Chapter 3:

Kafka Cosplay Commotion?!

The Love Triangle Between Me, The Class President, & The Spirit Possessing Me

Standing alone in a pitch-dark room in an abandoned hotel, staring up at an insect the size of a grizzly bear, I come to the only conclusion I can.

There’s obviously a gas leak in here, and I’m hallucinating.

Or maybe it’s radon? I’ve heard old buildings can have radon, or am I thinking of asbestos? Could asbestos make you see things? Or else the vents are blocked and I’m not getting enough oxygen. Yeah, hypoxia! I saw that in a movie once. I have mild hypoxia and it’s making me hallucinate a giant bug.

“Would you be quiet?! What is this gobbledygook you’re talking about? Hypoxia?!”

I hadn’t noticed I was talking out loud to myself. More importantly, my hallucination shouldn’t be yelling at me.

“Aren’t you even frightened, you big dum-dum?”

Okay, now everything makes sense! With relief, I realize I’m not poisoned or getting brain damage, or anything like that. I just ran into a weirdo in a costume, that’s all.

“Oh, my bad,” I say, thoughts of seeking treatment for radon exposure or carbon monoxide poisoning fading away. “I didn’t mean to interrupt your cosplay photo shoot, or whatever you’re up to.” Of course a certain kind of nerd would be into abandoned buildings like this. “What horror game is this bug character from? Is it new?”

I only watch other people playing horror games, but nobody else needs to know that they’re too scary for me to play myself.

The cosplayer comes closer. Wow, they really did a good job on the legs. Very convincing.

“Can you speak English?! Or better yet,” they snap, “stop babbling and get out of here before I sock you right in the kisser!”

Wow, they must really be embarrassed. Their voice is pretty high, so maybe they’re a kid? Classmates finding out you have a weird interest can be a real nightmare.

I can’t help but chuckle a bit. Everyone has their own worries, even if it’s not being chased halfway across town by a pack of bullies. “Hey, okay, calm down!” I back up to avoid a clumsy swing from a costumed arm. Not that being smacked by a bunch of fabric and craft foam would hurt, but it might damage their hard work, and then I’d feel bad. “I’ll go in a minute, alright? It’s just that there’s someone I don’t wanna run into, and he might still be outside, so-”

“Go away right now!” They swing again, and it’s as easy to back out of the way as last time. Must be hard to move under all that padding. “Leave me alone!”

They swing again, and I trip over an overturned chair. Stumbling back, I catch myself (or more like slam shoulder-first) against the wall. Since now I’m literally backed up against a wall, I can’t dodge away when the cosplayer jabs their clawed arm at me. The impact of their claws against my chest is lighter than I expect, even for foam or plastic. It’s more of a light tap.

I blink in confusion as the giant bug fades away, and instead, a girl around my age beats her fists against my chest with all the fury and strength of a kitten.


She definitely didn’t take the costume off, and it’s not laying on the floor behind her. It’s like it was never there to begin with. But it definitely was. I saw it!

...Maybe it’s radon after all?

“You idiot!” the girl yells, her pale, bobbed hair bouncing around her face with every weak strike. “You numskull! Go away and leave me alone! You people can’t just leave a girl be!”

She’s...crying? Did I embarrass her that bad, or is she scared of me for some reason? I guess I did walk up on a girl I don’t know in a dark room with only one exit. I didn’t mean to, but I can see why she’d be startled.

Okay. Not that she’s actually hurting me with what I can only extremely generously call punches, but no matter how upset she is, I don’t wanna stand around and be her punching bag.

“Hey, I’ll go, okay? Sorry I bothered you, miss.” I reach out to gently grab her shoulders. “I can’t leave unless you back off a little, though, so-”

My hands go right through her. I don’t mean I miss grabbing her shoulders. I watch my hands sink straight down into her shoulders and see my wrists vanish somewhere around her collarbones. It’s cold, like I’ve reached into a freezer.

Her image distorts where my hands pass through. She stops hitting me, glaring first down at where my hands vanish into her, then up at my face. The tear-tracks are still lining her cheeks, but she’s finally stopped crying.

“Ugh, boys!” She crosses her arms, and they clip through mine with the same cold sensation. “Do you mind?!”

She’s not a girl with a bug cosplay, that’s for sure. I snatch my hands back, turning them over and looking at them from all angles. They’re fine, other than the lingering cold making me want to pop my knuckles. What was that? What is she?

The girl takes a step back, and it’s just now that I notice her feet don’t quite touch the floor. “Do you get it now, or do I need to do my cockroach vaudeville routine again?”

I think I do get it now, as a matter of fact.

She’s a ghost. I’m talking to a ghost.

My knees give out from under me. As I slide down the wall I can just hear an annoyed: “Oh, for Pete’s sake!”