Being dead, I noticed stuff. The guy who moved into the apartment was a little guarded. He moved in on his own and, although no one ever came over, he still closed the bedroom door to undress. Not that the door poses a challenge for me. I’m just saying.
For the first few weeks, I let him keep his privacy. After all, he was a newbie. It takes a certain finesse to ease the living into the world of the dead. And perhaps, I thought, he’d recently been living with someone else. Perhaps it was just habit? Turns out it wasn’t. He was just very inhibited.
Finally, after a month, I decided to make my presence felt. I traversed the closed door and hid his belt while he wasn’t looking. Watching him hunt for it was vaguely amusing. He talked to himself. At first that freaked me out, I thought he was talking to me.
But, no. It turned out I was haunting a very upright, rather odd young man.
His name was Harold. I found that out when the electricity bill arrived. Who in their right mind would name their child Harold? Obviously someone bent on making a geek. Obviously parents who cared nothing for the years of adolescent bullying that would inevitably ensue as sure as rain with a name like Harold. So I would try it on at night, as he was falling asleep.
I’d whisper it in that sing-song way you see on horror films. That always freaks them out. And it worked. He sat straight up in bed, turned on the lights, looked around and pissed himself.
It was his mortification that endeared him to me. I felt sorry I’d done that. I mean, it’s all very well to whisper in someone’s ear. But you don’t expect them to lose urinary control until materialization. I followed him into the bathroom and watched him shower. Then he dried himself off meticulously, and climbed into a clean pair of pajamas. It was only then I realized that he was more upset about pissing himself than he was about me. I know it was immature, but it hurt my feelings.
I sat on top of the dresser as he dragged the soiled sheets off the bed and remade it. When he snuggled down into the bed again and turned off the light, I decided with no little malice aforethought, that I’d scare him again. After all, what else could go wrong? He’d already emptied his bladder.
But as I flitted closer to the bed – ghost do sort of flit, you know – I heard a rustling. So for a while I just hovered and listened.
Of course, it only took me moments to realize what was happening. Hung up Harold was comforting himself in that most basic of ways.
As the rhythmic rustle of the sheets grew bolder, his breath grew shorter. I floated just inches above his face, feeling the warm puffs of air that rose from his parted lips as he wanked.
His eyes were closed, brows drawn together in what looked like a concerted effort to focus on something squirmy and hard to hold. Whatever his mental slipperiness, his cock was definitely easier to grasp. The blankets rose and fell like a rough sea.
The tendons in his neck strained and his hips arched. It was all getting very exciting. In fact, I couldn’t really stop myself from curling one ghostly hand around his and helping. That is when he cried out and froze. Unfortunately some humans can feel us. And it turned out that Harold was one of those.
Now, it is worth pointing out that, no matter how alarmed one might be, there is a point at which the musculature will go its own way. And in this case, it did. Just after Harold let loose with a yelp, he ejaculated into the blankets and, might I add, all over my incorporeal hand.
I snickered. He yelped again. I snickered a little closer to his face. He screamed.
Harold, it seemed, was an hysteric. Because then he curled over onto his side, pulled up his knees and began to cry like a baby.
That, of course, broke my heart, if ghosts can be said to have hearts that break, or hearts at all for that matter. I did feel something. Indeed, I was sheepish. And as the weeping went on, I grew more and more distressed. What on earth, or above it, had I done? I’d frightened this poor man into a state of hysteria. There was nothing for it. I decided to cuddle him.
It would be a lie to say that was the best idea I’d ever had. But what could I do? I felt awful that I’d scared him so badly. Wretched.
I thought perhaps, this time, I’d be a little bit more circumspect about it. So I snuggled in next to him and felt his narrow back as he sobbed, inching a little closer every so often. I knew he’d feel the cold. There was nothing I could do about that. But I was quite convinced that if I was patient and present enough, he would eventually figure out that I meant him no harm.
Fully expecting him to leap from the bed at any moment, I slowly moved my ghostly body up against his, and curled one ethereal arm around his shoulder, until I was well and truly nestled up as close as I could get. He let out a little wail and a shiver streaked down his spine, but I wasn’t going to allow myself to be put off. I was determined to show him that I had no evil intent.
It was a little like cuddling up next to a marmoset. Not that I’ve ever done that, but imagine something small and nervous. He shivered, he whimpered, but nonetheless, he did stay still.
Now, I admit, I’d never done this to one of the living before. So it wasn’t as if I knew what to expect. And all the while, I was thinking: poor man, I’ve scarred him for life, and definitely scared him witless.
Slowly the sobbing subsided and the shudders came with less frequency. The warmth came back into his body, seeping through his thin cotton pajamas. It was a lovely feeling, I must admit. It was like being bathed in warm honey – which has never happened to me, but I imagine this would feel exactly like it.
All the years of dust that had accumulated in the cracks and crevices of my unworldly soul began to dance and float off me, lit up like tiny fireflies. Could he see this, I wondered? Perhaps not with his eyes shut so tight. But I could see it, and it was glorious. Thousands and thousands of moments, all set alight with the warmth of this frightened man.
He took a deep, quivering breath. And the warmth it generated blew into me like a gust of hot desert wind. I could feel every tenuous ligature in my ghostly form soften and melt in the heat of it.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered into his pink scrubbed ear.
“It’s alright,” he mumbled shyly, and turned towards me, reaching out to embrace the me that wasn’t there.
His arms were so warm, the hollow of his chest such a nest of burning embers. I felt him try to pull me closer.
Then, quite suddenly, in a flash of heat and a billow of humid steam, I was gone.
Had I known I could have slipped the bonds of my haunting, just by helping someone out with a wank, I’d have done it sooner. Someone needs to put that in the manual.