I woke up with a start, feeling very confused for a moment. For a split-second I wondered where Ruth was before I remembered I had moved. Oh no, what if I Drifted again? Miracle is gonna be so mad!! Slowly I sat up, peeking out of the ground to make sure it was dark before I pushed myself free of the coffin. It was pretty dark though I only saw Mike hanging around, no other ghosts–no. There was that cat again, sitting on a rock and licking its paw. It froze mid-lick and looked at me. I stared, it stared, then it turned around and ran off.
“Hey!” I went over to Mike who was now looking at me all suspiciously. “Um, did I get here last night or–or was it a while ago? Sometimes I Drift, and cant tell when–“
“Hey kid, cool it,” he cut in sharply. “You just got here last night. You didn’t Drift, unless you just did it during the day. So you talked to that creepy guy?”
“Huh…? Oh–uh, William?” I asked and Mike grinned. “He’s not creepy. He’s super nice. He’s a knight. I liked talking to him, I don’t know why you think he’s no good.”
“Are you a hippie?”
“Uhhh, wh-what? What’s that?”
He was laughing now, smacking my back. “One of those guys who’s all about loving this, loving that, full of love for everyone.”
“Uh–I d-don’t… know… I mean, I think… p-people shouldn’t just be… y’know not be judged right away. If you have reasons to not like him that’s fine but just ’cause you don’t like him doesn’t mean I shouldn’t, right? If–if he does something to make me hate’m that’s different.” I looked around and spotted William at the little column-and-bench area we had chatted in the night before.
Mike groaned, an annoyed sound. “Can’t change your mind I guess. Awww man! Another lurker, I hate when this happens.”
I looked over my shoulder to see someone sneaking into the graveyard. For a second I thought it was my sister but then I saw it was actually a guy with a camera under one arm. I felt a twinge of fear since I wasn’t the same–I could be seen by normal people. Mike didn’t look too concerned, just annoyed. I saw Donna drifting around, complaining loudly, right by the guy who didn’t even notice her. I was halfway behind a bush so he hadn’t quite seen me yet but any minute he would and then–“Oh Watcher!” I dove down into the nearest grave, as fast as I could, mentally apologizing to whoever it was.
I curled up, hugging myself, breathing pretty heavily. A second later, Mike poked his head down. “What d’you think you’re doing?” he demanded.
“I–have a fear–of–people like him,” I lied. What could I say? That I was a totally different ghost who wasn’t invisible? That wasn’t gonna help my fitting in. “Is it ok I just kinda hide out in here for a while…?”
“This isn’t a guest grave,” he answered. “It’d probably be best if you didn’t.”
Oof… I slowly began rising up out of the grave, looking around as soon as my eyes were above the ground. I didn’t see the guy. My guest grave wasn’t too far off. I could hopefully make it.
I sucked in a huge breath and then began flying low to the ground, zipping through the bushes and headstones until I got to my own grave, and I dove in. I didn’t really have to worry about Mira tonight since I figured she’d know I wouldn’t be around with another person there. So I curled up on my side, and waited, wondering how long I should wait–but then I fell asleep anyway so it didn’t really matter.
When I next emerged from the grave, it was dark though whether it was the same night or not I wasn’t sure–though it was raining now. I popped up out of the ground and went to find someone to talk to. As Mike was not around, I attempted to talk to Donna who kicked me in the shin, announced there was stranger danger, then flew off. I watched her with confusion then headed towards William who was once more in that one little area. He turned when he saw me and bowed his head.
“Foul eve it may be, but however foul it is I pray I find thee well?”
“Um—” It took me a second to figure out what he meant, and then I smiled. “Yeah, I’m all right. Are you doing well?”
“Fairer now that you have given me your company.”
I smiled more. “Thanks. I’m–I have a question?” William acknowledged my request with a small nod of his head. “When was it we had someone in this graveyard? With a camera? I fell asleep in my grave and dunno how much time has passed…” I nervously chewed at one fingernail, hoping only a day at most had passed. Would Mira even show up if it were raining? I wasn’t a hundred percent sure, since the weather had never been too bad in Sunset Valley…
“That which those call a Sympathizer?” William asked slowly. Now it was my turn to nod. “Aye, twas this past night he came.”
“Past night? You mean, last night?” I asked so I could be sure.
“Aye. He was exclaiming in quite a voice, and used that box of his in all parts of this place of rest. I do not like those that disturb the dead, it is a strange thing. Many come to this place, more in recent times than before.”
“People seem to have gotten pretty interested in the dead lately,” I put in. “There are… places that trap ghosts… and some people looking for ways to destroy us.” I saw the look of horror on William’s face and wondered if it woulda been better to keep my mouth shut. I started to apologize but William talked first.
“There is always loathing of that which is not understood. Those that wish to shut their minds to what they do not understand are more blind than those without sight. It saddens and weights my heart to hear of this but it is not news that takes me by surprise.” He reached up to brush his hair back and it swept back into place. “Are you to walk with me, Chance? Shall we continue our conversation of the world and how it hath changed?”
“Yes.” I beamed at him, and he gave me a smile in return. We sat on the stone benches as the rain dripped through us as we talked long through the night. I kept my eye out for Mira but as I suspected, she never showed up. The horse never came out of its grave so I had William to myself until dawn. I got to hear stories of hunting parties and feasts and dancing. He offered to show me a dance or two from his times and I giggled, thinking of Ruth and wondering just how many other-era dances I might learn in my not-really-life.
Miracle came by the following night and I explained to her about the guy with the camera. She nodded and told me she had swung by but never came in cause of him. “Then it was raining,” she said with a crinkle of the nose. “What did the guy lurking ’round want?”
“I dunno, I hid out in my grave since I don’t think I can’t make myself unseen. I’m guessing he was trying to find ghosts, I don’t think he was a hunter though,” I added since my sister gave me an anxious glance. “Just a Symp, I think. Judging from what I was told.” I tugged up a few blades of grass then let them drop through my body, watching them be surrounded by my own body. “What would you do if you could go through things? Have things go through you?” I reached down through my stomach to pick up the broken grass and then let them fall again.
“I, uh, don’t think it’s something many living people can understand.”
“Do you think I have a heart?” I stuck my hand through my chest now.
Miracle groaned loudly. “Don’t start this ‘I can’t feel’ crap again. Or I’ll kick you. Hard. In the ‘nads.”
“In the what?!” I stopped putting my hand through my body to stare at her. She went red and dissolved into giggles. “What are ‘nads’?”
“A man’s personal body parts,” she snickered and I flinched, swinging an arm at her. She dodged out of the way, laughing louder now.
“I didn’t kick you, did I?” She adjusted her glasses, standing straighter. “You seem less melancholy though.” She bent forward, sticking her tongue out as I threw a clod of dirt at her and missing completely. “You know, maybe you could just try to go all invisible? You can be solid and not solid, as you put it. Maybe you can go visible and invisible.”
I blinked, feeling rather silly for never thinking of that before. “I could try. Ruth faded once and if ghosts can fade in and out of sight to other ghosts maybe I can at least fade in and out of sight to people. Let me try.” I closed my eyes, scrunching my face up as I concentrated on… whatever… it was I was supposed to be concentrating on to be invisible. Miracle began shrieking with laughter again and I popped open one eye. “Whaaaaat?”
“I’m sorry but you looked constipated or something. Naaah!” She hopped back as I threw another bit of dirt. This one hit her leg, leaving a bit of dirt on her jeans. “Sorry but your face looked so funny. I’ll stop.” She made the motion of zipping her lips.
I pursed my own lips and began my concentration. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be thinking of… I knew how to phase in and out of solidness and how to phase in and out of clothes, so I started there, going from solid to not solid, from regular clothes to clothes I’d wear to bed to a nice outfit I had seen in a video game once. “Anything?”
“You look fance now,” she replied from somewhere low to the ground. I opened an eye again and saw she was sitting down, arms around her legs. “You don’t seem any less vibrant though, if that’s what you’re looking for. Keep trying.”
For the next two hours I practiced. At one point Miracle left and returned with some pizza with I gladly ate, and then continued practicing while she opened up a thick, icky-looking book that she explained was college algebra. She read out some of the word problems which didn’t help me one bit so I finally gave up and gave her a hug. “Thanks, sis,” I said. “I will keep working at this. Maybe I will figure it out. I’ll talk to the other ghosts and see if they know about the fading thing.”
“Ok.” She walked with me back up close to the graveyard then waved as I drifted back to my new home.
I began working towards going invisible, which turned out to be a good thing since it seemed like every couple of nights someone showed up with devices to record ghosts. I spent a lot of time in my grave, hiding out. Most the time though I talked to William. I attempted to talk to Mike but every time I did he would make a comment about how I shouldn’t be talking to William. I tried to talk to Donna too but she seemed insistent I was a serial killer. I met some of the other ghosts and got along with some of them but they weren’t always out so as the days went by, I was mostly with William.
He taught me a lot about how things were done in his day. I learned the differences between ‘Your Majesty’ and ‘Your Grace’, different ways to bow and what kind of person to give which kind of bow (though he wouldn’t tell me which kind of bow he deserved; he still wouldn’t tell me the title he would have inherited had he outlived his father), and he sang many songs. He also taught me a little bit of Latin though it didn’t stick very well.
The one thing he did not do was get me near the horse. He tried every time we were together when the horse appeared. He promised me it would be safe, that I could just sit behind him and hold onto him without having to do anything more. Sometimes I was tempted but then I’d look at the horse, that huge animal, and shy away. My papa has been really into ho… no. My mom. My mom had been really into horses. Mira loved horses. So where had this fear come from? Maybe something had happened to me when I was very little that I couldn’t remember. It wouldn’t be surprising, as I had a very hazy memory in general. Sometimes I forgot what my parents looked like, or sounded like.
In any case, I always refused and just watched as William and the horse trotted around the graveyard or galloped or whatever. He sat in a way that seemed so… powerful. Like a knight. I could practically picture him with a great lance-pole-thingie, jousting. He had jousted, he told me stories of tournaments. He had been a great jouster and won many of the games he had been in. He told me about another sport he excelled in which sounded a lot like tennis. He spoke lovingly of archery and swordplay and oh, it sounded so fun I wish we could do these things–though he did have a sword with him (unusually enough, only sometimes) he never showed it to me.
The weeks blended together, seeming to go faster than they did at Sunset Valley. Of course I slept a lot more here, with all the people coming and going at night. I did discover I could go rather invisible to living people. One night Mira told me I had faded quite a bit though not completely. At least I had managed to do a bit and it gave me hope that eventually I wouldn’t have to hide at all; and it wasn’t like I was completely fading. When Mira told me I had faded some, I hadn’t felt any different and my mind and eyes and everything felt normal. I looked down at my hands and saw they were more see-through than usual. So it wasn’t just the living I’d go invisible to… I wondered if my voice would change. If I couldn’t talk and William couldn’t see me there was very little reason not to just sleep in my grave.
Winter in Appaloosa Plains was a lot different than it was at Sunset Valley. In the Valley, it was rarely very cold though occasionally we got some snow–when we did, it was very little, and it was very rare. I had never seen it before. Until it started one cold night. I watched the flakes drift around me with wonder then excitedly leaped up to dance about, laughing. “Snow! It’s so pretty! Isn’t it pretty?” I asked William.
He smiled back at me. “Aye, tis marvelous, as enchanting as…” He stopped speaking but I barely even noticed. I just jumped up and down, giggling happily. SNOW! I hoped it would snow a lot and while it didn’t that time, it snowed again the next week, covering the ground. I scraped the snow together enough to make a snowball to hit Mira with.
My sister chuckled and shrieked but seemed as distant as she was when she got there that night. “Are you all right?” I asked, going over to her.
“Yeah just… wondering what to do about the holidays. My final exams are in a couple weeks and then I’ll be going back to the Aunts until January.” Miracle gave me a look and I just smiled at her. “What are you going to do?” She turned away from me to look out at the beautiful landscape.
My smile wilted. “Ah. Uh, I g-guess I haven’t thought about that.”
“You can’t stay here by yourself for the holidays,” she pointed out. I kicked the ground and didn’t reply. I was extremely torn. Sunset Valley and seeing my aunts and cousins again? They had visited my sister twice, both times coming to see me as well. I could maybe even see Ruth if I was able to wake her up. Only… I knew they’d want me to stay in the house and my stomach flip-flopped at that thought. I had this disgusting, terrible, bone-chilling feeling (if I had bones) that if I went back into that house it’d be so hard to get out again. I could picture the closed doors and closed curtains, having to hide in my room when visitors came. Locked up in a cage. “You can’t stay.” My sister spoke again, this time sounding as if there were no question about where I’d be going.
“Yep,” I said.
“I’m staying. I wasn’t at the house last holiday either,” I said and began scraping snow together again, ignoring the shocked look on my sister’s face. “You’ll be fine without–“
“GRIM REAPER’S DIRTY LAUNDRY!” My sister sounded like she was yelling our aunt’s favorite curse through a megaphone. “You are NOT staying here!”
“I say I am staying.” I tossed the snowball in the air and stayed solid as it hit me, bits of snow falling into my clothes. I shivered in delight at the feel of the vaguely cold wetness sliding against my skin until I went not-solid and watched the snow plop down to the ground. Unmelted. I wasn’t warm.
“You are such a brat,” she snarled. “We’re your family. You can’t stay here.”
“Well I’m not going back to the cage!”
I covered my mouth and quickly turned away from her. “H-house, I–I meant house.” Her eyes bore into me and I groaned. “Okay, I meant cage. I hate it.”
“You hate our home. W–you are seriously serious about living in the graveyards, aren’t you?” She stepped closed to me, her voice cracking. “Aren’t you?!”
“Yes.” I faced her once more, straightening up a bit. “I like it. I like being free. And I’m sorry but I really want to stay here for the holidays. I… miss everyone but I am happy here, and I think it’d be sad to just abandon William. He hasn’t got another friend here, you know.”
My sister got a murderous look on her face now. “First Ruth, now William. What’s with you and these… friends? Just taking advantage of–“
“No one is taking advantage of me!” I whined. “They’re my friends! Ruth and William are my friends, and I don’t want to just… abandon William to a however long it will be of loneliness. Nobody else talks to him.”
“W…ill..” She began gnawing at her bottom lip. “Chance… is he… are you…?”
She stared, waiting. I gave her a perplexed smile. “Am I what?”
Now she sighed. “Like… grandpa…”
“Which one?” I asked cheerfully, happy the conversation had gone to something else.
“What d’you mean wh–EITHER one!” she demanded.
“Um. Poppop always said I’m a lot like him,” I drew out, remembering the conversation we had. Remembering some of it. I couldn’t remember everything said but he had said that, hadn’t he? “And Grandpa says–“
“Are you and William–you know…” My sister was really struggling with whatever it was she was trying to say. “Uh, together?”
“Yeah, he’s my friend.”
“Not just friend, but, you know, dating type of friend?”
I squeaked and turned my head towards my shoulder, digging my cheek into my shoulder. “No.” Cause we weren’t. Were we? We were just friends. Like… well, Ruth was different–wasn’t she? This wasn’t the same. It couldn’t be the same. I COULDN’T deal with this again!!! “Besides, he’s a knight. Knights aren’t gay. They didn’t have it back then.”
Miracle smacked her forehead with her hand. “You know what, never mind. Just never mind. I’ll swing by tomorrow and–just think about coming home, all right? Just for the holidays, it’d only be a month. See ya, bro.”
I watched her head back to the road which was out of sight. Once she disappeared I drifted up the hill, back to the graveyard. I felt uncomfortable now as I approached William, not wanting to go near him. My sister… she… she was just… saying things, they weren’t true at all, we were just friends, friends, just friends. He smiled and bowed his head, and I wanted to run away and hide in my grave because he had to know what Miracle had said. I was so upset about this. I had gone through this with Ruth. I never wanted to go through it again, that miserable curiosity of whether it was just like or like-like or love and–and I just couldn’t deal with it again.
“Pray, are you well?” William asked and I jumped. “You have the face of one troubled.”
“N-n-n-no, I’m fine,” I stammered, drawing my hands to my chest in fear of all my troubles pouring out. I knew very little of the outside world but I did know a lot of people were unhappy about people liking people of the same sex. Miracle had talked about being teased because of our aunts and grandfathers, and both couples had talked lightly of being disliked by other people in town. What would a knight think of such a thing? And did I even have any feelings for him? Was Miracle right? Didn’t I like girls? I dated Ruth. Didn’t that mean I was not gay?
“You are crying,” William said.
“N-no. I’m f-fine. N-no!” I pulled away as he reached a hand up. “I’m f-f-f-fine, really, I’m just–sad–about–not spending the holiday with my f-family. It’s sad. Very sad. Isn’t it sad?” The words fell out all jumbled and fast. I wasn’t even sure what I was saying.
William gave a short laugh. “Aye. Tis. It has been such an age since I have been with those who share my blood, I have forgot what it must be like for one new to this existence. Forgive me, Chance.” He bowed deeply.
“Noooo… I’m–I didn’t–it’s fine! Really, it’s fine, I just, I’m fine and it’s fine and oh look, the h-h-horse is out, why don’t you go ride?”
William looked at the horse but didn’t make any sign of moving. Why wouldn’t he go away? If he stayed too long he might know what was going on in my head and I couldn’t stand that. I didn’t even know what was going on in my head. I needed to go into my grave and stay there and think, or try to. “Nay. It seems that you are in need of a friend.”
I yelped and then felt the prickling feeling in my cheeks of not-really blushing. “I am going to go sleep,” I managed to mumble.
William inclined his head just a bit. “Pray pardon me for forcing my attentions upon you. Shall I see you morrow eve?”
“Uh, y-y-yes,” I stammered. “Goodnight.”
He laughed. “I was one.”
I blinked several times then began giggling at what he meant. He smiled, eyes crinkling up at the corners and I giggled even more. “You still are,” I said easily, my jumpy nerves relaxing for some reason.
“Good-night, Chance,” he said very softly.
“Night, William.” I went over to my grave and sunk into the ground, curling up into a little ball in the coffin. I was still very, very, very annoyed at my sister for making me think these things about someone I wouldn’t have thought these things about–right? I liked William, he was my friend. So was Ruth. But I didn’t like-like Ruth. Did I like-like William? Maybe–was–was what Ruth had said about me being a certain type of guy mean I was the type of guy like my grandpas? Was I… did I like guys? Did I like William? Or was all this going on in my head cause of my sister being a brat?
I thought about all this for quite a long time and just before I fell asleep, I found myself wondering what the medieval word for petting was.