Vinnie convinced Sam to sleep in the backseat of the car, swearing to watch over him through the night. The ghost did that, and Sam felt safer than he had in all his time in the woods. The next morning Sam, well rested for a change, was happy to find the ghost still there in the daylight, though he seemed dimmer.

That first morning together, Sam made the most of his first social contact in months and talked at length. He told of the night his family was killed, stopping to cry several times. Vinnie said little at first, it had been nearly a century since he’d last had a conversation, and listened eagerly. When the boy was apparently finished, the ghost tried to offer some consolation, saying “It isn’t that bad being dead, for what it’s worth.”

This drew Sam’s mind back to the fact his companion was a ghost. “It’s not?”

“Nope. I’ve been dead for a long time and I’ve been enjoying it.”

“Are my family ghosts now?”

“Well, I haven’t seen them around. I think they probably moved on to the proper afterlife, you know?” and feeling compelled to make it sound better, he added. “Heaven.”

“Why aren’t you in heaven?” said Sam wiping at his eyes with his dirty shirt.

“I felt like sticking around here. There was a lot I wanted to see before I went away.”

“How did you die?”

“I don’t remember, honestly. I was walking down the street one minute and then I was a ghost. I figure I must have been hit by a car or something, but by the time I knew how to be a ghost it was too late to see what had happened.”

“Were you white when you were alive?”

“I was Italian. Does that matter to you?”

“Not really, I guess.”

“Are you white?”

“I’m black, can’t you tell?”

“Not really. From this side it is hard to tell that sort of thing.”

Sam was quiet for a while. “So my family are okay?”

“I guarantee it,” said the ghost.

* * * * *

It was weeks before Vinnie remembered that living humans are supposed to eat. Sam, as far as he had seen, was not eating, but seemed as healthy as ever. Still, Vinnie brought it up and Sam agreed that it wouldn’t hurt to find something to eat.

They went to the bushes where Sam had found berries earlier in the year, but only a few withered specimens remained.

Sam didn’t want to kill a rabbit or a deer, when Vinnie suggested. They finally agreed to find fish. Vinnie flew off while Sam slept and located a lake. The next morning the two of them set out. When they got there Sam noticed cabins on the far side of the lake. “I don’t want to be here,” he said.

Vinnie followed his gaze. “Don’t worry,” he said. “There’s nobody over there. Just empty cabins. You’re safe.”

It was a pleasant day and Sam waded into the water up to his waist. Almost an hour later, he’d caught a fish with his hands.

Vinnie’s attempt to teach Sam to build a fire was ignored. Sam ate the fish raw and cold.

Watching this, Vinnie noticed a contrast between the boy and the fish. From his side of life Sam appeared much clearer. Sam was in some way closer to the other side than normal living beings.

* * * * *

They returned to the car. Vinnie suggested moving into one of the empty cabins, but Sam refused. Eventually Autumn came. The ghost and the boy spent more time wandering the woods, but never more than a few hours away from the car.

Then came a day when Sam was attacked.

It was broad daylight. There was no warning. Sam had been playing in a stream and was suddenly overwhelmed by a feeling of dread. He called out and Vinnie, who had been hovering high above came down to find the boy being stalked a vague shape.

“Get out of there Sam! Run!”

Sam ran. The shape followed.

“What’s happening?” Sam shouted to the ghost.

“It’s hungry! Don’t let it touch you!”

Vinnie recognized the creature. He’d seen shapes like it wandering around the other side, but normally they seemed unable to contact, or even notice, the living world. Sam apparently was out of his world enough to be noticed.

Sam scrambled up a steep, rocky incline, using his hands to steady himself. Vinnie waved his disembodied consciousness in front of the thing, trying to distract it. The shapes had never shown any interest in ghosts and that remained the same. It continued after the boy.

At the top of the hill Sam swore under his breath. He turned and looked at the shape. Looking at it sent a cold twisty feeling through his gut. His thoughts began to swirl and darken. His eyes couldn’t focus on the thing, but an impression of a bat or a shark came to him. He clenched his fists and closed his eyes. He jumped toward the thing.

He rained down blows on the shape. It was like punching gelatine, offering little resistance. After a full minute of violence Sam stopped and stood and looked down on the thing that had stopped moving half a minute before, but still hovered a foot above the ground.

Vinnie watched. Sam kicked at the lifeless shape.

Originally posted on AbwatwaX on Saturday, October 29, 2011

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