Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 6, 2019

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2019 #88


I wasn't doing myself or anyone sitting in the small space at the social security office any favors by being there. It wouldn't be long before security noticed that I hadn't taken a number by which my case would be called on the overhead speaker. Quite an odd pair the security guards, one six foot four Samoan girl and one five foot six Hispanic young man.
He's talkative, but by his vernacular, he knows his job, and he is former military. I've seen the girl on the local sports channel, she's a beach volleyball player who hasn't received any kind of sponsorship as of yet, so she moonlights here. The room is a hodge-podge of different people of different ages and ethnicities all here for the same purpose. A few people miss their turns by not hearing their number being called because of their lack of understanding of the English language. The security guards are kind enough to calm them down and help them through.

They've finally had a moment to breathe, and they notice it; I don't have a number on a piece of paper like the others. It's the girl who gets up from behind her desk to approach me while the young man watches. The girl is easy to convince, although she's gone through a training course for her job, it still hasn't diluted her inherent cultural upbringing. I see the paper with one letter and three numbers on it, and she sees it too. She shrugs her shoulders and goes back to her desk.

The young man stands up and peers over the desk toward me, and I find that I have to focus a bit harder. His grandmother influenced his belief in superstitions. He sees the letter and the three number series as well. He returns to his seat, and I'm safe.

I have to let another twenty minutes expire before I wait for the clerk at window 5 to meet my gaze. I focus on one letter and the three numbers....A307.....A307.....A307. She leans toward the microphone
and takes a breath.

"A307 window 5?  A307 window 5? "

I stand up from my chair and calmly approach window 5, where I sit in front of her. She speaks to an infinite number of people every day, so I know it will take a few seconds for her to recognize me, but she will.

"Name, please?" She's on automatic pilot. It's all rote for her, it's a routine by which she's memorized the needed series of questions.

"Marcus Hulili," I reply with no tone or inflection. She has to look up at me on her own before anything can happen. I give it a second, and there it is, her eyes see me briefly, and then there's a double-take. There's no smile, her face becomes as expressionless as a corpse. That's when I focus, and I send the image to her mind. She sees her car in the parking lot below the building. She sees her ex-boyfriend from her hometown in Encino, the one she escaped. He's figured out how to wire her Dodge and run the a/c while he waits for her. She sees a knife in his hand. He plans to slit her throat once she's in the driver's seat. She's got fifteen minutes until her lunch break.
I focus harder, and I convince her to ask for a security escort to her car. There, it's all planted in her brain. In her subconscious, I plant the peaceful scenery of gentle waves washing up on a sandy beach. I put that tableau there so that whenever the nightmarish images of her past abusive relationship begin to surface, it will be replaced by soothing images of a lush tropical beach. I thank her for her help, and I excuse myself. The two security guards are rubbing their temples, they've come down with a bad headache. The woman at window 5 will have a horrible migraine by the end of the day, a small price to pay for saving a life.

Where to now? Maybe the department of health?

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