Estimated reading time — 29 minutes
“Play with me,” it said. I stirred in my bed, my eyes drowsy and heavy. A yawn blew out of my mouth. I was seconds away from falling deep into my dreams, but the voice shook me back to reality.
“Play with me,” it repeated, a child’s voice. One that I came to recognize early in my childhood. I laid with my eyes still closed, denying the fact that I woke up. I still felt exhausted and at the verge of passing out. If I just relaxed a little longer…
“Play with me,” it muttered, but his tone somehow changed. It didn’t come out with anger or hostility, but somehow it snatched my attention immediately. It sounded hopeless and lost, and it felt as if those same feelings provoked me at that moment. I imagined my bed forming lips right below where I laid. For some reason this image stuck to my brain.
Play with me. Play with me. The words continued to barrage my mind, leaving me restless and frantic. Now I wanted to open my eyes, but some mystical force kept them from splitting open. The lips on my bed moved and hummed. I felt a chilling vibration under where I laid. A tongue stretched out of its lips, and licked my entire back. I tried moving my limbs, but just like my eyes, they remained paralyzed.
Play. With. Me. The lips opened wide, and released a hot steam of breath. The air below scorched my entire body. My body sank deeper inside my bed, the sheets and comforts swallowing me whole. At this point breathing became an impossible task. The oxygen surrounding me grew thin. Darkness consumed my sight.
I opened my eyes.
Everything remained still. Nothing seemed disturbed. Well…except for me, of course. From the window above my head, the moon shone its silver light through my blinds.
My heart raced a million miles per second. With the help of the moon, I managed to scan my entire room for anything suspicious. Everything appeared normal and intact, thankfully.
Sweat drenched my entire body, making my pajamas and bed sheets stick to my skin like superglue. I thought about pulling away my blanket in order to cool myself down, but something told me it’d be better if I laid underneath my sheets. Maybe it was my childish mind pretending that my blankets can actually protect me from any monster or demon. Oh, how I miss the innocence of my mind as a kid.
The creepiness of what I just experienced settled on my mind. I shivered deeper into my bed, despite how hot my body felt. Some traces of my memory told me that everything was just some sick and bizarre nightmare. But I knew better than that. At that point in my childhood, I dealt with my fair share of paranormal experiences.
“Play with me,” I heard the child’s tenuous voice loud and clear. As calm and as gentle as the child’s tone sounded, it somehow pierced the silence inside my room like a sharp knife slicing through human flesh. Worst of all, it stimulated whatever emotion I felt the most at the moment.
And currently, anxiety took hostage of my conscious.
I peeked at the closet door that stood across from me. The moonlight provided full clarity of the entire wooden surface. Both doors remained closed, just how I left them right before I slept.
A noise came from behind the closet doors. It sounded like someone or something shuffling in between my clothes. The first levels of trepidation kept my body at bay. I wanted nothing more than to run away, but the child’s voice already drew me in with its mystical hands, and they refused to let me go.
The door creaked opened, the rusty hinges releasing a sour hiss, and the bottom of the closet door grinding against the hardwood floor. I rattled in my bed as if I was having a seizure.
Each second that passed by stretched farther and farther. More movement occurred behind the shadows the closet door created. I struggled hard to gather my thoughts, but they scattered themselves and blew far away from my mind like pieces of paper against an autumn wind.
“Play with me,” I heard the child better, now that the closet door didn’t restrict the full volume of his voice. That was worse for me, however. I tried bottling in all of my terrified emotions, but the bastard broke the glass free, and let my feelings spill out of my skin and bones like blood from an open wound. At this point I thought I’d drown in my sweat.
The child stepped forward. I heard the sound of his soft and delicate foot tap against the floor. I strained my eyes harder at the closet door, trying to catch a quick glimpse at the boy who had been disturbing my sleep for over a year now. Every time I try, however, I always failed. The child always hid himself amongst the shadows.
He took his time approaching me, as if hesitant and fearful of my own presence. When this happened, I began feeling sympathetic towards the poor child. I reminded myself that every night he paid me a visit, he never tried to hurt or harass me. Sure he sometimes scared the crap out of me, but this seemed unintentional. It was only my own head worried and paranoid about the unknown, nothing more.
The child swayed closer to where I laid. What more can I had done but just lay there and let the boy do as he pleased. Some of the nights the child crept out of my closet door, he spent most of his time gazing at my direction. Even though I couldn’t tell if he even had eyes to look at me, I still sensed his glare on my face. At first this really freaked me out. I mean who would enjoy being stared at as you try to sleep? But it almost felt as if he was guarding me from my own nightmares.
But always, no matter what, he asked the same question over and over again.
“Play with me.”
I never responded back. I always just fell back to sleep, or waited until the sun rose and the boy returned back to my closet or wherever the hell he came from.
That night, however, I finally spoke back.
“Okay,” I whispered, my words leaving my lips like syrup drooling out of my mouth. “What do you want to play?”
The boy stopped walking. I knew I surprised it somehow. The nervous energy that transpired between us almost felt like something tangible. I waited with patience to see what would happen next.
The child shrilled, and let out a loud shriek. I joined in on the screaming, as if trying to compete who can shout the loudest. Immediately after this, the boy’s entire presence vanished from where he remained.
But before the boy disappeared, I spotted something weird about him. See, the moment he left, a small flash of light emerged from where he stood. This granted my eyes just one split second to finally see what the child looked like.
What I saw was far from what I expected.
The first thing that caught my eyes was the boy’s face. He looked pale as snow, and his lips appeared numb and blue. A small helmet of blonde hair rested on top of the boy’s head. Dirt and grass was smeared all over the child’s cheeks and forehead. The most distinctive feature, however, were the boy’s hollow, demented eye sockets. They looked like two endless dark tunnels. The longer you gazed at the child’s empty eyes, the more the shadows inside sucked you in.
Right in the middle of the boy’s body, just inside his intestines, remained a big blob of red and yellow light. A maze of veins glowed inside the boy’s naked stomach. It almost seemed as if the child was pregnant.
It took me a while to recognize the child. Right when I realized who he was, I yelled until my throat began bleeding from the inside.
It was Ricardo, my best-friend who died when I was only five years old.
This incident occurred when I was six years old. A lot has changed over the past eleven years, but to some extent nothing has changed at all.
Sometimes the thing you least expect end up happening after all. For instance, I never would have predicted that I would befriend the ghost that had been haunting my nights since I was five years old, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
To explain the full story, I guess I need to begin when my family and I moved to Union City around the turn of the twenty-first century. I was two at the time, still very young and naïve to the many dangers that possess this earth. The reason my family left New York, and entered New Jersey instead, was because of the death of their still-born child. I was supposed to have an older sibling, but the child died during birth. It happens often, and nobody’s to blame, really.
My parents, however, couldn’t properly deal with the shame and guilt of their first child dying. They became very unstable and reckless because of it. A month or so after the infant died, they immediately tried once more to make another child—I guess out of pure desperation. This is how I was brought into this world. I’m the result of two emotionally broken adults who relied on my birth to restore their hope in this world. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing for me, but either way I managed to survive this time.
Even after my birth, however, my folks still carried the weight of their deceased baby on their shoulders. They quickly left New York as soon as possible. They stated that the city and house they lived in constantly reminded them of their dead baby. All of my parent’s neighbors and friends looked forward to the upcoming child at the time. When my folks informed everyone that the child never made it out of the womb alive, the disappointment that crossed their lives escalated to something morbid and pitiful.
I claim myself a New Yorker even though I lived most of my life in New Jersey. My parents often took me there since my father still worked at his job in the big city. They used to always take me near where they once live, and introduce me to all of their previous neighbors. I remember very distinctively how most of them glared and studied me. They thought of me as a child from heaven itself. They always littered me with gifts and provided special privileges for whatever I desired. I was always shy around them, so I never begged for anything. And at times the attention became overwhelming.
During some of our trips, however, I began noticing the hidden depression in my parents’ hearts once they spent a little too much time around their old house. I once caught my mother crying inside one of her best-friend’s room when I was four. When I approached her and asked her what was wrong, she simply shook her head, a waterfall of tears rushing down her red eyes, and took hold of my back and shoulders with her bare arms.
My mother embraced me with a gracious hug, and whispered in my ear how much she loves me, and how lucky I am to be a part of her life. Her moist and warm face rubbed against my own cheeks. At some occasions I would’ve found this annoying, but I sensed and empathized with my mother’s pain even at such a young age. Even though I had no idea what the hell was going on, I still knew that I needed to hug my mother strongly in order to make her feel better.
Despite the setbacks my parents faced, they somehow found a way to move forward. At such a young age, I learned to be grateful at the circumstances that passed through my life. Some parents might have fought and divorce each other if something this tragic ever shot at their lives. Some parents might’ve relied on drugs and alcohol in order to mellow out the agony dwelling deep in their hearts and soul.
My parents decided to act differently. They looked at me as inspiration, and chose to dedicate their life into raising me right. They thanked God that I had survived, and took it as a sign to make the best life for me. For this, I owe them all of my regards, and I can’t be any more appreciative for what they’ve done.
But nothing could’ve prepare the three of us for what hit me when I turned five.
My close friend from kindergarten passed way around that time. His name was Ricardo Hernandez. I knew this kid since I started school at the age of four in pre-k. We met there, and that same first day we instantly became best pals. I remember we couldn’t remember our names the first few weeks, so we just called each other amigo. It was adorable.
As bashful as I was, I somehow managed to be comfortable with him only. We just clicked. I can’t seem to explain it any other way.
Ricardo died from breathing problems. I didn’t quite know the specifics back then. I just knew that he needed to remove his tonsils. Ricardo’s folks scheduled the appointment to proceed with the treatment as soon as they found out. I think a day or so before the surgery was supposed to happen, Ricardo died in his own bed while watching cartoons. The hospital told his parents that the dysfunction on his lungs wasn’t anything that serious, but I guess they must’ve overlooked something important. Fucking bastards.
Death has a way of messing with my parents. If the Grim Reaper does exist, then that son of a bitch must have some grudge against my mother and father. They reacted with devastation at the news of my best-friend’s sudden death. They knew how close Ricardo and I became, and because of this friendship, my parents ended up befriending Ricardo’s folks. Like any decent adult would do, my mother and father comforted and mourned with my best-friend’s parents together.
I guess they also understood how it felt to lose a child at such a young age. This was just what my parents freaking needed. Right when they finally overcame all odds, and learned to live with the death of their infant son, life or god or whoever the hell finds some fucked-up way to remind my parents of their most stressful and dismaying point of their lives.
When I first found about the news, the principle from my school visited our class, and delivered the awful story. The day before this happened, the other students and I caught our teacher, Ms. Ventra, crying and moping near the hallways. Out of all of her children, she cared and respected Ricardo the most. He always charmed our teacher in a way that amazed me as a young kid. His death really impacted us all.
I mostly handled the situation with apathy…and I don’t know if that makes me some emotionless monster or not. Children understand a lot despite their age, and I was fully aware of what happened to Ricardo. All of my classmates were. He died, and he was never coming back. This fact stuck to our brains, and nothing would be able to take it away.
Don’t get me wrong, I felt like shit on the inside. I lost my only friend who brought something out of me. I really didn’t get along with all of the other kids. It’s not like they bullied me or anything (that came later) but I just chose to isolate myself from them.
What got to me the most was witnessing my parents circle around a difficult depression once again. For the next month or so, the environment inside my house consisted of nothing but gloom and hopelessness. Every time I walked inside I just sensed the sadness seeping into my head and emotions. My mom and dad tried encouraging everyone to feel better, and sometimes I actually believed that we were healing from this tragic point in our lives. But at the end these futile attempts were met with everyone giving up. I felt disgusted with my parents and myself.
A year or so after Ricardo’s death, I began experiencing these unexplainable paranormal interactions.
They began around the time I was six. Late one night, I think it was Saturday, I was snuggled in my bed with the lights off. I was playing my Nintendo Gameboy Advance at the moment. I don’t remember what time it was exactly, but I’m more than certain it was past midnight. I made sure to stay quiet since at this time my parents were already sleeping.
I started to feel tired after an hour or so playing Pokémon Sapphire. My eyes kept on opening and closing, and I took this as a sign to go to sleep. Right before I could even turn off my device, I heard the faintest of sounds coming from my closet.
This aroused me instantly, and whatever sleepiness I felt before vanished. Bewilderment took over that exhaustion.
I waited for the noise to come again. After a minute or so in suspense, I didn’t realize I was holding my damn breath. I held my Gameboy above my face, the screen flashing its colorful lights on my eyes. I pressed start and saved my file, but I didn’t turn off my device—I needed it as a source of light. I aimed the device towards my closet door, and waited for something to happen, anything.
A loud bump sounded off behind the doors.
I dropped my Gameboy right on my face.
“Ouch!” I winced, and rubbed my nose. A jolt of pain spread all over my face.
“Play with me,” I finally heard for the first time.
I laid paralyzed with apprehension. The sting on my nose suddenly seemed less important.
For the first few seconds, I remained confused and a bit unnerved. Then that confusion evolved into frustration for not understanding what just happened. From frustration, I grew distressed and paranoid. Suddenly the shadows inside my room seemed too dark. The walls appeared too thick. My blankets choked me a little bit too much. The pillows below my face felt as if they were suffocating me. The whole world was going against me.
That paranoia fused with the worst of my fears.
I went to scream, but my throat locked in itself. The inside of my mouth grew dry. I thought about jumping out of my bed, but dismissed that idea. Like any normal child, I resorted to my blankets for comfort and safety.
I remember burying my body deep inside my sheets, and refusing to open my eyes. Nothing else happened after that, however. I stood awake most of my time there, and when I woke up I suffered from a tremendous headache. But other than that, I remained undamaged and sane.
I prevented myself from confronting my parents about this. They were already dealing with enough, and if I just told them about my weird and creepy experience, I would just bring them even more things to worry about. And besides, nothing bad happened to me. That was what mattered the most.
The next week came, and the same thing happened once more. This time, however, I maintained a bit more of my composure. I still felt my terrified thoughts crawling into my mind, but it wasn’t as unbearable as before. I mostly felt speculation. A part of me wanted to say it was a ghost, but being that young, I still knew how ridiculous that sounded. Strange things like that only happened in movies or in novels.
For the next week and on, I spent most of my time pondering about what I was dealing with. I analyzed everything, from the time the apparent “ghost” decided to sneak into my room, to the movement and sounds it made. I came to several conclusions after three months of thinking everything through.
The first thing I came up with was that it was indeed some form of a ghost, spirit, whatever you want to call it. The second thing was that it wasn’t an ‘it”, but a “he”. It took some time coming to this conclusion, but it was obvious. The voice said it all. It sounded light and ethereal, yes, but it contained a bit of roughness that only boys can pull off.
One of the most important factors I put into consideration was that it never once tried to inflict damage upon me. That stopped me from making it a problem. Not only that, but this fact alone slowly made me adapt and accept the presence of this young child. My mind still wrestled with the fear of being stalked, but this was only natural for anyone—especially a young boy like myself. No matter what, I was still talking to the dead. If that doesn’t bring chills down your spine, then you’re not a goddamn human.
The more knowledge I gained about the apparition, however, the more questions bombarded my mind. I told myself it would be a horrible idea to take physical notes about my experience. If someone were to take hold of that notebook, and read everything through, they would assume I was either a child with an amazing imagination, or some type of enigmatic maniac. And seeing how my reputation in school came to being the quiet, awkward, and slow kid, I didn’t think people would guess the former.
So at the end, I was force to remember and repeat everything I learned over and over in my head. It became arduous and onerous at first, but this helped form my expansive memory. That came in handy during school, but during that time school was the last thing I worried about.
The night finally came that after over three years of hearing but ignoring the ghost, I finally responded back. And to my amazement and shock, I ended up finding out it was my best friend Ricardo this whole time. It all made perfect sense.
This changed everything.
That night I stood up until early dawn. It wasn’t out of sheer terror, however, but out of an overwhelming sense of happiness. For once this world didn’t seem like a place where you shoved along as more shit piled up in your life, but it became something beautiful and rewarding. Somehow I reunited with my first and ever only friend, and that’s all I cared for.
The shift in my mood and attitude was unbelievable. Even my parents were astonished. I ignored the fact that my best-friend looked like he crawled right out of his grave. I mean I knew that I saw him, and I knew he looked in terrible condition, but I didn’t care. I never realized how much I missed and cared for him until he returned back into my life.
From that point on, I began contacting the ghost more often. He started visiting me in the night several times a week instead of once every weekend. We both talked, and the longer this happened, the more it seemed as if he really was Ricardo. The way he acted, and everything he said, just seemed like it fitted Ricardo’s personality. I couldn’t fucking believe it.
I never saw him in his physical form ever again, however. Every time we grouped up, he was always invisible. I couldn’t ever touch or see him like before when we were kids in preschool, but I was able to feel him. I think that was what made him special to me. It didn’t matter that we would never be able to play like before. The warm and tender presence he offered was enough to satisfy me.
I remember one night when we were together, I broke down in front of him. I just released all of my frustration and sorrow into my tears, and I couldn’t stop crying. But it was also a weird mix of happiness and sadness. For one thing, getting Ricardo back was something I appreciated every day. I don’t know what purposed it served, but I never took my friend for granted from that point on.
But at the same time, I faced the horrors of school and my social life. Nobody liked me, and I faced bullies every time I entered that damn building. I just couldn’t associate myself well with those other kids. I saw nothing in common with everyone else, and every time I attempted to speak to one of them, they glared at me with disgust and dissatisfaction. The hate on their faces was just so damn obvious. I did everything wrong in school, and for that reason everyone called me a failure and a mistake
And I kept on thinking that if Ricardo was with me, he could’ve been the person who I could’ve depended on for kindness. I wished those other kids died instead of my own best-friend. Why did Ricardo die? Why did my family and I always had to endure the grief of death, while everyone else remained untouched by the reaper’s menacing hands? It wasn’t my fault that I couldn’t get along with those other damn kids. So much had happened to me that I felt the need to isolate myself. Right when I wanted to crawl out of my shell, and become one with my school, they rejected me and treated me like shit.
The best thing about Ricardo’s ghost was that he understood. That night as I drowned in my own tears, he wrapped me around a therapeutic aura, and suddenly everything felt better. My deepest sorrows washed away, and was replaced by an ocean of tranquility. All of my muscles eased up, the sting on my eyes mitigated, and my head felt relaxed.
He kept me locked around his comfortable aura even as the first rays of morning light slipped through my open curtains. This startled me. Ricardo has never stood up this late with me, and I knew he felt aversive towards any type of light. I tried wiggling away from his presence, and told him to leave now before anything bad happens to him. But he kept me secured, and whispered to my ear that he was going to be alright. Even then I wanted him to leave. My greatest fear was losing Ricardo again…
But he told me to trust him, and that trust is the true foundation to any stable relationship. Ricardo said that true love is giving someone the key to your destruction, and trusting them to not abuse you with that sacred knowledge.
So I listened and followed what he said. For the first time, I trusted someone outside of my family.
And when dawn rose up, and I saw how Ricardo remained the same, I knew then and there I didn’t need anyone else in my life. As long as I had Ricardo, my one and only true best friend, I could survive in this world.
That’s why when he abandoned me the moment I entered high school, I almost killed myself.
It never made sense to me. He just left without a hint of where he would be. I told Ricardo everything, from my darkest secrets to how I truly felt about this world. And he departed off with my trust within his grasp. He disappeared, and when he left, Ricardo took a part of me with him. I felt so disconnected with myself.
We raised each other together. Throughout my whole life as a young child growing up into a teenager, he has been there for me every step of the way. Every bully I fought, every girl that denied my love, every person that refused to be my friend, Ricardo was there to witness it all.
I knew the consequence I would face if Ricardo and I tried stabilizing our friendship in this world. Nobody would believe me that I was talking to the kid who died out of lung failure in kindergarten. People would just see me as a goddamn weirdo, and to be honest I wouldn’t blame them. I mean it was pretty fucking weird. Sometimes I needed to pause from my distorted reality, and really take in the fact that the person I love the most was a goddamn ghost. It felt natural to me, but I knew that from an outside perspective, it must be the craziest shit ever.
But I thought it would be worth it, you know, separating myself from everyone else. I’d come to like the fact that I was unique, and that I had something—or better yet someone —that nobody else had. This helped rebuild my confidence, and made me a more assertive person when I entered middle-school. I still kept to myself, but I no longer felt inferior among my classmates. In fact I settled into this hubris personality that I found everyone to be pieces of shit that didn’t deserve my goddamn companionship. The only people who mattered to me was my family and Ricardo. Everyone else could rot in hell for all I care.
Ricardo helped create some of the best moments in my life. He was always the imaginary best friend who I jumped along the couch with. Ricardo and I played with our variety of toys, and we always used to act out these wild ideas in our heads. It was always a fun time with him.
My parents grew a bit worried about my mental state around the time I was eleven or twelve, and I was still “may pretending” I was talking with an imaginary best friend. They thought I was a bit too old for that. Not only that, but it didn’t help that I had no other friends, and that they never saw me with any one of my classmates. I never invited anyone over, so they knew the type of reputation I gained from school. Placing all of these factors together, I can’t blame them for thinking that I was, in some type of way, psychotic.
One time the three of us talked about it, and I gave them some of the honest truth of my situation. Of course I didn’t mention the fact that my old friend Ricardo was living with us, but I informed them that I really hated everyone in school, and that I had no friends. But I told them I didn’t mind, and that I found a way to have fun all by myself. I explained that I relied on my imagination in order to cope with the fact that nobody liked me, and that sometimes I went overboard and actually thought my characters came to life.
I made a deal that I would stop “talking to myself” if it really freaked them out. My parents agreed, and in the end they were very understanding. They had an idea that my childhood really messed me up, so it was okay if I behaved the way I did. They accepted my weirdness, and for this I loved them even more.
But they didn’t need to worry about anything. Later on, as I stated before, Ricardo left me.
In a way, this was worse than when he actually died in kindergarten. I had this idea in mind that I would enter high school, and that I would dread those god-awful four years there. I knew that I needed to prepare myself for all the harassment, all the fights, all the unwanted attention, and everything else that made my life a difficult pain in the ass. But I knew that at the end of the day, I would have Ricardo to pick me up whenever someone knocked me down.
So when that bastard left me to deal with everyone’s shit in that goddamn school, I died inside. I felt so betrayed and alone. This resulted in my worst behavior. I started the fights with the other kids, and I made sure I never backed down. Even when I almost punched a kid to death, I felt no remorse. The rational switch inside me flicked off, and I unleashed all of my frustration and pain towards anyone who had the audacity to try to ruin my day.
Ricardo leaving really fucked me over. Jesus, my brain felt as if someone completely changed every function of it. I couldn’t think right, and forget about sleeping. I became a chronic insomniac. My world became a mess yet again.
So that was my life the first three years in high school. Entering my senior year, I didn’t give a shit anymore. I didn’t know what direction my life was heading towards, but I just couldn’t care. I became this placid and dull adolescent. I wasn’t scrambling fights with bullies, but at the same time I stopped myself from starting new friendships with other people. I trusted nobody because of Ricardo.
So when that bastard introduced himself to me once again last week, it turned my entire world upside down.
What great fucking timing. Out of all the times he could’ve reenter my life, he chose now? Right when I stop giving a shit about my own existence? Right when I completely forced him out of my thoughts and emotions? He decides to whisper his signature fucking catch-phrase, and act as if he hadn’t left me for three goddamn years filled with nothing but despair and suicidal thoughts?
Why couldn’t he have come when I behaved like an asshole in high school? Where was he when I returned home from the outside world with tears flooding down my eyes, wishing that I could just change the way my life turned out? Why couldn’t he have come to help me when I had the tip of the knife just an inch away from the vein on my wrist, ready to slice my flesh open and drown in my own blood as I bathe in my tub? Where the hell was he then?!
No. He doesn’t deserve a warm-hearted homecoming. I know he plans on visiting me this upcoming weekend. As much as I should be happy, he needs to know how much I suffered. I at least deserve a goddamn apology.
I still love Ricardo, but he and I know that we need to talk this through. A lot has changed since then. I’m more than prepare for this.
All I can do now is wait and be patient. He better hope I’m in a good mood that night
Saturday night arrives. I lay on my bed with a book beside me. The small lamp next to me blares a faint and white light. I’ve spent the past three hours reading this damn novel, and wasting time on my phone. I’ve kept on checking the time, and as the hour clock moved from nine in the night to ten, then to elven, and finally to twelve, I grew anxious. It feels as if parasites infested my stomach, and are now crawling in and out of my organs. As nervous as my head and body gets, however, I know I must demonstrate nothing but temerity. I can’t shy away now. That part of my life ended a long time ago.
My parents chose the perfect weekend to leave the house for a quick get-away. That way if things start to get hectic between Ricardo and me, there are no restrictions as to how loud and aggressive I can get. I plan to handle this with maturity, but that doesn’t change the fact that I can’t make him feel guilty for what he’s done to me.
I place my novel on top of my night stand, and flick the lamp off. Darkness envelopes my bedroom like a pool of shadows. The moon shoots a tiny glimmer of light right at the center of my bed. This should be enough for me to feel comfortable.
“Come out,” I command. I started sensing him the moment it hit eleven thirty. For a while I fought with my nerves and fears pulsing out of my mind like a horde of bees trying to escape their hive. I knew I needed to end his influence over my feelings. I couldn’t allow him to manipulate me any longer.
I’m giving silence and nothing more. I focus my eyes better on the closet door. I feel him behind those barriers, so why does he hesitate? He must be aware of how disappointed I am towards him. I don’t blame him. If I was in his position, I would think twice about confronting me right now.
I open my mouth, but before I could say more, the closet door slides open. I choke on my distasteful words, and swallow them. They taste bitter.
I sit upright, and place my pillow against the wall behind me in order to be more comfortable. I feel his opposing force of emotions trying to break through the defensive wall I built against him. His efforts prove futile, however. All this tension passing between us actually makes me sweat. My back begins to drench itself, and the corners of my mouth grow so dry they form tiny blisters. I don’t know how long I can maintain myself.
Ricardo takes him time approaching me, his soft and almost quiet footsteps taunting me each time they land on the floor. As some people might assume, I may be a little gay for my best friend. I mean I’ve only spent my entire life with him alone, and I never went on a date before with any girl. I find both genders attractive in a way, but Ricardo obviously catches my attention the most. The way he’s always treated me with love is what finally made realize everything. If me loving a dead five year old doesn’t convince you how fucked up I am, I don’t know what will.
My ghost friend finally reaches the edge of my bed. Although I can’t see him, I feel him near. He stands still. The silence overcoming my ears becomes unbearable. I’m able to hear the quiet sound of my impulsive heartbeat, and then I start to hear a small ringing noise deep inside my eardrums. I tap on the wall behind me in order to repel against the quietness. Jesus, if I took that shit any longer, I would’ve shot my damn brains out.
Ricardo begins to climb on top of my bed. I want to say something, anything. I want to stop him, and start talking to him about what the hell he did. But the idea of the both of us sitting down face-to-face intrigues me more. There he could witness the anguish in my eyes.
The sheets on top of my bed rustle as he crawls closer to where I remain. I start to shiver. My breathing increases, and the pressure on my chest feels like a ton of bricks slammed down on my lungs. I’m sweating bullets at this point. The world surrounding me blurs, and all that remains clear is the image stretching larger and larger as the seconds drift by. I almost start to feel hypnotize by my own mind and its hallucinations.
Ricardo stops right where the moonlight hits my bed. That little line of light shines directly on his face.
Death is written all over his expression. It’s the same image that I saw back then as a kid, but this time he’s seem to have aged, oddly. Pieces of his once pale and soft flesh now dangle from his cheekbones. Some parts of his face appears rotten and deteriorated by time, the skin ruddy and infected. Black slime swirls inside his mouth, Ricardo’s devilish grin colored with waste and worms. Parts of his hair has fallen off, and I’m able to see his bony and disfigured skull. Several bumps and warts decorate the area around his forehead and chin.
And of course the worst of all, his eyes. Ricardo’s hollow and lifeless eyes that sucks the youth right out of your soul.
“What the hell happened to you?” I ask, horror-stricken. The longer I gaze at his current physical state, the more in dawns upon me how I never had my best-friend back in the first place. Or better yet, this wasn’t Ricardo at all. What the hell is going on?
“You fucking idiot,” Ricardo whispers, but this time his voice sooths out of his brusque throat with a deep and monstrous tone. Black and demonic tentacles begin to sprout out of his corpse. They drip with black blood and seem as sharp and deadly as a goddamn dagger.
Something else emerges from behind Ricardo’s dead body. Before I can pay attention to what it is, I’m distracted when those black whips slither closer to where I sit. They tangle around my limbs, neck, and body. A silent cry escapes out of my trembling lips, and before I could shout for help—for anybody to please fucking help me!—one of the vines closes around my mouth. I try yelling through the thick and moist tentacles, but all I managed to produce is a low muffling sound.
Ricardo pulls me closer to where he sits. I shove and wiggle my shoulders and legs, but the more I try to fight, the more the vines tighten. I feel the blood circulation on my bear arms and legs end. The tight knot tied around my neck begins to crush my throat. I figure I would be panicking, but at the moment I feel nothing but a loss of hope.
“I won,” the ghost child says, although he no longer sounds like a little boy. His voice makes the bed and walls shake for god’s sake. “I won, and there’s nothing you can do about it.” All I can do is glare as his empty eyes, and wonder whether a piece of my friend dwells inside this demonic specie or not.
“I can’t believe I was able to out-play you like this,” the spirit screeches, and then emits a low and gurgling laughter. “You’re such an idiot. I’d thought you would notice later on, but no. I made a fool outta you.” Just what the hell is he talking about?
“Even now you have no idea what’s going on,” the demon mocks me. “But I can’t blame you. After all, you forgot about me. Just like mommy and daddy forgot about me right when they had you.”
No. No. No fucking way. This cannot be…
“Ah, you realize now, huh? I see it in your eyes. You’re getting an idea of who I truly am.” Ricardo’s stomach begins to glow a tenuous, yellow and white light.
“I’m what could’ve been. I’m a rejected soul that not even God wished to bring back into heaven. Nobody cares about me, and my life means little to nothing compared to all the other fucking babies who lived. Sounds familiar, don’t it? Do you know who I am now, huh? Do you, brother?”
No. I knew it, but I didn’t wish to believe it. I don’t even know what to think right now. All I can do now is feel. I feel my dead baby-brother’s emotions, and his rage that erupts out of his heart like lava from an active volcano. The determination to hurt me burns though my skin, and I see the passion in his eyes despite there being just hollowness inside.
“Right when mommy and daddy had you, they already thought about forgetting about me,” he grumbles. “At first they still mourned my death, and that at least kept me content. But the older you grew, the more they left me out of their thoughts. You became the child they always wanted, and you stole their attention away from me. Soon they completely abandoned me, and only chose to think about you. Did my life mean nothing to them? Was I just a failure to them that they wanted to forget about? Why couldn’t I have lived? Why did it have to be you, and not me?!”
I wish to speak. I want to tell him that they never forgot about him, that they use his death as inspiration to make me a better child. I need to tell him that without him, I wouldn’t be who I am now. My parents—excuse me, our parents—loves us both equally, but just that thinking about him resurrected too many dark and agonizing memories.
But I couldn’t say any of that. All I could do is listen, and feel my brother’s anger.
“I knew I couldn’t leave without making the three of you suffer. I needed my revenge. This was when I began plotting my vengeance. I wanted you all to perish. So I began visiting you little by little. I gave off subtle signs of my presence, but it wasn’t enough. As a baby, you didn’t care about me at all. I needed to wait for the perfect time to execute my plan.
“Then you entered school, and you became friends with that Ricardo kid…” The demon in front of me chuckles. “Ah! I knew I won after that. I had it all planned out.
“The doctors were right, you know… His lung condition wasn’t all that serious. He just needed minor surgery, that’s all. But you know…I have a way of interfering with other people’s lives. I guess you can say I paid Ricardo a visit while he was watching cartoons…and did what I had to do.”
This sick fucking bastard! I never felt so furious in my life before. I kick and thrash around, giving every punch and swing all of my strength, not caring if my bones begin to snap, and my muscles start to tear. Even as blood leaks out from my wounds the tighter his grip becomes, I don’t give a shit. This piece of scum murdered a child, my best fucking friend! He caused one of the greatest depressions in my life! He deserves to rot.
“Stop your efforts now, Steven,” he commands. “It’s useless. I’ve won, and you can’t overpower me. You’re weak. You’ve grown strong and confident, yes, but compared to me, you’re still a pathetic child who can’t stand up for himself. You freak, liking your own brother for god’s sake. You make me sick.”
I manage to raise my hand, and flip the fucker off.
“Childish, as always,” the demon complains. “Just like Ricardo. Anyways, I knew in order for my plan to work, I needed to gain your trust. And what better person you could trust and love than your only friend ever in your entire life. Jesus, you’re such a loser. At least I would’ve made more friends.
“I knew you’d trust me, and that you’d be so infatuated with me. I knew that you would suffer in school, and that you’d rely on me to comfort you. And I did. I made sure you fell in love with me, and that I guided you towards a better life. I fucking played you, kid. You should be humiliated by how badly I messed up your life.
“And I knew, I knew, it would be perfect to just leave you right when you enter high school. Don’t like being left alone, huh Steven? Hurts like one mean bitch, doesn’t it? Now you know my pain. It felt so great watching as you broke down, and as your life turned to shit. I kept on laughing and laughing at your own demise. Even our parent’s depression brought much amusement. I made you bitches suffer. And now, I return…”
Ricardo’s corpse begins to levitate. The blob of light inside his stomach grows brighter, and little by little the skin on his abdomen starts becoming transparent. I’m able to see the inside of his stomach, and I see-
Oh god. Oh my fucking god I’m going to be sick.
It’s a fucking fetus camped inside Ricardo’s intestines.
“I come back to finish what I started,” the demon-child informs me, and now I realize that this whole time the voice has been coming from the corpse’s stomach. The belly of the goddamn beast. “It’s been fun watching you grow up, but now your life must end here. How does it feel to just realize now that your whole life has been one giant lie? How does it feel knowing that after your death, our parents come next? How does this pain feel, Steven? Does it burn?
“Well you better get used to it. Imma send you exactly where our parents sent me.
“Straight into nothingness.”
Ricardo’s corpse floats above me. More vines crawl out of his body. They all attach to my skin, and begin to push my body deep into my mattress. I keep on fighting to free myself, but my brother is able to produce more and more of those damn tentacles. Soon my entire figure from head to toe is webbed around his colony of whips.
The figure behind Ricardo’s ghost that I saw before grows larger. I don’t know what the hell that is, but whatever it may be, it feels strong and intimidating.
Right at the center of my bed, a black hole rips open. I feel a sudden drop. My eyes open wide as I descend farther and farther away from Ricardo’s corpse. A wall of darkness surrounds me, and begins to close around my eyesight. A gush of air forces me deeper inside whatever place I’m being sent to.
I feel several hands reach up from below, and grip my shirt and pants. Those thousands of hands dig their nails deep inside my skin, past the cloth of my clothing, and drag me deeper inside this prison of shadows and calamity. More and more of those invisible arms stack on top of my body, and place more pressure on my muscles and skin. I feel like the victim of a king cobra.
At the end, I don’t feel anything anymore—well, I mean on the inside I don’t. No emotions, no fears, nothing. Just pity. I pity the fact that I had to live this life. Since birth, my life has been filled with nothing but depression and wickedness. I guess I’ve always been destine to live this way, and have it end like this. Even when I thought I had some type of profound hope to hold on to and call it my own, I end up finding out it’s all been a lie that lead to my eventual fatality.
But I’m fine if my life continues on after death, and I end up living with nothing but darkness and nothingness —as my brother stated. Hell, that’s all I know at this point. I won’t have to make that big of an adjustment.
If only my brother could’ve let me talked, however. Maybe I could’ve saved the both of us. I could’ve told him how much I love and care for him, and how I’ve always understood his pain. I could’ve told him that we can work this out, and find our own way to overcome whatever anger dwells inside the both of us. But he didn’t let me talk. And because of that, he ended up screwing himself over.
Because I could’ve told him that Ricardo’s real ghost was standing behind him the entire time, waiting for the perfect moment to attack him.
Go get em’, amigo.