Previously on Ghoul….
We met a new character! Her name is Corine and she knows some stuff that Ghoul needs to know. Corine also enjoys cooking from scratch, musicals after Cats, and playing the bass guitar. She’s got a crush on Claypool.
Oh, by the way, Ghoul was going to a support group to help with his impulsiveness. That’s why he left his buddy in the woods. But, because he couldn’t respect the rules, Ghoul was booted to the curb.
He felt bad, you know? Ghoul lacks the ability to manage his impulses and now Sam is stuck in that little slice of Purgatory.
Luckily for him (and Sam! Who we will catch up with today), Corine knows some stuff and things about the hipsters, and more importantly, on how to get him out.
Then this happened….
The uber driver’s name turned out to be Bentley. Swell young man. Awful generous, too. Didn’t mind at all that I needed to borrow his car for a few days.
“Don’t need it where I am going,” said Bentley. “But do me a favor and leave it around. I’ll find it when I am ready.”
He hunched down on all fours and galloped away, far into the night. I half expected a magical transformation of some sort but no, nothing quite like that. His spirit animal was the majestic horse, and Bentley, yearned for mystical assimilation.
Corine giggled, then asked, “Do you always recruit such nonsense?”
“No more than the usual,” I shrugged, then turned for the car. “Come on, we should hurry. The drive isn’t that far.”
Corine, well, she was a traveling spirit and could float through whatever she wanted to. She did just that, right on through to the passenger seat of Bentley’s Kia.
“That’s good, Ghoul. You’re doing well for being new at all of this.”
“All of what?” I asked.
“Asking others for help. I know it’s hard but you’re on top of it.”
I felt as if Corine was on a mission to constantly patronize every step I made. She always had a little comment or positive reinforcer; it drove me to the edge.
“You’re not going to do this the whole time we’re together, right?” I asked.
“Sorry. In a past, past, past, past life, I wanted to be a counselor. That was my favorite existence, really. Kinda shaped me into the being that I am today.”
Deep down, Corine truly cared about those like her. We’re both the same: Undead. Tethered to a realm that didn’t want us clinging on any more than we had to. And it wasn’t like in Beetlejuice, with the manual waiting for Barbara and Adam.
I turned the key and sped off, zipping back onto Humbolt and zapping through Maple. We were out of town, time was past eight. The sun was down for the count. Corine peeled off her name tag, tossed it on the back seat. Wow, no manners at all, I thought. She was rather attractive, though, for being ethereal and all.
“You mentioned Sam being trapped in a piece of purgatory. Can you add to that vague and absurd explanation?”
“Purgatory is sick, and those who know how are claiming it’s weakened segments as their own.”
“You’re talking as if Purgatory is a living thing and not a location.”
“It’s because I am. Well, to be more specific, Purgatory is an endless worm dwelling in the Void; the other side of black holes. Purgatory consumes the dying galaxies of our known existence, literally shits-out new ones. Rinse and repeat, over and over.”
All I could picture was a bloated worm rolling around in ebony piles of dung, having the time of its life.
“So nothing that I learned in church about Purgatory is real?”
“Don’t you know any of this?”
I didn’t. Still don’t grasp it today, to be honest. I let Sam deal with all of that.
It was then that I realized that without him I was nothing but a dysfunctional corpse. Sam was calculated and cautious, where I was reckless and absurd. I was Seth Rogen and he was James Franco; separate, we were only mediocre. But together… I mean, Freaks and Geeks, c’mon! Pains long forgotten, the ones associated to mortality, brewed within: remorse was there (I think), probably a little shame, and something that resembled jealousy… or frustration, can’t recall, but those emotions demanded urgency.
“How does any of this help my friend?”
“Knowing about your enemy—which I know tons about that insufferable whore Maureen and how she weaseled her own little slice of pie—will provide hints to their demise,” Corine paused, then jerked towards me with a startled realization. “You said earlier that he was wandering around, lost in the woods? He could stumble right into the water! Ghoul, we have to hurry.”
* * * *
I jumped to the noise at my rear. Ghoul… I hope you’re happy, you prick I thought as I hoisted my sore legs over a fallen pine. There had to be a give somewhere to this nightmare. But there was nothing. No exits, no light awaiting on the other side of the haze. All hope abandoned, for the hipsters have established their despair.
My broken fingers wrapped against hardwood. I screamed.
“Over there,” echoed a familiar voice. “Maureen wants him alive.”
Definitely Darren, that sleazeball. He rallied the troops. I hurried while struggling to maintain awareness to the clustered elements.
The familiar burns of poison ivy slowly crept past my elbow. What was this, I thought. Otherworldly sores? Maybe. A plague cast from Hell? With my luck, sure, why not. I
Luck. That’s what was wrong with me: an absence of life’s subtle pick-me-ups.
Back in at Knowlton High I was a track star. Thighs, they called me. To this day I still hold the fastest time in the state for the sixteen-hundred. I sped over undergrowth and created distance. My tank was close to empty, gas light flashing. How much longer can I keep this up?
I could hear the sounds of water ahead, past a thick expanse of youthful trees. Maybe I can swim through the haze. Or I’ll hide in the water. No one can swim in skinny jeans. Yeah, take that. The problem with this plan was that I had to reduce my pace to a near-halt. If exhaustion didn’t get me, the injuries would have and I couldn’t risk a reckless retreat any longer. I cradled my busted hand to my stomach as I ducked and dived and weaved forward. It was a painful endeavor that costed me my advantage.
“He’s headed for the water. Go around to the shore.”
There was a gap between two trees. Beyond, the haze thinned just enough to reveal sand and small waves rolling in. I went for it, launching forward and twisting sideways so I could speed-shimmy. I was almost through but I was caught on a tangle of expose roots. Momentum caused a tumble. Natural reflexes worked fine, which was good as I successfully braced my fall.
“Should’ve used the other hand,” I wheezed in a gut-wrenching burst of fresh sorrow.
They were many. The earth trembled underfoot as flannels formed behind.
No. They will not take me.
Sweet adrenaline arrived to my aide. I kicked my shoe off then throttled my leg through to my chest. I rose my feet. The water was right there, appearing from the haze as I rushed over the sand. I ripped my other shoe off and tossed it in the opposite direction, hoping to throw them off long enough until I could figure out what was next.
I looked ahead, to the water. Something floated out in the lake, maybe thirty feet from where I stood. Looked like an inner-tube. An invisible wind scattered the haze.
“People!” I hollered. “Hey, you over there. You gotta help me, there are fucking hipsters everywhere and they want to kill me. Probably.”
“Don’t ignore me, I can see your skull-face and pitted eye sockets. Wait a minute.”
I waded forward into the perfect water to get a better look. But, none of that mattered anymore. Sure, there were thousands of skeletons in offensive tourist garbs just chilling in the inner-tubes. That was frightening, I am not going to lie.
The water, though. That was nice. The temperature soothed my worries and pains while coaxing the burdens from my shoulders.
“Well this is a pleasant change,” I said through an open smile.
I one-arm paddled to the closest inner-tube. “Gonna borrow this for a bit, thanks.” The skeleton wearing a lobster bib and L. L. Bean boots slipped into the water. I pulled myself into the rubber tube and stretched out.
“Look, he did the work for us,” declared a voice.
My head was heavy, sluggish. I turned enough to catch a glimpse of hipsters watching from the shore.
“Oh heyyyy guys,” I lazily waved. “What’s going down? Listen: me running from you has been fun and all, but I need to rest. I’ll catch up later. This is great by the way, you should try it.”
“Get the movie going,” ordered Darren. “I’ll go back and tell Maureen personally that I—I mean we—dealt with him. Good work.”
A piercing light shown through the haze, to the adjacent shore. They played something, I’ll never know what it was.
I was asleep before the opening title streamed across the canvas.
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