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no one has to see, believe me

 
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Ben Sullivan
nothingman
Ancient Wyrm
Ancient Wyrm


Joined: 01 Aug 2012
Posts: 793
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Jobs: Gumshoe, Bullet Catcher
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28780.38 Silver Crowns

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 19, 2013 1:33 pm    Post subject: no one has to see, believe me Reply with quote

'come with me
i'm easy
and then we'll see who's got the secrets'
no one has to see
believe me
oh, i'm sorry about the dark


Friday, March 15th, 2013 -- afternoon

The lights flickered in his office sometimes. It was an old building, and he’d never thought twice about it when it’d happened before. This time, though -- this time was different. This weird creeping feeling of dread came with it; the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. He very pointedly did not look up from the file he was poring over because-- why, exactly? What did he think he was going to see?

Ben doesn't believe in ghosts -- not the traditional kind, anyway, the supernatural kind. Things that went bump in the night, sure, and things that reached you from-beyond-the-grave? Every day, he was affected by that one.

But ghosts? He'd been a homicide detective. Death, dying, the dead themselves, usually didn't bother him. Even when he was young, for whatever reason, he hadn't had that fear.

Ben doesn’t always live with both feet in the present. Sometimes -- not often; oftener his consciousness is likely to skip town altogether, leave his body with somebody else in charge -- but sometimes, he’ll straddle that line, drift through real-life detached and half-there, while fuzzy, dust-covered, hypersaturated dream-memories play out in front of him. It’s disorienting, and it’s exhausting, and it’s that whole ‘life feels like a copy of a copy of a copy,’ smudgy and only half-decipherable and maddening because you almost can make out what it’s supposed to be, but not quite--

This isn’t that, though. This isn’t that at all.

Because he looks up from the paper he’d been staring down at, and his stepfather is standing there, in the middle of the room, just paces away. Roland has been dead for five years now -- but there he was. Not quite see-through, the way you’d expect a proper ghost should be, but not quite there either -- too-sharp, ultra-contrast, so unreal he had to be real.

Ben jumps up from his chair like the surface of it burns him; his eyes are wide and his mouth is agape, working around words that he can’t seem to pull himself together enough to form. Finally, after what seems like forever, “No, it can’t be you.” The line uttered in every movie about ghosts. “You’re dead. I watched you die--”

And there it is, just a blip -- here and there, still standing in his office, somehow aware of his real surroundings, with the shadowy, too-real wisp of memory playing out in his vision at the same time, blurred and hi-def, muted, still turned up to eleven: Ben, kicking the door to the motel room open. A blip of fastforward-- Roland, dropping the container of takeout Chinese, clutching at his chest. Blip, and Roland is clinging to Ben, begging for forgiveness, blip, and he’s staggering backward, and Ben can hear his own voice in his ears, echo-y but clear, I hate you.

The memory vanishes in a slow-to-fade flash of white light, but the apparition doesn’t. It’s real. It’s real, real-life-right-now real, and it drifts toward Ben, Ben-in-real-life-Ben, and the voice that wheezes out Ben’s name is the exact same that he’d just heard in that memory, begging, begging, forgive me, Ben--

Ben takes two steps backward, but then his back is pressed against the wall, and there’s nowhere else to go, and the very, very real figure of Roland keeps coming toward Ben, floats right through his desk, he's only a few feet away and he's still coming closer--

And it all goes black.

(part of this sl!)
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Ben Sullivan
nothingman
Ancient Wyrm
Ancient Wyrm


Joined: 01 Aug 2012
Posts: 793
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Jobs: Gumshoe, Bullet Catcher
Can Be Found: until he can't be
28780.38 Silver Crowns

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 8:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013 -- mid-morning

If Ben had to choose one thing that he excelled at over all others, without a doubt, he’d choose avoidance.

Ghosts aren’t real. Not in the supernatural sense. He’s never seen one before; why would he now?

Ghosts don’t haunt the people who help ‘em, right? That’s the person who puts ‘em at peace. I think majority of the time the ghosts go after the people who like, are makin’ ‘em unsettled. If it’s a homicide case then the ghost would haunt the person who killed ‘em or something.

If they’re not real, why hasn’t he been back to his office since Friday?

Jackie had been able to tell that something was up with him. She knows the signs though -- some of them, anyway -- and those blank-faced moments of his were one of the more obvious ones. To most people, he can play it off as being overworked, or under-caffeinated, or tired, or just generally lost in thought, but with Jackie? She knows what it means.

She’d pushed him on it last night, just a little bit, but Ben played dumb. Avoided it. And surprisingly, Jackie had actually let it go -- begrudgingly, but without much of a fight. Ben’s not sure if he’s glad for that or not -- is she dropping it because he’d successfully played dumb, or because she doesn’t care, or because she knows pushing him can end poorly? -- but she stays the night at his house anyway. Some of her things are already there, and it feels normal already: sending Hayley home, bargaining with Adam to go to bed (going to bed now means an extra hour up late on the weekend), eventually crawling into bed with Jackie, one of his hands in her hair, her slender fingers tangled in his shirt.

Jackie sleeps, though. Ben doesn’t.

He tries. He really thinks that if Jackie’s there, that he’ll be a little less jumpy. That he won’t feel like if he turns his head, somebody long dead will be in the room with him, with no plausible explanation. And while it helps -- he always feels better when she’s around -- he’s still way too wired for most of the night, and when he does drop off from time to time, his dreams are vaguely threatening, shadowy and muffled, blurred, echoing.

In the morning, Jackie takes Adam to school before heading to work herself. Ben thanks her, says he’ll be able to get to the office sooner that way, but he doesn’t go at all, like he hasn’t for days. He’s eating breakfast alone after they leave, bacon and eggs and toast and coffee, at the dining room table, reading the paper, when he feels it more than hears it, the too-high frequency whine of something -- and then one of the bulbs in the light fixture over the table bursts. And another. And the remaining two, in rapid succession.

He doesn’t look up right away. He's frozen, fork in his fingers, tines stabbed into the runny yolk of an egg. The food, the plate, the table is littered with shards of glass from the shattered bulbs.

When Ben forces himself to look up after what seems like forever, Roland is sitting across from him.
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Ben Sullivan
nothingman
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Ancient Wyrm


Joined: 01 Aug 2012
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Jobs: Gumshoe, Bullet Catcher
Can Be Found: until he can't be
28780.38 Silver Crowns

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 10:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For a moment, they just sat there. Stared at each other. Ben could feel his heart in his chest, pounding so hard he swore it was going to explode any second.

Roland looked so calm, so quiet, so still. There's a flash of it across Ben's vision, the way Roland looked back then -- anger, rage, cruelty, maliciousness -- and when Ben's back in the present seconds later, he finds himself on his feet. "You aren't here. You're dead, ghosts aren't real -- I'm just hallucinating. It's the illness. It's getting worse, and you're just--" Real, a ghost, a reminder -- back to haunt the one responsible. "You're a symptom," but there's a tremor in his voice, and he realizes that he's poised to run.

"No, son," and it makes Ben's skin crawl. The voice. That Roland calls him 'son.' Roland leans forward, arms folded on the table; he's corporeal, and little bits of glass from the light bulbs stick into his arms, but he doesn't flinch, doesn't seem to notice. "I'm really here."

"Why are you doing this?" It comes on suddenly, almost like a response, the splitting headache. "Not now, why now?"

"Because I need to be forgiven, Ben. And maybe you do too, for--"

"No. No, you shut up, because you aren't real. You got out somehow--" Got out, from where? The afterlife, or the infinite loop of repressed nightmare memory? "--but you aren't real, so you shut up, and I'm not talking to you!" There's a strange numbness in his hands, and he can hardly breathe. "But you, where are you? Isn't this why you're here, what you're supposed to do?" The pain in his head is near-unbearable; his hands raise to press to his temples, press hard, like his skull might not stay together.

"Who are you talking to?" It's a valid question, really, and Ben almost wants to laugh about it -- the voices, the Others you created in me -- but Roland looks sorry for him, and that's what sets him off.

Ben lunges across the table for him, all expletives and rage; his hands go for his stepfather's neck--

They pass right through.

***

Ben comes back hours later, curled up in a corner of the coat closet. The headache is still screaming, but here's no sign of Roland once he steels himself up enough to peek out into the hall, and then to creep into the dining room. He has just enough time to pick the little pieces of glass from his forearms and his hands, clean up the dining room table, and put new bulbs in the light fixture before he has to leave to pick Adam up from school, and while he does it all without looking back over his shoulder, he feels like someone is watching him the entire time.
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Ben Sullivan
nothingman
Ancient Wyrm
Ancient Wyrm


Joined: 01 Aug 2012
Posts: 793
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Jobs: Gumshoe, Bullet Catcher
Can Be Found: until he can't be
28780.38 Silver Crowns

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 10:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013 -- dusk

Deteriorating was the word that kept coming to mind.

Not as something to be upset about, not as something to fear or to try to avoid. Just as something very accurate. Oh, huh. This is happening.

It wasn't sudden, wasn't all at once, but the backslide was brutal once it started. With Jackie gone, the bed felt too big, empty -- which Ben could do, had done, but not with the increased sense of something (someone) following him, haunting him, hunting him -- right there in the room with him, even if Ben couldn't see him. Could feel him, and that was enough.

Falling asleep on the couch with the TV on for racket and with his dog Shadow curled at his feet seemed like the next logical move, though it didn't help much.

When he retreated to the almost-empty apartment he still kept as a safe place, as a base of operations for the attempts at unraveling his disorder, it seemed natural. It wasn't a conscious decision. Ben simply went there instead of home one night and didn't leave until morning.

Even in the safety there -- very few people knew he kept the apartment, and most hadn't known he'd lived there to begin with -- he isn't at ease. He tries to write, but can't. He tries to read, can't. He tries to sleep, door to the empty bedroom closed (to keep out-- what? who?), but sleep was slow to come, and when it did, it was fitful, full of blurry nightmares, cut with too-clear flashes of memories that didn't happen to him.

* * *

The days pass like normal -- normal for Ben, anyway, interrupted by blackouts he never questions, doesn't think about. He keeps Shadow with him all the time now, and the not-quite-a-puppy is already faithful, is always by Ben's side when Ben wakes up again. It's becoming habit, compulsion, to ground himself by putting his fingers into the fur at the back of the lab's neck. He hasn't been trained to do it, but Shadow always returns the gesture with a press of his nose to Ben's hand, a nuzzle into his palm. Could dogs worry? Ben swore this one did, mildly, but never strayed far. Jackie had called finding the dog a miracle, and though he'd never admit it, Ben started to think she was right.

* * *

The weekend is more difficult. At least one evening is entirely black. It becomes hard to tell what day it is when he wakes up. Whole days don't escape him, not yet, but it wouldn't surprise him if they started to.

Deteriorating. Unraveling. Oh, this is happening.

One night, he's trying to sleep, sitting in a nest of blankets in the corner of the bare bedroom in his apartment--

The feeling that he's not alone intensifies, becomes an almost audible, too-high-pitched whine in his ears--

Shadow scrambles to his feet, snarling, growling, teeth bared--

Ben opens his eyes; Roland's ghost is right in front of him, too close--

For a split second, he feels undeniable, overwhelming terror, and then--

* * *

It was the next logical move anyway. When Ben comes back, the apartment looks like it's been ransacked -- not that there was much to disturb, but some of the notes and photos and drawings and flyers papering the walls of the bedroom had been pulled down. The bathroom mirror was broken. There was a hole in the drywall in the living room; Ben's left hand ached, enough that he knew who to blame for it. Shadow leans up against his leg, pushes his muzzle into Ben's hand.

It isn't a conscious decision, but Ben's under his own power when he leaves the apartment, makes the trek across town to another safe-haven-gone-wrong.

It's late, but Ben doesn't hesitate to let himself in. The house seems empty, and while Ben was sure Lucie wouldn't mind if he crashed on the couch, he doesn't. The thought never crosses his mind.

For the first time since Jackie left, he tells Shadow to sit, to stay, and Ben leaves the black lab behind. There's no protest from the dog, but he sits at the base of the ladder up to the attic and watches Ben with dark, mournful eyes until he disappears.
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Ben Sullivan
nothingman
Ancient Wyrm
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Jobs: Gumshoe, Bullet Catcher
Can Be Found: until he can't be
28780.38 Silver Crowns

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 14, 2013 11:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's been months since Ben's been here, but everything was exactly as he'd left it. A few blankets and a pillow near the small window, a little table and a couple of chairs not too far from the ladder down to the rest of the house. A first aid kit, a shoebox full of essentials. Everything is dusty, cobwebbed, and Ben spends a little time clearing some of that away.

Over time, the dread, the terror, returns. Spikes his heartrate, makes him afraid to shift his gaze, because he knows someone else is here.

During the day, or surrounded by other people, it was easier to manage. Catching a glimpse here and there of the ghost of his childhood abuser -- of his destroyer -- wasn't ever easy, but it was easier to brush off, easier to get over, to ignore. At night, these days, alone and only growing more isolated in his path down the spiral, it became near-impossible.

He keeps his eyes trained on the bloodspattered floorboards (it had seeped in, stained, in the weeks Ben avoided this place after being attacked by his own alter, almost one year ago now), creeps across the attic to the makeshift bedroll. Closes his eyes as he sinks down, pulls the blanket up.

It's quiet, but the silence isn't a still one, vibrates with the being Ben pretends isn't there -- hopes, prays isn't--

"You know I'm here, son." The voice is the wheeze of a dying man, but Ben knows -- he's already dead. "And you know avoiding me doesn't change what you did to me--"

"I didn't do anything!" Ben sits bolt upright in the mess of blankets, opens his eyes; Roland is sitting close by, in one of the chairs at the tiny table. "So stop! I didn't do anything to you, and I have nothing to be sorry for, so go awa--" Roland stands; Ben is struck dumb, mouth partway open, midword.

"Do you really believe that, Ben? Do you really believe you didn't do anything wrong? That you're clean?" He takes a step closer. Ben drops his head into his hands, holds it together, barely. Feels like he has to hold it together physically, too.

"You don't exist. There's no such thing-- This is guilt, I just feel guilty, even though I shouldn't. I've just been carrying it so long, and it's worn me down, and this is all in my head, just seeing things, hallucinating, because there's no such thing as--" His throat tightens when he feels the hand on his shoulder, tongue turns to lead. The touch moves to the back of his head, and he lifts his face, blue eyes wide. "You aren't real," and in his own ears, his voice is a child's.

Roland Miller smiles, and Ben is in the basement of that rundown house in Whalley again. "As real as you are."

Blur, rush, undertow, overcome--

* * *

It's quiet, when Ben comes back. He's alone in the attic, sitting in the chair that had been occupied moments (minutes? hours?) ago. His wrists are bruised, rubbed raw in spots, like he's been tied up. His shirt sticks to his back in places, and when he peels it off, he sees what he already knows are there, stripes of red staining the fabric.

He could have done this to himself during the blackout, somehow. He's always getting injured when he's not around. His nose had even been broken once, while he'd been fighting internally with Sam, and Sam's not real either--

You're real, you're real. As real as I am. Ben's breathless admission, months ago, to the relentless taunts in his head.

As real as you are.

Deteriorating.

He doesn't panic. He can't panic.

He pushes it out of his mind, he pretends it didn't happen -- because it didn't happen, or at least, not to him -- he doesn't remember it, there's nothing to forget or ignore.

He pulls his shirt back on, finds his discarded hoodie on the floor, finds his phone in the pocket. Makes his way back to bed, pulls the blanket up. Listens to the birds chirping in the blue halflight of predawn for a while.

Jackie's phone hasn't been working for days, not after a mishap at a watering hole in Georgia, but he types out and deletes a dozen texts to her anyway.

I miss you.

I need you to come home.

Don't feel like you need to hurry home, but

He's real. It's not in my head, he's

I'm coming apart without

I'm losing it. I'm losing.

He

I don't know what to do. I'm not

When you get home, you should know, I'm staying at Lucie's. For now, but

I'm not safe right now. He's evr

I need somewhere to stay. I need somewhere safe.

I love you. I love you.


He falls asleep clutching his phone, willing it to buzz to signal a text he has no reason to expect will come -- and it doesn't. He has no reason to expect sleep to come, either, but it does, and it is blissfully empty, dreamless, devoid of any memories that are or aren't his.
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Ben Sullivan
nothingman
Ancient Wyrm
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Joined: 01 Aug 2012
Posts: 793
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Jobs: Gumshoe, Bullet Catcher
Can Be Found: until he can't be
28780.38 Silver Crowns

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's been over a year.

The ghost never left.

Ben had almost gotten used to him, in a way -- at least as much as a completely human, mortal, normal being can get used to a ghost, anyway. It lurked in corners, showed up in the middle of the night when Ben was sleepless, blended into the crowd at social functions.

He rarely spoke. Sometimes, to mock Ben when he woke up out of breath from a nightmare (or a memory; he could never be sure). Other times, when they were alone -- when Ben was at the office, when he was in his car (those were the worst times, in a way, when he had no escape).

No one else saw him, not that Ben could tell. No one heard him. No one heard the wheezing laughter, the smug confidence. It's you that needs forgiving, son.

No one heard the response in Ben's head, either, the one that wasn't Ben's internal voice, that didn't come from Ben's consciousness -- the one that was laced with profanity, with violence, with rage. The one that came with blindingly sharp headaches that blessedly, these days, usually only lasted as long as the calls for brutality did.

Sometimes, though, those words came out -- fell out of Ben's mouth, not in his voice, not under his own power. The first couple of times, he didn't even know it had happened. It wasn't until one late evening at the office, after a particularly cruel, vulgar tirade, that he knew he'd been taken over, put in the passenger seat, because Shadow, his almost always present companion, was pawing at him, leaning on him -- barked to cut him off, during the worst of it. It was then that Ben snapped back to himself, realized that he was on his feet with a sharp letter opener, posture threatening (though if he was threatening himself or the ghost, he couldn't say) -- and Roland was laughing.

"How you gonna do that when you can't even touch me, son? Real tough guy. Beating me bloody while I was alive and an old man wasn't enough for you? What about while I was dying? Still wasn't enough?"

Sometimes, the guilt eats at Ben. It makes him sure, absolutely positive, that all of this is a hallucination, brought on by his own repressed shame for what he'd done -- for how he'd let his stepfather die, for the last moments of his life that Ben had made hell.

Other times, he's just angry. "You deserved everything you got!" Comes out with a snarl, and Shadow, still at his side, bristles.

Roland just laughs again, cruel. The way he had in the basement, so many years ago. "So did you, son. So did you."
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