I felt it more than I heard it, my name a chill whisper in the dark that raced up my spine. I sat up, heart hammering in my throat. The sound, or whatever it was, had woken me from a deep middle of the night sleep. I looked around my room, wondering if one of my drunk frat brothers had somehow wandered in. All I saw was darkness and silence. No movement. Nothing. The room was empty except for me. Of course it was. I felt like a total idiot.
No more watching Paranormal State after dark.
Apparently my imagination was just a little too active. I was wide awake now, adrenalin pumping through my veins. I looked at my clock. Midnight. Damn! I had just fallen asleep an hour and a half ago and I had a big test at eight. I was annoyed with myself and my overactive dreams. There was obviously no one in my room. I was just punching my pillow and getting ready to lie back down when I heard it again.
This time it was distinct. I hadn't been imagining it. Someone was in my room whispering my name, but I couldn't see a damn thing. Where the hell were they hiding?
"C'mon guys, this isn't funny. I've got an Econ test in the morning."
I waited, the seconds stretching out. There was no answer other than the pure silence that could only come in the smallest hours of the night. I sat up in my bed, stock still. I was listening for breathing, shuffling, anything that would tell me that this was some dumb prank. Please let it be a prank!
The whisper broke the silence once more. If anything it was more pronounced. I could feel a slippery coldness work its way through my body. I couldn't see or hear anyone else in the room but I could feel someone there. I can't explain it any other way than that. There was someone in my room who wasn't supposed to be there and he was scaring the crap out of me. I had to get the hell out.
I grabbed my pillow and my comforter, my cell phone so I wouldn't sleep in, and headed for one of the lumpy beer stained couches in the second floor common room. I wasn't going to sleep well and my back would hurt like the devil in the morning, but it had to be better than this. As I was about to turn the doorknob, I heard a final whisper.
"Cameron, don't leave. I need you..."
I felt a tingling again, like that feeling when you know someone is watching you. No freaking way am I staying in here! I shut the door quickly, and had to force myself to walk instead of running like hell down the hallway to the common room.
I lay for what seemed like hours on the disgusting old common room couch, trying to fall asleep. I couldn't even get my heart to calm down, couldn't get that whispering voice out of my head. I was still scared by whatever had just happened in my room. If this did end up being a prank, someone was going to get their ass kicked tomorrow. I didn't even want to think of another possibility.
******** I practically crawled into the kitchen the next morning. I was tired as hell and my body was aching from the hours spent on the couch. I needed some food and a major jolt to my system if I was going to make it through my test. I was actually glad I had to pull a shift at work later. I'd probably be mainlining double shot americanos the whole time. Free coffee was probably one of the only perks of working at one of the busiest Starbucks in the university district.
I heard the quiet shuffling of feet coming over the threshold onto the cold tiled kitchen floor. I jumped a little, then called myself an idiot under my breath. I turned and saw Jason, a senior and my big brother from freshman year eyeing me strangely.
"Dude, you look like shit. What happened to you?" Tactful as always, bro.
"Rough night. I couldn't sleep." He gave me another strange look
"You're in the corner room right by the back stairs, right?" He asked. We had just moved in a few weeks ago, and no one had gotten used to the new arrangement.
"Yeah, why?" The way he had asked made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Was I being paranoid, or did he look like he knew something?
"No reason," He answered quickly.
"Seriously, what?" After the night I had, I didn't need any more strangeness.
"Wasn't that Adam's room last year?" Adam had moved in with his girlfriend somewhere before Thanksgiving last year. He had been two years older than me. I didn't know him that well. I thought someone else had taken the room over after Christmas, but for the life of me I couldn't remember who.
"I think it was, why?"
"Never mind, Cam. Just go to class." I shook my head, basically at my limit for weird creepy events. First last night, now this cryptic conversation. Whatever. I had a test to take and a five hour shift. I didn't have time for this crap.
I had plenty of time to think at work while I was foaming lattes and bagging overpriced scones for the hoards of pink-cheeked students. I tried to rationalize the night before, think of a reason that I could have heard someone whispering my name. I didn't want to include the obvious but impossible explanation. That someone was in my room whispering. Someone invisible. Don't be ridiculous.
But honestly (and here's where I really start to feel nuts) fairly often in the past few weeks I had come back from class to find my stuff in slightly different places. Like someone curious had come in and looked through it while I was gone. Nothing was ever missing, so I hadn't said anything, but I could swear someone had been in there. And that feeling was there. Not as strong, but it was there. A milder version of that 'I'm not alone' chill I had gotten the night before. Yeah, right Cameron. You have an inquiring poltergeist.
I shook my head, and poured one of the bubbly Kappa Pi's a non-fat white mocha.
"Thanks Cameron," She purred, smiling at me. I hated the fact that she knew me only because I was in Sigma Epsilon. It was kind of a trophy thing for a sorority girl to end up with one of us. How long was it going to take those girls to realize I really wasn't interested?
I continued my shift, my tired brain still sorting through all of the slightly weird events that had happened in my room since term started. My books moved, mail shifted through, my bed being made (which I never do). That last one was really kinda creepy. Let's just say I was starting to see why Adam had found his girlfriend's apartment so...appealing.
By the time my shift was done, I was worn out, and my mind had been spinning in circles for hours. I hadn't had a chance for a nap earlier, and I was so desperate for sleep I nearly curled up in the stock room. With a sigh, I zipped into my fleece and headed for home.
I looked at my clock. Midnight. Again. I groaned. You have got to be fucking kidding me.
"Leave me alone," I said to the general darkness. I felt like an idiot, but I needed sleep. I didn't feel like dealing with whisper boy again tonight.
"Cameron, I need your help."
Oh my god. What part of 'leave me alone' was confusing? I sat up in bed, more angry than scared. My eyes focused slowly in the dark.
That's when I saw him.
I nearly jumped out of my damn skin. There was a guy sitting calmly in the easy chair that I had squished into the corner of my room. He was watching me patiently, as if waiting for me to wake up so I could talk to him.
The funny thing is, as soon as I saw him, I knew he was a ghost.
I mean, it wasn't an intellectual deduction, I didn't sit there and catalog his faint edges, and pale skin. I just knew it. Somewhere inside of me could tell that this boy was dead. Even stranger, after I realized that he was dead, and the first ghost I had ever seen, I also realized that I wasn't afraid of him. In fact, he seemed a little afraid himself.
"Who are you?" I asked. Other than a dead kid in my room of course...
"Jamie Douglas," He answered, as if I should already know that.
"There's no one named Jamie living in this house." I'm not sure why I said it. Sounded kind of stupid even to me.
"I live in this house. This is my room. It has been for...what year is it?" He looked slightly confused.
"It's two thousand and nine."
"Then I guess it's been fifty years."
So if it had always been him in this room...
"What did you do to Adam?" I asked. I wanted to be prepared in case he tried it on me too. Jamie looked sheepish.
"I didn't like his girlfriend's perfume. They couldn't see me, not like you can. I just played a few games."
"What do you mean, they couldn't see you?"
I was curious now. Not afraid at all. I was starting to notice things about him, like his neatly pressed khakis, his snug t-shirt that was definitely filled out, the chocolatey waves that curled around his ears. Jesus! I was cruising a ghost.
"In all my years in this room, watching, learning, seeing the lives of so many guys, you are the first one who has ever heard me. Believe me, I've tried. I don't know what it is. I decided tonight that I would try to let you see me. Obviously that worked too."
"I told you. I don't know. Maybe because it's exactly fifty years...wait what day is it?"
"Well, not exactly fifty years yet, then." He cocked his head to the side as if considering something. I noticed the long line of his neck, arched as his head turned. An image of me sucking on that soft skin flashed into my head. I realized I was being ridiculous. I couldn't touch him!
"Fifty years since..." I prompted. I knew what he was going to say. I just had to hear it for some reason.
"Fifty years since I died. On Halloween. Nineteen fifty-nine."
"And I'm the first one who can see and hear you. For whatever reason."
"Yes." I thought of something he had said a few minutes earlier.
"You said you didn't like Adam's girlfriend's perfume. You can smell?" He grimaced.
"Yes. Much better, as far as I remember, then when I was alive. Smells are very overwhelming to me. But not you. You smell nice."
He blushed, as if realizing he had said a bit too much. No way. I literally couldn't believe this was happening. Either I had completely gone bat shit or I was really sitting in my room talking to a ghost who liked how I smelled....and I actually kinda liked that he had noticed.
"Jamie, you said you needed help. What happened to you?" I felt like I wanted to do something for this kid. It must suck to be stuck in the same room for that long. Jamie gave me a disappointed look.
"I don't remember. That's one of the bad parts. I guess I need to fix something, to get closure. You know the typical story. But, like I said I don't remember what happened. I do remember everything about my life since I died. But hardly anything before." Well that was no good. How do you help when he doesn't even know what he needs?
"I guess I have to do some research, then?" I said it like a question. I really had no idea what I was going to do. He looked so hopeful that my heart broke. "I'll help you. I promise. I'll start by learning as much about you as I can find. I have to warn you, it might not be much." Where do you even start looking for stuff about an ordinary person who lived fifty years ago?
"I know." He answered. "I was just a nineteen year old kid. A nobody. Thank you so much for even trying, Cameron." That reminded me.
"How did you know my name?" I asked. There was that sheepish grin. So cute. He pointed at my mail pile.
"You're the one who's been looking through my stuff aren't you?" I raised my eyebrows. He blushed again. I couldn't believe a ghost could actually look embarrassed.
"Just a little bit. I wanted to know who you were."
"So you can touch things."
"Sort of. Like in the movies. I've seen a lot of those in this room. It's hard, and I have to concentrate, but I can move things. That's how I freaked out Adam and his girlfriend." He grinned as if remembering a good joke. Wow. Playing pranks for fun. He was a frat boy.
"Listen, I promised I was going to help you, and I will. But I gotta get some sleep. I have four classes tomorrow, and if I'm going to try to figure out who you are, I can't be falling asleep in the library."
He nodded, and stood. I was curious suddenly as to where he would go. He actually came towards me, hesitated for a second like he was concentrating on something, then brushed my cheek with his halfway translucent hand and whispered,
Then he disappeared.
My cheek tingled where he had touched me. Chills swept up and down my spine, but not unpleasant chills. Amazing chills, like the kind I imagined you would get when you first kiss someone that you are totally into. All the little hairs on my back were standing and sensitized, and I could feel blood pounding through my body towards my groin. All from one little touch? Impossible! I had my silent room all to myself, but not too surprisingly, I couldn't sleep. You would think that anyone would have a hard time dozing off after a face-to-face encounter with a ghost. My reasons weren't quite what you would expect. Instead of lying awake afraid or unsettled, I stared at the ceiling and thought about his shiny brown hair, and those big black lashed blue eyes. He had looked so sad and vulnerable, adorable when he grinned. I was totally infatuated. Oh my god Cameron Tate. You've held it together for two years, both feet planted solidly in the closet, and now this? You want a guy...who's dead?
So here comes big confession time...which you've probably already figured out for yourselves. I'm gay. At least I'm pretty sure I am. I figure I can't really say I'm gay since I've never actually been with a guy. Sad, huh?
You wanna know how I got to be twenty and still have only messed around with a few girls that I was totally not into? It was surprisingly easy. Classic high school golden boy, smothered by his proud father who couldn't wait for his only son to join the clan of cavemen at the Sigma Ep house just like his dad. I was a legacy, and I would have fit in anyway (at least on appearances). I got in no problem.
But there was a problem...I didn't really want to be here. This wasn't who I was, who I wanted to be. It was just that my dad had always been so proud of me and I hated to make him unhappy. Truthfully, I was also afraid of what would happen when he found out and I wasn't his golden boy anymore. I was afraid. So there I was, living in a frat house pretending to be straight. No matter what you see on TV, the hot guy jock fraternity isn't exactly a safe haven for the queers of the world. I'd heard the way they talk, and I decided a long time ago to keep my mouth shut. I didn't want to get my ass kicked or worse.
I really don't mind the guys other than their ridiculously archaic views on sexuality. Most of them are pretty cool, and will be as long as they don't find out what's swirling around in my head. It's been basically okay. I have two more years of hiding, than I'm off to live my own life. At least I've had some great man candy to look at along the way!
Unfortunately, now I have a new problem. Jamie the friendly (and hot) ghost needs my help but doesn't even know what kind of help he needs. I promised to help him and even worse... I'm totally attracted to him. A ghost. I know how crazy that sounds. Don't even get me started.
My first step was to figure out if, in fact, I was really talking to Jamie Douglas, deceased Sigma Ep. Since my other option was being nuts, I really hoped I was going to find some kind of record of him living in our house.
In the main living room, we had a bookshelf full of photo albums. They were kind of like fraternity yearbooks. Every year, there was a group shot, and each brother had their picture taken on his own. They were organized into photo albums along with candid pictures from different fraternity events. There were a ton of books, dating back to the start of the house somewhere in the twenties. I started looking through the books for the one that would contain pictures from nineteen fifty-nine.
They were dusty, and not quite in order, but I eventually found the one I was looking for. It had pictures from nineteen fifty five to nineteen sixty. If Jamie Douglas existed, he would be in there. I grabbed it, stuck it in my backpack, and headed up to my room.
I turned my lamp and ceiling lights on, a little freaked out. I had no idea why the creepies were suddenly taking over. I mean, I wasn't scared of the ghost himself. Just the opposite. So why was I freaking out over some old photo album? I guessed it meant that if and when I saw Jamie's picture, it would mean this whole thing was real.
I flipped slowly through the pages, starting in the beginning. I knew that Jamie wouldn't be there yet, but it was interesting looking through all the old pictures. The guys looked so uptight back then, with their Mr. Rogers sweaters and slicked back hair.
I wondered what they would think of the way my brothers dressed now. Most of them were total slobs. It didn't even matter, since the sorority girls would fall all over them based on social status alone. It totally annoyed me that I was hit on all the time based purely on what letters were stitched on my sweatshirt. It seemed so shallow. I guessed it probably wouldn't annoy me too much if any of them looked more like Jamie. Yeah right. That wasn't likely to happen.
I was getting close to the back of the book, almost to the section where he would be. I could feel my heart pounding. I wanted him to be real so badly. I wanted to find out how I could help him. When I finally got to nineteen fifty-eight, the year he would have been a freshman, I turned the page slowly.
It didn't take me more than a second to find him. He looked exactly the same. Just to be sure, I checked the name typed below his picture. James Douglas. There he was. Warm dark hair, curled haphazardly over his ears, sweet open smile, and those eyes...wow. Even in black and white their power was intense.
I looked at his picture for long minutes, memorizing the features I had seen so clearly the night before. I couldn't believe what was happening to me. I had never looked at these old books, never seen his picture. I couldn't have imagined him. There was only one possible conclusion. Jamie Douglas's ghost was real. And he needed me.
I spent a long time looking at the pictures in the old photo book. The formal shots and candids of the brothers together. There was one guy that Jamie nearly always stood next to in pictures. He had sandy hair and a big grin. I looked up his name. Grayson Turner. That's an unusual name for back in the years of Jacks, Bills, and Johns.
In all the pictures, Grayson seemed kind of like a Kennedy or something. This golden boy who would have had a crowd of admirers. I wanted to hate him. I did kind of hate him. Mostly because there was something in Jamie's face in all the pictures. It was there, in the way he smiled the pretty blonde boy. I recognized that look. It made an irrational snake of jealousy slither down my spine. Had Jamie been in love with him? It seemed pretty obvious, but I didn't want to jump to conclusions. One thing I did know for sure. Somehow this Grayson guy was the first step in solving Jamie's mystery. I tried to go to sleep early, anticipating a wake up call in the middle of the night. But I found myself getting excited to see Jamie again. I wanted to talk to him more, get to know him. I knew that excited, happy feeling. I had felt it a few times in high school. It had nearly gotten me into huge trouble with one of my friends from the soccer team. Thank god I came to my senses before I tried to kiss him or something. I punched my pillow, annoyed with myself for being so dumb. A crush on a ghost? So stupid.