1 May 2005
"So you guys just do this, on a regular basis?" Bob asked, giving the hallway a sweep with his flashlight. He was with Rick, Charles, and me exploring an abandoned house in Brookfield that Tony said he'd heard ghost stories about. Bob was, admittedly, not part of the plan, but he and Charles had been hanging out a lot lately and when we called Charles to come along they showed up together. We were walking around the first floor, having only just started.
"Well, we do it when we feel like it," I said, before lighting my cigarette. Once I'd taken a drag and put my lighter away, I checked my own flashlight and walked forward. "It's usually pretty unplanned, like this."
"So what're we looking for, anyway?"
"Trouble," Charles muttered. Bob rested his hand on Charles' shoulder and rubbed it a bit.
"Yes, okay, but what kind of trouble?" Bob asked with a big smile. Charles sighed.
"Ghosts!" Rick called out, pumping a fist in the air. "Or demons, or whatever's here."
"So far neither," I said, "and hopefully not demons."
"Aw come on, man. You talk real big about ghosts and spirits and gods and everything, but demons? That's where you draw the line?"
"Demons are the kind of trouble that follows you home."
"Are...are you guys being serious right now?" Bob asked, looking between us.
"Yes," Charles said. "See, Matteson believes he can see the spiritual realm, and has this masochistic interest in exploring it, and somehow we always get roped into coming along."
"Roped in? That's one of my favorite things about him!" Rick said, elbowing me in the side. "Though it's still weird hearing everyone call you that."
"Well, okay, but...can he see the spiritual realm?" Bob asked. We all stopped at the bottom of the stairs, and I turned and looked at him.
"Yes, I can. Whether I want to or not," I answered. "And being that it's an unavoidable part of my life, it seemed sensible I should know how to handle it."
"Has this been, you know, tested in some way?"
"Well, okay, so, we obviously can't really confirm what he says is going on with spirits we can't see," Charles said, wringing his hands together. "But, there are a lot of strange things that happen around him we don't really know how to explain, and he does tend to know things he shouldn't have any way of knowing."
"And the behemoth," Rick offered, pointing. "You and I both saw things get knocked over by something very large and very invisible when he said that thing was following him around."
"Well, the size is a guess, but..." Charles paused.
"But it was invisible?" Bob asked. Charles hesitantly nodded. Rick enthusiastically nodded.
"Not to me," I said.
"Well okay then. That certainly sounds like a start."
"I'm sorry to drag you into this," Charles said.
"Oh, no! No, no, this sounds fascinating! I'd kinda like to know more!" Charles looked at him with pleading eyes.
"Alright, then," I said pointing my flashlight up the stairs, "shall we?" Bob and Rick nodded and we started up the stairs. Charles groaned and followed, hanging close to Bob.
10 April 2005
Despite everything I have come to know about Charles and his ideas, by the end of the week I had to admit that things were starting to seem like they were getting serious with Lori and I decided I had to tell her what was going on. We picked up a pizza and went to my place for a movie but, before turning the tv on, I went ahead and tested out the idea by asking her if she believed in spirits and ghosts. She nearly choked on her drink when I asked.
"What, like, in general?" she asked. "Or is there something you need to tell me?"
"Uh...yes," I said. "I mean, in general, but also, I'm asking because I want to talk about them."
"Okay, uh, yeah. I believe in ghosts. I mean, everything just seems so bleak if death is just the end." I nodded.
"I guess that's one way to look at it."
"But why? What do you wanna talk about?" She paused, holding a piece of pizza just outside of her mouth for a moment, before setting it down and leaning forward to look me directly in the eyes. "Is this that thing Charles was on about?"
"Yeah, okay, so about that." I started to explain the basics; how I've always been able to see spirits and ghosts, answered her questions about how those are different things, tried to answer her questions about what the world looks like to me.
I always hate that question. What am I supposed to do with it? I don't know, what's it look like to you? People act like it's some thing I just turn on like a power up in a video game, where I see everything the way they do until I activate Anchor Vision or whatever, so they think it's easy for me to say "well here is what you see, and then this is the graphic overlay that I get to add." But it isn't like that! I legitimately have no idea what everyone else does or doesn't see. It took the first twelve years of my life to piece together that other people don't see any sentient beings except humans. It was just a series of eliminations, oh, wait, you don't see elves either? Nothing? When I was in first grade I still thought everyone's imaginary friend was just the same thing as the beings I saw and talked to. That everyone saw the world the same way I did. No one was telling me anything different! They thought it was cute little kid games! Only my parents really picked up on the fact that it was different, and while my dad could accurately identify some of them from his own experiences and studies, he didn't know how to explain to me that no one else was seeing them until later. Until after Mom left. I suppose that forced the issue in a way.
So I stumbled over that for a bit, explaining that I don't really know how to explain it without making reference to an experience I've never had, and she just sat and listened attentively. I explained how I see something I call ripples, that are probably the same things as auras but I don't really know, where people impact the world around them through emotional states or thoughts or whatever, and she got all concerned that I could read minds, but I assured her it was way more vague than that. I can mostly read intensity of a person's impact, and if I really pay attention I can pick out individual differences between the trails different people leave in their wake, but I have to really know their mark. But I haven't pieced together any system for knowing what specific emotional or mental state leaves a specific impact. She seemed relieved at that and I cracked a joke about how it must be disappointing that she hasn't met a guy who can read her mind. She laughed but smacked at my arm.
"So, those nymphs," she finally said, after we'd sat for a minute silently eating. I almost choked. "Tell me about this." I coughed for a couple moments, then took a long drink, leaned forward to recover, then nodded.
"Alright so look. I know this guy, he's a faun." She looked at me with confusion in her eyes and shrugged. "A satyr." She furrowed her brow.
"The...goat men? With the pan flutes?"
"Yes. Pan is a faun, or a god who looks like a faun? It's never really been clear to me. Anyway, I know one, he's been hanging around a long time. And fauns, they hang out with nymphs."
"Like. Real nymphs."
"Naked women in the water, keen on sleeping with lost people?" She leaned back and crossed her arms.
"That is...not entirely inaccurate..."
"So anyway, he knew you and I were hanging out, and thought maybe I was just lonely or something, so he brought a few around one day to occupy my time."
"I see. And what happened?"
"Nothing. I sent them away. Which didn't go over terribly well, if I'm honest."
"Because they were just so eager to occupy your time?"
"Well. Okay, so, I may have a certain affinity with water and water beings, since my great-grandpa was a river god, and so they-"
"A river god?!" She leaned forward, her hands resting on her knees. "Wait, how much is this spiritual stuff involved in just, like, your daily life?"
"Nearly constantly. Look, I don't often talk about it until I can trust someone, so it didn't come up right away; but spirits know I can see them, and they have a certain interest in human affairs, so they kick around. And ghosts, you know, they tend to think I can deal with their unfinished business, which is rarely true. Especially things related to water. Like, there was this ghost I met last year, she'd been drowned, and she took this really intense interest in me-" Lori stood up and started pacing the room while she spoke, her back to me.
"And you think that's why she was...interested in you? Because she was drowned and you're some kind of magnet for water beings?"
"I mean. I don't know, I didn't really get the chance to ask her. As far as I know, the only thing she knew about me was that I was there, you know? I'm grasping at straws here, but it certainly seemed to be a factor for the nymphs." She stopped and stood still for a bit, looking at the blank tv. "Hey, are you okay?"
"You know what I think?" she finally asked.
"Not yet," I offered, with a smile. I guess I hoped she could hear it, as her back was still to me. She pulled her arms tight around herself.
"I think you're a very attractive young man, with a kind heart and a fascinating story. I think you live your whole life with the knowledge that you're on display to unseen forces, always held accountable, never really operating in secret, and you don't realize what that means to people with the kind of trauma that makes ghosts of them." I slowly stood and started walking over toward her as she spoke. "I think you live a life of depth and adventure that the rest of us can only read about, know amazing creatures personally, walk through a vibrant world of connection and wonder." She turned around as I stopped, placing her hand on my chest and looking into my eyes. "I think you felt a real connection with a person who needed you and didn't have the arrogance to assume it was something special or amazing about you, but maybe it was."
"Lori, I-" she brought her other hand up to rest it on my cheek.
"And I think that that, well, parts of it anyway, are very hot." She moved forward and kissed me deeply. I wrapped my arms around her, and felt her press in closer as she pulled her hand off my chest and reached around my neck with it.
We never did get around to putting the movie on.
4 April 2005
Charles and I arrived a few minutes later than Lori had asked but since I was under the impression the actual trivia didn't start until nearly an hour later, I was sure it would be fine. She looked angry, at first, but then very quickly shifted to a smile and came over to meet us.
"Matteson! You brought a friend," she said, looking Charles over.
"Yeah, I mentioned that. Sorry we're late."
"Did you?" She waved her hand as she turned and started walking toward the table. "Doesn't matter, we still have time to eat and get some drinks first, right?"
"What is she, a gym teacher?" Charles whispered to me as we started to walk. I smacked him.
"It's more distinct than John," I whispered back. He looked like he was thinking about that for a moment.
"What are you guys whispering about back there?" she asked as she got to the table.
"Nothing important," I said. She looked at us for a moment as if sizing up that answer. The guy at the table stood from behind her and extended a hand.
"The famous Matteson, I presume?" he asked. I nodded and shook his hand.
"So it would seem." Lori lightened up and introduced us to Mark, who had just shaken my hand, as well as Beth and Bob, and I introduced Charles, before we all took our seats. As we all talked and ate and drank, Charles got into the idea of calling me Matteson and seemed to hit it off well with Bob. By the time trivia started, the two of them were cracking jokes while the rest of us tried to handle the questions. Lori started to lean against me and I had my arm around her when I wasn't the one writing. We were actually doing pretty well when a question about the difference between naiads and dryads came up. Charles, by now a few drinks in and on a roll with Bob, decided to tell his new friend about nymphs showing up at my house over the weekend. Lori sat bolt upright and stared at him, then at me. He stopped dead in his tracks and looked around at the table, with everyone stopped and looking confused.
"Nymphs?" Mark asked. "Like...the water spirits?"
"Yeah, Matteson," Charles started, "he...has he not-"
"It's not something I lead with, Charles," I hissed.
"What's this about them showing up at your house?" Lori asked, her eyes boring into my skull.
"Those are fake, though," Beth said, looking around for support. "Right?" Bob and Mark nodded.
"It was a prank, from a...friend. Thought he was helping me out. I sent them home," I answered, quietly.
"He's clearly a bit drunk and confused," Bob said, slapping Charles on the back. Charles laughed, and Beth and Mark waved the situation off and started writing the answer to the new question that came up.
"I don't think I like this friend very much," Lori whispered. I shrugged.
"I don't think we'll be seeing much of him for a while, anyway," I said. She scowled, then took a deep breath. She smiled as she turned back to the others. I glared at Charles, who mouthed an apology and then turned his gaze away to knock back some more beer.
"How was I supposed to know you didn't tell 'em you see shit?" Charles yelled, slightly slurring, as I drove him home.
"Seriously? Think about how literally everyone reacts when they first hear it," I said.
"I thought you liked the attention!"
"Oh yeah. The years of mockery and the way so many people avoid me is definitely the highlight of this ability."
"Does Lori at least know?"
"Why would she?"
"John! You're dating this girl and didn't tell her you see ghosts?"
"We aren't officially dating, and it's hardly relevant!"
"Look, man. If you do see what you say you see, it's always relevant."
"And I'm right! You need to tell her if this is gonna be a Thing." I sat quietly for a moment, then turned up the radio. He rolled his eyes and leaned on his window to watch the lights the rest of the way to his place.
23 March 2005
"Why are we sitting in an Applebee's, anyway?" Kastor asked. He's a 4-foot tall faun that I met when I was a kid, and had never really been able to get out of my life since. He was sitting across from me in the booth while I waited for Lori to show up. I'd offered her a ride, but she said she had some other stuff to do first and would meet me here.
"Because white girls like Applebee's," I muttered, looking through the menu and trying not to draw attention to myself. Kastor hopped up and smelled the food as a waitress walked by, then scowled.
"I don't think I like Applebee's. Why don't you take me anywhere fun?"
"I don't take you anywhere at all. You just kinda show up."
"And it's a good thing I do! Where would you be without me?"
"I should be so lucky to find out." He gave a sarcastic laugh as I looked up and saw Lori checking with the hostess. I waved, and she started walking over. Kastor scampered over the table and sat down next to me. "Must you stay?" I hissed.
"And miss whatever this is?" I sighed, and then smiled as I got out of the booth to greet her. We were having a nice time talking and deciding what to order, and I found that Kastor was much more quiet than I expected. It was nice, made it easier to ignore him. She called me Matteson, and when I asked why she showed me that that's how she had listed me in her phone.
"Everyone knows a dozen Johns," she said, putting the phone away. "I think this makes you more distinct."
"I suppose I can take distinct," I chuckled. "Better than what some people call me."
When I slipped out to use the bathroom, he came with me. I glanced over at him as I entered the room, and noticed his eyes were darting around a lot and his ears were down like a frightened dog's. I looked around the bathroom to make sure we were alone, then made my way to the urinal.
"What's your issue, Kastor?"
"Her," he said, looking back as though she was going to come bursting through the door. "Something's off about her. Did you see the way she looked at me?"
"I have serious doubts she was looking at you. You know people like me are rare."
"I mean, sure, statistically, but there are an awful lot of humans out there..."
"So you don't like her because you think she gave you a weird look?" He sidled over to me, and leaned his back against mine. "That is incredibly uncomfortable while I'm doing this."
"So stop." I groaned and rolled my eyes. "But no, listen. Something is...off about her. You didn't notice?"
"I'll bite," I said, zipping my pants and flushing. I pushed him aside and went to the sink. "The ripples she leaves in the Realm are different than anyone else I've seen."
"Yes! Yes, that!"
"But so are everyone else's. It's almost like a signature." I started washing my hands. "The differences in hers are more pronounced than other people I know, but that's it. It's not like they read as inhuman."
"Well I don't think you should be dating her," he said, crossing his arms.
"I'm not taking dating advice from a faun." I turned off the water, grabbed some paper towels, and turned to face him while I dried my hands. "You lot are known for a very different romantic lifestyle than I'm interested in."
"You can't believe everything you hear about us!"
"So you don't go frolic with nymphs when you're not bugging me?" He opened his mouth as if to say something, then closed it and waved his hands around as he looked for the words. I raised an eyebrow at him.
"Okay! So you can believe some of what you hear about us. But don't go buying into stereotypes all willy-nilly on me!" he yelled, pointing.
"Noted. Look, I'm going back to my date. If you have a problem with her, just leave. We can talk later."
"I could introduce you to some of those nymphs, you know."
"Good night, Kastor," I said, before heading for the door and back to the table. He did not follow.
The blog of John Matteson.