"I'm 'enry the 8th I am! 'enry the 8th I am, I am. I've been married to the widow next do--"
"WILL YOU SHUT UP!"
Kev batted at his covers as he struggled to sit up. I had been singing the same line over and over again for the past hour. The digital display on the clock flipped over. It was two in the morning. I was sitting Indian style, levitating over the end of the bed. Under any other circumstance, the trick would have been cool; instead, the novelty had already worn off.
"You're not real," Kevin said for the millionth time.
"But I am," I protested. "In fact---I'm 'enry the 8th I am! 'enry the 8th--"
"Why? Why are you doing this?"
I smiled. "Haven't you ever seen the movie Ghost? You're like Whoopi Goldberg and I'm like Patrick Swayze. You're ignoring me, so I'm being annoying."
"You don't have to sing that to be annoying."
I stuck out my tongue. Kev rubbed his eyes. The three Advil tablets he had downed hadn't knocked him out yet. He looked at me; I stared back.
"Help," I said pathetically.
"I can't help something that doesn't exist," Kevin said forcefully.
"But I do exist. And you can see me."
Kev fell back and smothered his face in a pillow. "If you exist, go visit Bri," he mumbled.
"But he can't SEE me!"
There was a creaking of bedsprings; Kev rolled over to his side. For a second, I thought about running my hand through his head and freaking him out again. I was even ready to strike, but then I had a change of heart.
If Kevin was my only help, then I needed him on my side.
After a few minutes, I saw his chest rise and fall in the familiar rhythm of sleep. I got up and walked around.
The house Kevin was staying in was small and quiet. Really quiet. If I could have, I would have sprawled out on the couch and fallen asleep. But I wasn't tired; I guess ghosts (or whatever the hell I was) don't have to sleep.
By the time I saw the first hint of sun, I was sure I was going insane. I had played the counting game for hours. I knew just how many tiles were in the bathroom, how many swirls were in the ceiling plaster, and how many pairs of socks Kevin had squished into his top dresser drawer. There was only one thing I could think to do. I cleared my throat, walked up to the bed, and knelt down by Kevin's ear.
"WAAAAKKKE UPPPP!" I screamed.
If he'd existed, I would've choked him. But he didn't exist.
"Any news about Nick?" Brian asked. He was on the phone. The phone whose cord Nick was pretending to get clotheslined by. He'd walk up to it, then walk through it and pretend to fall backwards, waving his hands about and making goofy noises. I blinked. He continued the charade. Like he wouldn't just go through the fucking cord, I thought. Then I realized what I thought and I reprimanded myself.
He wouldn't go through the fucking cord because he doesn't EXIST.
"I haven't heard anything," I answered. I hesitated, "Brian, look, we need to talk - about the life support thing..."
My mirage Nick froze mid-fall, hovering at a ninety degree angle, and stared at me, his eyes wide. I turned my back. "I think we made the wrong choice, Bri, it's really bothering me."
"WHAT?" Nick and Brian had both shouted the word at the same time - it was like hearing it in stereo. "YOU CAN'T KILL --" Nick said 'me', Brian said 'him', but otherwise it was the same exact sentence. Nick raced around the front of me, skidding and floating into the middle of the kitchen sink. He looked around himself at the counter that surrounded him like he'd been sticking out of a hole in the middle of it and - if mirages can pale, anyways - his face turned white. Like a ghost.
But ghosts don't exist.
He scrambled out of the sink. "Kevin!" he wailed, "You can't, you can't pull the plug, I'm here, I'm real."
"He isn't dead yet, Kevin!" Brian wailed in my ear.
Nick pointed at the phone, "WHAT HE SAID! I ain't dead yet!"
"ISN'T," I instinctively corrected Nick.
"I said isn't," Brian responded, "And seriously, Kevin? Grammar lessons? Now? We're talking about ending the life of my best friend."
Nick was on his knees in front of me.
"I just - I'm going crazy, Bri," I said, staring at Nick, whose hands were clasped and whose face was contorted into a begging expression. I paused. "Do you remember when- when my dad--"
"Yes, Kevin," Brian answered quietly, "I do."
"And we held on for so long that by the time we let go... it... it was just - we waited so long... and my mom..." I shook my head, trying to erase the bad memories. Nick's brow cinched together and he looked down at the floor, a frown on his face. "This is too much like that, I'm scared we're gonna cling to him too long... Force him to stay where he doesn't belong..."
"But I do belong," Nick whispered.
Brian's breathing had become rugged. "Please. Just a little bit longer, Kev," he whispered, hoarse. "Please."
Nick looked up, hopefully.
"One week," I said, "Day Seven we pull it."
Brian sniffled, "Okay."
After I hung up with Brian, I sighed and faced the table. I covered my face in my hands. "Oh God," I mumbled. Hot tears stung my eyelids and they flooded into my palms. I felt the bone-chilling cold creep up and down my spine. Nick was rubbing my back.
"It's okay, Kevin," he whispered. "It's ok."
"It's not," I answered quietly, "I- I don't want to kill him, I just- I don't want to- to draw it out - to - to make it harder on Brian, or on me, or on you."
As soon as the word you came out of my mouth I knew I was gonna regret it.
"SEE? YOU DO BELIEVE I'M REAL! YOU SAID IT! YOU JUST SAID IT!"
I groaned. Fucking annoying mirage.