I was wrapped up in a blanket, staring out the window as the car drove past fields and fields of… stuff. Corn, maybe. Or wheat. Or something. But it was super cool. I saw farms and barns and animals. Lots of animals. Sheep and cows and horses. I didn’t like the horses. It made me think of scary stuff from when I was younger but I wasn’t sure what, until Miracle told me my old bedroom faced the barn and I always complained about horses. I shrugged. I could barely even remember our first house anymore, let alone the horses and barn.
The summer had gone by nicely. I spent loads of time dancing with Ruth and wished I could set up some way for the music to be played when I was gone, but Ruth told me she was tired and wanted to sleep for a while, and that she’d be fine. She kept kissing me, though, and asking me to neck though we never got into any heavy sessions like before.
“I’m going to drop you off in some woods to stay in till it gets dark, is that okay? You’ll be okay there till I come get you?” Miracle asked from the driver’s seat.
“Yes, that’s fine,” I told her, happily watching the scenery. I pulled the blanket around me more as we got into town, if it could even really be called a town. The college was a few miles outside the limits along with most the student housing. Halfway there, she dropped me off by some woods so I was able to hide out there away from prying eyes for a while. It was nice, being out in the daylight. I stayed pretty far back from the road so none of the many passing cars would see me.
I poked around in the grass, trading designs in the dirt. I lay on my back and watched the clouds pass in the sky, through the leaves. I wanted to explore more but didn’t dare move too far from where Miracle dumped me. I climbed a couple trees which was really fun. I found one branch that bounced nicely and swung on it a lot. Eventually it got dark, since we had been close to nightfall coming in. I went a bit closer to the road and when the sun set, I heard my sister calling for me. I went over and grinned at her.
“My dorm is small, cramped, and I have to walk clear down the hall to use a bathroom,” she said, helping me into the car. “It’s awesome.”
“Oh yeah, sounds like a real thrill ride to me.”
“Shut up! It’s exciting. I can’t believe I’m a college girl now! I met my roommate. She seems pretty cool, kinda weird. She’s obsessed with cows. Wants to be a big-animal vet. Meh. Give me a cute little kitty or puppy any day, though horses aren’t so bad.”
She chattered for the entire drive back into the Plains and it took us a while to find the graveyard which was called Newton cemetery. It looked really different. I tried to see ghosts but only saw one person, and something else that was small and close to the ground. A little kid? I hoped I wouldn’t cry. Miracle stopped the car and I got out, giving her a tight hug. She needed to get back to the dorms so we didn’t even have time to talk before she got back in and drove off. I headed into the cemetery and saw the small thing was a kitty. I looked at the human; a girl who looked my age, in a color I wasn’t sure of.
“Hi!” I went over, putting on my best smile.
She turned, and stared at me in confusion. “Uh, hi. Who are you?”
“My name is Chance. What’s yours?” I offered my hand but she just looked at it. “Um. So… I’m a Wanderer.”
“You don’t say,” she sneered and I gulped. “You look young. How old were you when you kicked the bucket?”
“Uhhh, I’m a little over sixteen,” I offered.
“I was fifteen,” she said. “How did you die?”
“Donna!” Another ghost showed up, an older man in another color I wasn’t sure of either. “Sorry about her, she’s a brat. Hi, welcome to Newton’s. Wanderer, you say? My name’s Mike Granville.”
“I am not a brat!” Donna snarled, stomping one foot. “I’m just untrustworthy of strangers. We don’t know him, he could be a serial killer.”
Mike sighed. “Donna, we’re dead. A killer wouldn’t be able to kill us.”
“I’m not sharing anything with a killer!” She kicked me in the shin and then floated off. I was balancing on one foot as I clutched my shin. It didn’t feel the same as when Miracle hit me, not as much pain, but it didn’t feel pleasant. I looked at Mike who was smirking. I had a quick, fleeting second of regretting coming here.
But then Mike waved his hand for me to follow him. “Here, I’ll show you the graves we give the Wanderers. They’re over this w–DAMN IT DIZZY!” he shouted as he tripped over the cat, who was now howling in pain.
“Is she okay?” I bent down to see and the cat hissed and swiped at me. I yelped as the claws raked on my hand and now I was howling in pain. Something silvery and pale oozed out and I stared. Was that… blood…? Blood?I HAD BLOOD AND NOW IT WAS GUSHING OUT!!! Panic took over and I flew in circles, screaming. Mike tried to talk to me but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. Blood. I had blood. And it HURT and it was coming out of me and I was going to die.
Then someone grabbed my hand. I stopped flying, jerked back towards the person holding my hand, bumping into him. Once again, the color was new to me. “Do not worry,” he said in a soft voice with a very strange accent. “Tis not real. Tis merely superficial.” He paused and looked over at Mike. “As are many things around here.”
Sure enough, the blood faded into nothing and the cuts were gone. Before I could thank him for calming me down, Mike yanked me hard from the nearly invisible ghost. “Kid, word of advice. Avoid him. He’s bad news.”
The teen-boy-ghost just stared in silence. Mike continued pulling me away. I looked over my shoulder but the boy didn’t seem too bothered. “He seems nice,” I said when we finally stopped near a grave.
“He’s not,” Mike said. “He’s bad news. Avoid him as much as possible. Anyway, here’s the grave for Wanderers. This one, or that one. Or even that one over there, but this one’s the grave of someone about your size.”
“How do you know I am a Wanderer?” I inquired.
Mike smiled. “Nobody’s buried here anymore. Haven’t had a fresh grave in over a year, before that–five years. Unless you count the animals. Which I don’t.”
“People have to be buried somewhere… is there another graveyard?”
“In a sense. People around here, they liked cremation. There’s a big place a few miles away where pretty much everyone goes. Big open place with little drawers full of urns. Ugh, no thank you. Glad I died before that trend started. My grave’s over there. Been here… hmm, must be… uhh, more than too many years.”
“How did you die?” I asked, looking him up and down. There were strange shapes forming off of him, a bit like my smoke. “I’ve never seen anyone like you before, or like the girl, or like the guy you said to avoid.”
“I was blasted with a curse,” Mike answered. I blinked and he smiled. “I… pissed off a witch who hit me with a curse, and I withered into nothing. The girl that kicked you, Donna? She starved to death. Dunno about the creeper though, he’s never told anyone. Not a color I’ve seen before. You were sick, right? Cancer? Something like that?”
“Um. Something like that, yeah. Thank you. So… I noticed… there aren’t many graves here?” I looked around again.
“No. Told you, most people prefer the crematorium.” Mike waved his hand in a direction. “Over there’s where the pets get buried. Like Breezy, the demon cat. After they started burying pets here, that’s when the cremation thing became popular. Personally, I’m glad my burial had all of me. How long you been dead?”
“A wh-while. Thanks.” I looked down at the gravestone and suddenly felt a bit homesick for Pleasant Rest. For Ruth. I hoped she was doing well. I had seen her the night before, I had taken her to her grave and she kissed me goodbye. Drifting probably, the beauty sleep she said she needed. “So are you guys the usual group?”
“Usual…?” He looked a bit confused. “Oh! You mean, the ones who come out every night? Yeah, Donna and I and the creeper and Maggie are the ones out the most. Billy comes out a lot too. Some others. Constantine…. some dude whose name I can’t pronounce, some Chinese guy. I dunno. And then the animals. Dazzler and the demon cat are the most common, sometimes Starburst comes out–he’s a horse. What was your name again?”
“Horse?” I stared towards the pet graveyard and pressed my hands against my pants. “I don’t like horses. They’re awful. B-but my name is Chance. Does the horse come out a lot?”
“Nah, but when he does, that sicko creep guy rides’m.”
Well, that was one reason to avoid the nearly invisible ghost. Still there was something about him that made me want to get to know him. His clothes seemed so odd, and the way he sounded was even more so. And the way he grabbed my hand was gentle and firm, and I didn’t get a ‘sicko creep’ feeling from him. I figured Donna would wind up being my friend, once I was able to convince her I wasn’t a killer. I talked to Mike for a while, and then tried to talk to Donna but she stayed a distance from me and acted very suspicious of me. Finally she went off and I was left alone. So I found a pretty area with columns, by the water, and sat down on a bench.
The cat came over and I pulled my feet up, watching warily. “Hi kitty,” I said. The cat sat down down and peered up at me. It meowed, looking so cute that I couldn’t help but reach down. The cat swiped and I yelped as the fire feeling raked across my hand. The cat ran off while I whimpered, sticking the painful cuts in my mouth. The not-really-blood felt so weird in my mouth but was tasteless.
“Good eve.” The nearly invisible ghost was in front of me, and bowed a bit. “How fairs your hand? I see Breezy has challenged you once more.”
“Ah–yes, but you w-were right before. The cuts disappear.” I watched as the blood faded and the marks left. “It’s weird. I’ve never been hurt like this before. I wasn’t used to it. Kinda scared me.”
“I am glad you are well, then. Would it be offensive if I ask to join you?” He indicated the bench and I shook my head, so he sat down. “You are a Wanderer?”
“S-something like that. My name’s Chance. Mike didn’t tell me yours, he just said–ah.” I stopped myself and fidgeted.
He chuckled. “The cursed one despises me. I am certain he spoke disgraceful words of me. Do not feel despair for what another says, Chance. I have no anger from his words. I am William. It is good to meet you.” I felt like it was Ruth all over again. Strange sayings that totally confused me. But unlike Ruth, it almost seemed like English wasn’t his native language with that strange accent.
“Good to meet you too,” I said, looking him up and down. “Did you die on Halloween?”
“N… no,” he replied, sounding a bit startled. “Why ask such?”
“Oh.” He began laughing. “Nay. Tis not a costume. My spirit left my earthly shell nigh on… Watcher’s eyes… so many years have passed, tis easy to forget. The year it was when I died was… the year of our Watcher, fifteen hundred and nine.”
I sat up, very surprised by this. “Th-that’s over five hundred years ago, that’s–that’s ages ago! You’re really that old?”
He laughed again. “Aye.”
“How come you can talk like, normal language? I mean, didn’t you speak Latin or something?”
“Yes. I can read some, and speak some. I was taught the language though English is what I spoke. I was of gentle birth, firstborn son. My life was for the court, for fighting for King and Country.”
“Y–you’re a knight?” I tried not to shriek it but it was so COOL!!! I had played some video games that involved knights and stuff and it was so awesome and here was one, a knight, a real knight, an actual knight! I couldn’t contain my excitement, and he seemed amused by how ecstatic I now was.
“In truth what?” I asked, when he didn’t continue.
“Oh! In truth is merely an affirmative response. It is… yes. I am a knight. A new knight, I was given my knighthood mere months ere my death. My father was of knighthood and nobility. If I had lived to my father’s death, I would have been–non, it does not matter.” He shook his head.
“But why does Mike say such mean things about you? I mean, a knight. That’s just… so cool. Did you joust and stuff?”
William gave me a steady gaze. “I killed men,” he said and I froze. “Many men. Four, I believe. Mayhap five. That is how I received my knighthood. It was on a battlefield. I killed those men with my sword, and my King rewarded me with my knighthood. If I had lived, I would have killed more men. Is it still ‘cool’?”
“Ah…” I looked down at my lap, feeling guilty. “I didn’t mean–I–I’m sorry.”
“There is not a need for apologies, Chance. I have accepted what I have done. It was war. If I had not raised my sword against them, my life would have ended on the battlefield. Tis what I was trained for. I merely wish for you to understand that knights are more than tournaments and banners and dancing. Most folk in these times do not understand there is blood.”
“Do you want me to go?”
“Nay.” He lifted his eyebrows a bit as he watched me. “Unless, that is what you desire. I am enjoying conversing with you. I do not speak to many. There are not many who come to this resting place, and those who have find me…” He lifted one hand and then let it drop back down. “I do not know the words well. Ah, uncomfortable. The cursed one does not find me well, and says to those who do come.”
“I’m not uncomfortable. I think you’re interesting. I like talking to people. I like getting to know what they’re like. Especially onces from before I know about, like you. You’re from way back. I think that’s really fun to hear about.”
We shared a smile and he began nodding. “That, I understand. I would enjoy listen to what you lived like. You passed on in recent years?”
“Um, yeah, sort of… It’s complicated. But yeah. I mean, I love video games and movies. Do you know what those are?”
“I have been told about… moving pictures…” He was obviously struggling with the words. “Of what are ‘video games’? I know what games are, are these special?”
I launched into a long explanation, telling him about technology and TV and movies and stuff, he really didn’t know much more than Ruth did really. I told him about video games and how fun they were, and how it was so exciting to pretend to be someone else and go on adventures. I don’t know how long I talked but it was early in the am when he excused himself to go visit the horse that had emerged from the pet graveyard. He urged me to follow him, but I shook my head, pretending I was tired. I didn’t want to tell a knight that I was afraid of horses.
“I pray you sleep well,” William said and bowed his head. I got up and wasn’t sure what to do so I bowed my upper body. William just smiled and put a hand on my shoulder. “There is no need for that, friend. Until we meet again.” And he went over to the horse.
I went with my tired story and it wasn’t until I was settling into my new grave that I realized I was super tired. It must have been all the excitement from the day, the moving, meeting new people, talking to William, and all that other stuff. I was glad to close my eyes and go into sleep, though I had a sharp stab of worry that without Ruth I wouldn’t be waking up in the morning. My sense of time was really bad. Hopefully I wake up, I thought. I was really fascinated by William and wanted to actually find out more about him instead of talking about myself (though I realized then he was probably just as interested in my strange times as I was with his) and I kinda wanted to know a bit more about Donna, and Mike, and meet other ghosts and–and–and then couldn’t fight the tiredness anymore, going into whatever sleep it was I got as a ghost.