Dead People in My Living Room
Title inspired by Joe Weil
They showed up at twelve in the morning five weeks ago in a completely unconventional manner, like a horror movie you dreamt up after a horrible sugar rush except you’re in Invader Zim pajamas and Dr. Phil is there. I was holed up in my room, snuggled in between blankets. I had assumed the frames of the windows were cheap and beaten, so the winter cold outside slipped through. I had adjusted the blankets around the frames multiple times that hour. (Of course, that seemed useless once I realized the cold came from inside rather than out.)
It was that night that I heard—twang—the TV turn on.
I live alone in a two-room apartment enveloped in the smell of Chinese takeout and covered in antique Einstein bobbleheads, a quirk only fueled by my Einstein bobblehead enthusiast stepmom, where half my collection comes from. I have a cat (his name is Squeakers and he is not an Einstein bobblehead enthusiast) but other than that, the place is pretty quiet. So when I heard the TV whir into life (as you do when you were purchased fifteen years ago from a yard sale) and start blasting the latest episode of Dr. Phil, I believed it justified to creep into my living room clutching the stock and forend (the handle and the loady-thingy) of my dad's old shotgun.
I expected a murderer. Maybe that creepy kid from high school or some type of Einstein bobblehead burglar, but it was nothing like that. It was like I had walked into someone taking a shower, like I had intruded on a scene I wasn’t supposed to know about. The rug was a certain type of cold, the type that latched onto the cool air and held it like a nasty hug. Bright light barrelling through the darkness bathed the four Einsteins on the windowsill with unnatural light. The colors enveloped their forms, shifted with the changing colors on the TV. One of them, the one closest to my shivering figure, stared at me with painted eyes. I’m not sure what the real Einstein would have said if he were sitting on my windowsill, shimmering in TV light, watching me in my PJ’s. But I like to imagine his large-headed counterpart was just as confused as I was. Because when you can see the good doctor instructing a troubled teen through the tops of three transparent heads belonging to three transparent bodies on your living room couch, you’re going to have to rethink your science.
They were leaning over their multicolored legs, the edges of their forms vanishing and reappearing from reality. Their faces stayed attached to the TV, though their pupils were missing, absent from the transparent whites and shimmering blues and greens that you’d swear you saw but could never pinpoint, not really. I was behind them, but I could see their eyes through their heads. The tall one, gangly and long, like the boy that had been stretched in Willy Wonka, sat in the middle. I could see his shoulders (the parts that chose to be seen at that moment) from my spot behind the couch, ripped and bleeding. The smaller one to his right was a woman, much more stout in figure compared to him. She had the curls of the ghostly 20’s, the other fifty percent of her body below her waist absent from the rest of her. There were rips in her torso and her dress, tattering until they merged into what I could only describe as fog coating what should be her legs. The third was unlike them. He was rather normal, actually. Proportionate limbs, smooth face. His nose was hooked, his eyebrows thin. Slowly, the features of his translucent face became more apparent. They were apparent because he turned to look at me. Not with his body.
His body didn’t move a muscle. No, it was his head that turned to look at the shivering person staring at his back. It was only his neck that turned a full one hundred and eighty degrees.
One hundred. And Eighty. Degrees.
Luckily, I did not fire my shotgun into my kitchen wall. I dropped it, screamed, and slammed my bedroom door. I cried, I shouted, I curled up in my sheets and pretended nothing ghostly or owl-like occured that night. I made it my top priority to banish my uninvited guests a week afterwards. I’ve since bought a bible and every piece of equipment from Ghost Hunters (the dollar store version, of course). I would’ve called the nearby church but they don’t have a website and I’m not willing to knock on the Lord’s door. I did try banishing circles I found online, but the harder I tried to kick out the suckers the more they started messing with me. They started leaving my fridge open overnight and aggressively turning my lights on and off. Squeakers has made a career of screaming at them when they’re invisible. He’s been my alarm signal.
But they just keep showing up, trying to hack into my computer, raiding my fridge, misplacing my Einsteins. They only seem to watch Dr. Phil, which I think is because they don’t know how to use a remote. I’ve started leaving notes on the fridge. Things like Who are you?, What do you want?, Don’t search through my Google history.
Eventually I got used to having them around. (Mostly because I gave up trying to get rid of them.) After a while, I let them mess around with my ceiling lights. I purchased a more effective heater. I started leaving Dr. Phil on for them at the end of the night, only because when I tucked in for the night I wouldn’t hear it turn on. Everything became very disconnected. Like, I was still being haunted, but in a way one would haunt their siblings. Sticky notes like “I hate you!!” turned into “Don’t eat my chicken leftovers. What do you want from the store.” They’ve started answering me, too. Three different handwritings. Things like “Salmon,” or “Ice cream.” I’ve only seen two different scripts but sometimes there will just be a drawing of snakes on top of a circle, which I assume is spaghetti. Eventually, I started asking different questions. “Where do you come from?” “How did you die?” “Is that a rude question?” “Sorry for asking you how you died.” And, eventually, I started getting answers.
“Esmerelda,” in script.
“Johnny,” in chicken scratch.
A drawing of an owl.
“How is the afterlife?”
“Boring,” in script.
“Calming,” in chicken scratch.
A stick figure with raised shoulders.
I’ve noticed the rug looks cleaner and the dishes that used to mysteriously show up every morning are suddenly absent from my before-work routine. Sometimes, I walk into my living room and I catch one of my new roommates. Esmeralda, staring at her curls in the mirror, spots me from the corner of her eye and vanishes through the floorboards. I catch Johnny late at night arranging my Einstein’s in a tall Eiffel Tower. He sees me, laughs, and waves. He offers me a seat next to his work. I usually shake my head, no. But, when I don’t, he grabs me a sweater. We sit for awhile. I watch him build.
I haven’t seen Owl as often. Although Esmerelda is slow to befriend, Owl is shy, to say the very least. You never really see him. Only traces of him. Doodles on my books, misplaced shoes, my chocolate bars gone two hours after I bought them. I found him once, though. I was napping after a long day of finding new places to put my Einsteins (stepmom gifted me with a surprise visit) when I awoke to the sound of bells, cat toys Squeakers never used. And there was my cat, pawing at a play mouse as it rolled and flew around the room. There he sat on the table, head moving without his body as he watched Squeakers run. I stayed quiet. It took him a total of ten minutes to see me, yet when he did he didn’t run away. Well, he did. He vanished a moment after. But there was a moment. A moment we looked at each other, my eyes into his translucent ones.
BRIANA TROISE is a junior in Northern Highlands Regional High School pursuing a career in storytelling and digital art. She is second generation Brazilian American and spends a lot of time playing video games, drawing her own characters, drawing other characters, making stories for characters, and lots and lots of eating. She is blond. Her blood type is O+, probably. She has had work submitted to her local high school, participated in the Poem-a-Day challenge, and successfully quit fast food.