It was a whisper. A faint, distant voice barely audible. Yet, I knew it right away. Alaska.
Then I heard it again, "Pudge."
I sat up in my bed. The Colonel was snoring above me.
"Alaska?" I whisper into the darkness.
"Is that you?"
A warm shiver went down my spine, just like when she would touch me. There was a hot breathing in my ear, as if to say "Yes, it's me. Alaska. I'm here, I'll never leave. Not until you want me to."
As I fell back asleep, I remembered seeing a light haze. A shape, almost like a person...But not quite full.
During lunch, I ate in a daze. Well, until the Colonel slapped me hard on the arm.
"Pudge, what's up with you man? You're never this quiet. You won't even talk to Lara."
"Sorry. Do you believe in ghosts Colonel?"
"You mean…No Pudge. I don't. As much as I wish I did, so that she could come back and be real to me, I don't."
I went back to eating my bufriedo. It just didn't taste the same. Not since Alaska wasn't around to eat with. Everything was just different. The Colonel must have noticed my attitude went from just quiet, to sad.
He said "Look, Pudge, you can't sulk over her anymore. It's been almost a year. It's time to move on."
"I'll never forget her. I won't."
"Neither will I, but I won't let her-"he paused, as if not knowing how to put it, "passing run down my life. That's not what she would want. It's Alaska; she'd want us to be out partying, getting what we can. And doing it for her."
He must have noticed my change in expression because he clarified, "But not in a weird way. I just mean that she'd want us to have enough of a good time for her to."
He got up to dump his tray. "And Pudge?"
I looked up. "What?"
"Start talking to Lara. Please, if you don't I seriously may have to beat you. She will not leave me alone." He turned, and I saw the bits of a smile turning at his lips.
I had to smile to.
She didn't come to me that night. Or the next. I was starting to believe it was just my imagination that brought her to me that first night. But, about a week later, I felt her again. I was down by the lake, sitting on the swing. Our swing as I referred to it in my head. Her presence, her smell, it was definitely there.
"Alaska?" A little ripple in the lake but nothing more.
I heard footsteps. They were coming down from the woods.
"Pudge! I've been looking everywhere for you! I had a feeling I'd find you here though."
Lara. I now felt foolish and a tad guilty for thinking they might be Alaska's.
"Lara, I...I love you."
Nope, nothing. No hint of relief or anything. Damn, getting on with my life will be harder than I thought.
Pudge, I love you too!" She practically squealed it.
Well, this didn't work. Lara's great, but I don't exactly love her.
I need to though. Whatever it takes to get over Alaska, I'll do.
We walked back up to the main. I told her I had to go do homework, and ran before she could offer to help.
I sank into my bed. I had no energy to actually do my homework. I'll do it tomorrow I told myself.
That night, I barely slept. I kept hearing her. Actually hearing her too. I knew it wasn't my imagination. I'm positive.
She kept whispering "Pudge, I'm with you. Pudge, look at me."
I would turn my head and look around but I saw nothing. She was there though. She had to be.
I felt a cold breeze swirl around me.
"What the hell?" It was the Colonel. He must've felt it to.
"Pudge? Did it just get colder?"
"Yes." Then I added' "It's her."
"If I say I believe you, will you stop with this Alaska ghost thing?"
"No," I answered simply. I needed proof it wasn't her, not just him believing me.
I heard him thud back on his bed. Well, that was productive.
Another breeze. This time her scent was there. The top bunk rustled.
I heard him sit up.
"Do you…smell that too?" I knew he wasn't asleep. He couldn't sleep. He believed Alaska was here. As much as he didn't want to, he did.
"Yes. Do you believe me now?"
"I have to. Why do you think she's here?"
"No idea. But I-we need to find out."
"And just how do we do that?"
"We contact her. Tomorrow night."
With that, I fell asleep.
I couldn't wait for my last class the next day because after, I was meeting up with the Colonel.
To discuss our séance.
I was nervous, I must admit, but still, it was exciting. I would actually get to talk to Alaska. Oh god, who am I kidding, it was nerve-wracking. What if all she had to say to me was that I needed to get over her and stop obsessing. I could tell the Colonel was nervous too, he didn't say a word to me at meals. And I didn't pester.
That night, we had it all set up. Candles, incense, the whole deal.
"You ready?" I asked the Colonel.
He gave a slight nod, but said nothing.
I lit the candles.
"Alaska, Alaska, please come talk to us. Your friends."
What was I supposed to say? It was the best I could do.
The colonel looked like he was trying not to laugh. Apparently, my invitation amused him.
A slight gust of air and the room was filled with her scent.
Then her voice. "I'm here….." It faltered.
The Colonel lit up. "Alaska!"
A shadow of her shape appeared in the center of our room. Then the details. Her eyes, her lips, her hair.
"Is it really you?"
"Well who else would it be. Now, what did you call me for?"
The Colonel's jaw dropped. "Why'd you do it? Was it on purpose?"
There it was. He told me not to worry about what happened last year, but I guess he still did.
"No. No questions like that, or I'll leave."
His expression was like I'd never seen. Like, this was the first time he'd ever been so afraid.
She turned to me.
"Why do you come to our room in the middle of the night? Is there something you have to tell us?"
"Oh Pudge, I watch over you. Both of you, to keep you safe. I guess I got a little close sometimes, huh?"
I desperately wanted to ask if she watched Jake to, but decided that might get her mad.
"I can't do it forever though; I'll need to go soon. But, I'll try to stay, until you tell me to go."
The Colonel looked up. "Why would you have to go?"
"I don't belong here. I don't have any unfinished business from my life, so there's no need for me to stay. But I'm trying."
"You won't like… get hurt will you? If you stay too long."
Chip, I'm dead. Nothing can happen to me."
"Oh, right." He looked almost hurt.
"Pudge, call Jake. Please, tell him that I'll love him. Forever."
I nodded. I looked at the Colonel; it was too much for him.
Alaska, you can go now."
"Alright, I'll keep you safe. Be right there with you guys. As long as I can."
"No, Alaska, I mean, you can go now, forever. We'll never forget about you.
You'll never be replaced. I'll call Jake. I promise. Goodbye."
I blew out the candles.
"What the hell Pudge?"
"She wasn't happy here. She wanted to get on with her …new life too."
He got up and climbed into his bunk. "Guess your right. Goodnight."
I walked out of the room, picked up the phone and called Jake. His number still written on the board, just like always.