Black Petals Issue #75 Spring, 2016

Whispering Ghosts
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Mars-News, Views and Commentary
The Big Well-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
The Boxlike Object-Fiction by Charles C. Cole
The Enemy of My Enemy-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Virtuality-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Virtuous Reality-Fiction by A. M. Stickel, Editor
Walking to Class-Fiction by George Economou
Whispering Ghosts-Fiction by George Economou
Churchyard watcher-Two Poems by Chris Friend
August Nights-3 Poems by Dr. Mel Waldman

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Whispering Ghosts

 

By George Economou

 

Of lovers past

 

 

A candlelit, romantic dinner, after which she walked away, thanks to his old, bad habits... A long walk and an even longer night, followed by a deep, heartfelt conversation, the pouring of heart into soul; then, the stabbing pain, and he had to walk away, even if he didn’t want to—a dead man lost amongst the living, who, instead of a heart, had a lump of coal, and it was alright, for he needed no warmth to keep his soul alive.

 

Nothing is worse than a lonely, cold, winter night with little to do but drink and allow the suffocating mist of heavy smoke to engulf and lead one down memory lane. Past wrongdoings return to haunt the mind and shadows appear in the dim room; figures that were once truly there remind one of what could have been.

 

There I sat, already lost in another drinking binge, alone, save for my memories of a life gone by—women I’ve lost because of who I am and friends left behind because there was no room in my heart for anyone but myself. Cigarette upon cigarette were lit and bottle after bottle emptied, trying to convince myself that each last drag or sip would bring salvation and the end so desperately desired.

 

Alas! A voice echoed loudly in the tiny confines of my room. No, it was not a voice, but soft moans of pleasure. I stared about; all was peaceful…yet, I could still hear the moaning. I knew what it was, but rationality disagreed with my intuition. I saw the shadows on the bed, on the couch where I was sitting, on the tobacco-covered floor, yet refused to believe what I saw. There’s nothing there. But they were all around me, even in the kitchen and the bathroom. I could not move, the pills and the bottles having numbed every fiber of my body, but my mind was moving fast, seeing and hearing everything.

 

Suddenly, the whisper became a distinct, clear, and dearly familiar voice: “The sounds will remain as long as you stay here; we cannot be together because I’ll always hear the voices of girls past.”

 

No! I told myself angrily, and returned to drinking. Although it should not have been why she left, those whispering echoes of former voices were always present. I had refused to listen. Now they refused to be ignored, those whispered words of love and hate alike—intermingled and yet, all somehow distinct, even within the grey mist of a drunken haze.

 

“I fell for you in an instant, wanted to be with you, was there for your worst, and have seen you in your darkest hours. I didn’t leave then, even though I should have. I stayed, to hold your hand in the nights when you were too lost in the bottle to even sense my presence. It was you who drove me away. Obsessed with dying, you refused to embrace living.”

 

A chill ran down my spine, my hair stood on end, and, for once, I was perfectly sober. Those words had been uttered to me in my sleep by the one person I’ve ever loved. She was, of course, gone too, and for years. It’s her I wish to see whenever I wake up next to someone else.

 

Why now? I wondered in desperation, for the ghosts had remained silent for so long. No doubt my own mind creates them in its desperate need for some company, even in the form of shadows from the past.

 

They say ghosts are the remnants of those who died wrongfully, and seek retribution, or absolution. Perhaps, though, it doesn’t apply only to dead bodies. Maybe, even when a small piece of the heart dies, that soul searches for salvation. A haunted house doesn’t need to be inhabited by ghosts of the murdered; I suspect wrongfully caused tears are reason enough to maintain the ghost of a former passion, thus keeping the whispers alive for years.

 

How many times have I uttered, “I love you”? How many times have I lied that I’d never said that before? And how many times have I afterwards ruined everything, causing tears of pain to countless women? How many hearts have skipped a single beat in my bed, and how many wounds have been inflicted on innocent souls? How often have I promised myself to change my ways, only to break the promise the very next day?

 

These questions troubled me, although I wasn’t the one asking them; the whispering ghosts inhabiting the four walls I call home were the real interrogators. They needed answers, for only thus could they find resolution. What could I say to explain actions I couldn’t understand?

 

A book fell from the packed shelves—The Great Gatsby. I’d once gifted the book to someone I thought I loved, whose heart I broke. I couldn’t stand up to replace it; my legs were numb and my mind hazy. I stared at its cover. Having given away my copy, I’d had to buy it again; the hole in the shelves reminded me of what had to be forgotten. Here the book lay, her eyes staring back at me from within it, and I felt a knife driven through my heart, destroying whatever feeling remained.

 

“I wish things had been different,” her voice whispered in my ear, “and that we had met under different circumstances. I love you, but I love him too, and will never forgive myself if I don’t try to patch things up with him.”

 

I shivered, for she was next to me, clearly visible—albeit for merely a second—and I wanted to run. I couldn’t, and stayed with her there—at least the pieces of her left behind when things went to hell. Trembling, I was surrounded by company, as more shadows made their momentary appearance. Despite another bottle of bourbon and another cigarette, nothing could destroy the mirages, or silence the whispers. The book lay on the floor amidst drifts of dust and tobacco remnants—a stark memorial surrounded by shadows and horrible debris.

 

“You told me you’d lost someone, that I was the only one who could revive you from the horrible depression of mourning,” another whisper reminded me.

 

A second bottle emptied, drunkenness would not come; having a strong liver is a curse. Numb but conscious of my environment, I heard the whispers, each having something to complain about, providing a growing memorandum of my past sins.

 

“I broke up with Peter to be with you. I came seeking comfort and found you lying between two women.”

 

“I left home for you, to run away together. You backed down because your story was published, and you thought you’d become the next Poe.”

 

“You said you loved me; a week later, you disappeared. I came to find you, and found another in your bed.”

 

“You never wanted marry or have kids, although you said so. We slept together. You stopped calling. Why?”

 

Unable to bear standing accused for all my past crimes, I broke. The ghosts surrounded me, ready to devour me, to drag me down into the inferno to suffer for my sins against them.

 

"I’M SORRY!" I yelled at the empty walls, but the whispers never stopped; my repentance wasn’t heartfelt, they claimed. I knew they were right.

 

“Always thinking you’ll get away with everything; talent and charm are not enough,” they told me in unison, and I opened the third bottle.

 

“Please, take them all away,” I begged the bourbon and drank deep. For a few moments, silence reigned. I sighed in relief, the darkness quiet. I was all right…

 

“Running away, as usual. That’s all you’re good at,” accused another familiar voice—no face attached to it—and the chorus of accusations continued.

 

A loud thud startled me. I looked around, seeing only the fragments of shadowy ghosts, waiting in darkness for…something. Then I saw the source of the sound: Death in the Afternoon, the book that helped me meet her. It was how we met; she was reading it, and I commented on it. Three months later, she left, for good, because I made her life hell. There it lay, next to The Great Gatsby. I thought of the two towering figures who wrote those two great love stories with tragic endings.

 

“We said we’d fight through difficulties,” she reminded me, “and promised we’d never let anything come between us. You broke the promise, and allowed everything to get between us.”

 

I couldn’t take anymore. I got up, stumbled, fell face-first onto the floor, and lay there in defeat, helplessly whimpering, breathing in the dust. Could I move? I had to get away. I crawled out of the room and into the kitchen, where I found a knife. I put it in on the counter, reached for the door, and couldn’t open it. Someone was preventing me. Who? I was all alone, yet, the door would not budge.

 

I got the knife, and stared at the sharp blade.

 

“Always the easy way out; never willing to fight,” a judgmental voice said in my ear.

 

I tightened my grip around the knife, ready to fight for my life…or, maybe, put an end to the whole charade. I somehow managed to get back up, leaning heavily against the counter. I returned to the couch, knife still in hand, and sat down. I waited. But the shadows were gone; only the books on the floor testified to the harsh truth still ringing painfully in my ears.

 

“For three weeks,” a solemn whisper broke the silence, “you dragged me into your personal hell. I stayed, for your promises were grand. You never planned to keep them, just needed new material for your damned stories.”

 

“Stories is all you live for,” another ghost took the floor. “There’s nothing beyond the paper. You live and breathe for words. When the stories are done, you move on, ignoring the pain you cause, the tears shed.”

 

“You don’t understand the value of emotions, for you have none. You can’t comprehend how others feel because you believe no one feels anything. No one is like you! But your world is not the world.”

 

I kept staring intensely, almost reverently, at the knife, which was now whispering, “Do it, do it, finally do what you’ve wanted for so long to do!” It was insistent, but I couldn’t obey.

 

Don’t do it. Just once don’t take the easy way out,” a voice said, and I didn’t know which advice to heed.

 

I swigged more bourbon, hoping that in the next sip a final decision would come to me—to no avail, my mind remained dichotomized and I couldn’t help but continue listening to the debating whispers. The ghosts of sins past remained strong, undeterred by the knife’s presence. Some urged me to use it, others to stop and reconsider, but, ultimately, my fate lay entirely in my own hands. I simply didn’t know what I desired the most.

 

A soft touch on my chin made me jump up and stare about. No one was around, but someone had touched me. The knife was taken from my hand and thrown at the already broken closet—another sad reminder of people long gone. The blood felt frozen in my veins as I watched the red river flowing down the closet door to puddle on the floor in a crimson lake.

 

The whispers continued, growing louder, some comforting and others spiteful. There was no escape, so I drank until the world became a blur. Despite drunken distortion, the shadowy, whispering ghosts lingered, their presence stronger, more physical.

 

More books fell from the shelves—Keats’ Collected Poems, Post Office, Hollywood, A Streetcar Named Desire, Journey to the End of the Night, Sometimes a Great Notion, Dharma Bums, Ask the Dust—all of them somehow connected to some steamy night or passionate weekend. I remained seated, unable to concentrate, my gaze aimlessly wandering among the falling books, the knife, the closet—its scarves and shirts flying about as if caught in a violent whirlwind.

 

Finally, the drink took over and I blacked out; in my dreamless slumber the ghosts were silenced at last. Come morning, I opened my eyes with difficulty. My head ached tremendously. Purely out of instinct, I took a long sip of bourbon and lit the half-smoked cigarette resting on the ashtray. The whispers returned, despite the bright sunlight penetrating the lowered shades. I didn’t care. The books on the floor and the knife sticking into the closet (like a threatening message from a cliché thriller) were there to remind me of the reality of the previous night.

 

I should move out, I told myself, for I cannot co-exist with vengeful, hurt ghosts. Alas! I couldn’t leave the four walls, stained with tears and screams of both pleasure and pain. Without the ghosts I’d lose my past, and without my past there’d be no stories to write.

 

Hence, I took another long sip and sighed. The whispers grew stronger and the shadows on the furniture sat, as once did those believing in my lies and thinking I was real. I drank the rest of the bottle and the cheerful dizziness returned. The whispering ghosts vanished, momentarily, but I knew they’d return. A part of me craved their company and, when I heard a soft whisper in my ear, a faint smile accompanied the shiver that numbed my spine.

 

The End

 

 

George Gad Economou, sorensen385@hotmail.com, of Risskov, Denmark, who wrote BP #75’s “Walking to Class” and “Whispering Ghosts”  (+ BP #74’s “The Family F,” BP #72’s “In Dreams There Is No Time,” BP #68’s “Angel of the Dark,” and BP #64’s “The Day I Started Believing”), is a 20ish horror author from Greece, whose first novel, THE ELIXIR OF YOUTH, was published in Greece in 2010. He wrote this first novel at age 15, and has since written more novels, as well as short stories, all horror. See www.facebook.com/GeorgeGadEconomou.

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