Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Sep 24, 2022

Lyra 2022

She always had a habit of falling asleep with the computer on.

 It didn't help that she hardly turned it off and that it might overheat. So, of course, she kept the keyboard clean and used a mini air sprayer where she opened up the back of the monitor and sprayed away all the potential dust that might clog everything. She was a ward of the state and received a sizeable check every month; when she was not on her computer, she was shopping, driving around, eating at her favorite places, and exercising as much as she could, but mainly, she was on her computer. That was the center of her universe. She was an online troll with several social media accounts that allowed her to speak her mind in whatever way she pleased and to harass people mercilessly. However, there was one person she latched on to, not to troll, but to help. To give advice to and to share funny stories with. The girl's name was Lyra. Hers was a sheltered life because her parents were so overprotective even though she was already twenty-six and in her last years of college. Social media was new to her; posting, commenting, and interacting was an unexplored territory to navigate. One of Lyra's first things on her profile was a simple picture captioned by a question. 

"Can anyone tell me what this is? I am not certain myself."

She, the troll, was the first to respond. "That's a field of strawberries, like the song,"

"The song?" Lyra replied.

"Strawberry Fields Forever," the troll said.

"I've never heard of it," Lyra was curious.

The troll posted the video on the comment thread. "Here, take a listen."

A few minutes passed until Lyra replied. "That was amazing! Such magical lyrics, so transformative! Thank you so much! I'm Lyra, by the way,"

"I'm Patricia," the troll replied. "And you're very welcome!"

That's how the interaction began, from that one window of being helpful to someone who was as new to social media as a newborn fawn entirely dependent on its mother. The troll hadn't given a second thought to the fact that she had, for the first time online, given her real name to a complete stranger. Soon, Patricia and Lyra spoke online as often as they were logged in. Sometimes, one or the other would be busy with everyday life matters which could not be helped. However, as if by some magical preordainment, Lyra and Patricia always logged on at the same time and would find one another, talking into the wee hours of the following morning. Sometimes, well into the mid-day. Finally, like all moments, the moment came when one or both persons agreed that the time had come to meet in person. I forgot to mention that Patricia's profile looked like this.

And Lyra's looked like this.

The moment had come when they felt it was prudent to meet in person to see what they looked like in a visceral face-to-face. Lyra and Patricia agreed on noon at the local coffee cafe' at the edge of Waikīkī. Patrica waited for five hours, sitting in the restaurant and outside in her car. She contacted Lyra via messenger but no response. Finally, as Patricia was driving out of the parking lot, the messenger pinged on her phone. It was Lyra.

"I'm sorry, I've never done this before, and I am nervous," she said.

"There's nothing to be worried about," the clacking of the keyboards on the phone filled the interior of Patricia's Honda Odyssey. "I'm your friend; you can trust me."

"Alright," Lyra replied. "I'll be there in five minutes; I'll be in a white hoodie with black designs on it."

"I'll be outside," Patricia replied. "In the jeans jacket, my hair is black, but it's beginning to go white at the roots. You can't miss that,"

"You're so funny," Lyra said. "It makes me feel safe; see you in a few."

Filled with excitement and anticipation, Patricia parked and raced back to the cafe' where she ordered another coffee and another set of donuts that she'd intended to share with Lyra. Five minutes passed. Then ten minutes, then an hour. No Lyra and no reply from her on her profile messenger. The second, a defeated and very frustrated Patricia, got home and turned her computer on; she saw the e-mail icon. It was from Lyra.

"I'm sorry," the electronic letter began. "I've been sheltered my whole life, and with overprotective parents, like I have, there is difficulty in doing the most simple things. Meeting you was a kind of rebellion for me. It was exciting to meet someone so strong and independent; that's what I wanted for myself, to be like you, to speak freely without worrying about what might happen if I did so. I was there, I was across the street, and I saw you sitting with your coffee and pile of donuts. I could not help but smile; you looked like a little girl, ready to open her presents on Christmas morning. It was too perfect; I couldn't ruin it or you because of me. Please understand that we can continue to talk online where it's safe; I'm just not ready to meet in person."


The online conversations continued, and Patricia would always circle around, wanting to meet Lyra in person. She'd go quiet, and after a minute, she'd comment, "Tell me about how your day went?" For Patricia, who was a hardened online troll, even she found the situation frustrating to the point where she gave up. She stopped all communications with Lyra. Even when the message icon would open and Lyra would greet her with a hello and a bunch of floating strawberries, Patricia did not respond. Eventually, things went quiet. A month later, Patricia was sitting at the same coffee cafe' at the edge of Waikīkī, sipping on a dark brew while simultaneously trolling a group of people on a Hawaiian History page. They were hot and responded with a lot of expletives. Patricia could not help but laugh.

"Patricia?" A young woman's voice came from behind her.

Turning around, she saw a tall hapa girl with lite colored hair and big green eyes wearing a white hoodie with black designs. "Lyra?" She stood up and hugged her tightly; tears flowed as she pulled back and looked at the person she'd been dying to meet all this time. "You did it; you finally took that step!"

"I'm sorry," the young girl pulled away. "Lyra is my cousin; we found a note on her bed while cleaning her room. It said you could be found here, about this time." The girl removed her phone from her pant pocket and held it up, "I can air-drop it to you."

"Ah, okay," Patricia wiped the tears from her eyes. "I'm sorry, I thought you were Lyra,"

"It's sent," the young girl said. Then, without another word, she turned and left. Patricia looked at her phone and audibly gasped. It was Lyra's obituary.


Later that month, on Wednesday, March 30th, Patricia drove up to what was only supposed to be a graveside service at the Hawaiian memorial cemetery. There was no funeral or wake, only the burial. The location was marked on a map, making it easy to find. However, when she arrived at the spot, she found it empty. No one was there for a graveside service. Maybe she was early or late? She drove back to see the mortician only to learn that no graveside services were scheduled for anyone named Lyra McCandless. Walking back to her car in tears, Patricia began to fall apart. She heaved for air as an ugly sound came from the depths of her soul. Grief, frustration, and unbearable pain genuinely felt like death was the only thing that would take it away. Her phone pinged; it was the messenger. It was Lyra.

"How does it feel not just to be trolled but to be cat-fished, you fucking bitch?!"

"What the fuck?" Patricia whispered in shock.

"You trolled my sister to the point that she killed herself; her name was Lyra,"

The last thing Patricia heard was the high whine of a diesel truck. When she saw it, it was too late. The massive vehicle plowed right into her van and totaled it. She was pinned behind the wheel and couldn't move. It took hours before the firefighters could get her out, but she survived. Unfortunately, no one got a clear look at the diesel truck driver. Whoever it was, got picked up by a car that sped off onto the main road and disappeared into Kāneʻohe. 

Today, Patricia sits in front of her computer watching YouTube videos. She doesn't comment on anything; she simply exists in a vapid vacuum numbing her mind and body to the immediate world around her, such as it is. 

Credit: Medical News Today

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