Hi everyone! This is a long time coming, but here’s the first chapter to Sparked! The title is dumb, I agree, but it’s a working title so that means it’s okay right? Righttttt…. Maybe one day I’ll think of something better. Forgive me for any grammar mistakes–I am currently my own editor (ft. my mom sometimes :p). I’m pretty sure I can go back into these posts and edit them, though, so if you see any “your”s instead of “you’re”s please point them out in the comments! Enjoy!!
Chapter 1: Vincent’s Iced Tea
Vincent was awfully good at running. In fact, the only thing he was good at, really, was running, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to support his friends at the state basketball tournament. Ironically, the game was being held in North Carolina, even though the state title that the two teams were playing for was Virginia’s.
The excuse had been something about all the other facilities being taken for wrestling and swimming. Though Vincent supposed it was nice they finally found this place, he hadn’t been psyched when he walked in with everyone else and stumbled upon a mountain of spiders under the bleachers. Needless to say, this wasn’t the nicest place. The players kept tripping on a basketball court that was unpolished and had uneven floorboards.
But he stood in the unstable bleachers, chewing his nails. It had always been a nasty habit—it increased in vigor and amount in times of stress. The score was not only 46 to 48 with two minutes left, but he had to pee so bad that he was starting to feel dizzy.
The opposing team was Miden High School, where a kid, Colin Vegare, had practically single handedly taken the state title home all three years he’d attended the school. Not once had the score been this close. River Way, Vincent’s own school, had a chance. And there was absolutely no way that his bladder was going to prevent him from seeing that chance transition into success.
Because they were going to win.
One of Vincent’s friends, a boy named Glen, now had the ball, and was sprinting towards the net. “Go Glen!” he screamed as his right eyelid twitched. He was starting to see stars.
His friend shot hastily as defenders crowded around him, and he missed the hoop—it bounced off the back wall.
Nearly all of Vincent’s friends were on the basketball team, so he was standing with Glen’s parents. Glen’s mom turned to him now and asked, “How are you holding up Vincent?”
He’d chugged an iced tea at halftime because no food or drink was allowed in the stands. At the moment, he was very regretful.
“I’ll make it,” he said curtly. He didn’t want to dwell on it.
Miden High scored again with three seconds left, and Vincent both saw and felt their side of the bleachers completely deflate. Another play was started, but to no avail—Colin had brought his team to victory yet again.
Vincent wanted to comfort his compadres, but he was too busy plowing through bodies to get to salvation.
“Run, Vincent, run!” Glen’s mother cried.
The bathroom was abysmal, but at this point he’d take anything. He relieved himself quickly as a large group of people from the game piled into the bathroom, either silent with disappointment or chatting excitedly.
While he was washing his hands in a very old sink, Vincent was rather startled when he looked up in the warped mirror to find a man standing directly behind him. There were a lot of people in the bathroom, but this man was right there.
Vincent jumped in surprise, hitting his hip against the sink. “God. You scared me.”
When he spun back around, the man was looking at him in shock, blinking rapidly. “You can see me?”
Vincent glanced around. Another teenager was washing his hands at an adjacent sink, looking at him oddly. “Um. Yeah man, I can see you,” he said.
The man was tall and older, with gray hair and dark skin. He was wearing a suit, but the outfit was disheveled; his tie crooked and his shirt untucked. Even so, his nice clothing still looked out of place in the disgusting bathroom, or even next to Vincent, who was wearing a t-shirt sporting his school logo and loose Nike shorts. He reached towards Vincent, who tried to back away, but was only met with the sink pressing into his back.
“Who ya talking to?” the teenager at the sink asked as he moved to the rusty paper towel dispenser, moving the crank to dispense the crumpled brown paper.
“What?” Vincent started to gesture to the older guy, but then the man reached out to put a hand on his shoulder.
When his hand connected with Vincent’s shoulder, he immediately felt incredibly ill. He gagged and felt even more dizzy than he had up in the bleachers.
“I can touch you!” the man exclaimed. “I can’t believe this! In all these years…Who are…” He then took in a quick breath, obviously realizing something. “You’re…like me.”
Vincent pushed the man’s hand off of his shoulder, but he still felt queasy. He put both of his hands behind him, against the sink, trying to keep himself from sliding down onto the tiled floor. He tried to make his way to one of the stalls before he emptied the rest of the iced tea from his stomach.
“Hey.” The teenager reached for him.
“Young man?” the man questioned, reaching out to touch his back lightly, and the nausea overwhelmed Vincent—he elbowed through the line of people waiting in line for the sink—he kicked open the stall and tried to—
But all he did was dry-heave. Nothing came out of him except tears from his eyes, even though he knew his stomach wasn’t empty. He stayed in the stall until everyone cleared out.
He managed to stand up straight again after a bit, taking shallow breaths. Then he went back out of the stall, pushing it open slowly. He came face to face with the man, who was hovering outside of his stall.
Vincent flinched, snapping, “What are you doing?”
Before he could say anything else, the bathroom door opened, and in walked Colin Vegare, the only person who could make this even worse. A bouquet of cheers followed him as the door opened and closed.
He was smiling smugly. When he spotted Vincent, the smile widened. “Hey! Aren’t you…” Colin snapped his fingers twice, trying to recall his name. “Johnathans! You’re like me! With all the state titles—wait…hey, you good?”
Vincent stood up a little straighter. He still felt like he’d rather hang out near a toilet, but he was going to do everything he possibly could not to embarrass himself in front of Colin. He moved away from the bathroom stall, and the man moved with him. “Yeah, I’m alright. I felt a little sick for a moment, but…”
Colin cackled, walking over to one of the urinals. He wasn’t even acknowledging the dark-skinned man. Was Vincent going insane? “Was it because of your loss?” He jerked his head towards the bathroom door.
Vincent wanted to punch Colin, but he knew he would probably just bounce off his pectoral muscles. Vincent barely came up to Colin’s chin. So, instead, he narrowed his eyes at the man, who Colin hadn’t seemed to see yet.
The man said, “That boy can’t see me.”
“What?” Vincent snapped, voice hostile, and Colin eyed him, raising his eyebrows.
“What?” Colin snarled back.
Vincent marched over to the man, pushing him into Colin. Maybe resorting to physical violence wasn’t the answer, but he just wanted too—
Simultaneously, he felt even more terrible than he already had been, and the man went through Colin, through the urinal, and into the wall.
“Johnathans?” Colin asked, pulling his basketball shorts back up. “What’s the matter with you?”
The man came back through the wall a moment later, looking pissed. “That was not the way to deal with this. Temper tantrums never resort in anything productive. Now, what’s your name?”
A ghost? Was the man a ghost?
“I’m Peter,” he continued.
“Johnathans?” Colin knocked on Vincent’s head, whistling. “Hellllooo?” The impact of Colin’s knuckle on his skull was enough to get him to focus again, but didn’t make him hate Colin any less.
“Sorry. It’s nothing. Let’s just get out of here, okay?” He moved towards the door, Colin following.
“Wait! Wait, WAIT!” Peter cried behind him, lurching forward. “I can’t leave this place, and no one can see me. No one’s been able to see me for years. Listen—listen—I’m like you! I can help you too, but-but please, you have to help me.”
“Aren’t you gonna congratulate me? For winning?” Colin asked, his tone mocking. Vincent didn’t answer.
He looked back over his shoulder at Peter, who looked about as desperate as all of the River Way supporters had been a few minutes ago. But Vincent didn’t want to go back over there. It would mean that there was something wrong with him.
I’m sorry, he mouthed, and let the door close behind him and Colin.
Vincent was listening to his priest preach when the guilt became too much. The homily on Sunday, the day after the game, was all about loving your neighbor and helping your neighbor have the best journey to heaven. He was on his knees, hands clasped together, pads of his fingertips pressed together. The pressure between his hands built as the phrase best journey to heaven replayed over and over again in his head.
The moment his family got home from the Mass, he practically catapulted out of the family van and into his own car.
“Vincent?” his mother asked, not having even gone through the front door yet. “Where are you going?”
“Just a drive! Maybe to Glen’s! Who knows! I’ll be back by tonight!”
His mother and younger sister looked at him with puzzled expressions as he careened out of his driveway.
What if that was the second coming of Jesus, and I left him in that bathroom? But he had said his name was Peter. And he was black. Well, wasn’t Jesus technically black, and everyone just white-washes him in the Bible? But his name was Peter. But Peter was a dude in the Bible, right? Or he could be JESUS.
Vincent parked diagonally in a parking space in his rush, barely remembering to grab his keys as he ran towards the sports center. The front door was locked, but luckily there was a youth wrestling competition happening, so he snuck through a back door with a crowd of parents.
He hurried back to the bathroom, but when he opened the door, it was empty. Vincent immediately panicked. He had probably hallucinated the whole thing. He’d needed to pee so bad that the pressure had blocked airflow to his brain.
He checked under all the stalls, seeing no one. He moved back towards the door once he was finished, and called hesitantly, “P-Peter?”
“YOU!” The man practically exploded out of a closed stall door (of course, he went right through it) and jumped over to him. Vincent yelped and crashed into the wall. He was quite spry, for an older man. Ghost. Man ghost. Jesus? “You came back!”
“Yes,” Vincent said, eying the door. He didn’t want anyone else to come in here and think he was talking to nothing. “I’m, um—I’m going to help you? What do you need me to…?”
“I’ve been stuck in this bathroom for a long time. I can’t leave. Maybe you can…?”
“What?” He was really starting to doubt that Jesus would decide to come back to Earth in this bathroom.
Peter reached out and took Vincent’s hand. He immediately felt ill. “Try to leave,” he instructed.
Vincent stumbled towards the bathroom door, his stomach churning. He pulled open the door, of course coming face to face with a kid in a wrestling singlet on the way to the bathroom. He elbowed the kid out of the way, trying to lead Peter around him, but apparently he didn’t need to worry, because Peter just went right through him.
Peter whooped in delight. “I’M OUT! You got me out!” He hugged Vincent, who was feeling more and more sick. There were a few people in the hallway, but he paid them no mind as he sunk to the floor. Peter finally let go of him. “I’m so sorry, I don’t—”
“Are you alright?” someone in the hallway asked, and Vincent managed to sit up.
“I just felt dizzy for a moment. I’ll be alright in a sec.”
He looked up at Peter.
This man was definitely not Jesus.