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A voice woke Jonah from a shallow sleep. It crept through the grey haze as quiet as the footfalls of a cat. Rubbing his eyes, the shadow of his room came into focus. Right away he noticed the familiar silhouette of a woman at the end of his bed.
“Jonah?” she said.
“Yes, Anna?” he asked, sitting up. He knew it was her. It was always her.
“Can I ask you a question?” she whispered, facing away from him.
“Yeah, sure, what’s up?” Jonah propped himself against the headboard. He noticed a thin ribbon of light slashing its way underneath the door, only to be swallowed up by the hungry dark inches into the room.
“Today, in chemistry, I saw you talking to that girl. You don’t…like her, do you?” Her words echoed through the silence.
Jonah shook his head and sighed. She was always doing this. This is why he couldn’t just have a normal, boring, high school existence.
“Did you wake me up for that? I told you this morning, no, I don’t like her. She’s just a friend.”
“Okay,” she said, not even bothering to look back at him.
“I promise.” Jonah sank back down into his sheets and closed his eyes. Anna had been getting worse over the last few weeks. Following him. Sneaking up on him during the night like this. It was overwhelming, but he knew she wouldn’t leave him alone. Even if he asked her too.
“Sorry, Jonah, I won’t ask again. I don’t want to fight,” she said.
“Can I stay with you tonight?”
“Yeah,” he whispered. It’s not like he had a choice.
“You know, I—”
In an instant the sliver of light from under the door erupted, spilling into the room, filling it with an amber glow. Jonah barely had time to think before his mother walked in.
“Honey?” He could tell from the tone in her voice she was worried again.
“I’m fine, mom.”
“I heard you talking to someone,” she said, looking around the room before taking a seat on the end of his bed.
“Nope, just trying to memorize formulas for Mr.Beher’s test next week. You know how much I suck at math.”
His mother sighed; she always knew when he wasn’t telling the whole truth, “Are you taking your medication, baby?” she said, rubbing his arm.
Jonah smiled and squeezed her hand. “Yeah, I’ve been taking it, I promise. I think Dr. Avery said that insomnia could be a side-effect or something, which is why I’m up.”
She gave a weak smile and touched his face with a soft hand. “Okay. Goodnight, sweetheart. I love you.”
“Goodnight, I love you too,” he said, closing his eyes.
Before shutting the door, she looked back at him one last time. “You know, if the prescription isn’t working, we can always try something else, but you’re going to have to be honest with us.”
“Mom, I told you, it’s working. I’m just tired.”
“Okay, sweetie, I believe you.” She nodded. “See you in the morning.”
As the door shut, Jonah was once again in the dark of his room. His heart sank. He hated lying to his mom, but the medication hadn’t been working anyway. If anything, it had only made things worse, especially between him and Anna.
“You’re going to get me in trouble,” he whispered into his pillow.
“I’m sorry, babe.” Anna’s fragile voice swept in from behind him. Her words crawled up his neck like static.
“Can I ask you just one last thing,” she said.
He could feel the cold shadows of her fingers played with his hair. He hated it when she kept him up like this, but it was always worse if he ignored her until the morning.
“What is it?” he grunted, closing his eyes.
“Do you want to go back to taking the medication?” Her voice was a thin razor of hurt, brushing its way along his body.
“No, Anna. I don’t.”
“Okay,” she whispered. “I don’t want to lose you.”
“You won’t.” The warmth of his blankets weighed him down as he broke effortlessly back through the veil of sleep.
As his mind carried him far away, he heard Anna one last time. “I love you, Jonah. You’re the best thing that has ever been mine.”
This story is partly based on something that had happened to me shortly after I got medically discharged from the military. My life was in a pretty bad shape and my wife and son had left and I ended up alone in my Grandma’s attic trying to make sense of my life and disabilities. In the process of doing that, I ended up having a bad reaction to some medications I was prescribed and had begun hallucinating this female figure that would sort of hang around in the periphery of my day. I was scared to tell my doctors about this ghost lady, so I kept it to myself for a over month, until I said enough was enough. We were able to figure out that it was a medication issue and she slowly disappeared. Sitting in my bed one night shortly after getting everything straighten out, this deep sense of sadness came over me. This ghost had been such a constant in my otherwise isolated life, that knowing she wasn’t going to be there anymore felt like losing a friend.
What’s your favorite gothic story or poem and why?
So its more an author than just one story, but anything by Christa Carmen is just spookiness at its best. If you don’t know who she is, you need too.
How long have you been writing?
The quick answer is I’ve been writing seriously since about the fourth grade. Its only in the last three years that I really started committing to what kind of stories I would like to tell. I think it is important to try a bit of everything and to take your time doing it.
Do you have a theme you return to time and again?
Most of my writing ends with hope. Hope of course does not mean, “happy ending with rainbows and craft beer” but, the realization that despite the pain or imperfections, there is a reason to change, a reason to believe that the next day can be a little less ugly than the last. That no matter how far or deep you fall, there is always a way back, even if it means you got to crawl to get there.
Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you?
Sam: How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?
Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.
What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished a long stint of working on my memoir Stranger in My Own Skin which deals with learning how to fit into a body and world that you don’t understand. If you’ve never spent two years writing about your life at its most vulnerable moments, let me tell you, its emotionally exhausting. In the wake of that, I’ve started writing more fiction and re-telling of folklore from the Maine woods.
What else would you like people to know? Where can people find you online?
Cody is a writer based in the woods of Maine. After medically retiring from the Marine Corps in 2016 with a Post-Traumatic Brain Injury, he came home to sort his shattered life out. In 2019, Cody graduated cum laude from the University of Southern Maine with his B.A. in English with a minor in Writing. He was accepted into the Stonecoast MFA Program the same year as a Creative Non-Fiction writer. He writes and works passionately about post-military life and recovery to raise awareness on veteran’s issues.
His piece “Ghosts” won an Honorable Mention in the premier veteran anthology Proud to Be Vol.9.
Other non-fiction work has published in Moxy Magazine, Entropy Magazine, Up Portland, and a small travel blog called Eventually Everything about life on a traveling bookmobile.