about the author

Kevin Richard Kaiser has published fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and music internationally: in print, online, and on disc. He also works in film and performance. He holds a PhD from Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona and an MFA from Chatham University in Pittsburgh. His book, An Ethics Beyond: Posthumanist Animal Encounters and Variable Kindness in the Fiction of George Saunders, is currently available. For more information, visit his Web site at kevinrichardkaiser.com.

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Ghost, or How I Finally Met the Werewolf

Kevin Richard Kaiser  

Someone is knocking at the window. I’ve closed the blinds, so I’m thinking it must be the werewolf that lives in the backyard. I’ve never seen him, of course, but I know he’s there. He only comes out at night. Then I think, don’t be stupid, a werewolf wouldn’t knock. Still, I’m a little spooked, so I turn off the light, raise the blinds slightly, and peek out. It’s her.

A full moon has risen to the left, like part of my thoughts. The wind blows as if it has been blowing forever.

I’m about to slide open the window, when I wonder, how’d she get past the werewolf? Then I remember she’s dead.

I slide open the window.

“What are you doing here?” I ask.

“Can I come in?”

“I thought you were dead.”

“Do I look dead?”

Well, no, she looks alive because she looks pretty much the same except kind of translucent. And dead people don’t move or talk. Except in the movies.

“You’re not a zombie,” I say.


“A vampire? You asked me if you could come in.”

“I’m not a vampire.”

“So, you’re just a ghost then. Like, a regular ghost.”

“You’re exactly the same.”

I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, but I’m relieved she’s not some kind of trendy undead.

I pop out the window screen, and she floats in, flies over the bed, and hovers at the foot of it. I sit there in my boxers, staring at her, fascinated that I can see my Scandinavian metal vinyl collection through her: beyond her feet is Valknut; her stomach, Ni∂stang; her head, Blót. She’s wearing what looks like a white prom dress, and her face is coated in makeup, like the kind prissy women wear, stuff she never would’ve worn when she was alive—but that she was wearing, I think, in the casket, not that I looked too closely—but even all this is translucent.

The way she died was I had thought she was just hanging out with Pete’s—Pete is our guitarist—girlfriend, Sybil, who is a witch. I mean, she’s Wiccan. I shouldn’t say our guitarist, since I’m not in the band anymore, not since she died and they—Pete and Paul and Fat Matt—changed their name from Svartsjuk to Black Desire, which is kind of a questionable name for a metal band if you think about it, since you can understand it two ways. They all came to the funeral, which was obviously awkward; we haven’t spoken since, except for a few phone calls. So, like I said, I thought she was just hanging out with Sybil, but apparently they were all partying without me, since I don’t drink, I guess. I mean I guess that’s why they were partying without me, not I guess I don’t drink. I mean, all of them were there, not just she and Sybil but Pete and Paul and Fat Matt. That was the real reason we broke up. I don’t know if the band knows that, but for sure it was not because she was drinking, which meant she had lied, but because she had told me she had done “almost everything” with Fat Matt, claiming that because she was drunk, she didn’t know what she was doing. With Fat Matt. Seriously.

I remember when we broke up because it was the same week as Halloween, maybe like a day before or something because I remember going to the carnival alone. Anyway, the way she died was I thought from alcohol poisoning—her parents were just calling it an accident—but then I heard from Roger at Untamed Records of all people that he’d heard she’d also been taking pills, he didn’t know what kind, which for some reason didn’t shock me as much as the drinking thing. So, you can understand why I asked what I didn’t ask her right away but knew I had to ask, eventually.

“Why did you come here?”

“Because I wanted to see you.”

“Why? I thought you’d want to see Fat Matt.”

“Stop calling him that. He’s not fat.”

“Yeah, but still. Why would you cheat on me with him?”

“I’m sorry, okay.”

“Yeah, well, sorry you’re dead. You do know you’re dead, right?”

“I miss you.”

I don’t know how to respond. It’s not the kind of thing you’re supposed to say to someone who broke up with you because you cheated on him, although I’m sure that happens often. Which is precisely why she said it, I guess.

She floats over to the shelves and reaches for an album. I’m thinking I should ask her.

“Careful,” I tell her. No one touches the vinyl but me. She knows this. “Which one do you want?”

“I want to hear ‘Hey Jude.’”

Out of all the records I own, she wants to hear one of my dad’s. Which is the same one she always wanted to hear. I find the one with the cover where three-quarters of the band look like bearded hipsters, flip it to side two, and start the record player. The needle drops, and after a brief hiss, the “Heeey” comes in. We listen until the third verse.

“I have to know,” I say as Paul orders Jules not to be afraid because he was made to go out and get her. “Did you mean to?”

“Mean to what?”

“You know. Die.”

For some reason she finds this funny because she laughs, that laugh that starts all high-pitched and then lowers into a “huh, huh, huh.” She always covers—covered?—her mouth when she laughs. Her upper jaw kind of stuck out over the lower one. I never really thought about why she covered her mouth, but I guess now I can understand why.

I’m standing by the record player. She’s still hovering. I remember kissing her. I remember how it felt. The pressure and the warmth, and the way she sometimes bit my lip.

“What are you thinking?” she asks.

I always hated that question. Instead of telling her what I’m thinking, I keep pressing, trying to get her to admit the truth.

“Suicide. Was it suicide? That’s what I have to know. Because if it was, I would hate to be the reason.”

She finds this even funnier; her hand is in front of her mouth again. Then she’s choking, and finally she catches her breath. I wonder how ghosts can talk and laugh and choke if they’re not actually breathing.

“I saw my dad,” she says. “He was crying.”

“Well, that’s not surprising.” Although maybe it is, considering how he was.

“When I was younger,” she says, and I know what she’s going to say next: I thought this song was about Judas Iscariot, “I thought this song was about Judas Iscariot.”

“I know.”

“I told you?”



I don’t want to remind her that she told me that story whenever she came over crying, which, the first time, was cool because it was like, I comforted her. I don’t know. It was like I was powerful in this consoling way, as dumb as that sounds. But then by the fifth or sixth time I guess, I was thinking of all the things I could be doing instead of comforting her. And it was always because of her dad, which was hard for me to understand because even though he was a religious freak, when he was around me he never acted like how he did when she was telling me, again, about what he’d called her or what he’d done, and we’d be sitting there, outside the house so my parents wouldn’t hear her crying and sniffling because I didn’t want them to know, while she grated her knuckles on the asphalt and sobbed that maybe her dad was right, that she was going to hell. And then she’d end up telling me that “Hey Jude” story, which always made her laugh, because she had thought her dad was listening to a song about Judas Iscariot, until she realized it was written for John’s neglected kid. No matter how many times she told me, she always forgot.

I never noticed how the song sounds like a dirge.

“You miss me?” I ask.

“Of course.”

“I didn’t think you did. Would. What about Fat—I mean, Matt?”

“What about him?”

“Do you miss him?”

“Why would I miss him?”

“I miss you.”


She looks ridiculous, swaying in that white dress, her face caked in makeup. She always dressed more vintage, like the sixties. Like a slightly less sloppy Janis Joplin.

Then it occurs to me she didn’t cry before asking to hear the song this time. She laughed and said she saw her father crying. This has to mean something, but I don’t know what.

“What does it mean?” I ask.

She dances, spinning in circles, like a whirlwind, as if I haven’t asked her anything.

The song is getting repetitive, and I really want to listen to something more prog, like “All Dead Men Should Be Burned,” by Evighet.

But then the song reaches that part where Paul starts screaming, and for some reason I want to scream with him. Why won’t she answer me? But instead of asking that, I ask:

“What am I supposed to do?”

She drops her arms and seems to kind of droop, like I’ve exhausted her with my questions.

“About what?” she asks.

“I don’t know. Life. I mean, what am I supposed to do now? Am I supposed to change or what? What happens now?”

“You’re exactly the same.”

“How is that possible?”

“Are you alive?”

I’m staring at the floor, at a pile of black shirts with a bunch of different band names on them, and black jeans, and the boxers with the yellow circle happy faces with bleeding bullet holes in what I guess is supposed to be a forehead.

She leans over me, still hovering, and I want to bite her lip, and I try, not really thinking about it, but I pass through her face or past her face, I don’t know which because my eyes are closed, maybe she dodged me, and I almost fall on my face, catching myself on the desk chair.

“Sorry,” she whispers.


And I don’t know if she means sorry I couldn’t kiss her or sorry she’s a ghost or sorry because now she’s floating out the window, not even saying goodbye.

I climb on the bed and, forgetting about the werewolf, stick my head out, searching for her translucent form against the moon and the couple of stars that remain visible amidst the city lights. The werewolf howls, but I’m not afraid.

“I just don’t want my fangs too long,” I say.

And he emerges from behind the avocado tree, his tongue hanging out of those jaws, a gentle paw waving at me in greeting, like an old friend who knows you too well—better than you know yourself.

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