Spookman's Last Call
rating: +9+x

I came to the bus station an hour late. Too late. It looks like I won’t be scoring with anyone this Halloween, if the text message Alice had just sent is any confirmation.

With a sigh, I plop down to one of the benches and bury my face in my hands. This was my fault. I bought the freaking Count Oscilloscopula costume that Alice always joked about wearing and didn’t even bother to read the instruction manual that came with it. Took three hours just to set up all the damn parts. And then I tried applying the makeup, only for the stuff to cake right on my face and trigger an allergic reaction that made my neck itch.

Found out that I should have prepared the makeup and fake blood mixes a week before… And don’t get me started on the glass pieces…

The bus station seems to be empty aside from this guy sitting at the opposite end of my bench. What a creep. Everyone in the city is probably out partying and having fun, but there’s him with his trenchcoat and wide-brimmed hat. It’s the type of costume that isn’t out of place for Halloween… or the scene of a murder.

I bend sideways to get my water bottle and the next thing I knew, this guy was sitting right beside me.

“GAH!”

“No need to get spooked, buddy. I’m only trying to make this Halloween at least a bit eventful by talking to you. I noticed you were feeling down.”

“Well,” I begin to say, still shaking, “it’s really nothing. I got stood up by my date because of some stupid life decisions. We weren’t even that close, so, it’s fine. I’m just here because I hate the walk of shame alone back to my flat.”

“Basically me.” He says. “Except you know, I’m a ghost.”

My train of thought stops as I glance at him to see if he was joking. Of course he was joking.

“Are you joking?”

“I wish I was joking.” He was not joking.

He added. “It’s Halloween, dude. We used to call it All Saints’ Eve, when the dead start returning to the mortal realm. Everyone has unfinished business when they die that they get to do tonight. I just wanted to get laid. That isn’t going so well at the moment…”

I raise both my hands up, instinctively knowing the type of loon to stay at bus stops for no reason. “Just let me leave this place, I’ll give you anything, I swear.”

He scoffed and said. “I was a software engineer at a gaming company. My last project was a Japanese fantasy RPG where you could fall in love with over 30 unique characters that fought alongside you. I wrote a hundred lines of code just to make your pet monster wag its tail a certain way… I’m only homicidal during crunch time, man.”

Uncle always said to never talk to strangers at the bus station. But when the guy tells you about his life, he isn’t really a stranger, is he?

“Gary.” He offers his hand. “Born in 1991 and got consigned to the pit in 2015.”

I shake it. “Bill. Born in 1993.”

“Ooh, nice flex there.” We both laughed.

“So, what brings you here again?”

“You forget we’re basically the same. Succumbed to a girl pressuring me to return, says she wants to go on a date. Date didn’t come. I still get trapped in the mortal realm for a few hours and the afterlife hasn’t taught me good social skills yet, despite how many of us are in there. So… bus station at 1 in the morning. Shame. The girls who ask me out were ones I was close with in my past life. I liked a lot of them but I guess feelings change when I’m literally a one-night stand… You?”

“Ah…” I scratch my head. “Alice and I actually knew each other for a long time, too. Keeping her waiting for too long isn’t my first mess-up. More or less, she’s still mad that I forgot about game night.”

Gary raises his eyebrow but keeps looking down so I couldn’t see his eyes.

“Game night?”

“Uh, yeah. Stupid adventure video games, once a month at my place. That’s pretty much the only nerdy thing we do together. I was swamped with work so I couldn’t come home until it was very late. Found her on my front porch with her Gameboy, mad.”

“Damn, you two are cute. Pretending to be pissed at each other over games and time management and shit.”

I smirk. “It’d be better if you see this before using the word, ‘cute.’”

I pull back the collar on my Count Oscilloscopula to reveal my allergic reaction as a harmless but frighteningly red streak across my neck.

I jumped in my seat as Gary was about to speak, but black vomit was all that left his mouth.
“I’m sorry!” I quickly say as he barfed a little on the floor.

“No, no!” He said, wiping his mouth with a napkin. “It’s not your fault. Just one of the rules while we’re here on Earth. We get imprint sickness when we encounter stuff that reminds us of our last moments.”

“Imprint sickness?”

“I didn’t really pay attention during the orientation. Something about creating links between our living and dead consciousness.”

“Oh.”

He straightens himself out.

“You want to ask me how I died?”

I nodded. “If it doesn’t bother you. Otherwise, I’d be glad just talking about our fuck-ups and stuff.”

“If you want to know a fuck-up, I’ll tell you. Once I knew a girl from work. She was an amazing partner, both in my division and in my raiding group. Talented, funny, a bit crazy. The type my geeky buddies would call ‘waifu material.’ I never invited her to my home. Never had that kind of feelings for her but we were a couple to everyone else at the office. For months, she brightened up the tedium at my job. Then, one of my old friends from high school moves in to the apartment next to mine and pretty soon, we’re dating. Everything’s fine for a few months until girl-from-work notices my girlfriend’s perfume on me, I guess. Tells me she wants to talk after my shift, I say I can’t. That night, I’m walking alone and she freaking ambushes me on the street. Takes me to an alley and slices my throat open. I bleed out as she lies down next to me, crying and confessing. The last thing I remember is feeling my eyeballs getting pulled out.”

Gasping, I ask. “What?”

Gary jerkily snaps his head to me, his eyes clearly and painfully missing from the dark, cavernous sockets that remained.

“I require your life force.”

I was about ready to jolt upwards but my legs felt stiff and frozen. I couldn’t move. Gary rises from the ground, his skin turning grey and cracking with malefic energy.

“I hate experiencing my death the first time, Bill. Don’t you know I have to go through that thing every time I have to return to the afterlife? The same cutting motion of my killer’s knife on my neck. The same disembodied echoes of her hysterical confession in your ears. It only happens if I don’t bring another soul back with me!”

“N-no!” I sound like whimpering. “Why?”

“WHY?” Gary snickers. “Why do you thi… AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Stop it!”

“W-what?” I ask as the eyeless ghost continued to laugh at me. “What?”

“AHAHAHAHA! Stop making that face! You’re almost too precious for me to continue!”

“WHAT?”

“I guess I… have to… cut this short.” He says, wheezing in between words. He turns back to normal.

“None of what I said about the girl from work was real. It’s all a skit, Bill.”

“What…”

For the next few moments, Gary explained to me that he got his kicks during Halloween spending it trying to make someone feel less lonely, playing the part of the mysterious stranger. He told me that he didn’t actually experience his death every Halloween but it was a popular joke to tell the freshmen in the afterlife. He told me to stop sniveling so we could move on with the topic. We chatted about our lives. About Alice and his old girlfriend, Claudia, and the girl from work, Cynthia, who actually came up with the idea for that freaking story.

It turns out that Gary died from pancreatic cancer in a hospital, surrounded by friends, family, and colleagues. He would meet them first thing during the 31st of October, before doing anything else. He explained that he must always erase the memories of all but one person he interacts with tonight.

He and I talked about a lot of other things until his skin turned gray, and that was the last I saw of him.
—-
When I woke up, it was already sunny, and garish figures were shambling in the bus station as everyone began their walk of shame home.

Before I rise from my seat, I see a disc box of the unreleased “Cybersenpai: Stream of Oblivion VIII” on the seat beside me. There’s a note attached to it, prefaced with “something for [me] and alice,” saying:

wanted to make one last spook. Happy spooktober.

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