A week had gone by since the scare with that mysterious suicide note. I still hadn’t figured out what that was all about, but it wasn’t from lack of trying. In fact, that entire week was spent on my laptop. Okay, maybe it would have been spent on my laptop anyway, but still. Dozens of videos, news articles, and blogs later and I had found nothing similar to what I had seen lately. I decided to take my search to the local library.
It’s hard to research paranormal stuff. Really hard. A lof of the ‘concrete evidence’ you find on ghosts or werewolves is collected by crazy people. All the videos you find are horribly shaky or have terrible resolution. It’s like when somebody sees something they can’t believe they put their smartphones away and start recording it with their thirty year old camera.
So it was that I was hopelessly perusing the library of anything useful I could find. At least books couldn’t contain unsettling yet obviously fake videos of ‘Bigfoot Seen in Backyard?!’
I pulled another book from the shelf to see Doc’s white, pupil-less eyes staring back at me, startling me into flinching and dropping the book.
“Doc,” I exhaled, kneeling to pick the book back up. “I swear, if there’s a way I can strangle ghosts you’ll be the first to feel my wrath.”
“You’re… kidding,” the little spirit replied, pondering as he tilted his head.
I rolled my eyes. “You’ve got a knack for interpretation, I’ll give you that.”
After that I paid him no more heed. He wasn’t even supposed to be here with me, since I specifically asked him to stay home, but it wasn’t as though I could stop him. I had also gotten into the habit of taking my glasses off indoors, which resulted in mishaps like this.
The book I had grabbed was titled Paranormal Sightings of the Twentieth Century. I immediately went to the end, looking for an index, but there wasn’t any. Instead, I skimmed the glossary and ended up closing the book again, just as somebody walked into the aisle with me. It was a guy about my age, black hair, wearing glasses, and dressed in a button-up shirt.
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but I’m going to have to ask you to keep your voice down,” he said.
I had thought I was whispering to Doc. Apparently not. I glanced to the spirit that still sat on the shelf. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know,” I stammered. I pushed the book onto the shelf, passing it through Doc. My arm shuddered a bit at the chill, but I masked it by taking my glasses out of my pocket and putting them on. I took a second glance at where Doc should be if I could still see him. I couldn’t, which was assuring. It was easier to be normal if invisible ghosts weren’t talking to you.
“Who were you talking to?” the guy said, looking behind me and furrowing his brow.
“Oh,” I chuckled nervously. “Nobody. Just thinking… I have an exam coming up,” I lied.
His face lightened up a little. “Yeah, I know what you mean. Do you go to Southview, too?” he asked, referring to the local university.
I nodded. “Anthropology major,” I lied again. I wasn’t used to talking to strangers, and I had a habit of lying in small talk. Luckily, practice makes perfect.
“That’s pretty cool. I’m going into Accounting. My name’s Will, by the way.” He held his hand out. I took it. He had a firm, grip. His hand was warm, though that may have just been that mine had passed through a freezing ghost a few moments before.
“Lisa,” I smiled as we shook.
“What’s your exam on?” he asked.
I glanced back at the book I was looking at. What would justify studying a book about paranormal stuff? “Cultures around the world and their views on supernatural belief,” I stated, trying to sound bored with the idea.
“You know, I know quite a bit about anthropology myself. I could help you study if you want. After my shift is over, that is.”
“Oh, I don’t know if I’ll be here much longer,” I dodged. I was about to say I had been here for a while already, but he would probably know that was a lie. This place wasn’t very populated.
“That’s okay,” he replied. “How about I give you my phone number and you can decide whether or not you want my help?”
I shrugged. “I don’t have my phone on me.”
“You mind if I write on your hand?” He pulled out a pen from a pocket of his pants.
I did. It was weird to have a stranger write on me. But at the same time, I got the vibe he would leave if I let him, and I didn’t want to be rude. “Sure,” I said. I rolled up my sleeve and held out my wrist.
He took a few steps forward, clicking his pen and writing ‘WILL’ and a string of numbers under it. When he was finished, he clicked his pen again and put it back in his pocket. “I gotta go,” he sighed. “Remember that,” he pointed towards my wrist. “That will come in handy.” He took his glasses off and winked before walking back down the aisle, leaving the way he had come.
I returned to what I was doing, and after about a minute I took my glasses back off. Doc shimmered into view, and now he was nonchalantly walking along the top of the bookshelves. “That was weird,” I said, remembering to be extra quiet. “I wonder how many times he’s tried that one on girls.”
Doc stopped to look at me. He tilted his head back and forth, as if trying to discover something. “He’s different,” he hummed.
“Hardly,” I scoffed. “If I had a dime for every time a guy tried to hit on me, I’d be rich.”
“Numbers change,” Doc murmured.
“What? Of course they change. Every guy is going to have a different number.”
“No…” Doc shook his head. He pointed a tiny arm towards me. Specifically, to my arm.
I glanced down at my wrist. The ink on my hand read ‘WILL’, but under it wasn’t the line of ten digits I was sure Will had written there. Now, there was just the one digit: zero.
Can’t I solve one mystery before another is thrown in my face?
3 thoughts on “Story — (LS) Numerophobia Pt. 1”
This really isn’t a critique, so much as I just wanted to point it out and make sure you were aware of it, but a lot of your blog posts don’t have a beginning or an end. Most of your stories are fine, but there was no start to this one, and it just reminded me to point it out.
Other than that, I find it strange that I’m kinda just waiting for this huge Sanderson-level reveal that is sitting over some sort of magical horizon in the future that will change Lisa Stenton and her life forever and stuff. Yet I know that you (probably) don’t really have any sort of thing like that planned out, and that it literally doesn’t exist. But, it exists in my head, and I keep wanting the next bit to get closer to whatever secrets this universe holds!
Maybe 30 years from now, you’ll be talking on your podcast about how Lisa’s story was just this little side project that was more an exercise in writing than anything else while you were slowly chipping away at your least favorite project, Nacre Then.
You know, every time you people mention how famous I’ll supposedly be in so many years, I can’t help but feel everybody is being incredibly optimistic. Even if (when) I get published, I highly doubt my name will ever be one many people will have heard.
As far as Lisa Stenton goes, the scale on which the reveal is actually is pretty big. Not Sanderson big, mind you, but a substantial reveal nonetheless. That’s the problem with this sort of thing. I want it to have an impact, but I’m scared I’m tackling too much.
Oh, definitely. While I enjoy collaborating things with you, there is also a huge appeal for these other stories like Stenton ones where I legit have no idea where things are going. I’m glad you’ve got some things planned out now (I know this now since I’ve read the post following this one).
As to the regard of you being famous one day; it is a fun poke about both the state of how things are now, and how they could be in the future. I mostly meant to jest that, who knows, maybe Lisa Stenton will be the thing you actually become known for, and Nacre Then will always be the sidelined or personal project sort of thing.