The problem isn’t that there’s a ghost standing in front of me or that I have to help him move on. I’ve gotten used to that since Jin spared my life and turned me into his ghost-ferrying, soul-reaping apprentice.
The problem is that I know him.
Roger Lowry goes to my school. Or, he did, I guess.
He was in my chemistry class last year. We were lab partners. He’s only seventeen and now he’s dead, his body crumpled over his steering wheel. His ghost is looking at me with the lost expression common of the recently deceased. It’s one they all wear, even before they realize they’re dead.
“My car,” he says, eyes flicking to the tangled mess of metal that used to be his black BMW. “My parents are going to kill me.”
If Jin were here, he’d probably laugh at that. For the first time since I got the text message telling me to go this one alone, I’m almost glad he’s not here. Almost. Except that inside the car I can see far too much mangled flesh for my liking, and I wish I could hang back and let Jin do the dirty work. I’m not squeamish but it’s not pretty. Roger is only seeing the car for the moment, blind to the thing he doesn’t want to see.
“I think they’ll understand,” I say. I’m pretty sure they’re going to have bigger things to worry about.
Roger looks at my car, parked on the shoulder across the street and creases his brow. “Wait,” he says, tilting his head. “What are you doing out here, Drea? You weren’t at Matt’s party.”
It’s a reasonable question. It’s six in the morning on a Saturday in the middle of June. We’re standing on a curved underpass beneath the mostly-empty freeway. I’m wearing clean clothes, jeans and a t-shirt, not the sort of thing that would suggest I just came from an all-night party like Roger did.
Roger’s car slammed headfirst into the cement wall of the underpass, crushing the front so the hood is almost non-existent, meaning he truly lost control. I’m guessing he wasn’t sober. His accident is hidden from the freeway but it’s only a matter of time before someone notices. It’s taking all of my willpower not to dial 9-1-1. It feels wrong not to call the authorities.
Although in a way, I am the authority here. Besides, it’s not like it’ll do Roger any good at this point.
“Just passing by,” I lie.
Roger ignores me, and steps closer to examine the damage. And then it happens: he spots his body. His face contorts, twists into the most pained, awful expression I’ve ever seen. “Is that… Who is that?”
He knows. I watch the realization dawn on him. Having been out of my body for a panicked two minutes once, I know the feeling all too well. But I got a reprieve and he’s not going to.