Chapter Five: Ghost

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It was perhaps getting too comfortable nestled in Splitface’s subconscious. It was so comfortable in fact they kept closing their eyes. Was this sleep? They had heard of slumber before, but it didn’t exist in Unreality. The longer they spent over here in Reality the harder it was to recall the finer details of where they were from.

The noise had died down from around Splitface and they stretched, creating a body and projecting themselves outside, finding their corporeal body beside Splitface. He hadn’t noticed them yet, he was sitting hunched over something. She looked over his shoulder, it appeared he was doodling with a pen on an opened envelope. There was that wonderful fresh smell again from the cup next to him.

Luckily, spending time with Splitface gave them access to context within Reality which they might not have had otherwise. There were stories of unlucky individuals that had escaped through fissures and found themselves stranded over in Reality with no means to communicate or even manifest sometimes, and there was always that risk when planes were crossed.

Trapped as they were within Splitface, there were definitely perks to be had be had from siphoning his electrical impulses they found so addictive. His mouth opened and he spoke gobbledygook, perhaps directed at them as he was looking at the mirror over the table at them. They considered for a moment, and flicked his right ear, hoping he would feel it.

He definitely flinched, but instead of reacting like he had the other time, he held up the envelope and there was a drawing of two heads, there was a big scar across the middle of both. A self portrait perhaps? One face sported an upturned mouth - a smile, happiness; the other a glum expression. One ear of each was circled. The happy face had a highlighted right ear, the sad one, the left ear. He said something before touching the right ear and smiling, looking at them the whole time. Splitface was happy, and it made them smile.

Splitface pointed at them in the mirror. Was it a question? It seemed so, one worth answering. They flicked the right ear.

*****

The hot ping from the back of his right ear was progress at least. The spectre was probably maybe not about to swallow his soul. He gave a thumbs up in the direction of the figure, hoping that would solidify the tenuous connection they had made.

The figure reflected the gesture back at him, and he prayed it had been made with context. Ash scoffed, this was so ridiculous, but he wanted to know if she was responsible for his rapid recovery, but he had no idea how to ask her.

The knock on the door made him jump. He looked at the mirror to see where she was. “Just behave yourself, okay?” He went to the door and found Derek and Bernie. Derek was dressed in what looked like a brand new suit and his white shirt matched his gleaming grin. He sauntered in, straight past Ash and to the coffee machine. He narrowly missed the figure, who actually dodged to avoid him.

Bernie as always shuffled in, hunched over, chewing frantically on his toothpick. Was he wearing the same shirt as the last time he had seen him? It was coming untucked a little. He was looking at the bandages on Ash’s chest.

“How does your chest feel?” His voice was hoarse and throaty from his cold. Ash didn’t need the bandages at all, but he shrugged slightly in response.

“Okay, I guess.” Bernie didn’t look all that convinced. It was getting increasingly harder to keep shrugging off the pain he should have been in. Looking in the mirror, he noticed her figure standing behind Derek. Ash’s eye twitched in anticipation. Why, he didn’t know for sure.

Derek sipped on his drink, the figure behind him hovering by his cup. Maybe she liked the smell of the coffee? It was the most animated he had seen her.

“Good coffee as always, Ash...Umm, are you okay?”

Ash realized he was staring at the shadow only he could see. He refocused at Derek, trying as hard as he could not to concentrate on her as she hovered around Derek’s left shoulder. Her hand prepared to flick his ear.

Ash held his breath. Derek frowned. “What is it?” he looked over his shoulder briefly but didn't seem to notice her. “Anyway, you look great! Way better than last week.” As he sat at the table, he brushed Ash’s old college work to one side in a messy pile. The ghost whipped behind Ash. “You seem a bit distracted. Alice put you through your paces, did she?”

“Derek, drop it, she’s a physiotherapist, for crying out loud,” said Bernie, who had joined Derek on the table. Derek grinned like a devil.

“She’s a stunner though, isn’t she? I’d give her one, for sure.”

“For God’s sake, Derek, you’ve been warned before.”

He held his hands up. “Hey, I’m a hot-blooded male, it’s in my genes.”

Ash rolled his eyes. Derek was a good agent, but he was full of bullshit. His companion flicked his right ear, perhaps to agree with him. He stiffened, could she read his thoughts?

*****

Derek was finally talked out of dragging Ash to the gym by Bernie. Ash kept quiet, mainly keeping an eye on his ghost. She had been visible for almost an hour, mostly floating beside him. Still no definitive features like he had seen when she had touched his cheek - or phased through his cheek, at least.

“Look guys, I’m pooped, can we talk about this another time?”

Bernie nodded, scraping his chair across the floor and not so gently holding onto Derek’s arm to usher him out. “You’re still recovering, Ash, don’t remove the bandages just yet.”

Ash nodded as they left, he wasn’t tired: if anything, his legs were aching to run, to go, to do something. Looking in the mirror, she was still there. He removed his shirt and socks.

He had held the handstand for fifteen minutes, and could probably have held it longer if she hadn’t had flicked both his ears and he fell flat on his ass.

“Dude, what the hell?” he said as he rubbed his hip. She was sitting beside him, nothing to distinguish in her pose. He huffed. “Are you okay?” He accompanied his question with a thumbs up. “Okay?”

His right ear stung. Whether she understood the gesture or the okay was unclear, but one of them had to have stuck. Ash got up and stretched. “Want to come on a bike ride later?”

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