a human. for now.
“And then your mother will say something that will upset you very much. Something she may even regret.”
“Get out. I want a refund, and I want you to get out.”
“I don’t do refunds.”
“You will do a refund. My mother has been a corpse for eighteen years. This whole thing is a scam!”
Liana runs out the front door to her car. I follow her. She drives fast. I’m riding shotgun. My heart races. I’m not sure what’s happening.
“Some people just can’t handle the future, Graveyard.”
She took to calling me Graveyard because of a demon tattoo on my arm. My real name doesn’t matter. Right now I’m just a journalist guy trying to get the scoop on a door-to-door psychic gal.
“But that lady said her mother was dead. I think you offended her.”
“She offended me. They lie all the time. You can’t trust them. Everyone wants a free reading. Gotta take the money and run.”
Her car is littered with garbage and broken cassette tape cases. A small trash can sits on the floor between my legs. It’s empty.
“So when did you know you had this ability to see the future?”
“Hold on, Ghost. The mood’s not right yet.”
My real name isn’t hard to remember, but now she can’t even remember the one she gave me. I think that might be romantic if I wasn’t here on business.
“You like music?”
That’s an odd question. Of course I like music. She digs her hand through a hole in the side of her seat.
She puts a tape in the cassette deck. Everybody Hurts. Really?
“Automatic For The People?”
“No. No. This is a mix tape. I love this song. It’s so sad, isn’t it?”
“It’s one of their more somber tunes I would say. So I wanted to ask about your abilities.”
“I’m going to need a minute. This song really gets me.”
Now she’s all choked up.
“Yeah, sure. Take your time.”
I look out the window. Prisoners in orange jumpsuits are collecting trash. Is this the maximum amount of happiness they’re able to obtain? Maybe I should bail on this story and hang out with the prisoners.
We turn into a development. There’s children playing basketball in the street. It makes me want to cry. Damn you, Michael Stipe.
Liana pushes the lighter into the socket and removes a joint from inside her sock.
“Don’t get all weird like you’ve never seen weed before. It should be legal. Can’t you do something to make this legal?”
She lights it.
“Why do you do this?”
“To get high, dummy.”
“I mean the door-to-door psychic routine.”
“Let’s just say I got a two on my Contribution To Society Rating last time I was assessed. I’m trying for an eight. Impossible I know. But I feel knowledge of the future is a quality contribution that I can provide. Trust me I would be fine with a two but…”
“Let’s go do this, Ghost.”
I thought she was going to smoke that first. Nope. She’s bringing it with her. I know I should tell her to put it out before we get to the door, but I’m curious how this will play out.
Liana bangs her fist against the front door. A young woman in a tie-dyed tank top swings it open. The smoke cloud around Liana drifts away, then the young woman slams the door in our face. Liana holds the joint in her mouth and peers through the windows. She sneaks off to the side of the house and reaches for an open window.
“You just going to watch? Come give me a hand.”
She jumps for the window and misses. Her shoes make a weird noise when she lands and so does her mouth.
Liana shoves something in my face. It takes a minute for my eyes to adjust. Is that a beak?
“I think I killed this baby bird.”
Great. Now we’re just a couple trespassers who smoke drugs on your lawn and murder your baby birds. Next we’ll be carving pentagrams into each other’s foreheads.
“Well, I don’t want it.”
“We can’t leave it out here. The vultures will get it.”
Yes. The vultures. Or sky commanders as I call them.
“Go knock on the door.”
“Why me? You knock.”
“Fine I’ll knock, but you have to hold the dead bird.”
I knock on the door. This time a man in a denim jacket with no shirt answers. Is he Swedish? I think I saw a documentary once where…
“I’m really sorry. We accidentally stomped on your baby bird.”
“Can we come in?” Liana doesn’t wait for a response. As she shuffles past the man he plucks the joint from her lips and tosses it on the lawn.
“Who are you people exactly?”
“My name is Liana. He’s Ghost. I’d shake your hand but…dead bird.”
The woman in the tie-dyed tank top walks in the room.
“Why did you let these freaks in our house?”
“I’m still trying to figure that out.”
“Is that Peter? NO! What did you do to Peter?”
So I guess someone had to be upset about this bird. It’s kind of her fault. If she would have let us in the first time…
“Honey, it’s fine. I’ll take care of it.”
She’s sobbing like it’s a dead puppy.
“I was nursing him. He needed me. Peter! Peter! Oh Peter!”
We sit down while the denim jacket guy consoles his wife over some hot tea in the other room.
“Can you not put the dead bird on my glass table?”
I put it on a coaster. He’s not satisfied. Liana grabs the classifieds off the floor and mummifies Peter.
She tosses it on my lap.
“So listen. First: That’s a great denim jacket. I think I saw Bono wear it once while pretending to feed starving kids. Second: This place chose me. Not the other way around. Third: You’ll regret saying no. How do I know? Because I see the future, and I’m willing to sell you yours right now.”
“I don’t know. I don’t even know you people.”
“You want to know if she’s cheating on you. That’s understandable. I mean really why does she feel so confident in those low cut, tie-dyed tank tops all of a sudden? Like I said you’ll regret saying no.”
He reaches for his wallet. I ask where the bathroom is.
I walk past the kitchen where the woman in the tie-dyed tank top is sitting. She’s posing for her camera and pushing up her bra. She leans over to get more cleavage in the shot. I could ask if she needs help. I have a good eye for photography. If I wasn’t a journalist I would be a photojournalist. Maybe I start that career now. I better not. The lighting is terrible. It looks like she has a mustache. I can’t fix that.
I return from the bathroom, and Liana is handing the man a business card. They say goodbye. The moment the door shuts we hear him engage in a heartfelt conversation with his love.
“Who the hell is Peter! Why do you enjoy screaming his name so much?”
Liana finds her joint on the lawn. She sparks it up inside the car.
“Do you think that guy will really use your business card? You probably just broke up his marriage.”
“Yeah, he’ll use it. I wrote my girlfriend’s number on it. She likes broken things.”
Everybody Hurts was coming to an end. Finally, I could ask some questions.
“How did you know all that stuff about his wife? And what did you mean when you said the place chose you?”
“Well, what happens is. How do I explain it? It’s a feeling I get. There’s this feeling…”
Everybody Hurts is starting again on the radio. Why?
“There’s this feeling I get…whenever I hear this song. It’s sadness, Ghost. Do you remember sadness? Why does it feel so good?”
“I thought you said this was a mix tape?”
“Just keep an eye on Peter. Okay?”
I see her drifting far away from here. I don’t know how to feel about dead Peter sitting on my lap. I open the trash can lid. I should just dump him in there. Right? Creatures die. They turn to garbage. Peter, you should have been more adorable if you didn’t want to be garbage in death. A bird in life. Garbage in death. We’ll send it to vote. Two ugly votes and you’re trash, mister. I vote ugly. That’s one.
“This bird is ugly. Don’t you think?”
Liana doesn’t care much for responding.
“Hey, are you in there?”
This is turning into a waste of time. I toss Peter in the trash can.
“Yeah, I’m in here. Put that bird on your lap where I can see it.”
It’s awkward removing Peter from where he belongs to put him where he doesn’t, but I do it.
“So are we going to drive somewhere? We haven’t moved, and I think I want to move.”
“Sorry. I get lost in my daydreams. It’s kind of the only way I can feel close to someone.”
Seriously? I’m sitting right here. We’re so close to each other. Maybe she’s doing something moody and poetic. I’ll relate to her by being equally as dark.
“I know what you mean about daydreaming. It really gets me off. I don’t know about you, but it’s the only way I can feel close to someone. That’s right. Good ol’ daydreaming.”
She turns the music down. Michael Stipe is somehow more depressing when he’s whispering to me. She matches his whisper.
Please don’t burp in my face, Liana.
“It’s raining. Doesn’t it sound amazing?”
“It sounds like ting, ting, ting. Can we go?”
“You need to relax. The way you’re acting you would think you’re the one with vines growing inside you.”
“Why would I have–Wait. Are you saying? You have vines growing inside of you?”
“Only around all of my internal organs.”
“That’s why you need an eight on your Contribution To Society Rating?”
“It’s the only way I can purchase a cure for this particular disease from Googlezon. My two rating is only enough to buy a cure for the common cold. I thought about stealing the identity of a scientist. They usually have around a ten rating.”
Liana doesn’t look like someone who eats a lot of food. She must have known starvation equals survival. If she didn’t I bet she does now. Maybe I just assumed this was common knowledge ever since the government began genetically modifying all our meals. This is why I’ve acquired a taste for dog food. It’s one step above starving. I don’t know. She doesn’t look like someone with vines in her insides. I should tell her that.
“If it makes you feel better you look like someone who doesn’t have any vines growing inside of them at all.”
“That’s sweet of you. It’s not just vines. There’s a peach pit growing in my heart. I think that’s not normal. I don’t mean to complain, but I don’t even like peaches.”
I don’t know how to react to that news.
“Hey, well I guess you’re just peachy today! Aren’t you?”
Liana hands me the joint. I can’t decide if I should get stoned on the job. The last time I smoked was in college, and I ate an entire box of Twix bars. That was before they outlawed candy due to it’s poor nutritional content.
“Come on, Ghost. You need to hear the rain.”
We’re driving away, and I’m thankful. I keep hearing strange noises. This car is going to break down. No. We’re fine. I’m fine. The roads are pretty slick. We’re going to die! How’s the tread on her tires? I bet the tires are falling off. That’s the noise I’m hearing. There’s probably a gremlin out there gnawing on the tires. That would be my luck. Maybe there’s a glove in the gun compartment.
“Check it out, Ghost. We get to pull into one of those horseshoe driveways.”
It’s a sign. This place is lucky. I’m not going to die today.
I must know if she hears what I’m hearing. “Do you hear that noise?”
She’s a genius. Rain. That really puts things into perspective. I have to get out of the car now. I’m really good at walking. I’ll have to do it fast so the gremlin doesn’t see me. She’s knocking on the door. The door is telling us to come in.
“Hi, we’re coming inside. My name is Liana. This is my apprentice, Ghost.”
“What’s in the newspaper?”
The voice came from one of them. The one that’s awake I’m guessing. There’s two of them. Conjoined. She is attached to another human. They’re both attached to each other. Should I say something? Do they even know each other? Someone should call 911. They would totally get a kick out of this.
“That’s actually a large smudge stick Ghost is holding which brings me to the reason for our visit. I was brought here by the energy you and your sister have been putting out into the universe. You have questions regarding your futures. So many questions. I’m here because I have those answers. I have seen your future and I am willing, out of the kindness of my heart, to sell you that future.”
“As you can see my sister is asleep, but personally I would like to pass on your offer.”
“I would like to remind you the future is not something accessible to…”
“But even though I’m not interested I think she may want to speak with you. She’s into that kind of stuff.”
This is so weird. Why don’t they get rid of one of their heads? My throat is so dry. When did Liana hand me a smudge stick?
“So how long does she typically sleep for?”
What if that head never wakes up? Do I have a conjoined twin I don’t know about? This is not cool. I want to go home and watch videos of long-haired guinea pigs making funny noises.
“Oh. Hi, my name’s Liana. This is my apprentice…”
“I know. I was pretending to sleep. I was hoping she would do the same so we wouldn’t have to deal with you.”
“You never told me I was supposed to be sleeping.”
“A lifetime attached at the hip, and you still can’t read our body language.”
“Your sister said you may be interested to speak with me.”
“That’s right. Get out.”
“I’m sorry? I don’t understand. And I don’t think you understand what I’m offering you today.”
“You’re offering useless information at best. Lies at worst.”
“I can assure you my information is anything but useless.”
“I have my own psychic abilities. Why would yours be of any use? ”
“Because I’m a real psychic and my abilities allow me to spot my own kind. And you’re not my kind.”
“Well, I am a real psychic and my abilities also allow me to spot my own kind. And you aren’t one of them. So don’t come into our house and try to scam us. A smudge stick? Mr. Ghost, if you’re her apprentice then I assume she taught you how to use that thing. Unless, of course, you two are scamming us.”
She’s got us there. Guess we’ll be leaving now.
“Trust me he knows how to use a smudge stick. Watch him.”
What’s she doing? She’s lighting the smudge stick. What happened to the dead bird I was holding? Oh no. There’s a dead bird in this smudge stick. Why am I involved?
“Smell my stick powers.” I say things I imagine psychics would say.
She’s whispering something in my ear. She’s saying we’re on the pitcher’s mound. That’s not right. I don’t think this is a baseball game. My brain fixed it. She wants me to wave it around. I’m now waving a dead bird wrapped in newspaper around in an attempt to prove to conjoined twins that there’s a real psychic standing before them.
“What herbs did you use in that smudge stick?”
Liana replies with garden words I’ve never heard of before.
I think I’m getting the hang of waving this through the air…
Hey, I thought that bird was dead.
Why’s it flying?
There’s a lot of noise in here. I’m going to wait in the car.
“I can’t believe you bailed on me in there, Graveyard.”
“Who’s Graveyard? I’m Ghost.”
“We almost had them.”
“She was a psychic. She caught on to your scam. Can’t win them all. Right?”
“Scam? That in there did not have my abilities. Understand? That in there was something trying to mess with me. And I don’t like being messed with. I have knowledge, but no one wants it. Do you understand how frustrating that can be?”
“I know exactly what you mean, because I wish I could eat a box of Twix bars right now.”
“Well, there is a museum around the corner if you want to gaze at one sitting inside a tiny glass box.”
I didn’t know that. Maybe she does have psychic abilities.
Liana drives us out of this unlucky driveway. Let’s try this journalism thing one last time.
“So when did you first realize you could see the future?”
She turns the radio up. Everybody Hurts. Here we go again.
“I’m going to need a minute.”
“Sure. Take all the time you need.”
I look out the window. There’s a man in a raincoat mowing his lawn. Maybe I should be out there getting the scoop on who these rare men are who mow the lawn in the rain at night. Do they secretly wish they owned cows? Is mowing the lawn a substitute for some strange biological need for milking a cow? How do they feel about this connection I just made up about mowing the lawn at night in the rain and cows?
“I was six years old. Barely six years old. It was my first time at a bowling alley. I tried to run down the lane as fast as I could. I wiped out. When I started to walk back I tripped on a loose floorboard. I took a pretty hard tumble. I couldn’t stop crying. My father was comforting me, and that’s when I noticed it. The lights and sounds like I had never before witnessed. A huge arcade of at least fifteen or twenty games. My parents gave me some change to stop the flow of my tears. I inserted my fifty cents into the Terminator 2 Judgment Day pinball machine, and was met with an electric shock that launched me onto the air hockey table across the room. I had a feeling that was going to happen. Is that a good start for your article?”
“It sounds nice.”
“I meant the rain.”
UPDATE: A month after this article was written I received a letter from Liana. She informed me that she had been shedding fake tears when she tripped on that floorboard at the bowling alley. She also informed me that she believes crop circles are real. But the real news was that she was assigned a new Contribution To Society Rating number. I was so excited to learn about her progress. I skipped all the boring stuff about her father’s recent accident and the amputation and went straight to the good stuff. Her new Contribution To Society Rating was now a one. It was a two when I met her. She couldn’t be any less of a contribution to society. She did mention that before her illness she had a 5 rating, and had no problem purchasing cures for sexually transmitted diseases through Googlezon. For the record, I have a 4 rating and would gladly welcome a 5 rating ever since that trip to Guatemala took a bizarre turn. Anyway, Liana did end her letter on a bright note. She said, “The good news: I think I’m beginning to enjoy peaches.”