Simone used to tell this ridiculous ghost story around the campfires we patchworked the forest with during several muggy autumns. I always drifted off in its feeble beginnings – just a load of exposition and backstory, trying to make me care about a group of people that didn’t exist, doing things that didn’t happen in a place that wasn’t anywhere. As she described the colour of someone’s shirt I would stop picking at my sneakers and lift my eyes to the fire and ashes dancing up to meet the dark gold leaves still clinging on, before the north wind drove the humidity away and blew everything bare. When the wind turned the canopy softly fell like snow, skin faded to a translucent sheen, our lips turned from red to blue.
In this clearing we sat as though under the central tower of a Gothic cathedral, vast columns grasping to touch the feet of God. Between the trunks a blackness existed, darker than pitch, punctuated every now and then by the dance of fireflies and the pinprick lights of eyes that blinked once and then disappeared. The crack and snap of the small fire struggled against the dead weight of a midnight silence; her whispering voice almost smothered by the night unless you concentrated hard.
Which I would usually do when I saw the story go up a gear. I could see she was getting to the bit she enjoyed telling the most. The gory bit. When the teenagers in the abandoned place (I forget where) realise one of them is missing… and then they turn around and their friend is there – but now eyeless and still, their open jaw broken wide and hanging loose at their chest.
As Simone stared at me silently, the flames dancing around her face, she would open her mouth as wide as it was physically possible and hold it in that pose. Then, very slowly, I would see her quietly bring the needle up from her lap, and inject herself under the tongue.
It’s such a crap story. And I wish she wouldn’t do that…