The supernatural world drifts around the common man and he is too wrapped up in his own domain to see it. The realm of the dead and the strange is an oddly beautiful place. The hanging, shredded curtain that divides the world of the living and the world of the dead has been breached by many a man who had the vision and curiosity and, above all, the acceptance to pursue it.
Joseph Whalen had drifted within this paranormal world for years. He was used to it. He was used to his somewhat lonely life as a ghost. He was used to the obliviousness of other humans, their cluelessness. He had to admit, the ignorance of humans was convenient. Nobody bothered him as he trudged through his life amongst the living as a humble librarian. He often smirked, thinking about those breathing and pumping blood all around him. They have no idea.
At times, it was difficult for Joe to accept his current state. He struggled inside of himself, trying with all that he could to remember anything; how he died, who he had been, what his life had been like. Joe recognized the ambiguity that came with being a spirit. However, he also knew that these difficulties had to be even greater for someone of a younger age, like Billy. Joe would never show it, but his concern for Billy was always lingering inside of him. Like Billy, Joe knew what it was like to live as a spirit among the living. He had been one for years. But Billy had an issue that Joe had never had to deal with – Forgetting.
Unlike most spirits that Joe knew, Billy was special. He possessed a talent, or a curse, that Joe had never witnessed before. Billy would, at times, completely forget that he was dead. Some days, Billy would attempt to go out and continue life as if he had never died. He went out and attempted to socialize with others, eat human food, and carry on as if he was a living person. This was not only dangerous to his exposure as a ghost, but it was also damaging to Billy. When Billy reconnected with his reality, his deadness, it took a toll on his soul. It caused regret, sadness, a darkness to take over Billy once he realized that his life was over as a human being and he could never continue to live normally again.
This dark void within Billy caused Joe to feel a sense of responsibility over the young man. Joe was his mentor, his caretaker, and his friend. And, as a friend, he knew the importance of comfort in a time of sadness.
"Come on, Joe, he's right upstairs," Charlotte puffed out as she ran up the last few steps of the apartment complex. Joe strided to the apartment door, shoving his key into the lock and flinging it open.
"Billy?" Joe called, throwing his coat onto the coat hanger. He rounded the corner and, as he expected, saw Billy, sitting on the couch with a small fire alight in the gas fireplace to warm him.
"Joe, I'm so sorry," Billy choked out, looking at Joe with sad, dark eyes. Joe granted him a sympathetic expression, placing his hand reassuringly on Billy's warm, damp shoulder.
"Don't apologize, you can't help this," he whispered almost to himself, glancing down at his shoes.
Charlotte followed behind Joe, appearing in the room next.
"Hey," Billy said, his attention torn from Joe and his expression softening. Charlotte immediately sat next to Billy, sliding her hand onto his forearm.
"Hi there," she replied simply with a sad smile. Charlotte had met Billy only a year before, but the two had immediately made a connection. Now she made constant visits to his apartment, keeping him company.
"I didn't want this to happen again," Billy said darkly, staring straight ahead of him. Joe sighed.
"It's not your fault, kiddo. You have to understand that."
"Yeah, I get it," Billy nearly snapped, "I'm just sick of it." His reddened eyes stared up at Joe and the older man nodded, realizing that nothing he could say would help Billy. He opened his mouth to speak but Billy interrupted.
"Oh God…" Billy muttered, shutting his eyes tightly and heaving with a gag. Joe hurriedly ran into the nearest bathroom, returning with a small trash bin. Billy immediately grabbed it, retching into the bucket violently. Charlotte grimaced but laid her hand on Billy's back comfortingly. Joe twisted his expression into a grim laugh.
"Ate human food, I take it," he said. Billy nodded before lurching forward and returning to the bucket.
"I didn't know that eating food had this bad of an effect," Charlotte said to Joe. The man nodded, sighing. It was unfortunate for Joe that he would never be able to taste food again. Often, the thought of pie drove him into a near frenzy.
Charlotte and Joe suddenly froze, the sound of a turning doorknob reaching their ears. As footsteps approached, Billy tried to control his pitiful vomiting but was unsuccessful.
"Well, that doesn't sound good," a familiar voice called. Joe and Charlotte breathed a sigh of relief.
"If it isn't our other favorite dead boy," Joe said as the visitor entered the room. The teen boy walked, or nearly strutted into the room, adjusting his somewhat saggy jeans. He scratched his shaggy mop-top hair and flipped it out of his eyes.
"Cody at your service," the boy announced, walking over to Billy and grimacing comically. "I seem to have come at an…inopportune time…"
"I'll say," Billy managed to say between retches.
"No, I called him earlier," Charlotte said. "I figured Billy would want his roommate to be here to help out."
"Oh God…it happened again, didn't it," Cody said, his lighthearted expression turning into one of solemnness. Charlotte nodded and Billy suddenly sat up with a determined look in his eyes, standing up.
"Look guys, it's no secret. I forget, okay? It's not a mystery anymore, you all know. Just say it."
Charlotte, Joe, and Cody looked at each other and grew silent for a moment.
"Maybe you should sit back down, Billy, you might be too weak right now," Charlotte quietly suggested without meeting the boy's eyes.
"No, I'm fine," Billy said with his arms firmly crossed and a stony look on his face. However, his eyes suddenly widened as his already-pale face grew paler and he reached for the small trash can once more.
"Yeah, you're just fine," Cody said, helping Billy to sit back down on the couch as he, once again, relieved his breakfast, lunch, and possibly dinner.
The three friends sat by Billy as this scene continued for the next while. Nobody knew what to say after the obvious words of concern had been spoken. They weren't sure whether or not Billy wanted to hear them say anything at all. Billy was usually very enjoyable to be with and a loyal, trusting friend. However, when he Forgot, something inside of him changed. He became something else entirely. He became venomous with frustration and impatience after the Forgetting. He carried a heavy, black burden. But the worst part of the Forgetting wasn't his sudden increase of temper or his unusually callous disposition. It was when others were forced to watch as Billy, the innocent and helpless dead boy, shivered and, at times, cried silent tears as he withered away.