by Kelly Lee
Melanie has been chatting with a new friend... Or has she been chatting with his ghost?
The chime sounded on her phone. She swiped the screen and looked at the notice. Someone was messaging her. She tapped the screen.
CALVERA150: Hey! Wanted to say hi! Thought we could talk?
One of her friends on her social account. She traded jokes and the like with this person, and he seemed likeable. But she had never given much thought about a private chat. So, she hesitated. Did she engage the conversation? Or did she just blow him off?
MELANIEJ: Can we talk later? I'm at work right now.
CALAVERA150: Sure. Sorry, I didn't realize you were busy!
MELANIEJ: No problem. Try me this evening, okay?
CALAVERA150: What time?
MELANIEJ: Say around seven pm?
But, at seven o'clock, he didn't message her. She just figured he was either not interested or he'd gotten busy.
CALAVERA150: Hey... sorry about last night. Got caught up in work of my own. By the time I was able to quit, it was late and I didn't want to bother you.
MELANIEJ: That's alright.
CALAVERA150: Are you at work now?
MELANIEJ: I'm on a break.
CALAVERA150: Cool. I really like your photographs!
MELANIEJ: Thank you. It's my hobby.
CALAVERA150: It should be your job! They are really fucking amazing.
MELANIEJ: Thank you for saying so.
CALAVERA150: So, what IS your day job? :) Your profile doesn't say.
MELANIEJ: I work at the public library.
CALAVERA150: Awesome! I love books too!
MELANIEJ: Really? You didn't strike me as a bookworm. :)
CALAVERA150: Yep. Love books. Who's your favorite author?
MELANIEJ: Too many to count!
CALAVERA150: LOL! I hear you on that!
MELANIEJ: I read too many! My Mom is always telling me to do something else besides read. I tell her I'm having fun!
CALAVERA150: Yes! What genre of books do you read?
MELANIEJ: History, Sci-fi/Fantasy, Horror
CALAVERA150: Wow! I'm trying to write a book, but I'm not very good at it.
MELANIEJ: Keep trying! You'll get it! My break is over, talk later?
CALAVERA150: Sure! For sure by seven tonight!
MELANIEJ: Hey yourself! What's a-goin' on?
CALAVERA150: Oh, nothing much. Just chillin'.
MELANIEJ: So, we talked about books, what about music?
CALAVERA150: I like hard rock and metal.
MELANIEJ: Hard rock is cool. I also like classic rock.
CALAVERA150: Oh, yes!
MELANIEJ: I didn't have lul-a-byes when I was a kid. I had rock music! LOL
CALAVERA150: Me, too!
CALAVERA150: What about pets? Have any pets?
MELANIEJ: I have a Chihuahua and a cat.
CALAVERA150: I have a Pit Bull.
MELANIEJ: Oh, Pit Bulls are so pretty! But my apartment only allows small pets.
CALAVERA150: Aww. :( That's too bad.
Then, a photo of a white, spotted Pit Bull popped up. The pretty blue eyes stood out against the pink of the pup's face.
CALAVERA150: This is Maisey.
MELANIEJ: She's beautiful! What a cutie!
CALAVERA150: Let's see that Chihuahua!
She hesitated. Should she? She didn't want trouble, but where was the harm in sharing a photo of her dog? She snapped a picture of the pup lying on the couch next to her, snoozing. Then she posted it.
CALAVERA150: Awww! How cute!
MELANIEJ: Thank you.
CALAVERA150: How old is she?
MELANIEJ: She's five years old.
CALAVERA150: Massey is two.
MELANIEJ: She's a cutie. Hey! Where do you work? I mean, what's your job?
CALAVERA150: I work in construction.
MELANIEJ: Oh, a very taxing job, yes?
CALAVERA150: Very. But it depends on the jobs.
This time another picture came up. A handsome man sitting on a couch in jeans and a t-shirt, smiling at her. The caption read "This is me."
CALAVERA150: Hey, I hate to cut this short but I gotta get up super fucking early tomorrow for a new job. But it was great talking to you!
MELANIEJ: No problem, get some rest! Talk when you can!
Melanie hadn't heard from him in a couple of days. She had figured it was because he was busy on the job. Then, she mentally kicked herself for being that girl. The one who waited to hear from a guy and got antsy when she didn't.
So, she just let it be. If she heard from him again, fine. If not, then that's fine too. And she went on with her day as usual. When he didn't message her again, she was only slightly worried. A little voice in her head nagged at her that there was something amiss. But she chalked it up to being that girl and she still decided to let it be.
The phone chimed in her hand, but it was not a message. It was her girlfriend, Stacy. "Hey, what's up?"
"Wanna go hang out?" Stacy asked.
"Sure, where at?" Melanie replied.
"Uhm, how about Area 15?"
"Cool, what time?"
Stacy paused for a moment. "It's five o'clock now? How about I pick you in, oh, say, forty minutes?"
Melanie stood from the couch. "Great, I'll be ready!"
DAY 6, 1 AM
MELANIEJ: Hey back atcha! Busy yesterday?
CALAVERA150: Yup! Work work work!
MELANIEJ: LOL! :)
CALAVERA150: How are you?
MELANIEJ: I'm good. Just got back home. Went out with my friend Stacy.
CALAVERA150: Cool! Where'd ya go?
MELANIEJ: Area 15. There was a band playing there called Cherry Bomb. They weren't bad. I mean, they weren't Ravenscar, but they were decent.
CALAVERA150: Holy fuck! You like them??
MELANIEJ: Love them!
CALVERA150: Awesome! Hey, you're probably tired, so I will let you go. I'm working a full day tomorrow, but I will try to message you. Okay?
MELANIEJ: No problem! Good night!
He ended the message with emojis of a heart and a kiss.
MELANIEJ: Hey! Been busy?
CALAVERA150: Uh, yeah. Sort of.
She frowned at the screen. Sort of? What did that mean?
MELANIEJ: What's wrong?
A long pause. Had she asked something that was personal to him? She was only asking what was wrong out of concern.
CALAVERA150: There was an accident at the job site.
She let that sink in.
MELANIEJ: Oh, God! What happened? Are you okay?
CALAVERA150: Yeah, I'm fine, but three of the guys died.
Her hand went to her mouth. No wonder he hadn't messaged!
MELANIEJ: OMG! I am so, so sorry! What happened?
CALVERA150: An explosion. One of the sand-blasters blew up. It blew that pressured air every-fucking-where, and a lot of us were kinda burned. But those guys, man. They were my buddies.
She sat stunned. She knew about sand-blasters. Her father had been working in construction many years ago, and many a time he came home with abrasions on his arms and hands.
MELANIEJ: You aren't too badly burned, are you?
CALAVERA150: No... but you know, the whole thing happened so fast, I don't remember much.
MELANIEJ: Maybe that's a good thing. That sounds very traumatic. So, you haven't been at work, then?
CALAVERA150: No, I’ve been at home, resting. I spent the day before yesterday sleeping.
She could see that. Trauma wiped one out. Sometimes, rest was the best for it.
MELANIEJ: I'm sure you did. Maybe you should just take it easy for a while?
CALAVERA150: Yeah. They do want us to come back, but not for a few days.
MELANIEJ: It's probably better that way.
CALAVERA150: Yes. And I really need to go lay down. For some fucking reason, I just need to close my eyes. But I wanted you to know that I am okay.
MEALNIEJ: Of course! Chat again when you feel better.
CALAVERA150: Melanie? Something is wrong.
She stared at the message. This time he sounded... scared.
MELANIEJ: What's wrong?
CALAVERA150: My parents were here yesterday, but they acted like they didn't even know I was here. Today, my sister and landlord were discussing whether they should leave the apartment furnished or have an estate sale.
An estate sale?
CALAVERA150: Melanie, please. I don't know what is happening! Everyone is acting like I am not here! I'm fucking scared!
MELANIEJ: Calm down. Listen, do me a favor, just sit and try to calm down.
CALAVERA150: Okay... okay, calming down.
MELANIEJ: Are you sure you weren't injured severely?
CALAVERA150: I don't think so... I mean my arms hurt and my face burns, but I am whole.
She thought for a moment.
MELANIEJ: Are you sure you are not in a hospital, in a coma?
A long pause.
CALAVERA150: Like a fucking out-of-body type thing?
MELANIEJ: Exactly like that.
CALAVERA150: I don't... I can't remember what happened!
She'd heard about this, now that she thought about it. Sometimes, coma patients had out-of-body experiences. And sometimes they couldn't remember what had happened to them. Perhaps, that was what was happening here?
She made a decision.
MELANIEJ: Okay, stay there. I'm gonna see what is going on. What's your sister's name?
CALAVERA150: Teresa. Teresa Calavera.
MELANIEJ: Okay. Hang in. For now try to rest, and be calm. It may be tomorrow before I can get back to you.
CALAVERA150: Okay. Please find out. I'm fucking scared!
She ended the message. How was she going to find out something without upsetting people?
AFTER much fishing, Melanie found his sister. She'd called her, asking to speak with her about her brother. She gave her the address of the apartment Calavera150 lived at. When she arrived at the nice complex off of Osuna Road, she had a queasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. What was she going to find there? What would she learn?
Pulling into the parking in front of the complex he lived in, Melanie got out of the car and headed up to the second floor. Finding the right apartment, she knocked on the door.
A petite, dark haired, dark eyed woman answered, her eyes swollen from crying. "Are you Melanie?"
"Yes," she replied. "I am."
She nodded. "I'm Teresa, come in." She motioned to the couch. "Please, have a seat. I am taking care of some business with the lawyer. The call shouldn't last too much longer."
Melanie smiled at her. "That's fine, take your time." As she sat on the nice sofa, she scanned the neatness of the room. Indeed, there were bookshelves full of books and CDs. A large flat-screen TV graced the wall, and a nice stereo system sat next to it. She glanced over at Teresa sitting at the small dining table, in the small but neat kitchen.
Her phone chimed.
CALAVERA150: Oh! You're beautiful
What? She looked around, noticed Teresa coming back toward her.
"Did you know Javier?"
Javier... his name was Javier. But,
Melanie didn't know how to answer that. Know him? She shrugged. "We met
on our social media group, began chatting." She looked up at Teresa. The next few words would be a bit of a lie, but she needed to confirm her suspicions. "We were supposed to meet for the first time a few days ago. That’s why I contacted you. I hadn’t heard from him in days. I was worried."
Teresa nodded at this. "Then, I am sorry you didn't get to know him better. He was a wonderful man." A tear rolled down her face. "Did he tell you about his love of books?"
Melanie smiled. "Oh, yes. In fact he was very excited when I told him I worked at the library."
Teresa laughed. "That sounds about right." She looked over at the bookshelves. "I guess he won't be needing the books anymore." The woman looked over at her and smiled. "Since you and he loved books, I would be happy if you picked a few and took them with you."
Melanie was taken aback by this. "Are-- Are you sure?"
Teresa smiled sadly. "Yes, I am sure. I am sure he would be happy for you to have them."
Melanie looked around the living room. “Where’s Maisey?”
Teresa seemed surprised she knew about the doggie. “She is with Mami and Papi. I think they are going to take her in.”
Melanie blinked. She was slightly confused. But at the same time, something… "Uhm, I don't mean to be rude, but I think I'm missing something."
Teresa stared at her. "There... There was an accident where he worked. One of the machines exploded."
The sandblaster exploded.
"Oh, my God!" Melanie gasped. "How? Is he okay?"
Teresa smiled sadly. "I don't know how it happened. But Javier and two of his co-workers were killed."
Melanie sat stunned by the news. "When... When did this happen?"
"About ten days ago."
The color drained from Melanie's face.
Ten days ago.
Then, if that was so, who had been texting her?