iPhones weren’t around when Bekka died.
The new girl has a rose-coloured one resting on the bedside table hooked up to a charger in the wall. When she first moved in, Bekka would unplug it every night and watch her curse in the morning when she woke up too late for work. That got old after a while, so now Bekka likes to set the alarm every ten minutes – starting at 4am.
“Mother’s son of a whore –” the new girl mumbles as the enthusiastic sound of The Proclaimers fills the room, pouring out of the phone next to her head.
She rolls over, turning the phone off with an angry swipe. Bekka watches as the new girl turns off the alarms – all thirteen of them – and rolls back over to hide her head beneath the blanket. Streetlights streaming through the window reveal a tuft of bright red hair sticks out from under the covers like flames licking at the pillow and headboard.
Bekka’s hair is grey now, but it had been black when she died.
Gliding about an inch over the carpet, Bekka sneaks over to the side of the bed. The living girl in the bed can’t see her. No one can see her. And they wouldn’t be able to hear Bekka unless she went out of her way to make noise, with pots and pans or a flushing toilet, which she hasn’t done in ages because it’s a pain in the arse and takes weeks for to recover from. But it feels cooler if she sneaks. She thinks it might be an instinct she carried over from her flesh and blood body.
She swipes through the menu on the phone and turns on all of the alarms again. Then she glides back to her corner to wait, a soft grin on her pale lips.
The last guy who lived in Bekka’s apartment – Greg, she thinks his name was – used to fart all the time and didn’t seem to care when she messed with his phone. He realised something was wrong when she replaced the cream in his Oreos with toothpaste. He moved out after Bekka started drawing dicks on his face while he slept, but not before the furious conversation with the real estate agent.
“You should have to tell people!” Greg had said as he’d hastily stuffed his stained underwear into a duffel bag with the phone stuck in the crook of his neck.
Bekka had sidled up next to him, putting her ear as close as she could get without putting her head through his face, to listen for the response: “Sir, I’m sure you know that there is no such thing as ghosts.”
“The hell there isn’t!” Greg had snapped, jumping when Bekka gave him a wet willy.
Bekka watches the new girl, huddled beneath the blankets, as her breathing evens out and the blankets begin to rise and fall in a steady rhythm. Bekka likes the new girl. She swears creatively and cooks Thai food that smells great and makes Bekka wish that she still had tastebuds. Plus she talks to herself when she thinks no one can hear her, which is hilarious. Sometimes Bekka talks back, adding her own commentary, and it’s gotten to the point where she can pretty much maintain the conversation despite the fact that the new girl can’t hear her answers.
The phone’s alarm goes off again, exactly ten minutes after the last one.
“Cock-juggling piece of shit!”
Bekka laughs. Tenants are hardly ever this fun.
The mass moving under the blankets froze. Bekka stops laughing as the girl’s fingers come out from under the blanket and quickly shut off the alarm. Then the blanket moves down, slowly, until weary brown eyes are revealed. Her irises are reflected in the dirty yellow streetlights streaming through the window.
“Is someone there?” she asks.
Bekka realises that she’s holding her breath. She doesn’t even breathe, but she’s holding her breath. Her heart, which stopped beating decades ago, pounds in her ears.
Tension bleeds into the air between the two women, the living and the dead. The girl is clearly listening hard. Bekka can only remember being this tense once – a Monday night in 1987, when a man smashed the glass in her kitchen and, when she’d climbed out of bed, trembling, to investigate, had stuck a knife in her kidney. The blade had slid through her skin like she was made of margarine. The kidney was a bit tougher. The man who killed her had twisted the knife to make sure that it went all the way through.
Bekka’s mind lingers, as it usually does, over the moment when she knew she was going to die. That shattering moment when she knew there was nothing she could do, that she was helpless, that death was coming for her. The pain from the wound was nothing to the agony of waiting for it to be over.
The living girl in the bed shivers and her breath comes out in a puff of fog. Bekka starts – realising belatedly that, in losing herself in the memory of her murder, she’d drained the heat right out of the room.
Bekka retreats, gliding through the wall and into the kitchen with its outdated faucets and a lingering scent of macadamia brownies. She can hear the new girl calling out again, but Bekka doesn’t answer. She rests her hip against the kitchen table and closes her eyes, taking a deep breath with lungs that no longer need oxygen, forcing her mind to shy away from the images and memories that haunt her. Hours later, Bekka realises that the new girl, in turning off all of the alarms that Bekka had set, forgot to set the alarm to wake her up for work.
Bekka makes sure that she is in control of her emotions before gliding back into the bedroom to wake the girl up with another rendition of ‘500 Miles’.
Author’s note: I wrote this while wondering why ghost stories are always haunted by Victorian spectres. Where are my tired late-Millenial ghosts? Where are my bored, early two-thousands kids at?
PS – I love writing and I love eating! If you want to help with the latter (and ONLY if you want) you can maybe buy me a coffee? 🙂