(This was my favorite experimental project from last year: a novel written entirely via Twitter. Hope you enjoy it.)
The ghost attached itself to the head of a woman weakened from holiday shopping, filling her thoughts with plans of an ultimate escape.
The ghost whispered, “drive off the overpass.” She said, “not today.” Suicide might not have made them closer, anyway. He let her go.
Settling into the passenger seat, the ghost swallowed his hunger to talk to Mia once more. Just talk, that’s all—really! Impossible.
Mia didn’t want to go home. The gas explosion had destroyed her husband’s hearing. He couldn’t listen anymore. So, she kept on driving.
The ghost caught airwaves from lifetimes ago. The dial slipped from Mia’s fingers. “Nessun Dorma,” he sang. She cried, unknowing why.
The ghost, called Vaclav, recalled grasping Mia’s waist, backstage at the Kiev Opera. Her eyes flared black. She was damp and electric.
Mia thought about three men she had loved: one kind, one wise, one passionate. Was it too much to find that in one person, all at once?
Vaclav peeked at the vanity. Eyes-no head; torso with a gaping hole; and his sex was missing. Shaken, Mia flipped the car mirror back up.
Mia turned around. She still loved her husband. Vaclav followed her home, where Drew Paul was in a Laz-y-boy, holding Valcav’s brain.
Drew Paul looked up at Mia, the old brain kicking into gear. He rushed to her with a warm embrace, and handed her a cup of hot chocolate.
“I can’t stand it when you’re gone.” So strange, he thought, not to hear his own voice. She sipped cocoa silently. Vaclav watched, aside.
Having found his mind and his soul mate, Vaclav settled into a deep sleep, upon the fire-lit mantle, nestled between holly and mistletoe.
Drew Paul talked for two hours straight about the doctors and frustration. Mia listened. She kissed his curly head and moved downward.
Afterward, Mia put a finger over his lips and motioned to him, “sleep,” slipping away with her viola. She played Berlioz all night long.
Passing out in the morning, Mia dreamed of the hands of another man, whom she loved at another time. She awoke, late for rehearsal.
The orchestra was still warming up to accompany the Nutcracker Ballet. Mia took her chair, not noticing Vaclav inside her viola case.
Vaclav danced in the air like sugarplum swan, delighting in the sound waves. From high, he saw Mia’s pain: her soul was lost, waist down.
Before the accident, Mia and Drew Paul tried to have a baby. They conceived twice, but both times, she lost it. Now, Vaclav saw why.
He made an offer: I will help her grow her soul back, if I can talk with her once more. Soul was stretched so thin now. God said: Deal.
Champagne poured after the last show. One of the Russian dancers, strong but near career’s end, was an easy mark for Vaclav. He saw Mia.
Mia smiled at the conductor, nodding politely. Pale as a trout, the dancer thought, and irresistible. Vaclav pushed. He glided to her.
The dancer, Mark, smiled widely at Mia. She felt she knew him already. He offered to refill her drink, promising her it would tickle.
“I have to go home to my husband,” said Mia, signaling she wasn’t available. Vaclav let Mark hope. “You play well.” “I played in Monaco.”
“Here’s my number,” he said, giving Mia a matchbook. “I think we have something to discuss.” “Sounds serious,” she said. “Dead right.”
Mia fretted a week about the incident with the dancer. Her anger at Drew Paul grew. For risking himself. For not understanding her art.
She made a list of things she resented about her husband. Then she struck a match, and burned it. Then she called the number. “Mark?”
“I hear you do personal training,” she said. “Would you try my husband? I think he might be…depressed.” “Your husband?” “Yes.” “Hm.”
“My husband was a contractor. He had an accident. He can’t hear. He’s not going out.” “I’m sorry to hear that.” “He likes to be fit.”
Mark laid out free weights and an exercise ball on the open floor space in the bedroom. Drew Paul’s arms crossed. Vaclav’s eyes rolled.
Vaclav knew Drew Paul’s mind: the agony and self-doubt, locked in sudden silence. “Do it,” the ghost pressed. They warmed and pumped up.
Vaclav recalled the last time he’d seen his male parts, in an El Paso brothel, 1892. He didn’t miss them. It was right, what she did.
Mia’s soul was slow to anger, but he had given her much cause that time. The exercise did Drew Paul good, but his body wasn’t Vaclav’s.
Mark, on the other hand, had avatar potential. If only Vaclav could slip inside him, make his lips say the words she longed to hear…
“I’m sorry!” Mia said, walking in on Mark and Drew Paul in a compromising position. “I’m sorry,” Vaclav echoed. Three men loved her now.
And one ghost. The third man hadn’t seen her in 10 years. He had exquisite hands, and though neither knew it yet, he had Vaclav’s heart.
Ronaldo taught Mia piano when she was 14. He was 5 years her senior then: an insurmountable gulf. Now single, he played clubs in Brazil.
In pain, Ronaldo visited a spiritist, who said, “Do not dwell in the darkness of your lonely heart.” True enough. So, he called Mia.
“You can’t just call me like this,” said Mia breathless, cupping her mouth so Drew Paul couldn’t read her lips. “I miss you.” “‘Naldo…”
Chasing Mia’s longing, Vaclav zipped into the phone line, traveling over microwave radio relay to Brazil. “My heart!” ‘Naldo passed out.
Waking in Intensive Care, ‘Naldo was informed his heart had stopped, but was working now. They could find no reason. (Vaclav, of course.)
Nor was there any apparent lasting damage, except, oddly, for a change in ‘Naldo’s pattern of speech. Stateside, Mia worried on the call.
Mark continued personal training sessions with Drew Paul, while Mia prepped the Spring Vivaldi concert. She stir-fried, and Mark stayed.
Drew Paul seemed in better spirits, and this contented lonely Mia. But Mark threw yearning glances while her husband’s back was turned.
At first, she shrugged off Mark’s attention. But Drew Paul stung her: “What career? It’s over! Give it up. Go teach.” It wasn’t fair.
Mia empathized with her husband’s lost ambition: but it hurt. The symphony was bleeding funds, rumored to soon fold. Mark saw a way out.
“Here’s your check,” said Mia. “Let’s call it even,” said Mark. “Can we talk? About how to start a business? I need a change,” she said.
At Mark’s studio, Mia confessed, “I don’t know what to do. I need to find another livelihood.” “What do you want to do?” “Clean houses.”
“That’s a lie,” said Mark. He was right, but Mia couldn’t think of anything else. “You just want to be taken care of.” “I want to fly.”
“Come, try my machines,” said Mark, meaning his Pilates equipment. “…Feel your lower belly…nice and tight…it will reform you.”
When she returned home, she wanted to make love to her husband. “Guess what?” he said. “I got a new job.” “Congratulations,” she mouthed.
Drew Paul became a custom cabinet maker. He worked alone, away from hearing people. He spent long hours in a remote shop across town.
When the door bell rang, Mia never expected the image through the peep hole: Ronaldo, so vulnerable, with suitcase, keyboard, and Vaclav.
Of course, Mia didn’t see Vaclav. But when Ronaldo spoke: “Jak se mas. Can I come in?” with a heavy Czech accent, she knew he had changed.
“W-what are you doing,” she stammered. “You shouldn’t be here, I…” “Please, I don’t want anything. Except…a little of your time.”
“You sound different…” Searching his hazel eyes, she shook off surrender and opened the door. He sat on the couch. “I am. Remember…”
“Remember the opera house; the brothel in the desert? Remember, comrade, our battle? The plague?” Time collapsed. “P-piano,” she fainted.
When the stars in Mia’s eyes cleared, ‘Naldo was kneeling beside her, his lovely, large hand between her head and the hard cold floor.
“Who…who are you?” she said breathlessly. “Your soul mate, of course.” He lifted her gently back to the sofa, “Of many, many millennia.”
“What do you want?” He wrung his finger bones. “All those times long past. You were all that mattered. I never… made you happy.”
“Naldo, it wasn’t your job to make me happy,” said Mia. “Wasn’t it?” he rubbed his forehead over his right eyebrow. “I’m forgetting…”
“It would be nice,” she said, “if you had loved me, the way I wanted to be loved. But, love is very delicate. Can’t be forced, my love.”
And with that, Mia’s soul began to flow, like warm honey, around her tubes and holes, her thighs and patellas, to the tips of her piggys.
Having been forgiven, Vaclav’s hold on reality relaxed. And ‘Naldo’s heart let go of the darling, lonely pain of loving Mia, from afar.
“I love you more than you know,” said Vaclav, eyes rolling up towards heaven. “If only you had been older,” said ‘Naldo, accent slipping.
‘Naldo’s foreign speech returned. “Recall your king, Judith?” A flash. “10 children. Age 26,” she blinked. He nodded, “end of the line.”
Dark, rushing air lifted ‘Naldo, transforming him into a Bohemian king in finest regalia. “Make music, make love, make life,” it said.
“You are loved.” Vaclav: King of Bohemia; loyal foot soldier; womanizer of the Wild West; old ghost; dissipated into the nearest Ethernet.
‘Naldo, left in a heap on the floor, stuttered, “W-where am I? Mia? Is that you?” “No. I’m forgetting so quickly…he took…he gave…”
“I called you on the phone. Suddenly, I’m here…” Mia turned away from the intensely intrusive memories. “That was weeks ago, Ronaldo.”
“I don’t understand,” he said. “I feel, changed.” “It’s a miracle, a ripple in time,” she said. “But now you must go, ‘Naldo. Please.”
“I think about you often, Mia. This sounds crazy, but I even talk to you…” “I do too, ‘Naldo. But, maybe, it’s a blessing to forget.”
‘Naldo’s large, exquisite hands slipped through the hair at the base of Mia’s head. He drew her in and kissed her softly. He tasted minty.
When Mia opened her eyes, ‘Naldo had disappeared. She was left alone in her craftsman style house, and played a Reger solo on her viola.
Mark called at dusk. “How are you doing?” “I’m okay.” “I know about a job at a church,” he said: “Music Director.” “Sounds nice, thanks.”
Drew Paul returned as the moon was rising. She watched him heave a bundle from his truck bed. He looked strong again, happy and healthy.
He brought it up to her in his arms, wrapped in a blanket. He gave with a smile, and she opened it: A beautiful custom teak viola case.
They went to bed, and made a baby. She was perfect, and they named her Judith. Mia went to work for the church school, which had Ethernet.
When Judith was seven, she learned about the Kings of Bohemia on the computer. She told her mother. “The line starts again,” said Mia.