Virgil assured herself that she’d had honorable intentions when she’d first shown up at Robin’s apartment.
Virgil knew where things were heading. This was becoming a relationship. Virgil was 86 years old, and she’d never been in a relationship before. She’d never been able to stay solid for this long. She’d had flings. Virgil had been a regular at Jardin for decades, but she had never had an honest-to-god girlfriend before.
Hold your horses, Virgil. She’s not your girlfriend.
But Virgil knew that a relationship was what Robin was starting to want. It was what Virgil wanted too. Before Robin got anymore attached, Virgil had to tell her the truth. She had to tell Robin that she was dead.
Vol. 1: Overture
By Dawn Saas and Nic Frankenberry
Powered by the Apocalypse and the work of D. Vincent Baker
as well as
Urban Shadows by Andrew Medeiros and Mark Diaz Truman
Microscope by Ben Robbins
The “I’m a ghost” conversation was never an easy one. Virgil had confided that fact in less than eight living humans in the sixty four years since her death and one of those confidants was half fairy. Virgil was uncomfortably aware of how many more people knew some version of the story of Rosie, the vengeful spirit sent to punish wicked men at bars and discos and nightclubs. But Virgil herself had shared her secret with very few. Her fellow dead would have been less than grateful with any more attention.
Virgil chose her conspirators carefully. She was rarely concerned with how they’d take the news. Virgil and Robin had discussed the latter’s time at Hodges and in her fraternity. Virgil figured the girl was adjacent to the Caretakers. Virgil wondered if Robin knew Cecily.
Cecily was 93 years old when she first met Virgil in 1953. She didn’t look a day over twenty four. Cecily wasn’t a ghost, but witches had their own secrets.
No, the biggest source of tension in this inevitable conversation wasn’t the fact that Virgil was an apparition. After Virgil let you run your hands through her body that you’d swear was right in front of you or after you let her gently brush your face while she seemingly faded from existence, it sank in fairly quickly what she was.
The real confession was that any relationship with Virgil was on an unpredictable, often short fuse. How do you tell someone that you want to know them and spend time with them and build a friendship or partnership with them while also asking them to understand that one day, without warning, you’ll be gone and you have no control over when you’ll be back? Try as Virgil might, as desperately as she might want to cling to one brief snippet of life, there would always be a day where she’d blink and wake up weeks… months… years later. Virgil couldn’t promise anyone anything but the now. The present was a currency Virgil gave freely to those who crossed her path and showed her kindness, but Virgil also knew a mortal’s need to build. She could never provide a sturdy foundation.
Virgil had taken the bus home with Robin after their third evening at Jardin. When they got to Robin’s door, Virgil declined Robin’s invitation inside her home.
“I’m so sorry. I really want to stay over but… I’m not feeling well. I ate a… chili dog earlier. I’m feeling a little sick. I’m just going to walk back to Hazelwood.”
Robin looked hurt and confused.
“That would take you an hour. Why don’t you wait inside for a cab?”
“I don’t like taking cabs at night. Too many creeps. Besides… walking calms my stomach down.”
Robin continued to look at Virgil in disappointed but understanding shock.
Virgil put her large, glacial hands against Robin’s face.
“Friday. 6 PM. Kohler’s. Meet me there. Okay? I have something I want to talk to you about. You… I can’t wait to get to know you.”
Virgil drew Robin in for a kiss. Virgil dipped Robin down, and Robin couldn’t believe how much stronger Virgil was than she looked. She looked so frail, but Robin had been held by jock boyfriends in the past with less passion and controlled power.
When Friday came around, Virgil had decided that it was perhaps best to save this conversation about her actual nature for a place more private than Pittsburgh’s most beloved and heavily trafficked botanical garden. Virgil had been haunting cafes and parks in Squirrel Hill all week, and she decided to go to Robin’s apartment at 3, hoping she’d be home. Virgil didn’t have a cell phone and would have never believed in the 1970s or 80s how much she’d grow to miss pay phones.
Virgil knocked on Robin’s door and then remembered Robin couldn’t hear her knocks. Virgil thought maybe Robin had a roommate although she hadn’t mentioned any and maybe she’d hear her knocks, but nobody came to the door and the only noise in the apartment that Virgil could hear was the furious hissing of a cat.
Virgil saw Robin’s “doorbell” and pushed the button. Virgil figured it was also a futile gesture, but it was there and she wanted to talk. Virgil needed to get this secret off of her chest. Still, she heard no bell. She heard no movement in the apartment. The cat’s scream intensified.
Did she ever tell me about the cat? Great. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
Virgil let her body fade away and her spirit turned to move down the now muddled hallway. Virgil’s plan was to sneak into a cab or truck bed and hitch her way down to Schenley Park and the Kohler Conservatory. Virgil was already upset with herself for just showing up at Robin’s home, unannounced. Virgil had been working on her boundary issues. They came with being able to turn invisible and walk through walls. A surprise supernatural confession was not the right tone to start out of the gates with whatever relationship she wanted to have with Robin.
When Virgil reached the end of the hallway, she heard the door to Robin’s apartment open. Virgil turned around. She saw Robin standing in the door of her apartment. She was wearing a blue sundress. Virgil was just watching Robin when she heard Robin say a man’s name, slap her hands over her mouth and then run back into her apartment with a look of anxious terror plastered over her face.
Virgil was zooming back towards Robin’s apartment as soon as the door shut. Virgil reached the door and pushed the doorbell again. Virgil realized Robin had been notified somehow that someone was at her door, and the doorbell made more sense than knocking again. Virgil heard footsteps inside of the apartment. Virgil thought the steps stopped in front of the door, but she was having trouble hearing over the caterwauling feline wail inside the apartment. Virgil thought she heard more movement inside the apartment, but the door didn’t open again. Virgil pushed the doorbell again out of frustration.
“Leave me alone!”
At first, Virgil thought Robin was upset about her not coming inside after their last date, but there was terror in Robin’s voice, and that was when Virgil remembered that she hadn’t rematerialized. Virgil concentrated and felt a body forming itself around the fractured remains of her spirit. It was she was being sewn together at excruciating seams, and the headache would have knocked Virgil out if her conjured body was capable of the more subtle human actions like fainting.
Virgil pushed the button again.
“You Nazi motherfuckers, I said leave me alone!”
The door to Robin’s apartment flew open, and Robin charged forward with her elbows raised like a muay thai martial artist until she realized who was standing at her door.
Robin just stared at Virgil. Virgil could tell that she was on the verge of tears. Virgil almost faded away again. She was overwhelmed with guilt. Virgil had been around for the first Nazis, and she knew how dangerous they were and that they had never gone away. Something was happening to Robin, and she had made it worse.
Robin seemed to wake up from a daze and smiled at Virgil. Robin ran to Virgil and wrapped her in a tight embrace. Virgil awkwardly patted Robin on the back.
“Did you scare them away? Did you see them?” Robin was signing rapidly and with clear gratitude.
“Robin… I…” Virgil’s hands were shaking as she started to sign.
It was at that moment that Virgil realized the cat had stopped hissing. The discordant roar had turned into white noise and Virgil sensed its absence. Just as Virgil noticed the feline silence, she felt sharp claws tearing into her ersatz skin and heard the crazed cat ripping the cloth of her dress. Virgil grabbed the cat by the nape of its neck as it clawed at her face and arms. Virgil felt the cat dig its claws deep into her left cheek before she was able to gently toss it back in the apartment and shut Robin’s door. Virgil heard the crashing thud as Lilian ran into the door and then scratched and hissed.
“Oh my god! Virgil, are you okay?”
Robin walked over to Virgil and saw dozens of deep scratches and claw marks. Robin could see raw flesh but…
“How are you not bleeding?
What are you?”