Written by Addie Barnett
My hand floated above the dining room table, confusion and temptation dancing between my shivering fingers.
Should I take the money? I asked myself as I gazed at the wad of cash that had taken the place of my breakfast and morning coffee. It was at that moment I recalled, with a cinematic unfurling, of an ad I posted on Craigslist after I lost a bet.
Wanted – Roommate. Requirements: Must be able to cover 600£ rent (utilities included); the apartment is small, nothing overly fancy, located on the third floor of a condominium in Harvard Boulevard, NR7TX. No loud humans allowed. Silent ghosts only.
But this was impossible… wasn’t it? Ghosts don’t exist, they’re just a creative result of sleep deprivation and a lack of well-needed alone time. They dwell in fictional stories—not in reality. Not in my reality.
But a part of me I fought to subside cheered at the possibility of ghosts and urged me to explore it.
I lived a boring life. I did not care for adventure.
Adventure, it seemed, didn’t give a damn about what I thought.
I clutched the money with a frown, noticing someone – hopefully not a ghost – had left a note under the bills as well. My legs turned to rubber as I stuffed the monthly rent inside my hoodie’s kangaroo pouch. I unfurled the piece of paper while my eyes searched for a lighter to burn the note into ashes.
Neat handwriting tap-danced before me in ink swirls so beautiful that calligraphy seemed to be the work of an unschooled farmer.
Dear Mac, I read, frowning at my favorite nickname, I saw your ad on Craigslist and jumped at the offer!
To answer the question floating around in your mind: yes, I am, in fact, a ghost.
My knees wobbled underneath me, and my chest tightened. For a few seconds I fought for air the same way a drowning man struggles to breach the surface of the water, a fire ablaze in my gasping lungs. Temples pulsing, I grasped the back of my chair and stepped away, dropping the note back on the table while wishing I had set it on fire before curiosity had gotten the better of me.
This was a prank. It had to be.
Ghosts do not exist.
My fingers found the paper again and my eyes drifted back to the last words I had read.
I am, in fact, a ghost.
The person who wrote this must have been laughing their arse off.
My name is Kane. I died about thirty years ago, but that’s a story for another day. Humans can’t see ghosts unless we want to be seen.
I gulped, unsure of what terrified me more – the thought that the ghost might actually be real, or the very serious debate on whether I wanted to meet it or not going on in my head.
I’m sorry if I startled you last night. I hit my pinkie toe on the corner of the table and even ghosts can feel that pain. It transcends time and space, doesn’t it?
My mind whirred back into focus as it strained to remember the events from last night. It did so unwillingly, having suppressed most of them already.Darkness. My heavy eyelids struggled to open, allowing my eyes to adjust to the thick shadows that engulfed the entirety of my room despite my small night light, a remnant of my childhood terrors. The apartment would have been enveloped in silence were it not for the ticking of the clock on the fridge, the buzzing of the freezer, or the snapping of wooden furniture.
My ears perked up at what I thought were steps, quickly belied by a half-asleep brain.
Then, of course, had come the anguished scream which had sent me yelping into the bathroom, my fingers fumbling to lock the door and turn on the lights while they clutched the soft blanket I always slept with. I was terrified of imaginary demons hiding under my bed, waiting to grab my uncovered feet.
Adults blush when they reveal their fears, as if it is a thing to be embarrassed about.
Most of the night was spent with a fluttering heart, pounding faster each time my ears recorded another sound that should not have been there. Come morning, I had fallen asleep in the tub, blanket wrapped tightly around me until I had transformed into a burrito.
Anyway, I hope you can forgive me for that, and I hope you will give me a chance to make it up to you.
Fat chance, buddy.
Tomorrow at midnight maybe? I heard House M.D is back on TV.
Did he spy on me?
The ghost – Kane – had signed the paper in a formal fashion as if it weren’t just a note but an official act. Maybe in his former life he had been a politician?
My nose wrinkled at the thought and my stomach turned upside-down, coaxing me into throwing up. So, like any normal person would when facing hard decisions, I stood up, dusted myself off, opened the freezer, chose the largest bucket of chocolate ice-cream I could find, and dug my spoon into it.
I had one day to decide whether meeting a ghost was a good idea, or if it would end like the horror movies my friends raved about. It would be best if I kept my phone close just in case knives began flying towards me.
My decision was made by the time my head hit the pillow.
I entered my home reluctantly that night, expecting flickering lights, manic laughter, and a generally eerie atmosphere as proof a ghost haunted my apartment. My muscles tensed as I glared at a fly buzzing on the ceiling, and my keys jingled on the peg I hung them on each time I returned home.
However, all of my senses were soothed once my nostrils picked up the sweet scent of red wine, steak—prepared in the oven – and golden potatoes—slick with sour cream and cheese. The smell beckoned me to inspect its origins, so I made my way to the kitchen and threw off my coat and my shoes in an automatic gesture.
The kitchen was empty and no food was in sight. The only proof someone had indeed prepared something were the potato peels in the garbage can, along with the crumbling remains of a yellow onion.
It appeared I was being lured to my death with the promise of food.
A game. How posh.
“TV,” a deep voice bellowed from the dining room, and the smell of food tickled my nose once more.
My legs froze as my brain caught up with what was happening.
A ghost had cooked for me. He had waited until I got home. Until midnight.
My stomach churned as I cast aside all paranoia, phone forgotten behind. If I was going to die, I would do so with a full stomach and a glass of wine in my hand.
I should have told him I preferred vodka.
The lights were on and so was the TV. On the dining table rested two of my flowery plates, and a fork and knife waiting to be used. A candle flickered between them, next to a pot which made my mouth water.
“I hope you like it. I’m not much of a cook these days, as I don’t really need to eat anymore.” A translucent silhouette obscured my view of the food and caught life before me.
Kane was shorter than what I had expected, not the typical university jock with a killer smile and a sexual appetite fit for a teenager. He was tall, yes, but he was lanky in a gruff way which sent me on my guard, searching for hidden weapons. His skin, once the brown of truffles, was now a pale chocolate, caused by death and thirty years spent in a casket with no light, artificial or otherwise.
His eyes betrayed his unusual situation, the icy blue of a glacier heading, with a mind of its own, towards an unsuspecting ship and reveling in the impact. Kane was bald, allowing me to gaze at a crisscross of scars on an egg-shaped head, thin and weary from years he should have spent sleeping the eternal sleep.
“Hi, Mac,” he extended a hand and frowned when, in my befuddlement, I forgot to grab it. “Not a fan of ghosts I see.”
My jaw dropped slightly, and I could feel the blood surging and subsiding in my cheeks.
“Are you hungry?”
I nodded, unable to give a proper answer and let his hand guide me to my chair, my trembling fingers clutching the knife as I wondered if ghosts could be killed.
“Don’t worry, I’m harmless,” he stated as he slid into the chair in front of me and tapped on the pot, his finger disappearing inside it. “Oops.”
He took it out and smiled.
“We have chicken tonight. I noticed you are a fan of light-eating, so I tried not to go too overboard and skipped the dessert. It’s chicken parmesan, with garlic potatoes. I hope I cut them small enough, my fingers tend to vanish as I cook since…you know… I’m a ghost,” he laughed and, just for a moment, I could see him blushing. “Would you like to taste?”
“Yeah,” I croaked and waited for him to open the lid so I could balk at what was inside.
“Um, you’re going to have to open it yourself, I’m…well…” he waved a hand in front of me and I squealed.
It was not my proudest of moments. I covered my mouth with both of my hands as tears wetted my eyes.
“Are you okay?”
In an instant he was there, trying to goad me into looking at him, his hands waving frantically near my chin as he tried to pick it up.
“Why are you crying?”
My eyes found his, and I noticed they were not as cold as I thought. Warmth spread through me like a wildfire as his gaze softened.
“Sorry. I’ve never…I’ve never met a ghost before,” I stammered, hiding away the fact that I’d never even been on a date either.
“Not many have. It’s completely normal to be afraid of me, but you shouldn’t be. I have no intention of hurting you, I promise. Now, shall we eat?”
Kane soon proved to be one of the best roommates I have ever had. Steadfast, funny, and sometimes invisible, he was always there to help me out with anything I needed, always paying rent on time, or making a fool of himself when he tried to fix something and couldn’t.
He had lied that day, about hitting his toe on the corner of the bed, as a sign of good faith.
Kane remained my first and only roommate when we went to France and there, on the sandy beaches of the Atlantic, we pledged our love to one another, buying a small cottage in the middle of the woods.
The best thing of all? Death could never part us.