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Fiction by Noah Rymer

Errata

It teemed like a black mass of beetles, constantly swarming in place. It was roughly the average size of a human female, so just half a foot shorter than I was. It was a living shade, a three-dimensional shadow that brimmed with malevolent energy. I located it on the side of a Checkers across from the main road, diagonal to the tobacco shop and Indian cafe, perpendicular to the Taco Bell and near the Chinese buffet, all these buildings that felt like walls of a labyrinth. The streetlights’ dim brilliance illuminating scabs of road that lay obscure in swaths of night, the headlights yawning over streets and across the grassy areas, and I and the non-entity standing together in front of the fast food joint.

It had a name, a face, an identity, now lost to all but I who kept her company in that dead air like radio static. I loved her, once. We called around a month ago, and she took a handful of sleeping pills without telling me after I hung up. She loved me, too. It was evident that our love wasn’t enough. She instead became a statistic. She grew cold in the ground. I became frigid in my heart. When the news reached me I was unfazed, not out of shock or stupor but simply blank. I knew this was going to happen. I always knew this was going to happen. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do anything about what was going to happen. I never knew it was going to happen then, so soon, so suddenly.

I got her some Checkers shortly before she went away, before she made her last night on earth, maybe that’s why she lurks here. A lot of old myths and superstition will tell you that the dead reside at their place of death, but that’s not true. They decide where to roam, what to haunt, who they are visible to. Apparently, I’m the only one who she wants to be able to see her. And when I saw her for the first time, I was almost certain I knew who it was. You can feel their personal energy.

I got my order and I got hers, opting for the walk-up window instead of the drive-thru. She flickered over a table, those circular ones with the red umbrellas on the top. I sorted out our meals and put the straw in her drink. Regular Coke for me, Diet for her, and did she want any ketchup? I put some over her fries. She didn’t sit down. I did. I talked to her. Made conversation enough for the both of us. Talked about how much I missed her, how her lips tasted, the lonely conversations we had and how I rambled on to her while patiently she listened, for she loved the sound of my voice. She kept her mortuary silence. This I understood. Her food was cold. Her presence was, too. Most suicides are like that.

I don’t remember when I left the table that night, if I just went home or wept at the chapel, but when I did I knew it was the last time I’d be seeing her. That night was temporary for her. You can’t haunt a Checkers forever, no matter if you’re a soul without a body or a body without a soul. I never went back to see if she was still there. I don’t think it made too much of a difference for her. She had already left me. It was my turn.

Noah Rymer

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