“Look none of the others want to tell you the truth, so I will.”
I stare at her, trying to remember her name and coming up blank; she is one of the two that just appeared recently, and we’ve never really had cause to interact before, so all I can say in response to her statement is an eloquent, “What?”
“Will is dead.”
If she’d punched me in the gut, it would have had less of an impact on me than those three little words, and they swirl around in my head over and over, thrown into a cyclone of tumultuous feelings and unspoken words, but then: “Don’t listen to her, please.”
I look over, and Will is standing right next to me, a heartbroken expression speaking of so much pain on his face, but the feeble attempt at a smile he gives me in response to my relieved beam concerns me, and I don’t want to think about it right now so I turn back to her and respond, “He’s standing right here, so I don’t know what you’re talking about, and that was kind of a jerk thing to say because you gave me a split second heart attack.”
“No, he’s not ‘standing right there,’ because whatever you’re seeing is a delusion!” — What? — “Will has been dead, gone for months,” —no, she’s lying— “and what you’re seeing is nothing but a demented coping mechanism your brain made up to help you hurt less!” — No! — “The others have all been too chicken to tell you” — they’ve gathered, the looks on their faces confirm — “so I have to do it. WILL. IS. DEAD.”
She’s wrong she’s wrong, she’s lying, I WON’T BELIEVE IT, because Will is standing right next to me, tears streaming down his face as he shakes his head and mouths my name and reaches out to me but she grabs me by the shoulders before I can touch him, and she’s not letting me focus on anything else except for her bellows in my face, her yells at me to REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED ON YOUR LAST PATROL.
Only the dead see ghosts.
I run, I run as fast as I can, away from the liars. They’re trying to get between me and Will. Of course that’s what’s happening. He can’t be dead. He’s not dead. That’s ridiculous. He would have told me if he was dead. That’s not something that you just hide. It’s totally a relationship breaker.
But he’s not running with me. He’s disappearing, then reappearing a distance away, almost like how a ghost teleports. But that is only something he’s always been able to do, right? I never questioned it before. It'd just happen. It was one of his quirks.
Normal people don’t teleport on a whim.
But that’s just Will.
WHAT HAPPENED ON YOUR LAST PATROL?
My thoughts whirl as my sneakers crunch against the dead leaves beneath them.
Our last patrol? We went out, just like any other patrol.
We found a building. We snuck inside. We found a mother load of food, and we were so happy, and in the heat of the moment, he kissed me. Then… then zombies found us and I jumped out a window, and Will followed, and we got away and went back to the group. That’s what happened.
That’s what happened, right? Right?!
But then why do I remember coming back dripping with blood and water?
Why didn’t the group ever let us out on patrols after that?
Why do they look at Will and I with so much sadness sometimes?
WHATEVER. That doesn’t matter. That’s what happened. We went out, we kissed, we were almost overrun, but we made it back.
The glimpses of Will I catch out of the corner of my eye as I run are all shaking his head.
That’s not what happened, and you and I both know it.
It's almost time to reset.
Why do I know I’ve traveled this path before?
Why do I feel like I have a destination in mind?
I hear the sounds of water approaching. Before I know it, I’ve found a small creek.
Small enough that the dozens of bodies that litter it are not washed away by the current.
One thing about my bat, my makeshift mace, is that it makes a very distinct pattern of holes whenever I strike a zombie’s body with it.
All of the bodies here, they have that pattern all over them.
And the closest one…
The closest one…
The closest body is the freshest.
Bloated, with the gasses of death, but I would recognize that blonde hair anywhere.
I walk over to Will’s body and collapse onto my knees next to him, not caring in the slightest how the red creek water stains my jeans.
In the water, my distorted reflection grins at my agony.
Will’s ghost flickers into existence beside me. I lift my head to look up at him.
“I’m so sorry,” I manage, through choked sobs.
He only smiles wistfully and shakes his head.
“It’s not your fault. It’s his.”
I can feel the menacing laughter somewhere in me, and I realize that I am not alone in my own mind.
But then again, this isn’t the first time I’m understanding that, is it?
He always wins.
Will starts to fade.
I try to hug him, to hold on to him, to keep him here and do whatever I can to make up for this awful thing that I have done, but my arms only circle air.
After all, being dead will only get me so far.
“I’m SORRY!” I scream.
His fading visage echoes the numbed melancholy I feel as my memory of him begins to slip away, just like it did with all the others.
I ebb away the last of your memories, taking control of your body and walking you to some remote part of the forest, miles away. The stubborn ghost of my latest victim follows, stupidly using the last of his energy in the same intrepid attempt to “get through” to this body that all the others try.
I select a new spot and lie down on the forest floor. The apparition lies down next to me, trying to stroke this face and failing because he no longer has the energy to touch flesh. I mock him, but he ignores me and stares intently into my vessel’s eyes. Just like always, I relinquish just enough control so that the soul of my prisoner can hear the fruitless words.
“It waS a LoT OF FUN KnOwINg YoU, But NOW I HAVE tO gO, okay? you hAVE to STop DOiNg this. I knOW HE’S MAking you foRGet, And it’S Hard, BuT You Have tO, beFoRE he fINds SomeOnE elsE. YoU Can dO It, OKAy? I L o V E y o u . . . “
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.