Chapter 6:


Face Me Online

Knock knock knockknockknock-

"Alright! I'm coming!" Carlos finally gave in. I could hear his thundering footsteps as he rushed to the door.

"What does your dad do?" I demanded Carlos, not even bothering to be tactful.

"He's a writer. He has been working on a novel about ghosts though-"

I was aware of my face lighting up from the revelation, but after that everything was a blur...
A few days later, I was ready to deal with that pesky ghost.

Erika bent down to burn the last of the cream incense candles. The smell of sandalwood drifted around the twilight-lit house, which was meant to be for the ghost ritual, but the scent also relaxed me.

I nodded, satisfied with her work, and closed my eyes, shutting out the storage room and all its boxes.

'Maiden of the internet, what do you want with me? I have no connection to you and only wish to be left alone. If it is the comfort of people similar to you, there are others waiting in the light...' I thought, trying not to panic.

Something cold caressed my cheek, cutting me off, and when I opened my eyes again the maiden's mouth appeared in front of me. (If this was how the Cheshire Cat acted, I really didn't want to go to Wonderland.)

The cold object moved downwards and a warm trickle of blood began to seep out of the wound - oh. So that's what it was. A kitchen knife, with a handle made of red plastic.

'That's from our kitchen,' was my only thought as Erika's face morphed into one of terror and she bolted, her footsteps thundering like Carlos's. One of the candles was blown out in her wake.

"Why do you hate me so much?" I demanded the disembodied mouth, my voice firm and my right hand over the wound she had inflicted on me.

"I don't hate you." The knife angled in such a way that it seemed she was crossing her arms, and finally, I could identify the ghost's rough age from her voice - she was about my age, give or take about ten years. "I hate computers and all those who work with them. Stupid internet."

I-Internet? That made her a lot more recent than I thought her to be.

"You're just the easy target," she added, causing me to grab the knife out of her almost nonexistent hands. Now that it was in my possession, it felt a lot colder than it should have been.

"So why do you dislike the internet?" I tried again.

"Workaholic boyfriend. Thinks he's helping the world, and sure enough, this 'internet' is all over the place in the modern age." She tutted under her breath. "I guess I've been unreasonable targetting a girl like you though - you're too awkward for my liking. Sorry for bothering you." Just like that, she disappeared.

W-What?! She injured me, she changed my face and offended me, but got away scotfree?

Another drop of blood from my face hit the floor, snapping me out of my stupor.
The next day at uni, it seemed like nothing had happened. Brooke and Harrison had come back from their respective trips and had arranged to meet me at a cafe at our uni. A cool breeze was settling in, signalling the imminent arrival of winter.

"So, what's wrong with your face this time?" Brooke asked me, poking the bandaid on my right cheek as she took a seat on the black metal of a chair.

"Knife injury," I mumbled through a mouthful of pork, tapping the wooden table.

"It seems my dad's gone back to normal," she smiled.

I nodded absentmindedly, then stared at some assignment code with a sinking feeling in my throat as other people manoeuvred around us, chattering all the way. I couldn't make heads or tails of why it was going wrong, and no way was I going to throw up. However, if I stuffed up with this part of the code, I wouldn't be able to complete the rest - it was a program that required cumulative and incremental work.

A chill went down my shoulder as I set up the later sections of the program with multiple copy-pastes. Just when I thought it wouldn't get any worse, Harrison came up to us, his face still featureless...

...which caused me to choke on the food I'd only just inserted into my mouth.