Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Misprint!" - The Course Overload Novella, Chapter 7

Chapter 7: The Waiting Game

“What’s the plan, Kara?” I asked, excitement brewing deep inside of me. I could tell that Kara had a wonderful idea, a plan to end all plans, and that I would probably be considered one of the living again by dinnertime. “Are we going to go on national television?” I inquired happily. “Are we going to get the Army to help us? The Coast Guard? The Girl Scouts?”

“I’m going to…” She trailed off while reaching for her book bag, which contained, no doubt, some sort of mind-controlling device that would help us reprogram all the people who thought that I was dead. I wondered if maybe we could also reprogram everyone to think that they owed me money.

“Yes?” I couldn’t stand the anticipation much longer.

“I’m going to …class,” she replied, slinging her book bag over her shoulder. “I have a really big test in about 15 minutes.”

Although I tried to hold it back to save face, I felt myself frowning. It was something that I had gotten used to over the past few hours.

“How’s taking a test going to help me?”

Kara grabbed a pen that had been sitting on her desk and chucked it carelessly into the top pocket of her bag. “Matt, if I miss this test, I’ll probably fail college. The test is worth 99 percent of my final GPA in all of my classes, including the ones I haven’t taken yet. I wouldn’t be much of a help to you then, would I? A college failure and a ghost would have a lot of trouble of convincing people to do anything but try some new kind of hamburger at McDonald’s. If I miss this one, I might as well have just gone looking for a job straight out of high school, because at least people would have taken me seriously then and not have thought that I was a slacker.”

I nodded dejectedly in acceptance and agreement, if not enthusiasm. “So when will you be back?” I asked.

“In about two hours.”

I sighed. Kara smiled and gave me a hug. “Don’t worry, Matt. I’ve got a plan all ready for when I come back. All you have to do is kill a few hours while I’m gone.”

“Did you have to use the word ‘kill?’”

Personally, it was one of my favorite verbs, but today it hardly seemed appropriate.

She chuckled. I managed a vague grin. “Why don’t you take a nap while I’m gone?” Kara asked. Turing her attention towards Shannon, she asked, “Would it be okay if Matt stayed here until I got back?”

Shannon had been watching an infomercial for some “revolutionary new product” that was supposed to save marriages, clean carpets and eliminate pesky trips to the doctor. I could tell it was hard for her to rip herself away from the “Ultra Omnisphere 3000’s” hypnotic lure, but she afforded us most of her attention. “I wouldn’t let him go anywhere else anyway. It’d be pretty dangerous for him to leave,” she admitted, copying down the number on the screen.

It was a good point. “That’s phenomenal; you’re right,” I concurred. “I mean, what if someone tried to catch me and use me as proof of the existence of ghosts?”

“That’s right,” continued Shannon. “They’d probably perform weird experiments on you to see what makes ghosts tick.”

But wasn’t that logic flawed? “Wouldn’t they discover that I was still alive then and everything would be okay?”

Kara and Shannon glared at me.

“I guess you’re right. They’d probably conclude that ghosts are a lot like humans, only shorter and into video games.”

“That’s right,” returned Kara, reaching for the doorknob. “But that’s not going to happen, because you’re going to stay here for a few hours. Until I get back, you should take a nap. Then we’ll get started on de-ghosting you.”

I walked over and ran my fingers through the stuffed dog’s white fur. I gathered that a ghost wouldn’t have been able to appreciate such a nice texture. I was glad I wasn’t really dead. “Thanks, Kara. Good luck on that test.”

“Don’t worry about anything,” she assured me in a comforting tone, opening the door and walking down the hall. She yelled to me from the stairs. “Sweet dreams!”

“Fat chance!” I yelled back. I never have good dreams. I closed the door and shuffled back over to Kara’s bed.

Hanging on Shannon’s pushpin board, among a few Christmas and birthday cards, was an eerie paper swan. Shannon had found it that same morning; the wind blew it up next to her as she left the dorm to do some laundry. Its pencil dot eyes reminded me of the tiny, sinister eyes of the lead orphan and it made me feel terribly cold. Its number-two lead peepers were gazing straight through me, as if I were as insignificant as a particle of dust leisurely descending to the floor. A proverbial chill tickled my spine.

After adverting my eyes from the strange swan, I was about to ask Shannon if she thought that I could sneak into movies if people thought I was a ghost, but she was suddenly missing. I looked around for a moment, wondering if there really was a ghost in the room. Maybe Shannon was a ghost and had just hid it very well for 20 years, and now that there was a new “ghost” in town, she felt threatened! But when I started searching for a vacuum with which to possibly attack and contain her if she became violent or tried to make me watch something stupid on TV, like Spongebob Squarepants or the news, I spied her by the shattered window.

“Do you think it’s all right to leave the window like this over the winter vacation?” she asked me, examining a few remaining glass shards that had fallen on the floor.

My eyes narrowed. “Sure it’s fine… if you want to be assaulted by Nosferatu.”

“What are you talking about?”

I rolled my eyes. “Open windows are a beacon for the undead. Vampires love to climb into any open spaces of a dwelling and slowly devour the blood of its occupants.”

Now it was Shannon who rolled her eyes. Obviously she didn’t know what she was dealing with. “That’s just a superstition, Matt. Everyone knows that vampires haven’t existed since 1492 when Abraham Lincoln and Jesus Christ destroyed Dracula in the Spanish-American War.”

“Vampires do exist,” I snapped. “Didn’t you hear about that town in Alaska that was besieged by hundreds of vampires?”

I could tell that Shannon was interested. She shook her head “no” and waited intently for me to explain. The hook was firmly planted, and now it was time to reel in the catch.

“Well, in Alaska, darkness and daylight each last for months at a time, depending on the seasons. Vampires converged in this one town and attacked it during the nearly month-long night.”

Shannon slapped her hand to her mouth in surprise. I went on, despite her obvious shock. She needed to know the truth, because vampire safety is nothing to ignore until Halloween.

“And do you know how the vampires found out about the town?”

Shannon again shook her head, this time almost paralyzed with fear.

“Now, remember, I work for a newspaper, so what I’m about to tell you must be true.”

Shannon nodded.

“A 20-year-old girl left her bedroom window slightly cracked while she brushed her teeth.”

Shannon dashed over to her computer, stared for a moment at the creepy paper swan, and began a Google search for “vampire safety techniques.” Like the hero I am, I had saved another soul from vampire damnation. I figured that as a reward for learning her lesson about the dangers of vampire break-ins (and because I didn’t want Kara to have to do it), I would clean up the rest of the shattered glass on the floor. There were still shards of the broken glass sticking out of the window frame in creative, jagged patterns, so after collecting all the pieces, I carefully stuck my head out to throw them away. However, as I let them drop to the ground, something alarmed me: Crazy Soup Girl (in any condition) was nowhere to be found.

Just then, Shannon pulled me back into the dorm. “You fool! Do you want to have your delicious scalp snacked on by a vampire bat!?”

I had taught her well.

Shannon threw on her coat as I returned to the comfort of Kara’s bed. “Where are you going?” I asked her.

“We need to get a tarp or something to cover that open window. We can’t let our scent travel too far, or every vampire in the tri-state area will be all over us like ants on honey. They can smell our fear, you know, so try not to be scared of anything while I’m gone, like that giant spider crawling up your leg.”

I had taught her really well.

Shannon burst out of the room in search of something to cover the newly created vampire portal, exclaiming “Maybe I’ll get a crucifix tattooed on my arm, just incase the one under my pillow is knocked out of my hand or something.” The door creaked shut behind her.

I was alone again. Shrugging my shoulders, I started to sit down on Kara’s bed for the ninth time that day, but I got a bad feeling about it and halted halfway through. I had almost sat on Kara’s stuffed Dalmatian, Rolley. Kara and Rolley had been nearly inseparable since Kara received him as a gift from her great aunt 14 years ago. Rolley was always quiet, usually just sitting on a bed or a chair, but it was hard to miss his presence. In his own mysterious way, he had stopped me from sitting on him for the millionth or so time.

Despite all the extra sleep I’d been getting lately, I was ready to wrap a blanket around my head to block out the sunlight and go to sleep standing up if I had to. Maybe waking up to find out that the world thought I was dead, breaking up a school function, and sneaking into a dorm building like a snake had taken more out of me than I had realized. Up until that moment, everything depended on getting to school to clear things up, then finding Kara to enlist her help. But, now there was nothing left for me to do, so I had the time to notice that I was seriously exhausted.

I took Rolley and put him at the foot of the bed so I wouldn’t (ironically) roll over him in my sleep. Pulling the covers up to my neck – and over, as to shield myself from any vampires that might come through the window hole – I prepared to waste time the fastest and most efficient way I could, besides taking any more business classes. Through the assorted sounds of dorm life, I closed my eyes and drifted off into an uneasy sleep.

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