You know ghosts and spirits aren’t the only thing that can haunt you, right? I have been haunted, sometimes by the eyes of a stranger on the bus, other times by a photo I have seen at the art gallery. Once I felt even haunted by the simple thought of a certain spider I had never seen with my own eyes, only heard about on the news. Once, I was on the internet and looking up videos of death; real stuff, not what they have in movies or on T.V. I watched a guy shoot himself in the head in front of a crowd, saw the remains of someone hit by a train and watched a soldier cut someone’s head off with a hunting knife. For months I would close my eyes and see those shaky camera images in my head, turning my stomach and making sleep almost impossible at times. Their recorded deaths haunting me, their memories burned into my head. As terrible as their deaths were, at least they will always be remembered for something, even if the images are terrible. I hope one day, when I am gone, I will haunt someone.”
Franklin reached out and turned off the tape player, needing a break from his former patient. Shelly Hughes had started seeing him four years ago when her parents became worried that she was depressed. She had been fourteen and like many girls that age, there was a difference between being depressed and being in high school, though many parents couldn’t tell the difference. Franklin knew that her real problem had been a bad diet, poor body image and being in her first year of high school, but he didn’t tell them that. Instead, Franklin agreed to take her on as a patient, if only so he could continue to see her once a month.
The thought of her, sitting across from him, playing with her hair as she spoke to him; telling him all her deepest and darkest secrets was a fond memory, yet every time it brought him to the edge of tears. On some level, he loved her though he was ashamed to admit it to anyone for fear that they might look at it as something sick and twisted. His love for her though had been as a protector, the same way a parent loves a child or even as a child loves a kitten, not some fantasy of a molester. She was a lost soul, a damaged child and needed his office to shield her from the outside world that wanted nothing more than to destroy her.
She had come to him and let him help her.
Then, she was gone, her whispered voice calling from the tapes, bringing him back to those days.
Taking a deep breath, he turned the tape player back on, leaning back in his leather chair as he closed his eyes and remembered her face, the way she held her hands on her lap or played with her light brown hair as she talked to him.
“My mom wants me to go to church with her, but I don’t see the point. She believes in heaven and thinks that if I hear the priest go on about how beautiful it is, it’ll bring me some sort of peace. It won’t though, because if you ask me, heaven is too final. You go there, and then what? Nobody will ever remember you if you’re at peace and happy. Why should they? I think heaven is simply a place you go to and fade away so that people can easily forget you.
“I don’t want that. I want to be remembered, obsessed over so that I can live on at least for as long as that person lives. That is an afterlife.
“Maybe I can haunt you, Doc? Can I be your ghost?”
The tape stopped and a tear ran down Franklin’s cheek. He wiped it off his face, then licked the salty drop from the tip of his finger, imagining that it was one of hers that he was kissing off his face. He knew he had failed her, had never seen the pain she was really in, so when she went into the bathroom and never came out, it wasn’t just Shelly that died in there.
A part of him died too.
Shelly was gone, but he held onto her with the tapes and the image of her face that lived behind his closed eyes.
“Words can haunt you, and so can failures, Doc. Has anyone ever haunted you?”
Shaun Meeks lives in Toronto, Ontario with his partner, Mina LaFleur. Shaun’s work has appeared in Haunted Path, Dark Eclipse, Zombies Gone Wild and A Feast of Frights from the Horror Zine, as well as his own collection, At the Gates of Madness. He will also be featured in the anthologies A Six Pack of Stories, The Horror Zine 4 and Fresh Grounds Volume 3 and will be releasing a new collection with his brother called Brother’s Ilk in late 2012 and his new novel, Shutdown, in early 2013. To find out more, visit him at www.shaunmeeks.com.