Friday, February 19, 2010

Frater

You can only refuse to believe in something until you see it with your own eyes. Henry now believed in ghosts.

While waiting for the fraternity brothers to come downstairs for dinner, he walked into the lounge and saw a young man blowing chilled breath onto three of the mullioned window panes and tracing letters in the condensation.

“Who are you?” Henry asked. “You must know there's an investigation. We're closed.”

The young man stilled his movements and turned.

“You!” Henry said, heart thumping.

Thomas smirked, tilting his head to one side. “Me,” he agreed.

“You're supposed to be dead.”

“How very interesting,” Thomas rolled his eyes. “Anyone would think I was unaware of this.”

Several days ago, “Two Die During Rush Week” was one of the many headlines in the local newspapers. Pictures revealed handsome young men with athletic builds and rakish smiles. When it happened, it was Hell Night, and Thomas stood with Henry and another freshman awaiting further instructions.

They endured several harsh antics and pranks, and only one thing needed to be done before these pledges discovered if the fraternity brothers extended a hand in bonding and unity or goodbye. The last test involved drinking lots of water quickly. The ones who drank the most within the half hour were assured a place in the house.

The autopsy report concluded death from water intoxication and its complications. Doctors were called too late and could not reverse the cellular damage from severe brain tissue swelling.

“What do you want?” Henry asked.

Thomas walked to the sofa and tapped his fingers along the frayed armrest where his head had rested that evening as he lay dying.

“It's you who needs to remember something,” he said.

“Me? You're crazy. Or I am, if I'm standing here talking to you.”

Thomas shook his head and returned to the window. He touched the last pane.

“I'll see you later, Henry.”

“What? No! Why would you haunt me? Didn't I try to call the police, when the others wanted to wait until morning to see if things got better?”

Thomas laughed. “You could not do very much.”

“I tried to help!” Henry insisted. "But no one would listen to me." He took a calming breath, trying to relax his features, trying to look less like a frightened boy. Thomas pointed to the window, then looked at him over his shoulder.

“Just returning the favor,” he said, then winked and dispersed into curling grey wisp that fogged the fourth pane and outlined a last word.

You Are Dead Too



[Edited to add few lines to clear up confusion for several readers]

42 comments:

  1. So logical I should have seen it coming. Always enjoy an oh-by-the-way story.

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  2. I like how you did that in a different font.

    Yes, he now believes in ghosts.

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  3. Great ending! You know, that happened with the water hazing death about an hour from where I live, at Chico State. It has probably happened elsewhere too. I think they just had or are about to have the trial of the other boys involved.

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  4. "“You're supposed to be dead” made me laugh out loud. You're dialogue throughout is brilliant.

    One thing I didn't quite get is why Henry is dead. Has Thomas killed him? Or was he dead all along and he didn't realise it?

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  5. It's always surprising when you find out you're dead. Every freaking time. No matter how many times it hap.....

    oh sorry. Just venting.

    Really enjoyed the news being given via the condensation on the window.

    :0)

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  6. Haha. Nearly missed the last line being in a different font and all - I thought 'whoa! I missed something here', read back, and saw it the second time around. Helpful ghosts - now there's a twist!

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  7. Ah, it took me two more reads to get it.

    Returning the favor, indeed. The truths that hurt the most are the ones we don't want to face, eh?

    Nicely done.

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  8. Water hazing death happened here. Such a weird way to go eh? So why did Henry get dead too? Perhaps a bit more evidence to that notion?

    I enjoyed this story!

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  9. Oh, chilling, in more than one way. I hadn't heard of water intoxication until recently when there was a radio contest somewhere and people died, even after a nurse called in to warn them.

    It is so tragic, to die from such circumstances - water.

    Very good ghost tale. I enjoyed your suspense and twist at the end. Great plot!

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  10. Funny how people don't notice that in time, right? :)
    Great flash, Marisa!

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  11. Marisa,

    Well done. Nothing like a good ghost that turns out to be the main is a ghost too.

    Love it!

    Jim

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  12. Ah, good twist!

    Great opening, too.
    and Thomas is a very strong character, very clearly drawn.

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  13. This was haunting! I, too, missed the last line in a different font, but realized my error on re-reading. Great story and the ending was completely unexpected. ~ Olivia

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  14. What a nice ghost! Not Casper-good, but clearly a productive member of society.

    (Editing: I think there's a typo near the end in "Didn't I called the police," probably supposed to be "call.")

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  15. Thanks, John! I fixed the typo.

    Ah....always loved Casper. He WAS really friendly, unlike his three uncles!

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  16. What a nice guy. If I was dead I would want someone to tell me, too.

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  17. That amused me. I could almost image Thomas tweeting it: "You're dead too. #justsayin" Ha!

    The ending caught me by surprise, though, I have to say, which I really liked.

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  18. Very good ending - well done :)

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  19. Creepy stuff! I wonder... Might the two now join forces and wreak hilarious and/or horrific havoc on the rest of the guys? Seems like they might deserve it, plus I want to see more of these two characters! Nice work!

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  20. Holy crap. The last line literally gave me chills. NICE choice of font, btw. (You know I'd comment on something like that. :) I'd never heard of water intoxication and I like that this story uses it as the cause of death (I'd expected alcohol poisoning or an alcohol-related death)-water as the source of life, one w/o which we cannot live--we HAVE to drink--turned into a weapon. So sad that frat-related deaths are not unfrequent. (When I was in college we had more than one, one where a guy fell from the top window, drunk.)

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  21. and we always assume Frat boys will drink themselves to death on alcohol...

    I loved the ghost writing in condensation - how apt, given it was water what did for him. It's like he is all water not ectoplasm as a haunting.

    marc nash

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  22. I found this to be more playful than chilling. It was a fun read that hooks the reader with the opening sentences.

    And FYI to those who seem confused there is such a thing as water poisoning. It's basically the reverse of dehydration where you have too much water in your system but a low sodium count.

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  23. Ghost haunts ghost. I didn't see that coming at all. The story left lots of question beyond how Henry died. Maybe the fact that he never seemed that afraid of the ghost was a hint.

    Great work, as usual, Marisa.

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  24. Nice, chilling work! Excellent twist at the end--completely not what I was expecting!

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  25. Actually, a couple years ago there was this huge news story where these parents killed their stepdaughter by punishing her with drinking water. Horrid, horrid story.

    I loved the atmosphere and the details as they emerged--you drew me in, but I'm still not sure why Henry is dead.

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  26. Interesting how some found it chilling and others playful. For me it was more chilling than playful. Also a learning experience; the only death by water I was aware of before was drowning. As always your characters feel like real people, I mean, ghosts.

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  27. Nice and chilling. Love a good ghost tale.

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  28. Hi Marisa,
    I finally make my way to your blog... remiss of me I know.

    Great twist at the end, reminiscent of 'The Others' but only upon reflection. LIke the use of the window pane and the writing in the breath condensation.

    I agree with the others that there needs to be a little hint somewhere in the middle of Henry's passing which can tie us back in after the twist so we get a truly satisfying 'a ha' moment.

    I'd also consider opening the story with "Henry now believed in ghost..." It is a really strong line.

    This type of death is common among those who die as a result from taking ecstacy. We don't have fraternities here in Australia and a bloody good thing. Though our armed forces are known for the hazing rituals.

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  29. Hi Marisa! How's it going?
    Loved your story! Loved the font - Zaphino is one of my favourites (I see fonts everywhere... I can't look at a billboard without recognizing a font... sick, I know)
    I totally saw the last line and you totally surprised me with the end.
    The fact you used a handwriting font, a very upper class and stylish font, suited the upper class university frat characters and even their names... Henry and Thomas... no Hank and Tommy here... everything about them is finely drawn frat. That's one of the reasons I like your stuff.. you stay true to your characters.
    Enough blithering... can hardly wait to see what you pull out of the rabbit hole next week.

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  30. Great job, Marisa. I love a good ghost story.

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  31. I love the use of writing in the condensation on the window. I think it would be a little stronger story if there were a hint that there were multiple deaths. Changing the sentence about Thomas' picture in the paper to something like, "Photos revealed handsome young men with athletic builds and rakish smiles." could do that while remaining ambiguous as to whether the photos were victims or perpetrators.

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  32. Nice twist! I understood at the end that they both died (nobody would listen to him) but maybe up in the headlines it could say 'Rush week causes two deaths' or something like that.
    Water intoxication is a nasty thing. Loved the condensation.

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  33. Wonderful! & Oh, and "The Fourth Pane" - what a title!

    (stopping here from Angie's place - thanks for the suggestion on the crazy contest she is having *laugh* )

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  34. I like that Henry thinks he tried to help, but he was already dead. No one would listen to him because no one could.

    He must be a very tortured soul now. The two will probably haunt that frat house for years to come.

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  35. A good ghost story is one with a surprise at the end. You did it.

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

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  36. Excellent story. I loved the twist and how you delivered it in a different font.

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  37. Shivers.

    Great story Marisa. The way the message was written in the steamed-up window clever and creepy, given it was water that did them in.

    Very cool... Peace, Linda

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  38. Haunting quality to this story! Loved it :)

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