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spirit

mactoberfest

S'nobody

Misheel Batkhuu
Oct. 27, 2021, 12:17 p.m.

“They say, the ghost of Benjamin Sullivan comes to life on the night of Mactoberfest to haunt the fresh souls of WLMAC.”
“I heard, Sullivan was Mackenzie’s arch-nemesis throughout his entire life, and even in death, the two have never stopped trying to destroy each other’s legacies.”
“I heard, that because Mackenzie arrested Sullivan way back in the day, Sullivan wears the biggest chains that go clank… clank… clank…”
“I heard, Sullivan only likes the taste of grade 9 souls.”
“I heard that Sullivan best likes the taste of grade 9s who don’t work on math in math class.”

We looked up to see the owner of the shadow, Mr. Nelson towering over us. “Mactoberfest comes and goes,” he grumbled, “and so do failures.” I panickedly attempted to cover my scrap work, a pathetic effort at drawing what was supposed to be a simple line relation. “You might want to fix that before tomorrow’s test, Bella.” He had seen it. Darn. The burn in my ears deepened as he passed by my chair to check on the next table of victims. “It’s okay Bella,” Cat reassured me, “Only Marlie actually does good in this class anyway.” She gestured her head towards the serene-looking, spectacled kid at the back of the class before bringing her attention back to me. “So what are you dressing up as?”
“Huh?”
“You know, for Mactoberfest? I heard that here at WLMAC, Halloween is taken ultra seriously.”
“Oh… I don’t know. Probably as myself?”
“Ewww. That’s freaking boring. I’m dressing up as a black cat.”
Figures.
“I guess I’m gonna be a ghost then.”
“Oh, that’s actually sick! Are you gonna wear some fancy material cloak or something?”
Expectations, expectations.
“No. I’m wearing my old white hoodie that says ‘Snowbody.’”
“Aw… I guess that’s all you got, huh.”
“Uh-huh.”
Cat knitted her eyebrows as if to say I was being lazy without actually saying it. I didn’t mind, though, I knew it myself. I couldn’t care less about Mactoberfest or about ghosts. But, wearing an oversized white hoodie that questioned my existence for the sake of the day, it wasn’t too much to ask.

That night, after hours of struggling over math, I decided the struggle was not worth it and dragged myself into bed at 2 am. My dreams weren’t much better than my reality. Thoughts of the impending test the next day, and of how Mr. Nelson might just summon the ghost of Sullivan to be rid of me, the worst grade 9 student in William Lyon Mackenzie CI’s long and legendary history of terrible grade 9 math students, flooded my brain, threatening to suffocate me. My heart jolted when a wicked face that must have been Sullivan obscured my dream vision. His long spindly fingers reached out for me like spiders for prey trapped helplessly in their cobwebs. I tried to scream but choked instead as the icy cold hands, shackled by chains, wrapped around my throat. Sullivan’s eyes bulged with intensity and fervour, delight at finally dangling the life of a Mackenzie niner over a cliff. I squeezed my own eyes shut in fear, to spare myself some terror as I prepared myself for the defining snap in my neck. The burst in my chest came first. So painful and so sudden that I was launched out of the nightmare. I was back in my bed. In the dark, but in safety. It was just a dream… just a dream… I told myself, hoping that enough repetition would make it believable. Somehow, I eventually managed to slip off consciousness until morning.

Sizzle sizzle… bacon. I gingerly hopped out of bed into the crisp morning air, pulling on the old ‘Snowbody’ hoodie I had promised Cat I would wear. At least it would keep me warm.
From downstairs, I could hear Tommy already wolfing down his breakfast, the clatter of dishes as my parents warned him not to choke. Choke. That word had a whole new meaning now, but I chose not to ponder over it. “Mom?” I called as I approached. It was Dad who came running up, seemingly to greet me, except that he plowed right past, a look of angst on his usually bright face. “What’s up?” I tried to ask, but he was already gone, somewhere in one of the bedrooms. Mom came up next, also looking grim. “Heart must have stopped in his sleep,” she was muttering, and my blood ran cold. Could it be that Granny had finally kicked the bucket?

I guessed I would ask Tommy.

As I neared the dining room table, I realized that what was probably supposed to be my bacon was starting to burn in the frying pan. Eh, I thought, it’s not like I like bacon anyway. I grabbed an apple and without looking back to ask Mom or Dad to confirm the depressing news, headed out the door.

At school, everyone was in a much more festive mood. Witches, Count Draculas, mummies, Frankensteins, creepy dolls, and devils alike swamped the halls. SAC was clearly up all night because the school itself was revamped in every way possible. Fancy banners hung from every doorway and cobwebs lay strewn across the floor tiles and in between drawn cracks on the walls. From the ceiling hung sparkling orange and black streamers, and it was under one especially ornate cluster that I found the black cat I had been looking for.

“Cat!” I yelled. She didn’t seem to hear me. I ran up to her, waving wildly. “Cat! I’m wearing the hoodie. Just like I promised.” Cat shook her head, the eyeliner-drawn whiskers across her cheeks twitching annoyedly. “Unbelievable,” she grumbled. I stood, frozen, as she pushed past me and towards the cafetorium. Was the problem that I hadn’t put on ghost makeup like she had put on cat makeup? That was a dumb reason to get so angry. My eyes stung. It felt pretty crappy to be ignored so much within less than two hours. A drop of liquid threatened to abandon the protection of my eyelids. I sniffled. Gosh, I needed some privacy. Dropping my apple, I made for the girls’ washroom on the second floor. The one nobody ever visited in the morning.

Cracked glass. This is me, I realized. Hopeless. Unimportant to my parents, a disgrace to my math teacher, and an irritation to my best friend. I splashed cold water onto my face. Some drops splattered onto my hoodie. It was cold. But not nearly as spine-chilling as when I heard the chains.

Clink. Clink. Clink.
They were heavy… they must belong to someone who can carry their weight… or someone who has carried their weight for a hundred years…

Clink. Clink.
I thought it was just a legend.
Clink.
I turned around.

I was looking into the piercing eyes of a frail old man. His cheekbones would have won him a fine part in a Russian ballet, his long and nimble extremities too, were it not for the occasional limp with which he walked. I could see the heavy metal watch just barely fastened on. That must have been where the sound came from. I knew better than to ask him what he was doing in the girls’ washroom. The antique dusty suit and time-worn mask of a face were all too real and terrifying to be costumes. But this wasn’t Benjamin Sullivan. This man, I recognized. It was William Lyon Mackenzie.

The ancient politician regarded me fiercely, as if waiting for me to beg for his mercy. He didn’t need me too. I was already on my knees. “I’ll try harder in math!” I blurted, “I’ll actually listen to Mr. Nelson, and if I flunk today’s test, I swear I’ll take it to my parents. No more forging signatures.” Mackenzie didn’t budge from towering right over me. “Please!” I pleaded, “Anything. I’ll do anything, just don’t consume my soul!”
This brought on a raspy chortle, but he didn’t back up. Instead, he cleared his throat, rearranged his wristwatch with a clink, and then, finally, he spoke.

“Young one,” he began, “do I look like someone who would murder the students of the very school that bears my name?”
Frankly he did. The man didn’t wait for me to respond, however.
“You think so, huh? Well then, allow me to share with you my wisdom.”
He stepped forward with another awful clink. I hoped the hoodie was concealing my terror.
“For a century I have been dead. Watching the living. Observing what we have in common,” clink, “and what is so discriminant.
“Over the course of my research, I have come up with three conclusions.
“One, that the saying that only the dead see the end of war is false.”
I didn’t even know there was a saying like that. Mackenzie seemed to find its inveracity exceedingly depressing, though, by the hardness at which he scratched his head.
“Two,” he continued in his raspy voice, the clinks sounding on his wrist as he got excited, “only the dead cannot die.”
Now wait a minute, what did that have to do with anything? The pieces came together just as Mackenzie raised his index finger up to make a point. Clink.
“And three. Only the dead may see the dead.”


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