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Le Fantôme - Matt Katterhagen

2nd Place

Le Fantôme - Matt Katterhagen

Ermagurd

Lyon transformed in October. As a familiar autumn chill slipped across the Rhône, Lofi Girl watched in quiet awe while the leaves, in their mellow hues of yellows and reds, drifted from the trees dotting the riverbank. Dusk was turning to night. The city lit up, from the street lamps below to the neighboring apartments sloping down La Croix-Rousse. Though Lofi Girl shivered at her desk, her cat refused to budge from his perch on the open window, so the panes remained open. She sighed, turned a page in her notebook, rested her chin in the palm of her hand. Tonight was Halloween. And she was studying. 

She had embraced the spirit as best she could. Costumed in black layers and an antique witch’s hat, her ensemble brought some semblance of excitement to the evening’s work. The cauldron bubbled. The pumpkins glowered. Her cat sat surprisingly still in his makeshift bat wings. Yet, no matter the decorations, candy, or gentle music, the shrieks and laughter from the streets below had a tricky way of cutting through headphones. And setting one’s mind adrift. What treats might be tricked from unwary homes? What things were lurking in the dark corners? And why couldn’t her test be next week?

It was then her cat began to hiss. Faint at first, barely registered over the high hats and guitar riffs that filled her ears. It was in the brief silence between tracks that Lofi Girl caught that hiss swell to a growl. Off came the headphones as she set a calming hand down her cat’s back, watching out the window for any signs of trouble. Along the sidewalks, nothing but passerbys of superheroes, outlaws, princesses. The river was still. And in the apartment windows beyond, faint candlelight, flickering televisions, and a ghost. 

Ghost? No. 

Lofi Girl squinted. In a single window, old, blue light caught shifting cloth. Stark shadows pooled in the creases of fabric. And two wide, expressionless eyes stared back. 

A ghost.

Lofi Girl pulled her cat from the window, hands trembling. But, as she warily leaned out of eyesight, she heard a faint noise. Not her chair. Not her cat. But, the scratch of pen, pressed against paper. Conscious now of her focus on the window, Lofi Girl's eyes darted to her desk. Watching on as her pen streaked across the empty page, spelling a single word. 

Hello? 

Lofi Girl's cat leapt from her lap, batting the poltergeist to the floor with an unceremonious clatter. He dove fast, wrestling her pen along the rug. Lofi Girl, heart pumping fast, wished for such bravery. She crept to the edge of her window. She had to see it again.

But, there was no sign of the blue-bathed ghost. She craved relief, but only fear bubbled over. Lofi Girl turned the page of her notebook. If she could only strike the unexplainable things from her view, maybe that would be enough. She ruffled between her cat’s ears, and retrieved her pen from his clutches. Headphones settled back in place, Lofi Girl breathed, taking a moment of peace. What she needed was to focus. There were plenty more notes still to finish. And more music to accompany her. Lofi Girl tapped her laptop, resuming her-

“Can you hear me?” 

In one heaving motion, Lofi Girl shot her headphones clattering to the desk. She jerked back in her chair, panting. A voice, cut clear through the low fidelity. Not this. A look to the window. Still nothing. A look to her cat. He eyed the headphones with worrying intent. Her gaze flicked through her room, it’s increasingly noticeable dark corners. Was the ghost in here now, with her? Everywhere she wasn’t looking?

Her cat was growling again, filling her head. Suddenly, everything sounded so loud. Everything looked so ominous. Lofi Girl clutched her cat. Her brave ghost hunter. They spun around the room. They could do it, together. Fend off the-

She faced the window. 

There it was, so close now. Cloth drifting in dead air. Floating five floors up. With those wide, expressionless eyes. 

Lofi Girl stammered, trying in vain to get the words out. Stop. Get away. Leave. Anything. But, it just watched her in cold silence. Watched as the sides of fabric creeped up. Forward. Towards her. And settled...on the window panes. 

The ghost shut Lofi Girl’s window snug. Fog spread across the glass, obscuring the spirit as it carefully wrote backwards. Lofi Girl could only wait as letter followed letter, word followed word.

Until a period dotted the phrase.

Take a break, friend.

Lofi Girl thrust the window open, discovering nothing. No ghost, no blue. Nothing. She shut the windows, locked the latch. Still stunned, she adjusted her cat’s crumpled wings as best she could before throwing on her headphones. Turning the volume down, Lofi Girl tapped play again. At the sound of crackling basslines, she breathed a heavy sigh of relief. No otherworldly greetings could be found in her notebook. Even the fog had already begun to clear, absconding with the last trace of spirit, leaving only Halloween in the streets below.

Lofi Girl adjusted her witch hat. Bat cat in hands, she made her way down to join the festivities. 

Maybe she did deserve a break.

Perhaps there was such a thing as too much studying.

2 Comments

  • This is so good! – should deserve first place. really descriptive; i would love it as a book. maybe next time you can add on more?

    movietime

    November 13, 2021

  • Great job Matthew.

    Grandma

    November 1, 2021

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