Ghost City Issue #3

Posted: June 3, 2020 in Blogverse, Ghost City
Tags: , ,

It was Saturday night and Jennifer was finally getting out. It had been a long week at her new school, though the adjustment didn’t seem too hard in retrospect. She reflected back as she looked out the taxi window to the empty streets. It was dark already, yet hardly any lights shined from the surrounding buildings as they were mostly empty. 

Kelly impressed her as she spoke Chinese, giving the driver directions to their destination. On a dimly lit but wide street they exited their taxi. Jennifer wondered where Kelly was taking her to as she was led towards a large ominous concrete building. Some of the windows on the first floor were smashed and covered with rotting plywood. “This is pretty typical.” Kelly said while she opened the door.. “Places look super shady on the outside but once you get in it’s really nice.”

Jennifer said nothing as some broken glass crunched below her feet. Inside, the only light in the coridoor was a dim red glow from the elevator light directly ahead. From what she could see the walls were a plain dirty white, occasionally tagged by graffiti. The ding of the elevator echoed though the hallway as the steel doors slid open. The girls stepped inside and Jennifer could see a blood stain on the grimy elevator floor. 

As the elevator ascended Jennifer could hear music blaring. “There’s a KTV here too. We’ll probably hit that later.” Kelly suggested.

“KTV?” 

“Oh sorry. Like Karekoke.” Kelly explained. 

“Oh, I see. Is that what they call it in Asia?”

“Well in China they call it KTV. When I was in Korea they called it Norea-bong.”

As soon as the doors opened  it was like stepping into another world. Spanish music was playing in the bar/restaurant. The walls were painted red and decorated with paintings both Chinese and Western. Inside were a small number of Chinese patrons, but the rest of the crowd seemed a mix of nationalities. Kelly walked her new friend to the bar and introduced her to the owner. “Hello,” the Chinese man said, “My English name is Ken. Welcome to Sky bar.” 

“Nice to meet you.” Jennifer smiled as she noticed an entrance to a balcony. 

“Yeah it’s too cold to go out there now,” Kelly explained, “but in the summer we have cookouts, Ken is a master on the grill!”

“Oh thank you!” Ken said excidedly. 

After they got some drinks Jennifer heard a familiar voice. “Oh, Jenny you made it!” She turned to see her co-worker Steve playing chess with a short man who, to her, looked Pakinstani. “Welcome welcome.” Steve said raising his Sprite. “This is my friend Sadik.” 

“Nice to meet you.” Sadik said, also raising his Sprite.

Across the restaurant Jennifer noticed a tall slender man among a crowd of foreigners.  Moving over to the group, Kelly introduced the man as Alex. “And where are you from?” Jennifer asked.

“I’m from planet Earth.” he said in earnest.

Kelly rolled her eyes as she’d heard this answer a million times, but Jennifer played along.

“Oh wow, and what is it like on planet Earth!”  

“It’s great!” Alex said matter of factly. “You should come see it sometime.”

“I’d like that.” 

Then they heard some cheering behind them. A few guys were watching something on a tablet. It looked like a garage, but there was a crowd of people gathered around in a circle. Through the tablet’s speakers they could hear cheering, as in the middle of the circle two women were fighting.

One man in glasses, whom Jennifer presumed was the owner of the tablet, said “I heard at this spot they have a South African bloke fighting.”

“Cool.” A man sitting next to him said. Then they noticed the two girls standing in front of them, one of them was a new face.

Kelly smirked as the two local casa novas rose to their feet.

“Forgive our manners girls,” the man with the glasses said.”welcome, have some pizza.”

The girls sat down in front of two large pizza pies. “My name’s Manie.” The man said as he gave Jennifer a plate with a slice on top. “Here you go Kelly.” The other man said as he handed her a plate. “And I’m Refi.”  his friend who was sitting next to him waved. 

Also at the table was a woman whose leather jacket matched the black of her hair. She smiled mischieviously as she’d seem this game played out many nights before. “Don’t mind these guys they’re harmless.” The woman said, before introducing herself as Nadia.

“Oh I’m sure they are.” Jennifer said as she looked back at the man from Earth. Then she looked back at the guys an observed, “I noticed your accents, I’m going to guess South African?”

“That’s right?” Manie smiled and nodded as Refi continued watching the fight on the tablet.

Another man approached. Like Nadia he had jet black hair, but it was long, went well past his shoulders. In fact his hair was nicer than that of any woman’s in the bar, something his friends often kiided him about. He took Jennifer’s hand and kissed it like an 18th century prince. He said in what she recognized as a Costa Rican accent. “And I am Fredrico, a pleasure to meet you.” The girls laughed and the boys hooted and hollered. Alex, finally with a bit of sarcasm in his voice, said “Wow Fredrico, you’re a real gentleman.”

Fredrico winked at him and said with a devilish smile, “Well my friend, the night is still young.”

The group ate and made small talk as another foreigner approached. “Oh so your Jennifer.” Kelly looked at her new friend with concern as Jennifer answered yes.

“Wow your hair is so pretty. Is that your natural color?”

Jennifer was at a rare loss for words. 

Undetered the man said “So you’re the new teacher at Hollwood English. What’s your degree in?”

“I just got my Bachelor’s in English education.” Jennifer immediately answered,

“Oh great. I have  Master’s in Education.” The man said dismissively.

“Good for you bud.” Alex said after finishing his beer. “Hey man can you get me another Harbin?” 

“Sure.” The man gave Jennifer a look of disdain as he walked away. 

“Pay Jerold no mind.” Refi said. “He just misses his buddy.”

“Doesn’t look like he misses him too much!” Fredrico laughed, observing Jerold talking to a Chinese man at the bar. Alex soon left to get his own drink.

The group talked a while longer, and later on Nadia asked  “So Manie, how do you like your new place?”

“Oh it’s great.” Manie said. I got lots more space and I got a nice balcony. Once I get settled in I’ll have everyone over.”

“A lot better than your last place right?” Refi said.

“Fuckin right.”

“What was wrong with your last place?” Jennifer asked.

The song playing over the speaker had ended, and for just a second it grew eerily quiet. Manie looked at her, not saying anything at first, but then he himself asked a question. “So, Jennifer,” he said, “have you seen any ghosts yet?”

She was startled at the question, and could only answer “What?”

“Well you know they call this a Ghost City right?” said Manie..

“Yeah.”

“It’s not just because the city is half empty.” Refi chimed in.

“What do you mean?”

Kelly nodded her head as she remembered the story Manie was about to tell. “One night,” Mani began. “I came home from Sky really drunk.”

“Imagine that!” Nadia slapped his arm cackling. Then the whole group followed in laughter and high fived their Russian friend.”

Manie had to cover his face he was laughing so much, but he soon resumed his story. “Anyway, one night, haha, one particular night I was really drunk. I stumbled into my place, the flat I used to have.”

“Manie struck out that night.” Rafi chimed in.

Pointing at Fredrico “You stole that Belarusian chic from me, I had her in the bag.” Manie protested while everyone laughed. 

Fredrico innocently shrugged his shoulders and said “Hey man, all is fair in love and war.”

Waving his had dismmisvely Manie continued “Anyway, anyway, I get to my place, my old place. I head straight to the toilet. I get there and I about pissed myself.”

“What happened?” Jennifer asked. 

“There was this big Chinese dude sitting in my bathtub! My school got me one of those old shitty apartments that still had the bathtubs instead of a shower, and this fat Chinese guy was sitting there like this.”  Manie dropped his arms flat to his sides and looked straight up in the air with an expressionless face. 

“You were probrably smoking some of that stuff Vlad got you.” Nadia said half joking. “I told you stay way from that character.”

“No, I wasn’t.” Manie answered. “Anyway, swear to god,” Manie looked back at Jennifer to continue his tale.” Swear to god, there was this big Chinese guy right there in my place!”

“Oh, what apartment is this again where you found a naked guy in your tub?” Jerold returned to the group. He was now wearing his coat, suggesting he would leave soon.

“Yeah I knew you would fucking like it.” Manie said shaking his hand. “Good night man.”

“Good night.” Jerold shook most everyone’s hand before leaving. “Nice to meet you.” He waved to Jennifer as he left with the man he’d drank at the bar with.

Looking back at his new friend Mani continued. “Anyway, anyway, this guy scared the shit out of me.” Motioning with his hands he explained “I literally fell down on the ground I was so shocked. I looked away for a moment, and when I looked back, poof he was gone.”

“That’s really weird.” Jennifer said. It certainly was a creepy story, but she kept her skepticism to herself. She reasoned that excess alcohol can make you hallucinate. She remembered her brother, he drank so much. The summer before he passed she remembered getting him home one night. It was awful. He was so drunk he thought he was seeing spaceships in the sky. He was babbling about, shouting something about Mira-go or something like that.

Jennifer had been lost in thought that she hadn’t notice Mani wasn’t finished telling his story.

“It was the chic from that music school.” Mani said, defiantly pointing at Fredrico. “I got you back that night you bastard!” Everyone laughed as he continued. “So anyway I get her as far as my door, and she starts freaking fuck out. She would not go in my place.”

“Maybe your reputation proceeds you!” Nadia kidded.

“Well luckily she lived in the same building.” Manie said. “So we went to her place.”

“That is some good luck my man!” Alex said.

“Anyway the point is, the next day she tells me. The last tenant before me, he killed himself in that apartment. It was a big Chinese guy, and he drowned himself in my fucking bathtub.”

For a moment it grew quiet again, as even those who had heard the story before still found it unsettling. Manie then looked at Jennifer with curiostiy. “So have you seen any ghosts?”

Hope everyone has enjoyed this newest chapter in what is now the third month of this project. Things have been slowly opening up more but we still have a long road ahead of us. Wherever you are and whatever you do, I hope you are keeping safe. I remember when I was a kid the Rodney King riots happening. Los Angeles was in flames, and it was a time to have dialogue about serious things like race relations and prejudice. Perhaps, in our youthful naiveness, some of us hoped that in 30 years we would have all this stuff figured out. Well, thirty years later, we are still dealing with police brutality, racism, bigotry, and basically all the same mess we’d been dealing with 30 years ago. I don’t have any answers, but I just want to wish you the reader well, and ask that we all take care of each other during what seems to be a difficult year for the whole world. 

Be sure to come back next week as Jaguar finally gets out in the field in Jaguar issue #3.

In two weeks, where are Fred’s strange abilities coming from and how do they connect to the strange lights of Melbourne. Find out in Lights of Mirgian issue #3.

The month of June will end with the Flying Fox #3. Diego fanangles a way to enter the secret world of underground fighting. Will he succeed, and if so at what price? Find out in the newest entries of the blog-verse. 

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