A boy has the power to see people’s inner ghosts, but learns he might have another, much more dangerous gift as well.
Written by Gregory Patrick Travers
To say I got along with people would all depend on how you meant it. I was not the traditionally social type. My entourage included Roger and Eric, and even then I wondered how close of friends they really were, or if our bond was anything greater than a trio of throwaways who banded together in an attempt to keep our high school career from being four years of complete and utter isolated loneliness. But truthfully, I didn’t need to wonder. The look told me everything. It always had. Our friendship was that of a strength in numbers scenario, though we didn’t have many numbers and we were not overly strong. But even though my social prowess was nothing to brag about, there was a certain part of my being that very much did get along with people, in the sense that I knew them. I understood them. And all it took was a look.
It all started when I was thirteen. I didn’t get struck by lightening, or hit by a car, it just started as it did, like you or me wake up and start our day, each and every day. The stares. The aura of energy inside of me that pulled the eyes of everyone in my orbit toward me. Everyone I passed, from strangers on the street, to the kids in my school, to the mail man and the police officer directing traffic, the librarian, the principal, or the taxi driver turning his head as he drove by. They all stared. They would find me, pick me out of a crowd, and just look.
It wasn’t always long, sometimes as brief as a mere glance. But in that glance I learned, I mean, they told me, exactly who they were. Not the person that they were trying to portray, the person that they tried to fool the world into thinking they were, but the real them. The naked them, in all their vulnerability.
At first it was unsettling to bare this power; gift or curse that it was. I was frightened and uncomfortable. But no matter how I tried to ignore it, the stares continued. And each time I met their eyes I would see them. See inside them. It was as if I was some sort of beacon to which these imprisoned ghosts were able to communicate.
Don’t be mistaken, I cannot speak to the dead. The people who pass me are all very much alive in the physical sense. Their lungs expand and contract with each breath of air. Their hearts thump and pump blood throughout their pulsing organs. Their pupils dilate in pleasure and their pores sweat from fatigue. They walk about upright and go through the daily motions and routines that society deems necessary. They are by all accounts normal.
But there is another, deeper spirit inside that only I am capable of seeing. The thoughts and desires they have kept hidden from the rest of the world. Their ghosts. The most pure and honest self. The self that yearns to scream into the sky and dance in the rain. The self that wants to cry, steal, laugh, fuck, and destroy everything on a whim. These were the spirits that stared at me as they passed. I saw them as clear as day, as bright as light, with just the simplest and quickest of glances.
The day of the incident I had gotten to school a few minutes early so I could meet Eric at the smoker’s pit like he had asked, and give him my alcohol money for the cottage party that weekend. Because we were all underage, Eric’s older brother Sam, who was in his mid-twenties, offered to buy us our booze. Their parents had gone to Italy for a week and Eric decided to throw an impromptu grad party at their place at Massy Lake. Word had spread through the school like wildfire. Everyone was going. I had been to the cottage once during the previous summer. It was a nice place, right on the water. It was the perfect place for a reckless high school party.
When I got to the pit there was already a small circle of St.Mary’s uniforms surrounding Eric; white fleece golf shirts with pressed navy slacks for the boys and frilly plaid kilts for the girls. Closed fists shot towards him with bills of currency fanning out of their ends. Eric acknowledged each student briefly, took their money, and continued forth in that fashion. I waited until it was my turn to step forward and gave Eric a handshake with the twenty dollar bill I had taken from my mom’s purse that morning folded neatly in my palm.
“What’s up, Needlemeyer?” Eric said as our palms clasped. “Stoked for this weekend? It’s gonna be major.”
He had recently started calling me by my last name rather than Ferris, the name he had addressed me by for the entire three years of our friendship. It was just one of the many different tweaks and changes that Eric had made to his behavior in the last couple weeks. This party had brought a lot of attention on him, attention from students, girls especially, that otherwise never gave him a second look. Between our trio it was Eric who yearned for popularity the most. Had Roger the same power as I, he would have known that Eric had only settled for our company and deep down he wished he had better, cooler friends to spend his time with. Even when Eric would tell us a story with the utmost excitement, the soul inside him was always disappointed he couldn’t share his news with someone of higher social value.
But now, with his name circling around the hallways, infiltrating every clique and club, Eric was making the transition from the meek, slimy Caterpillar to the beaming beautiful social Butterfly he always wished he could be. He started walking with a bit of a limp, leaning slightly in a slow, sly posture. He had started throwing around random head-nods matched with a half-smile of both confidence and indifference, saying things like ‘sup’ and calling people by their last names.
The inner voice said things too, at least to me anyway. Things like ‘Don’t ruin this for me, Ferris’ and ‘Don’t make this any weirder than it has to be’.
Unlike Roger, I knew Eric had no intention on bringing us along for his journey to high school fame. His inner ghost explained to me that this was a journey for him, and him alone. Of course, this wasn’t something that brought me any great pain. Being popular just wasn’t for me. Too many eyes with too many things to say.
“Yeah, I’m super excited,” I told him, I wasn’t sure if I would be allowed to go. My mom said if I got higher than a 60% on my history paper she would allow it and so I wouldn’t find out until first period. I barely slept the night before. I heard Darla Russell was going, so I really wanted to go. I could finally shoot my shot with a girl I had been crushing on for my entire high school career.
“Great. I’ll see you there,” Eric said with a smile. But the whites of his eyes said, ‘Get a move on, Ferris. You’re cramping my style’.
I nodded. “I’ll see ya.”
Then I started for the side entrance just as the first bell rang.
As I turned the corner in the crowded hallway, just another body trying to swim through the sea of students in the daily riot of making it to class before the tardy slips start getting handed out, I saw Roger waiting at the threshold to Mr.Strilloni’s history class. We met eyes and smiled at each other. Roger had this lazy smile that made him look like he was stoned all the time. He wasn’t though.
Well, maybe half the time.
He had about two feet on all the other kids at St.Mary’s and was as tall as, if not taller than, most teachers. Wavy blonde curtains hung at the side of his face which camouflaged his acne and added to his grunge kid persona. He didn’t say much, Roger. He was a listener. An observer. Occasionally he would throw in a couple responsive words about whatever me and Eric were jabbering on about, but mostly he just walked alongside us, an easy smile pasted to his face and those droopy stoned eyes staring off into the horizon.
I merged out of the hallway traffic to meet Roger at the entrance to class. He nodded and grinned as we connected fists.
“Moment of truth,” I sighed with an uneasy look.
“I won’t go if you can’t,” said Roger. “But I hope you can, because I really want to go.”
I waited for his eyes to say something different, but received nothing. I rarely got to hear Roger’s inner ghost, as Roger’s outer-self and inner-self were pretty much one and the same. He was a pure of heart; wholly and truly the person he presented himself to be.
Sometimes I even wondered if he could hear my inner-ghost and just kept it to himself like I had Eric’s.
We walked into class and he took his seat in the front. I sat in the second row next to Darla, who hadn’t arrived yet. I was hoping that if I passed my report I could ease into a conversation with her about Eric’s party. But as usual, she was late.
As I took a seat in my desk I could feel the eyes of Brianne Peterson in the corner, burning a hole in the back of my head. I didn’t want to turn around. To say the honest truth, she kind of scared me a little. For the first part, she was intimidatingly beautiful. She was really good with make up and looked more like a woman than the other girls at St.Mary’s. She was always dating some older guy and known for having a lot of sex. I was still a virgin.
But that wasn’t really what scared me about her. Her eyes, forest green with flecks of gold, the whites bright against a thick border of black mascara, told me of her unhappiness. Girls in St.Mary’s watched her with silent envy. If only they knew how alone and unsure Brianne really was. I unfortunately, had the disservice of baring of this knowledge. And that’s why it was hard for me to look at her.
But that day, for some reason, I turned and glanced back. My eyes naturally fell on her knee-high stockings running up her long, tanned legs, the meat of her naked thigh disappearing under the shadow of her kilt. I looked into her eyes. She met my gaze. I heard it right then. It almost knocked me out of my seat. Louder and clearer than any ghost had ever spoken to me before. It said, ‘Today I am going to kill myself’.
I froze. Hoping I misheard.
Brianne raised an eyebrow and curled a lip at me, “Stare much?”
‘Soak it up’, said the ghost. ‘After today you’ll have to find somebody else to gawk at.’
I quickly turned back to face the whiteboard. My thoughts swirled tensely. There was no way I had misheard. Brianne was going to kill herself. Ghosts never lied.
Just then Mr.Strilloni entered the room in a familiar light purple, almost pink button-down and a pair of pressed khakis. In one hand he held his leather attache case, in the other he held a stack of papers.
Our history papers.
As Mr.Strilloni got organized at his desk, Darla rushed into class as she often did, out of breath and huffing a strand of hair from her face. There was always a circle around her in the halls, with girls not quite as pretty feeding and receiving gossip to the very last possible minute, then scattering like mice in a mad dash for class. I often wondered if Darla ever brought up my name in those gossip sessions. Because of my infatuation with her I found it very difficult to hear what her ghost had to say. My subjective attraction to her was like a lead vest over my X-Ray vision. She, and only she, remained a mystery to me.
She flashed me a quick smile as she plopped down in her desk, her Power Puff Girl key chain hanging out of a side pocket on her backpack clinked loudly on the floor as she dropped the bag beside her.
“Okay, everyone,” said Mr.Strilloni in the booming voice he used when he wanted the class to settle down. “Let’s get started.”
He proceeded to go around the class and hand out our papers. I nervously sat in my seat, afraid to look up from my lap. But when I heard my paper smack against my desk, curiosity got the better of me.
As I slowly lifted my head I caught glimpse of the bold red marker at the top right of my paper. My heart dropped. 58% glared back at me mockingly.
2% short of the 60% I needed for my mom to give me the green light on the party.
2% short of my chance to finally get some face time with Darla. 2% short.
The papers now handed back, Mr.Strilloni started his lesson without any consideration or pause for my world crashing horrendously down all around me. I continued to stare down at the red marker, trying to magically morph the unsatisfactory grade into the necessary 60. The 58 was as solid as dried cement.
Instinctively I turned my head to Darla. She was face forward watching Mr.Strilloni write on the whiteboard. Her mouth was open just a little and she was squinting. Strilloni’s handwriting was a catastrophe. Darla turned her head and caught me mid-stare. I panicked and turned forward, pretending there was something stuck in my eye.
I might as well have been on Mars for Strilloni’s lesson that day. All I could think about was the great time I would be missing that weekend. How someone else would be keeping Darla company as she liberally drowned out all her inhibitions. I retraced all my steps that led to my lacking paper and hindsight began to poke, prod, and lecture me. Why didn’t I study more? Why wasn’t I more focused? Why did I have to watch so much stupid Netflix? But there was no answer to the hounding questions of my conscious that would change the grade on the paper. And I just couldn’t accept it.
My blank stare toward the front of class might have fooled him into thinking I was paying attention, but at that moment Mr.Strilloni was like a television screen in the background playing a show with the sound off as I continued to sulk. The same thing went through my mind, over and over.
All I wanted was to go to the cottage party. All I wanted was a god damn 60%
The shrill ring of the bell snapped me out of my trance. I looked at the room clock suspiciously. Had I really spent over an hour in my own head, wishing for a change of fate? Had I really been that lost in my thoughts?
I sat in my desk as the rest of the class hurriedly gathered their bags and made a break for the halls. Roger pumped a nod back at me before he fell in line with the rest of them, head down and wavy blonde hair shrouding his face. Then I rose from my seat and stuffed my history paper blindly into my backpack, zipping the bag closed and throwing it over my shoulder. It felt heavier than it did earlier. As I trudged toward the exit, only one or two students still behind me, Mr.Strilloni asked me to wait. I let the two students, two Asian girls, Barbara and Tina, go by and then met Strilloni at his desk.
“Yes?” I said.
He looked up at me on the other side, leaning back in his chair, silently appraising.
“You okay, Ferris?” he asked, an air of concern in his tone. “You seemed a little spaced out today.”
‘You’re a bright kid’, said his ghost. ‘I hope you’re not pissing your youth away on parties and girls like I did’.
I almost let out a desperate laugh but I forced myself not to.
“Yeah…I’m okay,” I answered, lowering my eyes.
“Do you have your history paper?” he asked right away.
I looked up and raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, in my backpack. Why?”
He put his hand out. “Let me see it.”
I took off a strap and swung the bag over to my front. I unzipped the large pouch and stuck an arm in, feeling around for it until my fingers grazed the thin slice of paper. I grabbed it and pulled it out. As I handed it to Strilloni, the red-markered 58% stared back at me, taunting me. I looked away.
Mr.Strilloni took his reading glasses out from his breast pocket and put them on his head with one hand while holding my paper in the other. He looked it over silently, attentively, raising a page, then lowering it.
“I think I might have gone a little hard on you. I’m going to go ahead and bump you up to a 60%”
He opened his top right drawer and removed his thick red marker, crossing out the 58% and writing a 60% in its place. He handed it back to me with a smile as I stood speechless in front of his desk.
“Better?” he asked.
His ghost told me it was the best he could do.
“That’s great, Mr.Strilloni,” I said, returning my paper to my backpack, trying to hide my elation.
“Have a good weekend,” he said.
“You too,” I replied.
As I stepped into the hallway among the slacks and kilts I was hit with a sudden suspicious mind. What did Strilloni mean by have a good weekend? Did he know about the party? And did he know I wouldn’t be allowed to go unless I got a 60% on my paper? How could he have? No one knew.
Another thought crept sluggishly to the front of my mind and sent a shiver down my spine.
No, I thought. It couldn’t be.
Was it…could it…have been my other power?
The frequency and consistency of these instances could not be overlooked or undersold. First it was my parents’ divorce; I had wanted more than anything for the fighting to stop. It was all I thought about. Then they got divorced.
Then it was my dad; after he moved to New York I was so angry at his abandonment that I thought day and night about ways I could break his heart like he broke mine. Then he had a heart attack and died.
I had shrugged both events off as coincidences, but now a third instance had occurred. I wanted more than anything to get that 60%, even more so after I knew I didn’t get it. Then Strilloni mysteriously opts to bump up my grade.
I once again shrugged it off, knowing that was impossible. You couldn’t just manifest reality with your thoughts, no matter what Instagram said.
That’s when I saw Brianne Peterson coming out of the girls’ bathroom. Her mascara was smudged and foggy, her eyes swollen and red as if she had been crying. She fell into the current of St. Mary’s uniforms as they pushed out into the stairwell.
I’m going to kill myself today.
The words of her ghost came back to me in a gust. With all the fuss about my grade, I had forgotten all about it.
What was I going to do? I couldn’t just walk up to her and say, ‘Hey, Brianne. Don’t kill yourself’. But at the same time, if I didn’t do something and she did end up hurting herself, I knew I wouldn’t be able to live with the guilt of that decision.
So I followed her.
I dodged my way through the crowd and pushed through the stairwell doors. As I hurried down the first flight of stairs the slaps of my soles echoed off the high ceilings. I hurried down the second flight and passed a group of girls on my way to the exit. As I was about to push open the door, I heard, “Ferris! Hey!”
I was in such a stride that my sneakers squeaked when I stopped and whirled. It was Darla, breaking from her circle and coming over. I was so focused on getting to Brianne that I didn’t even notice her standing there.
“Hey, Darla,” I said. “What’s up?”
She asked if I was going to Eric’s party. I told her I was. I asked her if she was going.
“Uh, yeah. I think,” she said. “I gave Eric my money for alcohol today. Should be fun.”
Her eyes remained on mine as if looking for me to say something. Unfortunately, because my power was lost on Darla, I didn’t know what.
Finally she said, “Well, I better get to class. I guess I’ll see you up there.”
“For sure,” I said, thinking about how far Brianne might have gotten off to. “I’ll see ya.”
I turned back and pushed through the doors. The sun immediately splashed warmth on my skin. I squinted, my eyes adjusting to the clear blue sky. I looked right toward the teacher’s lot. No sign of Brianne. Next I scanned the smoker’s pit. Still nothing. But when I looked left to the front of the school, I saw the back of her before she disappeared around the corner, toward the football field.
I started jogging across the front of the school. A driver’s ed car was parked right outside the entrance and I almost got hit with the door as the Instructor was getting out. I narrowly averted him and kept going until I was on the other side of the building. By this time Brianne had walked across the football field and the same back angle of her now disappeared into the brush lining the catwalk to the bridge.
Usually the only students to go to the bridge during school hours were the potheads skipping class to smoke some joints, or maybe a Phys Ed. class on a run when Mr. Deadman wanted to spend the period in the gym office nursing his hangover. A girl like Brianne had no business there.
Unless she was planning on jumping.
I shook my head. Don’t do it, Brianne. Don’t do it.
Picking up my pace across the football field, blades of grass swooshing under me as I ran, my breathing getting heavier, I reached the other side before I knew it and made a b-line for the catwalk. But as I entered the narrow walkway with such great momentum, I tripped over what I could only guess was some thick branch or root from the surrounding brush. I fell and hit the ground hard, knocking my chin off the concrete. I winced. My chin burned and my knees throbbed. Rolling over on my back, crushing my knapsack, I realized that it had not been a root that I had tripped over, but a leg, outstretched and waiting for me.
A leg belonging to Brent Comox.
Brent was a dope dealer and a real goon. But he had a lot of friends because he was the drug connection at our school. He stood over me, a toothy grimace spread across his thin, narrow face.
Behind him was his tag along buddy Ryan; a curly-haired, fatso who the popular kids used because his parents had a pool and were always out of town. Like Roger, the inner ghosts of these two didn’t have much to say beside what was already on the surface. They were pure souls. Pure evil.
But what surprised me the most was the other person behind Brent. It was Eric. Like Brent and Ryan, he shared the droopy eyes and infantile grin of someone who had just smoked up.
“Watch where you’re going, spaz,” laughed Brent.
The three of them started back toward school as I got to my knees, then to my feet. I dusted small pebbles off my jeans and straightened out. I wanted to turn around and scream something at them, Eric especially, but I didn’t. I needed to get to Brianne.
Don’t do it, Brianne. I thought. Don’t jump.
I sprinted through the catwalk and as I reached the bridge my feet thumped loudly on the wooden planks. At the other end was Brianne, hunched over the iron railing, looking down at the jagged rocks and shallow water thirty feet below. The world got quiet and sounds became clear. The rustle of the breeze through the leaves, the running stream, and Brianne’s gentle sobs.
I smiled. I wasn’t too late.
The thumps on the wooden planks slowed as I approached. Brianne continued to stare down at the tinkling stream, ignoring my presence despite how noticeable I had made myself. I came to a stop and stood for a moment in silence. As I was chasing her, my purpose for doing so had made perfect sense but, now that I stood not two feet beside her, I was lost for what do to next.
“Hey…” I stumbled. “Brianne, right?”
Without looking at me, Brianne wiped a tear from her cheek. “What do you want?”
“Don’t jump, okay?”
The words fell from my lips with no preparation. And once they were said, I felt stupid and regretful.
She looked the other way and sniffled, showing me the back of her head. “I wasn’t going to jump,” she said. Another sniffle followed. “Go away.”
Despite her request, my feet remained planted. Finally, she turned around, seeing I had yet to move.
Our eyes met.
How did you know? asked her ghost. Her face, contrarily, tried to show a look of annoyance by my presence. I wasn’t sure which form to answer first. Even if I told her ghost the truth, I was sure she wouldn’t believe me. And if I left her defensive physical, I might waste my shot at saving her.
She answered for me. “I really wasn’t going to jump.”
“You’re lying,” I said without a blink. “But I’m glad you didn’t.”
I rubbed the cut on my chin, still throbbing from the contact with the concrete. Then, I turned back for the catwalk.
“How’d you know?” she called out as I started to walk away.
I stopped and turned. “Know what?”
A seldom seen look of embarrassment washed over Brianne’s red and swollen eyes. She shrugged her slender shoulders. “You know…”
A soft breath shot out my nose. I smiled. “Not sure, really. I just…kinda…did.”
Brianne chewed her bottom lip, unsure of what to say. “It’s Ferris, right?” she said finally.
She stepped away from the iron railing and ran a hand through her hair. She was having a hard time looking at me. “Thanks, okay?”
I turned back for the catwalk. “Don’t mention it.”
The rest of the day I wasn’t any more present than I had been in Mr.Strilloni’s class, only now I wasn’t worried about the 60% on my history paper, I was fuming over betrayal. I was fuming over Eric.
How could he just stand there with Brent and Ryan and let them trip me without any response? What kind of person would just stand there and let his friend fall to the ground, face first, for a gag? His stupid stoned smile, gaping and hollow, was seared into my memory, causing my blood to bubble and boil with rage. Did our three and a half years of friendship mean so little to Eric that he was willing to throw it away just to win favor with a drug dealer? Was he that hurting for popularity? Over and over, I stewed in my anger. The ache for Eric to answer for his betrayal followed me around like the ache of my chin.
I hope he dies, I thought to myself in repetitive succession. I really, really hope he just dies.
Even as I thought it, I knew how cryptic I sounded, how evil my train of thought was becoming, but I didn’t care. I wanted him to suffer. From the deepest depths of my soul, I wanted him to just die. Maybe I was overreacting. Maybe I was just jealous that he had started to make more friends than just me and Roger. Maybe I was sore that I wasn’t throwing my own cottage party, or that I didn’t have a cottage to throw a party in. But still, my resolve remained the same. I wanted to see Eric sprawled out on the pavement the way I had been. I wanted to see him cold and blue, without light or breath.
I wanted Eric dead.
The final bell rang and woke me out of my trance. I packed up my books and threw them in my bag, crushing my history paper as I did. It didn’t matter. I didn’t much care about going to Eric’s party anymore.
When I got to my locker, Roger was there waiting for me, but there was no sign of Eric. It should have surprised me that Eric would break our long-standing after-school tradition of meeting at my locker before walking home, but it didn’t much surprise me at all. This was the new, popular Eric. And the new, popular Eric was a jerk.
I might have been hurt if I hadn’t been so angry.
“You okay?” asked Roger, sensing my hostile energy as I struggled with my lock.
I threw in my science textbook and slammed the locker shut, clicking the lock into place and throwing my backpack over my shoulder.
“Eric’s turning into a real chore, you know that?”
Roger brushed the wavy blond hair from his face and showed a hint of a smile. Ever the peacekeeper in our little group of three, his only response was a shrug to convey his neutrality.
That just made me angrier.
Outside, we walked passed the front of the school as the exodus of plaid kilts and navy slacks, with knapsacks on their backs and smiles on their faces, started to leak out from the main entrance into the street. I watched them all with a sour face, hating their happiness. Though the sun was warm and the sky was a clear blue, I had a storm cloud over my head that just wouldn’t go away.
Our route was the same it had been for the last three and a half years; straight down River Street, parting ways at Ashton Way where I went north and Eric and Roger went south.
We didn’t say much to each other as we walked, Roger had never been much of a conversationalist, it was always Eric and I beaking back and forth while Roger listened in, only adding a syllable or two every so often.
I looked up from my feet where my eyes had been firmly planted when I heard someone behind us yell, “Yo, guys! Wait up!”
Both Roger and I turned our heads to see Eric on the other side of the road, his hand outstretched, waving. He had sunglasses on, so it was impossible to read his look and find out if he was feeling any sort of remorse for what happened at the bridge. I turned forward just as a car drove by and Eric, after waiting for the car to pass, started to walk across the street toward us. I continued walking without slowing my pace. If Eric wanted to walk with us, he could catch up.
That’s when I heard a deafening screech, followed by a loud thump and then a crisp cracking noise. Roger beside me screamed. I turned around.
There was a car stopped dead in the middle of the street. Eric’s body was sprawled out on the road in front of it. He wasn’t moving. The back of his head was smashed open like a pumpkin that had been smashed on someone’s front porch. There was blood all around it. His sunglasses were on the road at least ten feet away. Students walking behind us screamed.
The driver of the Civic that had hit him got out and ran around to the front of the car, eyes wide in horror at the sight of Eric’s contorted body. The man of slender build, maybe in his mid-forties by the looks of him, started to tremble and he looked as if he was going to be sick. He covered his open mouth with his right hand. There was a cell phone in his left.
Roger grabbed my arm and squeezed. “Holy shit, dude!” he gasped. “I think he’s dead! Holy shit! Eric’s dead!”
I was frozen, looking at Eric’s limp body laying on the road, void of light or breath.
“Call an ambulance!” yelled the driver of the Civic, to everyone and no one at the same time. “Someone call an ambulance!”
My stomach started to turn and my throat throbbed. I felt like I was going to be sick, too. But it wasn’t from the blood, or Eric’s lifeless body. It was something else. A realization that made me dizzy with horror. I recalled what I had been thinking about all day since the incident at the bridge. I had wanted this. I mean really wanted this. Just like how I wanted my parents to stop fighting. Just like I had wanted my father’s heart broken. Just like I had wanted that 60%. Just like I had wanted Brianne to not jump off the bridge.
My best bud was dead. And I was the one who killed him.