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The Ballad of a Ghost - Chaper 1

2008-03-16 03:06:41 by TheThing

*Note: This story is based off of a CD by a band called Armor For Sleep. The CD is titled "What to do When You Are Dead". This part (which is barely based off of 1 of the songs) is only 1/5 or 1/6 of the total story. Part 2 will be coming out in the next couple of weeks. Hope to see you there.

A fist flew into Mike's gut, forcing his breath through his diaphram. Mike doubled over, and fell to his knees, clutching the spot where Jon's punch landed. He let his head fall forward, and balanced himself on his forehead. A foot kicked Mike over. It was a gentler kick than what Rob usually gave to Mike, and Mike felt a pang of happiness for the leniency that Rob showed him. But Mike knew that a bruise in the shape of a check mark was still going to form.

"Emo faggot!" Jon said as he walked away, back to whatever circle of hell berthed him. Rob and Joe followed Jon, laughing with him. Before Joe left, he felt he needed to participate in the weekly ritual, so he delivered a kick to Mike's stomach. Luckily, the kick missed any part that allowed Mike to breath, and soon he caught his breath. But the sixteen-year-old still laid on the baseball field's dirt.

After a millennium, Steve strolled up. Standing over Mike he indifferently asked "Rob?". Mike's agreed, and hoped that Steve would stick out a literal helping hand.

"Pick your head up." was Steve's only help. It didn't help.

"It's hard to hold your head up when you just want to stay on the ground for the rest of your life. No one bothers you there; they just step over you and keep going on their way. But that's how most people are to me." was Mike's response. He didn't move from the semi-ball he had tucked himself into incase of another surprise attack.

Steve held out a hand, and Mike found it in the sky. Pulling him to his feet, Steve said "And that's why Rob and his boyfriends call you 'emo'. Plus, I wouldn't leave you on the ground; I'd add a kick to your ribs before I kept walking."

Some how, Steve and Mike had stayed friends over the rough years of anyone's life. They met in the third grade when they shared Mrs. Applewood for a teacher. They had almost every teacher for the next four years together, and even when they began to switch teachers after every period in eighth grade, they were still put in at least 3 classes together.

But when the High School years started, Mike began feeling a little depressed. He began dressing in all black to match his mood, wrote about death and suicide, and grew his hair over his eyes. This led to most calling him an "emo". Steve on the other hand, never changed, besides his height. Steve wasn't popular or unpopular, athletic or fat, smart or dumb, short or tall, or attractive or unattractive; Steve was the epitome of the average guy. And even though Mike gets murdered every week for being emo, Steve still sticks around.

"And plus, Jenny still loves you."

During Mike's first venture into being an emo, he met a girl named Jennifer. They were one in the same; both wrote and thought about death, both dressed and black, and both wore uncomfortably tight pants. Eventually, the two dated, and for the past two and half years have been going steady, save for when Jen's overly strict parents forced the couple to break up a month into the relationship. Although now Jenny has gone more "preppy", as Mike calls her, they continue their courtship to the dismay of most of the student body.

"True. She's the one bright spot in my black hole existence." Mike always talked like he was a character in one of his stories, even when he answered a question in school.

"And I'm just the space ship that gets sucked into it?" Steve responded, sounding offended, but clearly joking. At least Mike hoped that his assessment was right.

"Yeah, you got sucked in and can never escape as my gravity slowly crushes you." Mike responded, trying to keep a smile and laugh down at his own bad joke.

"Oh well. At least I'm not sucked into your brown hole, which would be something you would enjoy." Steve had anticipated Mike's response and began to sprint towards his car through the ankle high weeds of the old baseball field. Mike had missed with the annoyed push, knocking him off balance, but he was faster than Steve, even with his incredibly tight black jeans constricting his legs.

When Mike caught up to Steve, they were nearly at the dirt road where Steve's car was parked. Mike took a flying leap and landed on Steve's back. Steve, unprepared for the sudden landing of 150 pounds to his back, fell to the ground. Mike made sure Steve's face was pushed into the hard earth after they landed.

Steve didn't realize that Mike had taken the keys from his carabineer that hung from his right belt loop until Mike opened up the 1996 Ford Thunderbird's copper door.

"That last sentence entitles me to drive."

"Fine, go ahead, I don't give a fuck." Steve said, getting up to his knees. As he stood up to his full height he said "You know, for a guy who just got the shit beat out of him, you run pretty damn fast."

"Yeah, well, I'm a giant scab now. I've been beat up for the last two years; there's not much more never damage they can do now." Mike said, starting up the car.


When Mike woke up the next morning, his prediction was right; a large Nike bruise had swelled up right between his seventh and eighth rib. He weaved his way through the mess of clothes and other miscellaneous items on his bedroom floor and sat down on his bed. He held his head in his arms with his eyes closed, and dug his elbows into his knees.

After a few minutes, Mike picked his head up, breathed in, and said softly, so he didn't wake his parents (nor let them know of his weekly beating) "I'm tired of this shit. I'm emo because they beat me up, and they beat me up because I'm emo." He sat in silence, feeling sorry for himself, for the way he turned out, for not being what his parents, and more importantly Jenny, wanted him to be.

"I'm gonna look out for myself for at least today, and hope that things turn out better. I'm just so tired of feeling so bad about myself." Mike promised to his hands. He declared his promise again, only this time to his room loudly before a "Are you okay, sweety?" rose through the floorboards and startled Mike into a slightly shaky affirmative. An explicative escaped under his breath afterwards.

Mike looked on his floor, like he normally did in the mornings for a pair of semi-clean tight jeans to wear. But he stopped; he went over to his closet and looked for something less tight-fitting, but also didn't make him look like he was headed for church. Miraculously, he was successful, and also found an inoffensive shirt to wear. He threw on the clothes, and headed over towards the mirror. He looked at the piercing he had along the tops of his ears, along with the little metal nub that stuck out from the middle of his lower lip. Carefully, he began to remove each one, and placed them on his dresser.

He came back to the mirror, to see if anything else would have to be removed. Yeah, the target on my back, he jokingly thought, the gun in my mouth, and my current social image. But Mike knew he couldn't do any of that; he was just a messed up teenager trying to repair something that was irreparable. But, as Atticus Finch put it "just because we were licked a hundred years before doesn't mean we still shouldn't try".

Mike cleared off the twice used razor blades on his dresser. He wiped them right into the trash can that sat next to his dresser. They fell heavily against the cold, blue metal of the wastebasket, as if they held the last bit of his former self. If only it was that easy to change yourself and wipe away the past.

He took one finally look in the mirror, to make sure he was alright. He then realized he still had a stalagmite of hair hanging in front of his face. He grabbed a pocket knife and tried to butcher it off, but it only pulled the hair at its roots and hurt. "I'll make an appointment after school to get it cut," Mike said, rubbing the sore spot on his scalp. He pushed the hair behind his ear, hoping that it wouldn't look terrible.

The final glance at the mirror showed Mike that there was nothing left to fix on his body. But he looked at the spot where Rob had kicked him the day before; even though the average-looking shirt cover the bruise, Mike still knew where it was. It was a poignant reminder of what he had done that morning; that even though he covered himself in these new clothes, that the old, emo Mike was still lurking underneath somewhere. But bruises go away after a while, right?


"Hey babe!" Mike said as Jenny opened the maroon Mercury's rusty 1980's door. "Wow!" Jennifer said, looking at Mike for a moment before continuing into the car.

"'Wow!', as in 'wow, you look different', or as in 'wow, you look totally awesome and it's great that you're changing and I love you'?" Mike said, giving Jen a kiss before driving off to school.

"The second one." Jennifer said, planting a kiss on Mike's cheek. Mike drove on in silence for a couple of minutes before Jenny posed the question "So...why?"

"Why what?" Mike responded, not taking his eyes off the road.

"Why this change? Why now? Why didn't you cut your hair?" Mike thought that she had more questions, but she didn't blurt them all out, something Mike was thankful for.

"I've decided to be normal for once in my high school career. I'm tired of getting beat up, especially the one yesterday, and I'm -" Mike didn't have a chance to answer the final question before Jenny cut across him.

"A fight? And you didn't tell me?" As good of a kid and girlfriend Jen is, she sometimes had that maternal instinct kick in when Mike was/did something illegal/morally wrong.

Jenny slapped Mike in the ribs, catching half of the shoe print under Mike's shirt. Mike yelped, gripped the steering wheel tighter, and closed his eyes for a second before remembering he was driving. He didn't feel like dieing today.

"Fuck, that was where Rob hit me!" Mike said angrily, as if she would know where he was hit, or still hurting.

But rather than anger coming from Jenny's lips, it was a kiss of sympathy, a sweet hug and the words "Awww, my poor boy". From anyone else's mouth, it would have sounded sarcastic, but the way Jennifer said it, it was real concern, something Mike needed right now.

"So," Mike said, as Jennifer released her embrace, "after I get my haircut, I'm going to go shopping for some regular clothes at the mall. Probably not Ambercrombie, but definitely not Hot Topic." Mike turned to her and smiled at his little joke "You want to come? I'm going to need your help picking out clothes" Mike looked back at the road, awaiting her response.

"Mike, you know I can't go, especially now with that huge Chem mid-term coming up next week. I suck at Chem, and I need to pass it if I want to go on to Physics next year." Mike knew Jenny's schedule very well: after getting out two periods early, Jen went to her job as an EDC attendant, got home at 5:30, took a well deserved nap until dinner, then only had until 9:30 to go out with Mike. Her father was afraid of letting her out past then, because he thought that they would have sex. But the curfew never stopped them.

"Come on, you can skip studying this one night. Look, this is really important to me, and I need your help. If you won't do it for me, at least take it as a chance to go the mall." Mike pleaded. Jenny laughed at the final sentence; she hated going to the mall with her friends or parents, as she saw it for a breeding ground for catcalls and gossip.

"Fine, I'll go with you. But only on one condition; that it's date" Jenny said, smiling as she faced Mike, who mirrored her smile. "God, I love you so much Jen."

Jennifer kept the smile on her face as she said "I love you, too."


Mike showed up at Jennifer's house at the agreed time; 7:30. Mike sat in the car, wallet in his back pocket, and dressed in nicer clothes that he unearthed from his closet. His parents commented on the change Mike had shown; they were especially in love with his new haircut. They said it showed off Mike's handsome face better, although Mike missed having to move it out of his way every once in a while.

After a few minutes, Mike checked the time; 7:36. He looked at the door for half a minute, as if by sheer concentration would the house spit out his beloved girlfriend. Soon he gave up his attempt at ESP, and got out of the car to knock on the door.

As he raised his hand to ring Jenny's doorbell, he heard her laughter. Which wasn't strange to hear; but it was mingled with another laugh that wasn't her dad's or mom's. It sounded younger, and male. Mike's heart stopped; could Jennifer be cheating? No, it could just be a cousin, or young uncle.

But something made Mike not want to touch the doorbell. He began to sweat as more laughter wafted through the door and into the night. Mike didn't want to ring the bell, but he didn't want to find out what was going on behind the house's walls. Finally, Mike gathered enough courage and timidly walked over to the huge picture window in the front of the house. Mike reached the window, and turned his body to get a look around the room he suspected the noise to be coming from. Suddenly, his jaw dropped.

There sat Jennifer, on the lap of an unknown man, holding her face nose to nose with him.
Like this? Want more? Have the need to finish stuff once started? Here's a link to chapter 2!


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2008-03-19 22:47:50

wtf? No comments? Awesome work man!

TheThing responds:

Thanks. Any specific thing(s) that you found to be a problem/awesome?

And if you thought it was a little slow and boring, I understand. It'll get better in Chapter 2. That's when all the action happens.


2008-03-21 22:05:20

I can't really say what parts I thought were awesome and what was lame... It was a bit slow but I can see the next chapter will be an absolute ripper. Keep it up!

TheThing responds:

Alright. Thanks for that.

Chapter 2 will be out by next week. I'll have plenty of time to work on it; I've got to write a speech for April 1st.


2008-03-25 02:20:36

This story was slow at the beginning but then got real potential at the end- Good work!

TheThing responds:

Yeah, I knew as I was writing it was going to start slow. I tried to have good opening, so to try to keep you in for something bigger. And then I didn't want to dribble on in the middle of it, so I could get an explosive ending so you'll be excited for Chapter 2.

Thanks for the positive review


2008-03-25 13:31:56

Tenses! Tenses! Tenses! Tenses! Tenses!

Sort them out! Please!

Also, some of the word choice was a little off. I know saying "After a millennium, Steve strolled up" seems better than after a while, but it just doesn't work as a hyperbole. Likewise with "murdered". Beaten to a bloody pulp would be better.

Plus, is Jennifer such an idiot that she would have an "affair" when she knew her boyfriend was coming over? As cliched as it sounds, you should have him decide to surprise her with a visit or bump into her at the mall, so that she doesn't seem brainless.

Otherwise, it's OK, I'd have to read more to really get it.

TheThing responds:

Sorry, didn't really proof-read it prior to posting.

Meh, whatever. I thought they were good at the time.

I tried to foreshadow that Jen was cheating, when she's been studying for a test for a week or so and didn't want to go shopping, even if it was at a mall. I might be able to clear up the whole time thing by saying that it was daylight's savings, or her clock died or something like that where she would think she had more time then she really did.

And you will have to read more; I didn't want to make this extra long by putting so much into it; then it would never have gotten read. But next chapter, the title will be explained, and it'll be a little more interesting, since there will more drama and tension.


2008-04-07 16:24:30

Pretty good dialogue. I didn't think it was slow, it just had long descriptions and conversation. And you cut off the end of the chapter well. Sometimes people won't end a chapter with enough suspense and tension, but you pulled it off well.

TheThing responds:

Thanks. I think I said it before, but it took me a while to find a suspenseful ending (to keep you guys hoping for a better Chapter 2), but also as a catalyst for what goes down in Chapter 2.


2008-04-07 16:30:33

Well, it doesn't have much going for it.

The writing is, at best, mediocre, tripping many a time over tense and word choice.

It hardly helps that you merely characterized this Mike fellow by pronouncing him 'emo' and describing his mode of dress. People rarely simply dress in such styles if they haven't actually had some kind of problem, so what the fuck has got this kid down?

Now, from here is my opinion on the feelings expressed.

The depressive state is, in this story, being treated as though it is a lackluster life that must be discarded as sson as humanely possible. But here's the thing: I have yet to meet someone who entirely changes their social physique merely for the means of fitting in. When it comes right down to it, this is the ultimate cliche: The one different kid fitting in. But that's the problem. That doesnt actually happen all that much, as there are social crowds in schools. He doesn't want to fit in with those jock asswipes who beat the shit out of them; he'd rather just chill with his emo friends.

Indeed, not all emos are pussies.

I'm sorry, but this is playing off of so many social cliche, I dunno if I want to read more.

You better have a grand plotline in store for this.

TheThing responds:

Sorry, I didn't proof-read it. Looking back, I could probably change some things around, along with a continuous tense.

"I'm emo because they beat me up, and they beat me up because I'm emo." I hope that explains some of it. To slap you in the face with it, he's been teased his entire life, and when High School started, he got those depressed feelings that teenagers get. So those 2 things combined made him cut himself and listen to Linkin Park and Simple Plan. I might have been able to give better clues, but I don't feel like always slapping the reader in the face with background information and metaphors.

Don't worry; I deal with it next chapter.

And this isn't an 80's teen flick, where the nerds play the ultimate prank on the jocks by the end, nor a Columbine-esque fair. Chapter 2 explains everything you need to know about the future, and the final chapter (or close to it) delivers a message to those who feel like Mike does.

But thanks for the review; as I said, most of it is dealt in Chapter 2, and the rest is just editing for grammar and such.


2008-04-23 13:54:37

I love armor for sleep Great Writing!

TheThing responds:

Thanks. Did you check out Chapter 2 yet?