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The Thirteenth of Friday
Friday the thirteenth. Why did it have to be Friday the thirteenth? Why not the fourteenth or twelfth? Did the numbers 1 and 3 really have to be put together if it was considered a bad omen? Besides, why did it have to be a Friday? Most find the day charitable. Something to look forward to when we trudge to school on Monday.
But this might not be about what you think. It’s not like I hated the day —sure it’s known to be infested with bad luck, but I had given up that suspicion years ago.
I just happen to find the day…odd.
It first began when I was thrown into the public school system at the awkward age of twelve —when all of a sudden girls weren’t so icky. It happened to be that dreadful day of hateful luck, and I was simply leaving school early to attend a piano concerto competition —I had been practicing the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No.1 in F Sharp Minor for eleven months straight, and I was hoping to win the chance to practice for another eleven months in order to play it with a full orchestra.
Needless to say, I was fidgeting. It was the thirteenth of Friday, and I had been told dooming prophecies all day.
At first I thought it was simply because of this that I found myself —and more importantly, my music— flying towards the ground to make an impact with the thin carpet; but as I gathered my belongings and sense of balance, I took the time to look and see why exactly I had tripped. The floor was flat. No signs of deformity or distortion gave hints of the culprit.
I went back to gathering my music for a split second, thinking it was probably just my clumsiness. It was no secret that one could stumble on nothing.
But what I saw out of the corner of my eye caused me to do a double take.
Running down that hallway was a little boy, too young and too naked to be attending middle school. Only a sort of tunic covered the area below his hips; but even from the back, it was obvious that his baby chest was bare. The young child was giggling in the way you would imagine a boy of that age to laugh if he were to have played some practical joke.
Needless to say, I grew suspicious. Especially when the boy suddenly evaporated into thin air as he rounded the corner.
It was the beginning of my misfortune.
Maybe it was because I had never before really been among a large group of people on a daily basis, but either way, it was only then on did I begin to constantly see similar children going around causing misfortunes every Friday the thirteenth. Sometimes I would catch them tripping people; just like what had happened to myself. Other times they would simply loosen shoelaces or take belongings only to replace them right where the owner had looked before. It seemed like they would do anything to create small annoyances throughout everyone’s day. These creatures —for the more I observed them, the less I could be convinced that they were human— varied in a appearance, causing me to believe that they had no relation to each other. Their only similarities were that they always disappeared once finished performing their act of mischief, and they all wore the same clothing. A white tunic. For the guys, it always began at the waist and cut off at the knee. For girls, it hung over one shoulder, and sort of acted as a dress with it ending at the middle of the thigh.
I personally tried to avoid their gaze. It had become obvious to me that I was the only one to see them, and it became the ultimate sin for me to try to bring it up. I knew no one would believe me anyway.
This disguise of ignorance ended when I was seventeen. My last year in high school. There had already been eight Friday the thirteenths, and I didn’t know how much longer I could keep up this secrecy. Still, I had much to occupy myself with. Being admitted into the state’s top music high school —they were highly impressed by my win in the piano concerto competition a few years before—, I was preparing my life to major college in piano performance. The piano department was hosting its last concert, and I would play three songs including one for the finale. Sure enough, the concert was on the thirteenth of Friday.
That morning was nerve-wracking. For some reason I had only been told a few days before that I was to play the last song. I was already preparing Debussy’s Reverie —my teacher was ecstatic when I presented her the title, declaring that Debussy was her favorite— along with the Rachmaninoff that I had played at the age of twelve —the piece was practically engraved into my fingers— and the thought of choosing another made me doubtful. At the end of my fretful decision, I chose Clair de Lune, knowing that the composer would once again receive a thumbs up from my teacher. Plus, it would be a calming end to the performance.
Unfortunately, my equally musical friends weren’t as enthusiastic. They all complained how that piece was overused, and discouraged me from performing it. But I had no choice. The song was already in the program, and it wouldn’t be very fair for those who decided to attend the concert just because they recognized Debussy’s work on the posters.
Seeing the mischievous creatures on the morning of Friday the thirteenth didn’t exactly make me feel any better either.
I did as I always did anyway: ignore and force myself to forget.
But at lunch, one of them in particular caught my eye.
My friends and I had decided to take the time to discuss the bright skies and relatively cheery day, most of us declaring it too peaceful for bad luck. I knew otherwise while witnessing a small group of the invisible ‘no-do-gooders’ inconveniently place a few chairs in the path of a junior who was carrying a particularly full plate of food. It was no surprise to me that he tumbled over these chairs and landed face first in the tray. With some assistance —and giggles— some other students were able to help him out, and it was found that nothing was injured except his dignity.
As everyone took the time to laugh and help clean up the mess, I looked back at the bad-omen creatures. The group of them were laughing their heads off. One was a small boy of around three, giving out a bubbly river of laughter. His hair was a dashing yellow and his eyes helplessly blue.
Next to him was another boy of opposite skin and hair, but only a bit older in age. Excitedly, he appeared to be letting out an endless flow of Spanish —sometimes pausing to laugh some more.
Beside them was an older girl with lanky arms and legs, dark skin, stiff hair, and a bleach white smile bright enough to get me smiling along with her. She was the only was standing, and was constantly moving as if choreographing a small dance to harmonize with her laugh.
Another of the creatures accompanied these three, her tunic loosely fitting her except at the waist where it curved in, yet this was mostly hidden as she had the youngest of the bunch on her lap. Her lips would incline to press against the toddler’s hair in motherly care. The girl’s hair was short —so short that the locks could have possibly been tickling the top of her neck— and solid brown, but grouped in layers to give volume. With large laughing green eyes —like a pair of spring leaves in a heavy forest — she listened to the Spanish speaking boy with understanding unlike anything I would have expected, and even answered a few times in the same language.
I watched this one in particular because in truth, I had never seen one of these creatures be of that age. She was certainly not a child, yet neither was she a teenager. More of that awkward stage. Her body —I am embarrassed to confess my eyes had drifted— owned developing curves. The cheeks still held a layer of fat from her baby years, but she was tall and seemingly comfortable with her uneven proportions.
My companions were still involved in the junior’s food fiasco as I observed this. Too involved in their laughter and amusement —much like the creatures I was observing— they didn’t notice as I suddenly flinched.
The girl. She was looking at me.
At first it was only a glance, but her eyes didn’t leave mine. They seemed to suddenly fill with a fiery passion —almost enough to burn those two leaves— as she realized my staring.
I quickly looked away, but it was too late. She knew I could see them. With hesitancy, I decided to take a glimpse and see what she was doing now.
She was still staring at me. This time it was of anger. Her whole body had frozen as if turned to ice, causing the three children around her to freeze too. Yet, their young ages couldn’t seem to comprehend her fixation quick enough, and before any of us knew it, she plucked the boy from her lap, set him down next to her, and was walking in my direction in a matter of a few swift movements. Actually, I am not too sure if she was walking as much as gliding, for her body made neither noise nor any sign of her existence to those around her. Even so, she bolted her way around people, her eyes fixed on my position.
I took the time to make an unfashionable getaway.
“I have to use the bathroom,” I muttered to my friends —still distracted somehow— though none of them noticed. It made me faintly wonder if these other seniors were truly my friends, but I had no time to linger on the thought as I gathered my things and left. No one even noticed I hadn’t headed towards the bathroom, but outside. It was late enough that the monitors didn’t mind me leaving the cafeteria.
I glanced back.
She was still there, her eyes baring into my skull.
When I turned foreword to decide a course of action, she was suddenly in front of me —those green eyes of hers being more frustrated than angry. I actually had to look down, as she was only at my shoulder height. She took a long look at me before speaking. Even then, I couldn’t find my sense of reason.
“You can see me.” It was fact rather than a question. I guess my escape had been proof enough.
I looked around. No one was here, not even a monitoring camera, so I deemed it safe to respond to an invisible being.
“Um… Yes I can.” I wasn’t quite sure how to go about this. For six years I had known of these beings’ existence, but never had I actually imagined having a conversation with one.
“Do…” She was hesitant to go on, but seemed to feel that there was no looking back. “Do you know what I am?”
“Could you give me a bit more than that?” Her arms positioned themselves on her hips as if it were my fault I could see her. I personally felt like asking the same question, but went on with my story anyway.
“Well, I know you… things… come out on Friday the thirteenth to cause mischief.” I almost felt accusing, suddenly feeling this to be true.
She actually smiled a bit before answering.
“We are not things.” She put emphasis on the word ‘things’, taking it almost as a joke.
“What are you then?”
“We are…” She paused once more, looking around the same way I had. “We are the souls of deceased children. And we don’t just come out on Friday the thirteenth. Who do you take me for, Santa Clause?”
I actually would have believed it more if she was, but circumstances forbid me to doubt.
“Yes. When children die, we stay in the world of the living, playing jokes on your guys until we have lived our original life span.”
“But you’re not a child.”
“Physically, I am almost twelve.” This she seemed insulted by. “So technically, I am.”
Her arms were now crossed, but she set them down before continuing.
“Our aging is much slower. If I was alive right now, I would probably be witnessing my grandchildren’s graduations. As I said, our time in this sort of limbo is up once we reach the age we would have naturally died at, but we never look our age.”
“So what happens when you reach that age?”
Her face went ghostly white, causing mine to turn red. The way her expression was laid out caused me to wonder if I had said something inappropriate.
“When we do, we actually give the appearance of being teenagers —well, if you count thirteen as being a teen. After which, I suppose we move on into the other side. I really don’t know. I never lived long enough to become religious. Anyway, in our place we leave a totem.”
“What do you mean by ‘totem’.”
“Well, ironically,” she smiled once more. I was almost beginning to wonder if she had multiple personalities with the way her mood changed so suddenly. “We leave ‘lucky stones’.”
She continued on once witnessing the confused look on my face.
“You know…Smooth rocks, sometimes bearing messages, but otherwise giving one good luck and resilience against others that are like me, therefore, giving the living the impression that they have good luck.”
I considered this thought a few times over before continuing the questions.
“When did you die?” Once again, she gave me the impression that I was asking something personal.
“At birth. They couldn’t get me to breath.”
“Oh,” I sounded awkwardly, scratching the back of my head. Her face was dead serious once more, her eyes still glancing me over. Finally she spoke what was on her mind.
“How is it you can see me?”
“I don’t know. I just…can. It’s been this way on every Friday the thirteenth since I was twelve.”
“Hm…Interesting. You only see us on this day…” She looked around her as if she had suddenly stepped into an alien world.
Her words made me realize the true strangeness of my ability. Obviously, these creatures did not simply join together on these particular Fridays, but were in fact constantly around us.
“Are you the ones who cause all the bad luck?”
Her eyes darted back to me and began to laugh as if I had told some joke.
“No, we just find it entertaining to mess with people. Plus, we like to affect the world. Sort of makes us feel as if we are noticed. Not forgotten. We do like to perform a bit of extra mischief on Friday the thirteenth though. People always freak out when we do.”
Though there was a well seen age difference between the two of us, I felt as if I were talking to someone my own age. It was all very overwhelming, yet I was relatively calm.
“You’re playing in that piano recital tonight. Am I right?” she asked, pointing a finger at me.
“Clair de Lune?”
“Yes, how did you know?”
“Maybe you guys can’t hear us, but that doesn’t mean we are deaf.”
“Obviously…” I muttered, but she took no notice.
“Anyway, I have to admit that Clair de Lune is my favorite song.”
“It is for many people.”
“Maybe a little more for me…” Her voice grew a bit faint as her eyes stared blankly into the distance. “It was the song my mother had a pianist play at my funeral.”
I seemed to be holding my breath, but only for a split second.
“I was put into a tiny casket,” she continued to describe, holding out her hands to show the size of her tomb.
“Oh… I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Don’t be.” Her voice was rather direct. “Anyway, I’ll see you tonight. I’ll make sure none of the others cause any trouble.”
“Oh thanks,” I muttered, a bit perplexed. “Wait, your coming?”
“Of course,” she brushed off as if it were obvious. “It would be an ironic ending for me.”
“What do you mean ending?”
“I am dying tonight. For real this time. I have reached the end of my life span.”
My mouth was left a bit open as she began to walk away. All I saw of her was a glance in my direction, along with a quick wave. Then she faded away, her eyes being the last to disappear.
That night I was calm. Everyone backstage was in mass hysteria as they silently pushed everyone on and off stage for their performance. I had already played twice, but so far, saw no sign of my mystery girl. Her explanation that day had certainly caused me to see life in a different light, and everything I did suddenly became so earthbound. Only once or twice did I see an impish faces in pale tunics wander about, but they seemed to disintegrate as soon as I saw them.
It was suddenly the finale before I could blink. The crowd was certainly tired, and ready to go home to awaken to a fresh Saturday. I couldn’t help but feel quite pointless as I politely walked on stage and took a quick bow. The audience clapped with equal politeness and formality. As I raised my head, I looked out into the inky darkness, knowing that there were living souls looking back at me. It was accepted that I couldn’t see them, but my gaze was lengthened a bit longer than was necessary. A figure was outlined in the back row. Though the shadows around her were unrecognizable, she seemed to have a halo of light wrapped around her outline, giving me clear view of her leaf green eyes though she was so far away.
It was her.
A sudden whisper from left stage cued me to let go of my gaze and get in my seat. I did so, glancing back out into the audience. Sure enough, the girl was still there. She even seemed to giggle and waved at me with her slender fingers.
I faced the piano, feeling as if I were some sort of grave digger. This feeling washed away as I began playing Clair de Lune. The audience seemed to be receiving the same reaction of intense tranquility. All I could seem to picture was the girl’s face, and I swear I could feel her green eyes watching me the whole time. I lingered on the last keys, listening to the dying notes. The feeling of her gaze died with it, but I had no time to dwell on the thought as I stood up to greet my audience.
My proud smile faded away as I realized she was gone.
After the performance, I traveled to the seat the girl had sat at. Under the chair was a stone, holding the same color as storm clouds. It was smooth to the touch except for the engravings centered in the middle. I read the message out loud:
“FOR USE ON THE THIRTEENTH OF FRIDAY”