REAL-TIME VIDEO OF DEAD PEOPLE YOU WANT TO HAVE COFFEE
WITH: A NOVELLA
(SERIALIZED AND BROKEN UP INTO SECTIONS FOR YOUR
READING PLEASURE, AS DENOTED BELOW)
Prologues and Stars: 
Ghostboy Dies in Tragic Mishap: 
TO BE CONTINUED IN DIAGRAM 5.1
The rest of the afternoon, while the others dodder
about the place, I can't stop watching my supposed death. When I asked
him to, Tito fixed it to play again and again without being asked, a mantra
that moves in all directions from our Kansas.
The actor is young, a horror genre
unto himself. He is known only as Ghostboy, pale and bony in the cheeks.
Androgynous as ever, he is always referred to as being male because no
one is sure, and he lived in America.
He wears dark fabric that sways loose,
away from the chest. The clip is from The Fear Helix. He
holds his body with the same limp anxiety that he used for Stranger
Death and the serial work he did for television in Hallowed Hours,
but there is something else, a decadent lilt in his movement, a rigor
to his eyes that brings a resonance he never hit in his early work. Always
a conduit for death, even in the first thing he did, there is an extra
gravity this time, in this scene. This time, somewhere in the loose glow
of his cheeks, there is comprehension. He is finally more than scary.
He is on a ladder, in a murky library.
There is a book with cheesy ornamentation perched on a far shelf, lonely
and open, spine down so the pages flutter with breath as he climbs.
By itself, on the web site, the clip has no back-story. In the movie,
the book was a primer for the barrier between life and after-life. Ghostboy
was fetching it for reasons of universal import.
According to the AP article Tito has
attached, the book was meant to explode. It was to flash and smoke, to
pull away from Ghostboy, to curl up in ash. There were to be chemicals
and color, science and mirrors. It was to look brighter and hotter than
it was. It was this stunt that killed him. You can see it start by his
fingers, orange against the blue of the room. It crawls. In his eyes there
is something, still not fear.
Tito included audio. The lines are not from the scene,
but the words are unimportant. The voice itself is all that matters, Ghostboy
at his most famous. His voice is multivalent, a thousand octaves, nasal
and throat. Even uploaded and transmitted, it rumbles and purrs, catches
somewhere in your head, the resonant frequency of dying birds.
I can't do anything about it.
If I speak above a whisper, I am terrifying.
Tito once compared my voice to recordings
of Plath. Wellbutrin disagreed. He said that Plath sounded alive in spite
of herself. He said that I sound the other way around, like I am trying
to talk myself back to life.
We are not old, the three of us. Tito is the youngest.
Twenty-three, last November. Wellbutin was thirty a few weeks ago, the
end of June. I am twenty-seven. March second.
I'm attracted to birthdays for the
same reasons that I am interested in history. I am comforted by growth
At dinner, though I know it will do
no good, I ask Wellbutrin about his name again. I know that Tito's was
Jeremy Watkins. They both know that mine was Theresa Muncie. Only Wellbutrin
won't tell. Only Wellbutrin admits he has anything to hide.
"You know I can't tell you who
I was," he says. "He'd find me."
"It's simple really," Tito
says. He touches Wellbutrin's hand as he talks. "Wellbutrin is claustrophobic
with Plato. Afraid of an archetype, the first self, the first him, pole-catting
around, different than him prime."
Wellbutrin looks stricken enough that
I can't tell if he agrees with Tito's explanation. I watch him until we
are finished and begin to clean up. I think Tito is wrong, that Wellbutrin
just doesn't want to go back to being who he was.
I think about my own name.
We wash dishes, mainly bowls.
There are soup bits and melted ice
cream in the dishwater.
"I was named for my mom,"
I say. "So that I'd be like her."
"Did it work?" Wellbutrin
asks. He looks like he'd believe it, either way.
"My parents are dead," I
"That's the spirit," Tito
But Wellbutin looks uneasy. He moves,
as he always does, with more control than either Tito or myself. Though
I feel close to both of them, there is a simpler complexity to him, a
symmetry to his lack of balance that is easy to relax into. I want to
agree with him and usually do.
Even as we remain silent while we
rub our dishes dry, I know he is right, that I was my parents' daughter,
and that I started out usual, tickled flowers the same as anyone. I know
that, like him — probably Tito too, though he'd never admit it —
who I was would not want anything to do with who I've become.
My first role came at five. There was an ad for extras
on the radio and I talked my parents into it. They were kindly, drove
me to the audition. We were all taken on. My name, my real name, was to
appear on the credits. I was cast in a horror mini-series, as part of
a mob of dead children.
It wasn't like I was a morbid kid.
I knew I wanted to act, but I thought it would be something like Annie,
something with singing. As it turned out, I was good at dead. Better than
the rest. By then I was scared and the makeup and posture was only a tap
into my fascination with other, smaller kinds of death. I was able to
remember a rotting squirrel brought down by my parent's dog. I focused
on the buzz of flies, the skitter of maggots.
And my voice was already something.
The only one of the children that had a speaking part was obviously less
eerie than I was. He was fired a few days into the shoot. They didn't
want to bother the writer, who was on to something else, so they didn't
change the gender.
It turned out I was scarier as a boy.
They listed me as Ghostboy and formed a dizzy legal team to bury the trail,
make sure that I never came out as Theresa.
The mini-series did well and I had
top billing on the posters when it went to rental. Offers came in for
Ghostboy, and my parents found a way to move to California. When they
died, I kept working.
My career lasted almost ten years
— three different action figures — and no one knew my name.
I didn't have to act like a boy because no one knew I wasn't one. I made
good money. I did three seasons of television and nine more movies.
I am in syndication and shown on movie
nights, with other actors who died before their prime.
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