
I doubt anything would’ve changed.
“Did you hear the little wraith squeak?” he asked loudly, and his friend back there laughed his response; when his attention returned fully to me, I tried to press myself back to the wall. “Do you know what ghosts are, Casper?”
Of course; I’m not that forgetful. I bit back my comment, knowing that if I provoked him I was dead. My eyes flickered to the switchblade he was casually playing with in his hands, the blade disappearing and returning. It shone in the light whenever it passed through the sliver.
Hell, I was probably going to die anyways. It’s not like anyone would miss me except maybe my parents, but even then they could just file the government for a proxy. Like many others before, I’d be forgotten as soon as the papers were signed and the kid dropped at the door. He’d have my name, and just like that I would be a nameless death.
It scared me how much I was almost looking forward to that fate.
“They don’t exist,” he continued lowly, and I could hear the threat in his voice. It didn’t take a genius to know that this guy, whoever he was, probably belonged in the camps. He’d probably fit right in, from the looks of it. “So I think it’s time you haunt someone else, little ghost.”
He held the switchblade in his hand, ready to use it. He held it familiarly, and it made me think that perhaps he’d used it before on someone else. I wondered if that person had made it.
Judging by his choice of targets by using me as a clear example, I doubted it. Unless you want to be sent off, you don’t make mistakes when you do something like that. Especially assault.
People were rarely tolerant of that one.
When he took a large stride, his right hand swung at me with the blade and I moved away from it as much as possible – this only drove me further into the corner, a burning pain blossoming from my jaw and running towards my ear when the blade catches my skin just enough. I pressed myself to the corner, my right hand cupping the injury as I hissed.
Hot blood began to trickle through my fingers.
My heart pounded in my chest as I watched him look to the blade a moment; my blood dripped down from the iron to the rough asphalt below, more of it running down my forearm as I began to shake.
Before now, I’d never actually been physically hurt like this – I mean, the people around me made fun of me for my name and for how well my appearance suited the name of a ghost, as well as their contempt for someone with a partial lineage from Iraq, but aside from getting punched every now and again I never really felt afraid for my own life.
Things were different now. My mind was screaming I’m going to die and everything else kind of shut off as I came to this terrifying realisation. I didn’t like it – I hated the way I had to wake up every morning knowing that I was going to willingly step into a place that was going to make my day drag on as long as humanely possible – and now I was going to die.
I wanted to die, but not like this. I didn’t want to die with the smell of trash in my nose as it clogged my lungs. I didn’t want to die in an alley.
No, I wanted to do it myself – my fate was my own to control and I was going to end it my own way. No one was going to take that away from me.
Not this time.
He came towards me, grabbing a fistful of my shirt, and pushed me back against the brick wall so roughly the back of my head hit it and I saw stars as the pain exploded behind my eyes. I cried out, and when he let me go I fell to the ground. My blood ran down the length of my neck as I tried to make the world come back on its axis.
Then I felt the knife press against the hollow of my throat and I opened my eyes to look up at my attacker still shrouded in the shadows. I could feel my blood staining the collar of my shirt, making it stick to my skin.
What the hell did I ever do to deserve this?
“Unless you have sick fantasies, I can’t see how I’ve been haunting you,” I spat, which was probably a big mistake – but my anger was starting to come through again, and I wasn’t exactly in the mood to control it. He narrowed his eyes at me, probably trying to figure out what I was insinuating. “Picking on someone just because of their name is a bit stupid, but you strike me as a simpleton. I’d rather that than you actually getting off on me, you sick fuck.”
His hand grabbed my throat and he pulled my head up, cutting off the air from my lungs whose quality was arguable for them in the first place.
“What the fuck did you just say, you little ghoul?” he shouted, and I tried pulling his hand away but his grip was decidedly stronger than mine. Not that it ever was hard to beat me in brute strength. My growth spurt is a bit late, so to speak. “Like hell I’m some gay ass faggot like you!”
I barked a laugh with whatever was left in my lungs, a poor decision, and he pressed his blade against my neck to the point where I felt him draw blood. I was getting a bit light-headed, but that might have been partially because of the lack of oxygen. I think.
“Not my type anyways.” My grin pissed him off and it’s what I was counting on even though it meant getting thrown against the wall again. At this rate, whatever memory banks my mind actually did have would be so scrambled they’d be useless, so I didn’t quite appreciate it. The fact that it hurt like hell goes without saying.
The guy seemed to be done trying to humour me, not that I could blame him, and he swung his blade again – right for my head, and for some reason I thought bringing my arm up to deflect the blow was a good idea.
It wasn’t, but you don’t need me to tell you that.
The blade dug into my arm and I cried out, pulling my arm away so fast the blade actually fell out of his grip and clattered to the asphalt at my side. I heaved in a frightened lungful of air as my mind raced for ways to escape, to maybe find a way back out onto the streets so I could – hell, I don’t know. I just wanted to go home.
But the way out was blocked by these two guys that probably weighed my weight when they were twelve.
When he went for his blade again, I acted before my thoughts could catch up with them – in hindsight, it probably saved my life, but the cost…
Well, I’m more inclined to wish that he would’ve succeeded in killing me now.
My fist shot up and hit him between the legs, effectively stopping him dead in his tracks as the pain quickly spread everywhere through his body – I was very familiar with the pain that caused. As soon as he doubled over, breathless, I grabbed the knife and, through sheer will of force and a megaton of adrenaline, I grabbed his hair and shoved his head on the wall a lot harder than I’d expected to be able to.
His lungs were too empty to shout, and with his friend keeping his back to the scene so he could stand watch, he didn’t see what was going on at first. I heard something crack the second time I did this, and when I let go he fell to the ground and I saw the blood on the back of his head staining the bricks.
My mind was panicked. I was certain I was going to die then, so maybe that excuses my actions but they still terrify me – to know that this kind of anger sits there inside you… well, it makes you wonder what your demons are really like.
But I refused to die there. It wasn’t going to be me.
I wouldn’t let it.
So I gripped the blade and stabbed it in the back of his neck, where the spine meets the skull, and though I knew this to be a decisive blow my fear didn’t allow me to stop. I pulled the knife out and did it again, stabbing him repeatedly as my mind screamed for my survival; I’d never wanted to live more than I did in that moment, but then again I suppose when your own life isn’t in your hands you don’t want to give them the satisfaction of your death.
The other one turned to look at what was going on and I saw him out of the corner of my eye as he stared in a state of complete shock as I kept stabbing, maybe ten times, before getting up and staggering back. Slick with blood, the switchblade fell from my hands covered in the substance as I leaned against the wall and breathed hard.
I heard him run away, but in my mind I didn’t think it would come back to haunt me. Not like this.
But I quickly understood the implications of what I’d just done: I had killed another, and although it had been in self-defence the court probably wouldn’t care too much about that if anyone ever found out. If my parents knew, they’d immediately hand me to the government and whatever trial would usually be held in hopes of saving me would be ignored – the legal procedure erased.
I was a dead man.
“Oh God,” I gasped, and all the sudden I could feel the blood on my skin. I felt vile and whatever I’d eaten earlier that day wanted to make itself come out real fast; somehow I swallowed it down, but it had sunk in. “Oh God, no.”
I had the decency to get rid of most of the blood from my person before I got the hell out of there, never looking back and almost bumping into someone as I ran. God, I’d never run that fast in my life but I’d felt that if I went any slower, then the ghost of the man I’d just killed would haunt me the same way I apparently haunted everyone.We all have demons inside us, but some of us let them out – and I’d finally figured out what mine were capable of doing.