Fear of Ghosts
Chapter 1: Mental Is Where The Ghosts Are
First multiparter for the Negima fandom, something like the 5th or 6th one total, although I've only ever actually finished one. But I really think I've got enough dedication to the fandom(KonoSetsu, you've consumed my LIFE, I would hope I have enough dedication to finish this)to be able to finish a multiparter, so let's hope for me eh?
I've always thought about her.
I could never stop thinking about her. Everywhere I'd walk, I'd see her ghost – enjoying herself on a swing in the playground I walk by, weaving together a daisy chainin thepublic parkby my recluse, staring at me with that awful sad look on the sidewalk as I turned away and left her behind…
I couldn't protect her like this. I couldn't protect her with the knowledge of past failures and the extreme amount of personal interest I took into her safe-being. I couldn't do it, sick with worry when I wasn't with her and dazed beyond any sort of alertness when I was. I couldn't protect her precisely because I wanted to so much.
A car screeches by and sprays a fountain of muddy water over me, and I realize that I'm loitering about in a rather suspicious manner, the image only enhanced by the splattered drops of mud streaming down my clothes. I scowl at the car slightly maliciously, but the halo of silky black hair framing the person in the leather-lined driver's seat stuns me and wipes my mind clear for a moment.
But of course it's not her. The hair is too long, although she could've certainly grown it out by this time, and it has faint red highlights, even though that could've been manufactured as well. But it's not her simply because I know.
I wouldn't meet Konoka here anyway. I haven't seen her in the last eight years – what's there to change that now?
A bitter laugh forces its way out of me, choked and strained but still harsh and grating to my ears. Eight years, and I'm still thinking about her every moment of my life, her shadow lingering in places that even I cannot see.
What am I doing here? Why can't I let her go? I'm a fucking college student now, living on my own, complete with a job and my own girlfriend.
I shift to the far side of the cement sidewalk as another car rushes by, showering me with even more murky water.
I don't usually take careful notice of these things, but today the pavement is gray and it's the only thing I can concentrate on. The sky is a swirl of gray and darker gray and the light pole is a metallic gray that I sidestep, landing into a reflective gray surface.
The ripples created by my foot, tiny and shimmering across an irregular blob pull me in and entrance me, and I stare into it as jet black hair pulled into a ponytail with a yellow hair band and opaque black eyes slowly come into focus.
I can't claim to say that I'm ugly, because I'm not. I'm not a classical beauty(not like Konoka with her perfectly slanted jaw line and double eyelids and smooth creamy skin that screams of generations upon generations of aristocratic breeding) but I'm quite far off from bad-looking. Apparently I have the "vulnerable look down pat," as my girlfriend says, "like a model." ("A beautiful model who belongs only to me" Kisses and caresses and that godawful awareness)
The part of my hair that's pulled back exposes clearly my eye, and within the stone-like reflection I can see myself again and again, and somehow an image of Konoka weaves itself into the irises so that I see her over and over again as well, duplicated in my mind's eye and upon the now-still water, like the millions of mirrors in an insect's eye.
My foot lifts and then smashes forcefully into the puddle, shattering the haunting illusion that continues to mock me behind my eyelids. I can feel a wetness seeping through the tattered soles of my sneakers and a wetness pricking at the back of my eyelids, but it doesn't really matter.
People could call me pretty. Ironically I am anything but that.
I think it's raining.
I am a sorry mess, an absolute train wreck. I work in a dead-end job as a cashier and I go to college because it's the natural path for an educated girl, automated steps taken blindly up a ladder of impossible proportions for those people with impossible dreams that sometimes obtain them. I have an apartment with a small closet that stores everything memorable (everything with her) in it and I have a girlfriend that I'm with for no reason, and when we have sex and she whispers passionately into my ear that she loves me I mumble half-truths that are danker than lies, cutting harder and deeper and bloodier because truth spills blood and lies spill blood and both together spill even more blood.
I am a monster, ugly and scarred on the inside, hurting and betraying everyone I know and meet.
Somehow my hands are scrabbling at a brick wall as if I was about to fall, and the palms are already chafed and baby-like pink and in another few moments they'll be bright red. I continue clawing for dear life as I sink down into a bottomless asphalt floor.
Konoka and I once tried playing soccer on asphalt because she spotted a yellow and black soccer ball rolling about on the field. It was flat and kicking it was a chore, but we had fun until Konoka tripped and scraped her knee against the asphalt and started sniffling. I treated it, and then we swore that we wouldn't do any physical sport across a floor like that anymore.
Fuck. I can even relate asphalt to Konoka.
I must look like a real addict because a crack dealer tentatively approaches me to offer his wares, which he definitely wouldn't have done had he not been absolutely sure that I would buy.
I think I try to say no, but I'm not really sure because the only thing I can think of uttering is mindless gibberish – all understandable words have left me. At any rate he backs up and returns back to his dark and dangerous alley, a disappointed look on his face from having taken a huge risk of being caught and getting nothing for it.
What would Konoka say if she was here and she saw me? Unable to even hold a normal conversation right now.
My life is so fucked up.
But it was that way without Konoka before, and has always been that way without Konoka (sparkling charming eyes and a brilliantly wide smile that would melt away any problems and were definitely not learned from those stuffy rich old men whose only law was of power) so life isn't any different, really.
Today is the anniversary. The beginning of the eighth year that I've left Konoka in better hands. The opening of the same raw infected wound, only just beginning to scab over.
A wave of black in the corner of my eye and my head raises up as if actually expecting there to maybe be some sudden apparition of Konoka, hair done delicately up and bundled up in her favorite pink kimono, although all that would be completely mussed upby the time Ineared the end of the daydream.
It's just a woman walking her tiny terrier, looking absolutely miserable in the rain slapping against the sidewalk in a rhythmic splash-splash.
My gaze turns to my hands, streaked with a crimson that diluted and faded to a colorless gray. Suddenly I slam my palms against the ground and then drag my fingers along the rough texture hard, coloring them pink until my fingers finally clench into fists, blood dripping steadily from the hollow where they are all curled up, knuckles scraped absolutely unrecognizable.
A moment later all the red pigment is washed away and there is only a dreary gray again.
I should probably be getting home. Slowly I stagger to my feet and then totter along the well-known path to my apartment, my vision clouded by the haze brought on my the rain and my own confusion.
As I walk I pass a lot of dejected and melancholy people, and also a rowdy group of stuck-up teenagers who think chain-smoking and picking on other kids at school makes them rebellious and cool. As I meander past them one of them, perhaps their leader, calls out to me mockingly, "How about coming with me for a night, pretty lady? I bet I could make you feel fantastic." At this the rest of the group chuckles, some more heartily than others.
Normally I would ignore then and continue on my way, knowing that they could never best me in anything. Today though something makes me stop and turn to face them. This is ridiculously stupid – I can't fight worth my life when I'm in this kind of state of mind, but then again that's probably precisely why I confront them.
A thin smile creases my face as my eyes narrow into their most threatening expression, but the smile freezes on my face as my eyes focus on the girl standing to the left of and behind him.
For several moments I truly think that girl, with her eyes looking downwards and meekly hunched upon herself is Konoka, because everything about her just fits perfectly, and my eyes widen.
The boy who yelled out to me thinks I'm staring at him, for he puffs out his nonexistent chest, brushing back gelled hair with a flourish and saying slowly to his friends, "I think we got us some beautiful booty today," before sauntering towards me, emboldened by his friends' supporting laughter.
It's not Konoka. It could almost be, but Konoka would never let herself be broken like that (not that she'd have to) and even if she did, it's just not Konoka.
The sudden surge of anger and emptiness nearly suffocates me in its raw emotion, and my hand automatically darts out and grabs the youth by his tender neck, squeezing it hard then lifting him up, his terrified expression the perfect outlet for assuaging this overflow of feeling. Briefly the thought of destroying his nuts flickers in the back of my head, a pathway to a long ago memory of a certain Negi-senpai and a heavenly Kyoto field trip, which begins to send rays of pain echoing through the back of my head, but I block it out and instead just toss him into the bus stop sign. That kid really needs to bulk up more if he wants to be ghetto.
A harsh rasping sound bubbles from my throat but somehow comes out silky and deadly, warning the brash boy, "Don't play around, kid."
The group falls deathly silent and I stalk off, but not before the girl lifts up her head and catches me in the eye. A plea for help is shining in her eyes, but I can only ignore it. (And if she was Konoka?)
Eventually a brick wall sprinkled with vivid pink and green graffiti comes into view. As I stride I examine my bloody hands and wonder what I should tell her, if I tell her anything at all. After all, I didn't the last year or the year before that, I just let her treat them and went to bed.
It doesn't really matter anyway.
At the entrance I pause, fumbling in my pocket for keys that seem to have disappeared. I am pretty sure I put them into the left pocket of my jeans, but they don't seem to be there, so I continue scrabbling for those damned elusive keys.
"Um, miss? You seem to have dropped your k-"
The voice suddenly breaks off, and I stand there stock still, still facing the wall. I become hyperaware of everything, even the blood that slowly trickles down my hands, gory and ugly in the moonlight.
It's like a dam is being opened, a flood of memories that roars loudly in my ears as I hear the one voice I will always be able to pick out.
I turn slowly, almost terrified that this is an illusion again. But my illusions never spoke merely wafted translucently while I grasped onto them because they were the most concrete thing I had left.
My breath hitches in my throat. The moonlight is striking her right on her head so that her eyes are bright and clear, and she hasn't changed at all. And yet she's changed so much. Her eyes are so, so different. She could truly be the girl hanging with that group at the bus stop, although they are still not the same.
A primal gurgling sound tickles at the back of my throat, and I hear a strange low keening noise that I realize with horror belongs to me. Somehow though, words seem to squeeze themselves out of my choked throat.
I am satisfied with this part. Which is really not very good, since one should never be satisfied with their work, but hey, it happens. We shall see when and if I come back to this another year how happy I am with it then.
Although I think the title needs some serious work. xx Pretty bad, I say. Well, whatever.
On a side note, I just heard that now does not allow the author to reply to his/her reviewers? Like at the bottom of the next chapter or something. Is this true?
Anyway, constructive criticism is appreciated!