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A Little Company for the Night - 1. Story

A Little Company for the Night

By: Corvus


Alex began: “So this guy checks into an old hotel for the night. It’s empty except for him—and this woman that he sees at night, wandering the floor above his.”

Matt nodded, listening. “Yeah, go on.”

“So he’s really curious about this woman, but he only sees her in glimpses—and he notices that she wears a really… blue dress. Like, a deep, deep blue.”

Matt nodded again as Alex gave a significant pause. Blue, Matt thought. We get it already.

“And then?” Janet whispered, already looking terrified.

“So the guy gets really curious in the middle of the night and can’t help going up to see what’s going on. You know, ‘cause he’s curious. So he goes up and looks in the keyhole of the woman’s door… and the only thing he sees is this weird field of blue. He’s kind of like, ‘Huh, what’s this?’ So he looks again—but the only thing he sees is… blue. Like, deep blue.”

“Uh-huh,” Matt said.

“So the next day, the guy is checking out, and he mentions, kinda casually, to the guy at the counter, ‘You know, there’s this woman on the top floor, what’s up with her?’ And the guy at the counter says, ‘Oh, we don’t know anything about her—except that she’s got the eyes of deepest… blue.’”

A moment passed. Matt’s eyebrows went up. “Goodness,” he said.

“Huh?” Janet said, frowning, “I don’t get it—” She stopped and gasped.

Now you do,” Alex crowed.

“I hate you!” Janet wailed, breaking into fake sobs. “That’s an awful story! Ugh!” She shuddered and clutched Alex’s arm. “So she was… looking through the keyhole the whole time?”

“It might have been her dress,” Matt said in a matter-of-fact voice.

Alex shrugged reluctantly. “Yeah, well… But it wasn’t her dress.”

Matt shrugged as well. There was no need to press the point of the story’s logical fallacies, especially with Alex, who’d only huff and say he was too much of a scientist. A logitron, even.

“Hey, hey,” said Janet, batting Alex’s arm. “D’you have another one?”

“It’s half past eleven,” Matt pointed out.

Janet pouted. “You’re no fun.”

“Someone has to be responsible, here,” Matt said. He caught Alex and Janet sharing one of their looks. “Hey, I saw that.”

“Yes, Mom, time to go to bed,” Alex said in a high-pitched voice. He dropped it and sighed. “Jesus Christ, Matt, loosen up—we’re here to have fun! And your parents aren’t here, you have nothing to worry about.”

“Quite the contrary,” said Matt. He realized, shortly after saying it, that he’d slipped into his dad’s “professor” voice. He frowned inwardly. “I think I have more to worry about. Are you coming or not?”

Alex sighed and got off the bed, muttering disgustedly about goody-goodies. Janet giggled.

“See you tomorrow,” Matt said.

“‘night,” she said, and shut the door.

Quite the contrary,” Alex said, holding his nose with his fingers. “Quite.”

Matt snorted. “Oh, shut it. I’m my dad’s son, aren’t I?”

“You can say quite, quite well, apparently.”

“Ooh,” Matt drawled. “Clever.”

“I’m hilarious, aren’t I?”

“I just can’t stop laughing…”

“Yeah? And you’re quite sarcastic.”

The silence between them wasn’t exactly easy. The night was very loud, Matt thought. What was it that made that sound—not crickets. Cicadas? They opened the door to the other cabin in the clearing and climbed, as quietly as they could, the steps up to the second floor. Matt glanced out the window. The light in Janet’s cabin had been extinguished; they were surrounded by a darkness of trees.



“I have a question.”


Matt paused, and then gave a slight, self-deprecating snort. “What would you say if I told you that there was a ghost in my room?”

Alex paused long enough to give his friend a blank stare. “Uh, that you’re having me on?”

Matt nodded. “Thank you for your assessment,” he said—that professorial voice again, he thought with annoyed dismay—and tried to cover it with a smile. “Hey,” he said, “’night.”

Alex sighed. “It’d have been cooler if our beds were in the same room. We’d be able to talk, and stuff. It’d be a lot more fun that way.”

“Yeah, well, at least I won’t have to hear you snore.”

“Haha, funny. See you tomorrow.”


They left the landing. Matt had to fumble a bit before he found the switch. The lantern was shaking slightly when the bulb finally turned on. He froze. No, Matt decided; that was probably because the switch was a beaded string that was connected to the lantern itself. He held still for a long while, listening. Even the sounds of the night were missing.

It was stupid, Matt decided. The two strange occurrences yesterday must have been just that—strange occurrences. He ran them through his head as he lay in the darkness. He’d taken out the paper on which he’d written a list of things he’d brought and put it on the table. While he had been unpacking his suitcase, the camping list had slid a hand’s width across the table. The window had been open, and it might have been a breeze. But there hadn’t been a breeze.

Some hours later, just before dinner, he’d been flipping through his luggage for the jacket he was sure he’d brought. He was standing up when the water bottle he’d put on the table fell over and rolled onto the ground. He had assumed, at first, that he’d bumped into it. But as he went down the stairs, it occurred to him that the bottle had been knocked in the opposite direction. Unless he’d somehow hooked his arm from above, it couldn’t have fallen the way it had.

It was quite puzzling. Matt felt a smile ghosting his face. Quite. If he hadn’t been preoccupied, he’d have enjoyed Alex’s teasing. It was such a difference from the seriousness at home. Ghost or no ghost, he was going to enjoy this trip.

And it probably wasn’t a ghost, anyway.


“Sleep well?”

Alex yawned. “Could’ve used a few more hours. I couldn’t fall asleep right away.”

“Ah, my condolences.”

Alex rolled his eyes. “I guess you slept pretty well, then. No ghost bothering you, eh?”

Matt hesitated. “No.”

“Jesus Christ, learn to take a joke, dude. D’you know what we’re doing today?”

“Fishing, I believe.”

“Fishing! How boring.”

“Sounds like fun,” Janet exclaimed half an hour later, when they’d met and heard the adults solidify the plans. “I guess we’ll be eating our catch for dinner. Mm.”

Alex huffed. “I went fishing once with my dad. We caught nothing after six freaking hours.”

“You guys obviously went to the wrong place. We went out on the ocean, and the fish were practically dying to get caught.”

“We, ah, went to a lake,” Alex muttered.

Janet snorted. “Which one? The one in your backyard?”

“The one up around Coyote Hills. You know what I’m talking about, right, Matt?”

“No,” Matt said, frowning. “And I’ve never fished. I hope it’s not too difficult.”

In a flash, Alex entered instructive-big-brother mode. “It’s easy—as long as you’ve got patience. Basically all you do is sit around and wait for something to bite. Then, you reel it in. That’s all.” He grinned.

They ended up with a sizable catch, which Janet said was almost as many fish as she’d caught with her dad last autumn. Mr. Bingley, her father, supervised the preparation. Janet helped. Matt was glad he wasn’t required to do much fish-gutting; seeing the fish flop about, heaving for air, had made him feel a bit queasy.

“Ugh,” said Alex, after they’d finished dinner, “I feel kind of sick.” He stood and turned to the cabin, looking as though he would like nothing better than to be in front of the toilet, but was too queasy to move.

Mr. and Mrs. Hunter, his parents, exchanged a glance. “Was it the fish?” his mother asked.

Alex shook his head. “It can’t be the fish; everyone else is fine.”

“What did you eat today?” Mr. Bingley asked, looking very sympathetic. Based on what Janet had told him about Mr. Bingley’s daring eating habits, Matt thought he could guess why.

“This. The bread and sausages for breakfast. A bag of chips. One of the hard-boiled eggs we brought.”

“Did anyone else eat the eggs?” Mr. Hunter asked. He frowned at the response. “Looks like it was those eggs.”

Mr. Bingley clapped a hand on Alex’s shoulder. “Tough luck, Alex!”

Alex, thought Matt, was turning a very nasty shade of green.

“Let’s go in,” Mrs. Hunter said, sounding worried. “I’ll—er—make some tea, maybe that’ll help…”

“Janet!” Mr. Bingley called. “I thought you were going to help me put away the fish.”

“Dad! When did I promise that?”

Mr. Bingley adopted an innocent smile. “Oh, sometime today, I forget…”

Janet rolled her eyes. “See you guys later,” she said.

“And we were supposed to up the ante with the ghost stories tonight,” Alex moaned as they lumbered up the stairs of the cabin.

“You can still do that with the toilet,” Matt said in a very consoling way.

“Yeah—I’m sure it’s got some great stories to tell,” Alex muttered, and slumped into the bathroom, pulling the door shut behind him with a loud bang.

“All right up there, boys?”

“Yes, Mrs. Hunter,” Matt called. He waited a second and winced at the sounds coming from the bathroom. “Everything’s fine.”

He went into his own room, keeping his door open a bit, just in case. Funny how the sounds from outside instantly became quieter, as though the walls to his room were thicker than the rest of the cabin. Even with the door ajar, the silence felt thicker.

He crossed the room to where he’d put his backpack, in the corner next to his bed. He’d brought a book along just in case something like this would happen. It wasn’t a very interesting one, but—

That was when he heard it: the scrape of paper over wood. Matt stood and turned around to see his camping list slide, quite slowly, from one end of his table to the next. Then it stopped.

Matt froze. The window was closed. There hadn’t been a breeze. There hadn’t even been a breath of air.

“Alex?” he called, voice strained. This had to be a joke, he thought. His fear made the silence ring, but there wasn’t actually any sound. In fact, the room was utterly silent—dead silent.

He had to get out. The door. A sudden, horrible thought flashed through his mind. He jerked into action, throwing himself across the room to the doorway. But the door didn’t come flying into his face, and he stumbled onto the landing in one piece.

It was quiet, but the sounds that were there seemed deafening. He could hear the wind outside. Birds chirped. From the bathroom, Alex was retching up his guts.

“Matt!” he heard someone call. It was Janet, waving at the landing window from the campfire clearing. Matt waved back, though he could imagine how he must look: pale as a sheet. A ghost, even.

The bathroom door opened. Alex emerged. “Ugh, I hope that’s all for a while,” he said.


“God, I could really use a second dinner. Hey, what’s the matter, man? You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”

Matt stared at his friend for one, two seconds, and then gave a sharp bark of laughter, which he suddenly couldn’t stop.

“Uh… Are you all right, Matt?”

“Yeah,” Matt gasped. He felt weak, as though the muscles in his stomach had decided together to stop functioning, but the moment had passed enough for him to snap back into a standing position and put a droll smile on his face. “Just startled. That’s all.”


He showered, brushed his teeth, changed into his pajamas, all with great care.

“Everything fine?” Matt asked, poking his head into Alex’s room.

Alex waved a hand. He was lying shirtless on his bed. “I’ll manage.”

“Would you like a vomitorium, just in case?”

“A what?”

“A basin to retch into.”

“There’s a word for that? Eh, don’t answer. No, I’m fine. Thanks.”

Matt nodded. “Excellent,” he said and moved to leave.

“Hey, dude.”


“You’re sounding a lot like your dad tonight.”

Matt frowned. “Sorry, I guess.”

Alex sat up, although it looked as though the movement didn’t sit too well with his stomach. “No, it’s just… You usually sound like that when something’s bugging you.”

Matt felt something in his stomach twist into knots. Or maybe untwist, he couldn’t decide; he only knew that he felt his shoulders slump incrementally, some of their tension lost. “Well.” He shrugged. There’s a ghost in my room, he thought. “You’re kind of sick.”

Alex’s face broke into a grin. “So you’re worried—about me. Aww.”

Matt snorted. “Good night, Alex.”

“’night,” Alex said, meaningfully.

Matt rolled his eyes. “’night,” he said, in as careless a manner as he could manage.

He shut the door and turned. The doorway to his room stared back. The light was on, and he could see his reflection in the window at the other end of the room. He paused as the thought entered his mind: some ghosts were supposed to cast a reflection, weren’t they? He’d read that in some story, somewhere. A moment passed. Nothing happened.

He went in. He could feel the silence drawing about him, but this time, he wasn’t sure if it was any different from the quiet of the rest of the house.

Music, Matt thought. Anything but silence. He walked from the doorway to his backpack, still where he’d left it in the corner. He took out his iPod and went to turn off the light. He felt calm but alert, and his movements were methodical and paced, as though he was performing for an audience.

It took a moment, after he’d gotten into bed, for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. The strings announcing the first track cut the tension in half. He let out a breath. Ghosts weren’t real, of course. But if there indeed was one in this room… Well, even the paranormal had to obey some form of logic. If he left it alone, perhaps it’d do the same to him.

He shut his eyes and relaxed. The last thing he saw before his eyes closed was the table, with the single white sheet of paper at the center.

He was dreaming; he knew that. Only dreams felt this good. His arms and chest felt cold, but there was something very warm next to his legs. Between his legs rather. He frowned. It felt so good that it ached, almost. He’d never felt this before. It felt very, very good. Something was… something—

He woke with a start, and a moan escaped his lips before he could help himself. A rather loud moan.

A knock on the door. “Matt, you up yet?” Alex called, sounding annoyed. “I’m coming in, Matt!”

Matt blinked, the shards of sleep and wakefulness crashing everywhere in his mind. How had he lost his blanket? And why was he so cold—why was he so naked—?

“Okay, I’m coming in.”

Matt bolted upright. He’d somehow lost both his pajama top and pajama bottom during the night, and that dream hadn’t been a dream at all; his penis, he was horrified to see (and feel), was so hard it hurt, and—

The door knob turned. Matt grabbed at a sheet to his side and yanked it over himself just as Alex barged in.

He stopped short.

“Hi,” Matt croaked.

“Hi,” Alex said, slowly. His eyes were moving up and down like a set of ping pong balls, and Matt could feel an ugly blush swamp his face. “Well. I guess you’re up already.”

“Yeah,” said Matt. He shifted his leg, which, he was suddenly very aware, was bare halfway up his thigh. A moment later, he stopped himself, as though keeping still would somehow prevent it from being even more noticed. “Um.” He cleared his throat. “I’ll be out right away.”

Alex nodded. His eyes were still moving rapidly, as though he were taking in everything at once. “I’ll see you in a bit then,” he said, stepping back.

Suddenly, he stopped, bent down to pick something up. Matt felt sweat breaking over his neck. It was his camping list. He was sure that it had been on his desk when he went to sleep. He glanced at the window. It was closed. There was no way—no way—the list could’ve ended on the floor.

Unless, he thought, a ghost had brushed it there.

Alex cleared his throat. “Uh,” he said, and his voice wasn’t terribly steady either, “I’ll let you, uh, get dressed, then.” He put the sheet of paper on the table and left, shutting the door firmly behind him.

Matt fell back and covered his eyes with his hands. He’d just… God, how embarrassing! He’d—

He bolted back upright and flipped aside his covers. His penis was flaccid now, of course. He touched the sides experimentally. They were sticky. It could just be his sweat; his entire body was clammy. It could be the, ah, “pre-cum” that’d oozed out. He shut his eyes as the last thought materialized itself: and it could be that it’d been in someone’s mouth.

Matt swallowed, feeling sick. Suddenly, he was aware of the silence again, like the lid of a coffin. The notion that he was currently naked did not sit well at all. He swung his legs off the bed and nearly tripped twice as he threw on his clothes, nearly ripping his shirt and underwear as he did so. He was breathing heavily by the end of it. There didn’t seem to be enough air in the room. He went to the window, threw it open, and took a deep breath. Keep calm, he told himself. It’s no use getting into a fit. There’s a rational explanation for everything. He stared at the glistening dark green of the trees, knowing that if he were to stop clenching his jaws for just one moment, his teeth would start chattering like mad.

A few moments later, he turned. The room was empty. He crossed it and paused at the table, where Alex had put the camping list.

For the second time that morning, he froze and felt as though the world had come to a complete stop. Written in a shaky hand and with what looked like a very runny red pen were four words: UR COCK TASTS GOOD.


Even Janet noticed that something was off that morning. “Still sick from the eggs?” she teased.

“Uh,” said Alex, after a long pause. “Kind of.”

Matt would’ve been concerned if he weren’t busy feeling stiff with mortification. The only time he’d heard Alex sound so dull was after he’d received news that his grandmother had passed away, and that was two years ago.

“Um… Did he wake you up a lot last night, Matt?”

“Not really,” Matt said.

“Huh,” Janet said. “Well, we’re going to the beach today. Just to let you know.”

Alex brightened a bit at that. “Oh, awesome. You’ve never been to this beach before, Matt?”

“No,” Matt said quickly. “First time.”

“You’ll really like it.”

Matt nodded. He could still detect some uncertainty in Alex’s voice, but he knew Alex was trying. God, how embarrassing, Matt thought, and felt his face heat at the memory. He’d have to get Alex alone for ten minutes or so in order to explain what exactly had happened. Would Alex even believe him? Matt shivered. Not everything in the memory had been bad.

There were a couple of other families on the beach, which was wide and sandy, and littered with the brown corpses of seaweed. Janet had brought a Frisbee, and they played with that for a while, until Alex accidentally threw it into the ocean, and Mr. Bingley had to dive in to get it back.

“Did we bring any chips, Mom?” Janet asked.

“I think so, dear, let me look…”

“Hey Dad,” said Alex. He was wearing only his board shorts by this point, and had a patch of red on his collarbone where Matt suspected a sunburn would soon develop. “Did you see a bathroom up there?”

Mr. Hunter pointed at a small shack at the far end of the parking lot. “That’s it, I think.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

“I’ll go too,” Matt said.

Alex grinned. “Hey, race you!” He bolted forward a few yards before stopping. “You’re no fun, Matt,” he pouted.

Matt tried to smile, but he was feeling unaccountably nervous. “Alex,” he said, and then waited until they were a few more steps away from everyone else, “about this morning…”

He trailed off. “Yeah?” Alex said, his voice artificially bright.

Matt cleared his throat. “It’s not what you think.”

“Hey, dude, it’s all right. Everyone does it.”

Matt stared. “Does what?”

“You know. What you were doing.” When Matt said nothing, Alex made an abrupt gesture with both hands and said, as though reading off a list, “Wanking. Jacking off. Masturbating.”

“I was not jacking off!”

“Oh yeah? Then what were you doing?”

Matt felt the ugly blush come across his face again. They’d gotten to the parking lot, and he could feel the concrete bite the soles of his feet. “You won’t believe me.”

“What do you mean, I won’t believe me?”

“Because I already asked you!”

“Ask me what?”

“What’d you say if I told you I saw a ghost.”

“I’d say you were fucking crazy.”

“There,” Matt snapped, feeling his stomach sink. “You just said it. You’re not going to believe me.”

“Wow, wait a minute…”

Matt had quickened his pace, but relented as Alex hurried to catch up. “So—?”

“There’s a ghost in my room.”

“But that’s… crazy.”

Matt stopped. Alex jerked forward another step before he stopped too. “Alex, in all the years you’ve known me, have I ever said or done anything that was remotely irrational?”

“Er… no.”

“Knowing the sort of person I am, knowing my beliefs and prejudices, would I ever even think to claim that a creature of paranormal nature has been haunting my room?”

Alex blinked, as though processing the vocabulary. “Uh… Don’t think so. But you can’t be serious, can you?”

“That’s the fucking point! I am serious!”

“Wow, calm down.”

Matt turned abruptly and stalked towards the shack, ignoring the sharp pain of rocks against his feet. He was feeling flustered: he hardly ever used coarse language, and especially not that word.

“So what makes you think there’s a ghost in your room?”

“Two days ago, a paper I had on the table moved a hand’s width to the left. It might’ve been a breeze, but I’m quite sure there wasn’t. There was also a bottle of water on the table. When I was unpacking, it was knocked over.”

“And you didn’t knock it over?”

“I’m quite sure I didn’t. To continue: yesterday, the same piece of paper moved—before my eyes—from one end of the table to the other. The window, I assure you, was quite shut. And this morning…” He paused. “The paper somehow ended on the floor. I believe you found it there and read what it said.”

This time, it was Alex’s turn to blush. “Yeah, I did.”

“I certainly didn’t write that.”

“No. You’d have made sure every word was spelled correctly and had at least ten letters.”

Matt paused. “Twelve,” he corrected in a voice so sarcastic that it strained. “Twelve letters, Alex.”

Alex snorted. “So you’re saying the ghost wrote it? I thought ghosts couldn’t touch things.”

“This one can, apparently. Paper, bottles—” He stopped short.

“Yeah?” Alex prompted.

Matt frowned. “I just had an epiphany. It’s not a ghost I have in my room. It’s actually an incubus, or a succubus. One or the other—I forget.”

“It’s a what-what?”

“Incubi and succubi are demons that seduce humans. One of them seduces men and the other women, but I forget which was which.”

“So… you got seduced by the ghost?”

Matt scowled, not really liking the edge of disbelieving laughter in Alex’s voice. “It made some highly unwanted advances on me, thank you very much.” They’d reached the bathroom now. God, thought Matt. How awkward. “It performed fellatio.”

“Er… you mean, it gave you a blowjob?”

“Yes,” Matt snapped, coloring, “and I’m glad your vocabulary encompasses that subset of the English language.” He turned and stalked into the bathroom before Alex could say anything else.

The bathroom stank. Matt emerged as quickly as possible and waited while Alex was finishing his business. He shivered; like Alex, he’d taken off his shirt, and the day wasn’t exactly warm. Matt could hear the toilet flushing, and then the faucet.

“So was it good?”

Matt stared. “I got fucking raped by a ghost, and that’s what you ask me?”

“Hey, relax. At least it didn’t—you know.”

“What? Sodomize me?”

“Yeah, that. Although… Was it a guy ghost, or a girl ghost?”

Matt clamped his mouth shut. He didn’t know how he knew, but he did; the ghost was male. It disturbed him that he knew so instinctually. How was he so sure of it? It disturbed him on another level too, one that he let flash only momentarily through his mind. “I don’t know,” he said.

“Well, if you don’t know, you can just picture it being a really hot chick. Or,” Alex added casually, “a really hot guy.”

It was a few moments before Matt could respond. “What, have you suddenly become the endorser of pansexuality?”


“It’s a Greek thing. It means you can have sex with all genders, and I suppose even ghosts.”

“But ghosts have genders, too,” Alex pointed out.

“That’s hardly the point! I refused to be molested by the non-living. Can I stay in your room tonight?”

“Uh… there’s only one bed.”

“I can take the floor. I don’t care.”

“No! I mean, it’s fine with me, but I thought you didn’t like sleeping with people in the same bed. You were always so anal about it during sleepovers.”

“I still am, but I much prefer that over the alternative.”

“So it wasn’t very good,” Alex said.

Matt rolled his eyes. “Think what you think,” he said, and jogged over the sand to the waterline.


“Christ, Matt—for the n-th time, I don’t mind!”

Matt nodded. He was sitting on Alex’s bed and fiddling with his wristwatch. “Then I’m setting the alarm to seven, because your mom comes around at eight. I don’t want to explain why I’m in her son’s bed instead of my own.”

Alex snorted. He tossed his bath towel onto his suitcase and sank onto his bed. “You could always tell her that you were feeling lonely.”

“And that I went to you for company? No thanks.” Matt swayed as Alex punched him lightly on the shoulder. “All right. Seven o’clock it is. I’ll turn off the lights.”

He did, and didn’t even have to wait for his eyes to adjust. The moon was so bright that he could see Alex sprawled on the sheets, his skin like milk under the moonlight.

“I hope you don’t mind my feet,” said Alex, after Matt had gotten into bed. They were lying opposite to one another, which Matt had insisted upon doing the moment they’d stepped into the room.

“No,” Matt said, feeling sleepy already. “I don’t mind your feet. Much prefer it to the alternative.”

“What’s that?”

“Your face.”

He felt a punch on his calf, and smiled. It faded when he felt Alex’s hand linger. “Good night,” Matt said.

“’night,” Alex muttered.

A moment passed in silence. Then Matt sighed, drew the sheets tighter around his pajama-clad body, and closed his eyes to sleep.

Morning came much too soon. Matt switched off his alarm and nearly drifted back to sleep before he pushed himself upright and yanked his pillow from under Alex’s feet. Alex, he saw, seemed not to have noticed.

Seven o’clock was definitely chillier than eight. Matt shivered as he padded out of the room, shutting the door quietly behind him, and crept across the landing. The door to his room was ajar. He stepped through, and was instantly aware of the silence.

He glanced at his watch. 7:11. He dropped his pillow on the bed and changed quickly, making sure to face the corner as he did so. He went to the bathroom, brushed his teeth and washed his face, and came back. 7:15. He picked up his book and iPod and was about to leave the room when he heard, again, the scrape of paper on wood.

The camping list had slid from the opposite end of the table to where he was standing. There were new words written under the old ones, which had dried into a dark reddish color. PLEAS DONT GO, it said. IM LONLY

Matt pulled on his socks and shoes and walked quickly out the door.


They went hiking in the morning, and didn’t get back until nightfall. Mr. Hunter took out a large bag of marshmallows while Mr. Bingley tried lighting a fire with a flint.

“Dad,” Janet sighed, “you’ve been at it for half an hour. Can’t you just use a match?”

“Look!” he shouted. “I’m getting it!”

“It’s a spark, Dad, not a fire.”

Some time later, after they’d had a dinner of chips and canned beans, Mr. Hunter took out a bottle of whiskey. Alex’s face lit up.

“Not for you guys,” Mr. Hunter chuckled.

“Aww, Dad, but I’m almost of age.”

“In three years, maybe.”

“Well, can we at least have a sip?”

Mr. Hunter looked at Mrs. Bingley, who nodded.

“Just a sip, mind,” he said, offering it to his son.

Alex took the bottle with both hands. “Ooh. Drambuie, eh?” He took a sip and let out a long, contented sigh. “Wow. It’s actually good tasting.”

Mr. Bingley roared with laughter. Janet took the bottle next and made a face while swallowing. “Eck,” she muttered. “It’s like rubbing alcohol.”

“What are you talking about?” Alex cried. “Rubbing alcohol?”

Janet rolled her eyes and then hesitated. “Matt, d’you want some.”

Matt glanced across the six faces all suddenly turned on him. “Ah—no, I’m fine, really.”

“We’re not going to tell your dad,” Alex said. “Go on. Like I said, it’s actually good.”

“Don’t pressure him, Alex,” Mrs. Hunter chided.

Matt let another moment pass before he took the bottle. He sniffed it and jerked his head back at the sting of alcohol. But there was also the aroma of spices and honey. His father never drank. His father would sneer at the Hunters and the Bingleys for indulging in spirits.

Matt took a careful sip and let it slide, like a pellet of molten iron, down his throat.

“Like it?”

Matt coughed. “Yeah, it’s good.”

The adults laughed.

“Go on kids, make your own fire,” Mr. Bingley said. “We’re going to be talking about a lot of boring adult stuff. Like the economy, and what you guys did in your diapers.”

Janet made a face. “Right,” she said, getting up. “What my dad means to say is that it’s slipped his mind that we’re eighteen, and don’t need to plug our ears every time they mention a penis.”

“Janet!” Mrs. Bingley hissed, looking shocked.

“Don’t mind her, Mrs. Bingley,” said Alex in a British schoolboy manner. “It’s just the whiskey talking.”

Janet punched his arm as the others chuckled. “Let’s go,” she said. “Where’s the other fire, Dad?”

It took them a lot less time to build a fire, as Janet decided to use a match instead of a flint.

“I’ll go get some marshmallows,” she said.

“I think your dad’s coming with some,” Matt said.

Mr. Bingley arrived a moment later. “Hello, boys and girls. I come bearing gifts. Here’s marshmallows, here’s chocolate, and here’s this…”

Janet’s jaw dropped. “That’s—for us?” Alex blurted.

“You guys are eighteen. We figured it’d be better to let you guys fool around with some alcohol before you went to college, rather than let you guys vomit all over your dormitory floor.”

“Wow,” Alex breathed, taking the bottle.

“It’s for the three of you,” said Mr. Bingley. “Make sure Matt here gets his share.” He left, whistling cheerfully, but not before he winked at Matt, which Matt returned with a very uncertain smile.

“That was weird,” Janet said.

“Who cares if it’s weird! This is alcohol, right here!” Alex twisted off the cap and took a big swig. He jerked forward, sputtered some into the fire, and started coughing like mad.

Matt and Janet burst into laughter. Glancing back, Matt decided that the adults were also laughing.

An hour later, with only a few more mouthfuls left in the bottle, Matt decided that he rather liked the Drambuie—at least, in the amount that he’d had, which was about two-fifths the bottle. Alex had taken Mr. Bingley’s words seriously and kept pressing the bottle to Matt. Janet had stopped after only two sips.

“It’s too bad you’re going out of state, Matt,” Janet said. “Otherwise, we could do this on the weekends or something.”

“Yeah,” said Alex. “It won’t be fun without you.”

Janet punched his arm. “Prat. You’ll still have me.”

“But you’re a girl!” Alex pulled a face and pitched his voice into something from the Nickelodeon channel. “Girls have cooties. Ow!”

“God, you’re still a stupid kid,” Janet muttered.

“He is a prat,” said Matt. He reached around the fire and took the Drambuie.

“I was just kidding!” Alex rubbed his shoulder and frowned. “You’re staring at me, Matt. I hope you’re aware of that. Oh!” he added, grinning. “I just rhymed!”

“Mm. You’ve an egg-shaped egg, I just realized.”

Janet giggled. “You’re funnier when you’re tipsy, I think,” she said. “Go on, have some more.”

“Not so fast,” Alex said, busily pressing his hands over his head. “Do I really have an egg-shaped head?”

“Yes,” Janet and Matt said at once.

Alex huffed. “I’m deeply wounded.” He pointed a finger at Matt. “That’s it. I’m not letting you in my bed anymore.”

Janet gave a loud bark of laughter. “He sleeps in your bed?”


Matt rolled his eyes. “Yes, last night, because I was cold and alone, and there’s nothing in the world colder and lonelier than the solitary human soul.”

“Aww. Waxing poetic, eh?”

“It’s the Drambuie,” Matt muttered, taking a sip.

“Well, I think it’s rather unfair, this arrangement,” Janet said, straightening herself and tossing her hair. “One of you should come over to my cabin tonight to keep me company. I’m quite cold and lonely myself.”

“Sorry, Janet,” said Matt. “I don’t swing that way.” He paused, knowing without looking that Alex had stiffened. But something about the fire and the warmth in his belly made the words assemble by themselves and come out like the most natural thing in the world. “And I don’t think Alex does either.”


“Ah, that explains it,” said Janet, giving a theatrical sigh. “My mom keeps asking when I’m going to go out with one of you two. I’m going to have to tell her that a hundred percent of my best guy friends are bent. Woe is me.” She reached for the Drambuie and took a much longer sip than the ones she’d taken before.

Matt eyed her critically. “Poor Janet,” he said. “Here. Let me kiss your hand, at least.”

Janet raised an eyebrow. “Would you?” she said.

“I would.”

She held out a hand. Matt leaned forward, took it, and pressed his lips to her skin. He glanced at Alex. The expression he saw made him give an involuntary bark of laughter. “Goodness, Alex, haven’t you heard of the beau gest? The beautiful gesture? A grand phrase? The generous heart?”

“Dude,” Alex said thickly. “This Drambuie is stronger than I thought.”

I am stronger than I thought,” said Matt.

“All gone!” Janet cried, and held up the empty bottle upside down. The glass glimmered like amber.

They said goodnight and went back shortly afterwards. Janet promised to wake them up bright and early, and Alex told her not to try. Mr. Bingley was grinning from ear to ear as he took the Drambuie and stashed it with what seemed to Matt were quite a few other empty bottles.

“Don’t fall down the stairs,” Alex muttered.

“I’m won’t,” Matt said. “I’m perfectly well coordinated.”

They reached the landing. Matt was aware that he had a rather silly smile on his face. “Thanks for last night, by the way.”

Alex nodded. “Sure, it’s no trouble. Do you want to sleep in my room again?”

“Thanks, but I think I should be fine.”

“Yeah,” said Alex. He looked troubled. “Shout if you need anything, though. Or come to my room. Whichever.”

“I don’t think I’ll shout,” said Matt. “Wouldn’t want to disturb your parents.”

Alex made a face. “They’re probably too busy having—er, a lot of fun right now.”

Matt laughed. “Sex, Alex. You can say it. It won’t bite you.” He lingered in the doorway a moment more. “Good night, Alex.”

“’night, Matt.”

He shut the door. The room was silvery with moonlight. The world was tilting slightly, but he was comfortably aware of his own lucidity. He wasn’t drunk, not by a long stretch. He crawled onto his bed and sat there, listening to Alex doing his business in the bathroom.

The curtain rustled.

He undressed and slipped into his pajama pants. On impulse, he left his shirt off. The bathroom was empty when he stepped onto the landing. Alex must’ve finished while he was changing. Matt did his own business as quickly as he could, and made sure the door to his bedroom was shut before he crawled under the sheets. His heart was pounding.

He felt the first touch after a minute of waiting. It was soft, like a leaf that had fallen on his left shoulder. It didn’t go away.

Matt swallowed and looked about the room. He could see everything clearly: his backpack in the corner, the table with his iPod and book and the sheet of paper that had been his camping list.

The touch moved down his arm, traced over the inside of his elbow. It lifted momentarily, and Matt hissed when he felt it on his stomach. Something warm and soft moved up his jaw. There was no breath. Matt opened his lips and met the invisible mouth as a hand reached across his belly and slowly pulled down the rim of his pajama pants. The mouth left his. Matt shivered. He lifted his hips, watched his pants slide off his legs as though on their own accord, and moaned.

It was too good, all of this. A thousand thoughts whirled through his mind, none of which mattered. Matt shoved his face into the pillow; it was impossible to stop himself from groaning aloud. He looked down, though, when the wet, warm thing left his ass. Two hands gripped his ankles and raised them. Something—soft yet unyielding all at once—pushed. He buried his face and muffled a cry.




“Hey Matt, if you don’t answer, I’m coming in.”

“Yeah—just a second, please.”

Alex waited exactly one second before he pushed the door open.

Matt was in bed, the sheets pulled haphazardly around his body. He was naked. That, or he was wearing a very skimpy piece of underwear. He was also soaked in sweat, as though he’d just run a marathon. Alex took it all in and then retraced the path of his gaze, taking it in a second time.

“Good morning,” Matt said stiffly. “What’s the time?”

“Half past seven.”

“You’re early.”

Alex nodded. “Sleep well? No ghost?”

Matt answered a moment too late. “No ghost.”

“Mm, okay,” said Alex. A pause. “See you in a bit, then.” He stepped back and shut the door. He felt gone. He’d gone in without his shirt on, but it didn’t seem that Matt had even noticed.

Some time later, Alex was waiting around the remains of yesterday’s campfire.

“All right, boys and girls,” said Mr. Bingley. “We’re leaving tomorrow at noon, so today’s out last. Better make it good.” He looked a bit pale. Probably had too much last night, Alex thought with a grin. “Any ideas of what we want to do?”

“Matt’s not out yet,” Janet said.

“Well, the early bird gets the worm—where do you guys want to go?”

Alex looked up. “Mom,” he called, “where’s Matt?”

“He says he’s not feeling too well,” Mrs. Hunter said. “I think he should maybe stay here today.”

Alex felt his skin prickle.

“Sick?” said Janet. “Did he eat the eggs, too?”

“No, he seems a bit feverish,” Mrs. Hunter said.

Mr. Bingley whistled. “Well, that just about does it. First Alex, now Matt.” He gave Janet a narrow look. “You take care of yourself, young lady! Teenagers,” he muttered.

“I’m going to take a look at him,” Alex announced.

He went in, Janet following. Matt was sitting on his bed—dressed, this time.

“Hello,” he said, putting down his book.

Janet stepped forward automatically to give a hug. “I’m sorry,” she said. Alex watched them embrace. The sheet of paper he’d seen yesterday was gone, he noted. “Mm. Just don’t infect me,” Janet said, and drew back.

“Hey,” Alex said. He tried to fix a smile on his face, but it was hard. Nothing was adding up. He tried catching Matt’s eye, but it wasn’t working. “You all right here by yourself?”

“Yes, I believe so,” Matt said.

“No fear of—er—unwanted visitors?”

“You mean, strangers?” Matt said dryly. “Don’t worry. I won’t talk to strangers, open doors for strangers, and otherwise have intercourse with them.”

Janet giggled. Alex bit his lip and stood. “Well,” he said, and his voice sounded strangely loud, “be safe.”

Matt nodded. “I will.”

“Matt’s a big boy,” Janet teased. “I’m sure he can take care of himself. Right, Matt?”

Matt nodded again, and Alex left reluctantly. There was something not quite right about the room.

They ended up going to the beach a second time. Janet nattered on about some sort of shelled thing she wanted to find, and Alex spent a good couple of hours following her around, digging. They talked about college, high school, their friends, Matt.

“We should go back early today,” Mrs. Hunter said.

“Matt’s probably bored stiff,” Alex added quickly.

“He’s not a kid,” Mr. Hunter said. “I’m sure he can take care of himself.”

“I feel bad leaving him there, though,” Alex muttered. Something flickered at the corner of his vision, and he turned sharply. It was only a seagull.

They trekked a ways down the beach to a cove they’d spotted but hadn’t had time to visit two days ago. The sand was softer, and parts of the cliff face had been beaten so smooth that it felt like marble to the touch. Matt would’ve liked this, Alex thought.

“We should head back now,” Mr. Hunter said. “If Matt’s not bored, he’s at least hungry.”

“Mom did leave him something to eat, I hope!” Alex said.

“I did,” said Mrs. Hunter in a placating voice, “but it’s hardly enough for both lunch and dinner.”

The sun seemed to have dipped more than it should have. Alex waited only until the car had come to a full stop before he made a beeline for the cabin door. None of the lights were on. He started up the stairs one at a time but, halfway through, he snapped and bolted up the rest of the way.

His heart was pounding when he made it to the landing. “Matt!” he called, knocking briskly. “Matt, you in there? Matt?”


He swallowed. “Yeah, it’s me. Can I come in?”

“Just a second, please…”

He counted in his head to three and then, without preamble, pushed the door open.

“Alex!” Matt snapped. “I’m not dressed yet…”

“Sorry,” Alex said, taking a step back. He frowned. Matt had his pajama bottoms on already, but his top wasn’t, and… “What— Are those hickies?”

“Those are none of your business,” Matt hissed, yanking his shirt on. He was breathing hard, as though he, not Alex, had just raced up a flight of stairs. The room, Alex thought, smelled odd.

“Did you just take a shower?”

“No,” Matt said, sounding highly annoyed. “Why?”

“’cause your hair is totally wet.”

“I said,” Matt snarled, “it’s none of your fucking business—”

The front door opened and closed. “Matt?” Mrs. Hunter called. “Are you all right?”

Alex watched his friend close his eyes and take a deep breath. “Yes, Mrs. Hunter,” Matt shouted, “I’m much better, thank you.”

“You weren’t sick at all,” Alex said flatly. “You were just pretending.”

“Fuck you.”

Dinner was canned fish. They relit the campfire and brought out the last bag of marshmallows. Mr. Bingley hauled out his guitar and started to sing in a strained, off-key voice. Mrs. Hunter and Mrs. Bingley hummed along. Janet flatly refused to contribute.

“Might help if we had something to drink,” Mrs. Hunter said with a hint of a smile.

“None for you guys,” Mr. Bingley said sternly, handing Mr. Hunter a bottle of Chardonnay. “Well,” he relented, “maybe a little.”

“I’ll be back,” Alex announced, half an hour later. “Bathroom.”

“Don’t get lost,” Janet called.

The cabin was quiet. He didn’t know why, but he tiptoed up the stairs and paused at the landing. From the window, he could see that everybody was outside. He went into the bathroom, finished his business, and stopped at the landing again. The door to Matt’s room was closed. The sounds from the campfire were a distant murmur.

Alex turned the handle and stepped inside. The curtains were drawn, but he spotted right away what he was looking for. The camping list was lying on the table, its sides perfectly aligned with the edges. He picked it up.




Alex dropped the paper and stumbled backwards just as footsteps came pounding up the stairs. He turned; Matt entered, his face dark with anger.

“I thought you were going to use the bathroom.”

Alex lifted his chin. “I did use the bathroom.”

“Then why are you here? In case you haven’t noticed, this isn’t the bathroom.”

“You stayed behind today to be with the ghost, didn’t you?” Alex snapped. He jabbed a finger at the paper. “Look at this!”

“Yes, I know what it says,” Matt said frostily, “and I’d think my best friend would be more considerate than to paw through my personal belongings—”

“It’s written in blood!”

“I know it’s written in blood—”

“Do you realize what it wants? It wants you to die. That’s the only way you’ll stay with it forever, don’t you see?”

Matt’s expression didn’t change. “It’s not going to hurt me. Although it might hurt you, since you’re determined to make a huge mess of things.”

Alex clapped his hands over his face. “Oh, God,” he said. “Oh, God, it’s fucking got you.” His face changed. “But we’re leaving tomorrow. We’re leaving, and you’re coming with us. Hah, beat that you paranormal piece of shit!”

“Shut up!” Matt hissed. “Your mom’s downstairs!”

“Matt’s leaving tomorrow, you fucking piece of incu-succu-horse—”

The curtains shot up like arms. Alex stumbled as the table lurched forward. He felt a sharp pain on the forehead and nearly fell. Matt was shouting and pulling him back. He let out a yell of his own when the door swung savagely at him.

“No!” Matt cried hoarsely, pushing back. “Out,” he panted, dragging the other boy onto the landing.

The door slammed shut.

“Boys?” Mrs. Hunter called from outside. “What’s the matter, boys?”

They were both on the ground, panting hard and staring at each other. Alex was about to clamber to his feet, but Matt held him down. “You’re bleeding,” he said. He got up and shouted something about accidentally knocking over a bookshelf. No, they didn’t need help—they were straightening things up right away.

“Bathroom,” Matt said.

Alex nodded dumbly. He said nothing as Matt wiped away the blood with a damp towel and fumbled in the cabinets for some gauze.

“It’s not deep, I don’t think,” Alex said. “What was it anyway?”

Matt’s lips twitched. “My iPod.”


“We can say that we were horsing around, and you brought down a bookcase. And this was caused by the Catholic Encyclopedia.”

Alex frowned. “But we never horse around.”

“Got any better ideas?”

“Matt, you can’t go back in there.”

“I was perfectly fine until you barged in and—”

“Matt, it wants to kill you!”

“It doesn’t.”

“My God. My God.” Alex felt his face scrunching, and suddenly he couldn’t see through the tears in his eyes. “Matt—” He couldn’t go on. It was as though his throat had tightened to the size of a pin.

“Aww, Alex. Shh. It’s just the shock. Shh.”

Alex shook his head. “Can’t you see? It wants to take you away.”

“It won’t. Trust me on this.”

He shook his head, grabbed Matt’s shirt in both hands. “Please. Just—stay the night in my room. For me, okay? Even if you don’t think the ghost will do anything to you. For me.” He was blabbering. He was sitting, hot and cold and damp all at once, on a counter in the bathroom. He was crying in front of his best friend, the friend that, he realized now, he loved with a love that scared himself. There were tears coursing down his cheeks and snot clogging up his nose. He’d never felt so desperate in his life. “Please, Matt. Please.”

“Okay, okay,” Matt said, voice soft. “I promise.”

Alex looked up suspiciously. “You’re not lying, are you?” Something worked up his throat, and he realized it was a laugh. “Right, you’re Matt. You’ve never broken a promise in your entire life.”

Matt looked both amused and annoyed. “Yes, I am promising, and no, I won’t break it. I’ll sleep in your room tonight.”

“Promise, also, never to go into that room again.”

Matt rolled his eyes. “Who’s going to pack for me? You?”

“Yes,” Alex said in a tone that simply dared Matt to disagree. “I am.”

“After what just happened? You’ll be the dead one if you tried going in there again by yourself.”

“I’ll ask my mom to do it, then.”

Matt snorted. “I’d like to hear your explanation. ‘Mom, we think there’s a bloodthirsty ghost in there, so we’d like you to risk your life to pack Matt’s stuff.’”

“I don’t care,” Alex said, although, he realized blankly, he really didn’t know what to say to his mother. “This is more important.”

“Than your mother’s life. Yes.”

Alex frowned. “I’ll do it then.”

“How about we go in together?”

“You won’t go back on that, will you?”

Matt sighed. “I promise I’ll go in with you to pack tomorrow. Happy?”

“Yes,” Alex said, sliding off the counter. He wiped his nose with the back of his hand, and then washed it sheepishly under the faucet. “Is that Janet calling us? Yeah, that’s her.”

They stayed up later than the previous night. For a good hour or so, they did nothing but listen to the woods and the adults talking about this, that. The cicadas, from the ring of underbrush just beyond the firelight’s reach, kept up a sharp and constant hum.

“How about a ghost story?” Janet suggested.

Alex stiffened. “Uh, not in the mood.”

“Well, if you’ve got a good one…” said Matt.

Janet shrugged. “Nah. Not really.”

It was well past midnight when they dispersed. Alex closely followed Matt as they climbed up the cabin stairs.

“You don’t have to keep staring at me like that,” Matt said, coming out of the bathroom. “I’m not going in there. I promised.”

“I wasn’t staring,” Alex said. “I was just… keeping watch.”

Matt snorted. “Bed time. God, I’m tired.”

Alex made short work of his teeth and hurried back to his room. Matt was sitting on the bed, wearing only his underwear, and frowning at his watch. “Is nine o’clock okay?”

Alex nodded. “My mom said she’d wake us at nine, so really you don’t have to set it.” He unbuttoned his pants, stepped out of them, pulled off his shirt.

Matt straightened his legs. “My pillow’s in the other room,” he said. “As are my pajamas,” he added.

“We can share my pillow.”

Matt grunted. “And have me suffer your face the whole night?” When Alex said nothing, he squinted open his eyes. “You coming?”

“Yeah,” said Alex. He pulled the switch and slid under the sheets. He wanted to ask about the two red bite marks: one on the right side of Matt’s neck, the other on his chest. He could almost count each tooth. Alex shivered and wished he were wearing something more restrictive than boxers.

“Hey. Hey, Alex?”

Alex swallowed and turned slightly. “What?”

He waited. “Good night,” Matt said.

“Good night,” said Alex, not sure if he felt more relieved or disappointed. He let out a deep breath, shut his eyes, and began the long wait for sleep to overtake him.

Something was wrong. Alex felt wakefulness leap at him like a spider. He bolted upright. It was six, maybe seven, in the morning, and he was alone in his bed. Matt was gone.

Alex stumbled to his feet. He crossed his room, pushed open his door, and froze. The door to Matt’s room was open, and the bed was bare.

“Matt?” he called. “Matt!”

He thrust his head out the landing window: nothing.

“Fuck,” he muttered, and nearly tripped as he rushed down the stairs. “Matt?” he shouted. He dashed out the door and clasped his hands over his arms from the sudden cold. “Matt!” he screamed.

Mr. Hunter had emerged from his bed. “What’s the matter?”

Alex turned, his face a mask of fear. “Matt’s gone.”


They found the body in a ditch that was about a five minutes’ walk from the nearest trail. By the time of its discovery, the body had decomposed so badly that the police needed dental records to identify the victim.

“They never found who did it, did they?”

He read on: Due to the state of the body, the police were unable to determine the cause of death. Blunt trauma was ruled out, though; there was not a broken bone in the body. According to investigators, drug overdose was considered a likely candidate.

Alex snorted. “There we go again. Blame it on drugs.”

“It’s not impossible,” Matt said. “He never told me how he died. And given everything else we know about him, it’s not unlikely.”

“You mean—the fact that he had some sort of whore-complex, and couldn’t spell?”

Matt ignored him. “So how’s Janet?”

“Good. Haven’t seen too much of her lately, but I think she’s finally got herself a boyfriend. Her mom’s happy about it, apparently.”

“And she’s not? Hmm. Maybe she’s a lesbian.”

Alex choked.

“Careful, there,” Matt said, patting his friend on the back. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t want to give you this.” He pulled a bottle of Drambuie out of his bag.

“Wow. You brought this along?”

“Nothing but the essentials. Anyway, it’s part of the unfinished business.”

“What unfinished business?”

“That night last year, remember? When you made me promise to sleep with you, made me promise to go with you into my room to pack…”

“And you broke your promises!” Alex burst out.

“I did not. I did sleep in your room. And I did pack my stuff with you breathing down my neck the whole time. I just did stuff in between that you had objections to, God knows why.”

“You jerk,” Alex muttered. “How was I supposed to know the ghost didn’t want to kill you?”

“Because I told you so.”

“But how did you know?”

“Mm. Good question.” Matt turned his gaze to the lake. They were sitting on its shore, and the sunset would have been quite breathtaking if the clouds hadn’t decided to swallow up the sky in the late afternoon. “I’ll have to think about that.”

They were silent for a moment. “Your dad’s not giving you anymore trouble, is he?” Alex said.

Matt shook his head. “I’m quite free of him. There’s an amazing number of ways to piss off your parent once you’re eighteen.”

There was another silence, and Matt frowned. It reminded him of the room in the lodge. He’d told Alex everything multiple times—yes, he’d had sex with the ghost; yes, that’s where he’d gotten his hickies; yes, he’d gone with the ghost for a little hike; and no, he didn’t think that Alex would wake up early and scream the house down. But there were other things, qualities that were indescribable by words, that he hadn’t even tried explaining. He wasn’t even sure he understood it himself. The silence for example: it’d been terrifying at first, but in that one night and day, it had taught him just how deep loneliness could go, even for the dead. Perhaps that part of him, that slice of understanding, was to stay forever with the ghost.

“At least it’s grateful,” Alex said.

“Yes,” said Matt, and took out a folded sheet of paper.

“You brought that along?” Alex said, aghast.

Matt gave him a challenging look. “And why not?” He unfolded it. There were four lines, each written crookedly and with a peculiarly runny ink the color of rust. The last line was written the neatest, with almost kindergarten care: THANK YOU.

“Because this vacation was supposed to be about us, not some dead bloke who couldn’t die properly!”

“Mind your manners,” Matt said. “Said dead bloke could be listening right now. He showed me this place, after all.”

Alex shrank. “Oh.”

Matt laughed. “I’m just kidding. I’m sure he’s well rested now.” He got up. “Too bad about the clouds, but it was a nice hike.” He stretched and let out a loud yawn, the sort that his dad would certainly not have approved of. “Let’s go back to the cabin. No, it’s not the same cabin, and yes, it’s a twin bed. One twin bed.”

Alex grinned and began nattering on something about how there was a cove in the beach nearby that he’d like them to visit the next day. Matt smiled.

© corvus 2008

Photo courtesy Parteimitglied (deviantart)

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Copyright © 2010 corvus; All Rights Reserved.

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This would have been a great story if you had mixed the Drambuie with a good scotch!

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