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We Can Still Drown

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Philip Lester, most well known for annotating the weekly weather, was a lonely soul.


He usually found solace in quiet mornings and rainy days. Phil preferred to live alone; with only the company of a purring cat or the silence of a houseplant.


Phil would be content if he only saw other people when he went to the grocery store to get Ribena. The perfect life for him would be a harmonious one. He hoped to, someday, find someone calm and tranquil, like a sunny winter's day.


Maybe that was why Phil moved into the old, run-down apartment in the building nobody but him a few cat ladies would ever dare rent at.


When Phil toured the flat after months of searching, he had been wholly unimpressed.


Two bedrooms, an office, a living room, an average sized kitchen, two flights of stairs and a few mice thrown in the mix. As he walked around the place, he couldn't help but notice the funny smell that permeated the air.


But then there was that tug in his heart; like a voice that kept whispering 'This is the place. You need to live here.'


The landlord was dumbfounded when Phil called the very next day, money already set aside for the down-payment and first rent.


"Sorry," The landlord had chuckled over the phone, "I'm just not used to dealing with people... you know, as nice as you. When can you come in?"


And just like that, the flat was his.


Over the years, Phil had collected lots of knick-knacks, but not much furniture; and within a few days, the house was filled with cheap (code word for mildly suspicious) Ikea items. While everything was being put together, he crashed at his mother's house.


The only thing Phil didn't buy was a bed; because the flat came with one that the previous owner had left behind; and a coffee table that was just the right height for Phil to dent his shins with.


Phil's very first night in the flat had come with a series of challenges. The mattress for his bed had yet to arrive, so he was foeced to spend the night on the couch. Phil also had zero (0) cooking skills, and ended up just ordering takeout with Game of Thrones playing on his phone, balanced precariously on the coffee table against several boxes.


When he woke up on the couch, groggy, Netflix's classic screen of 'Are you still watching?' blaring at him with an energy of judgement, the only thing he could process was that it was still dark out. It was Monday, so Phil assumed that he had woken up naturally at 5 A.M. as he always did, until he checked his phone, which portrayed a different story.




So what had woken him? Phil, too tired to care, settled back into the couch cushions again until he heard it: the distinct rustling sound of someone shaking a box of cereal.


Phil sat bolt upright, all fatigue gone; pulse racing. Phil grabbed the nearest weapon (which happened to be a drill) before the logical part in his brain could tell him that this was a bad idea, and slowly but surely peeked his head to look down the hall, towards the kitchen.


The glass kitchen door was closed, but a faint whitish-bluish light illuminated the hallway, definitely coming from the kitchen.


Phil stalked silently towards the closed door and looked in; and instead of seeing a burglar as he had expected, he saw the opalescent, ethereal form of a ghost; something, up until this moment, he did not believe were real.


It looked like the apparition of someone a little younger than him, probably in his mid-twenties, but it was hard to gauge age from it; mainly because of the way its skin seemed to glow. Everything from the waist down was hazy. From the few details Phil could make out, he had curly hair, a long nose, and a dimple on the cheek Phil could see.


At the moment, it seemed to be very preoccupied with Phil's only box of Shreddies.


Phil was absolutely terrified. His heart was doing jumping jacks in his chest, and there was a pit of dread in his belly. However, the very illogical part of his brain didn't want some ghost messing with his shreddies; and, despite the way his legs felt like jelly, he tentatively left his hiding spot behind the wall and stood in the threshold.


It was at this point that his voice failed him.


Phil didn't know what to do next. What should he say? Should he tell it to leave?


Not even a second later, the ghost seemed to sense someone watching it. It looked up at Phil sheepishly, and then vaporized, dropping the box of shreddies on to the floor and spilling cereal everywhere.


The kitchen was yet again reduced to darkness.


Phil gaped for a second, willing to chalk up the encounter to an especially vivid dream if it had not been for the shreddies all over the floor.


Eventually, his brain managed to get itself back into working order, and Phil turned away and clambered onto the couch yet again. "I'm too tired for this." He yawned, slipping into soft dreams of curly-haired boys and thunderstorms.




Phil woke again three hours later, the blaring loudness of his alarm nearly covering the boom of thunder in the distance. Phil rushed to get ready, realizing that today was most likely going to be numbingly busy. Rain always made for busy days.


When Phil went in for breakfast, he found no evidence of the shreddies incident; and quickly dismissed whatever happened last night to be fiction inside his head. He made his coffee, and then rushed off to work.


It was around this time - while he was reading his script about a series of huge thunderstorms across Manchester - that ghosts were more active when it was generally unsavory outside. It made sense to Phil. It was really the only explanation to his sleep addled brain.


By the fortnights end, Phil began to notice a pattern of strange occurrences around the flat. For every plate he found chipped, ten more had been washed and were laying to dry. On weekdays, the bed was made when Phil couldn't remember ever tidying it. On Saturday mornings, Phil woke to a T.V blaring static, when he was sure that he had turned it off. Lots of shreddies had gone missing over this time period, also.


For whatever reason, Phil was growing quite fond of the - entity? - that haunted his new apartment. He didn't really mind any of what the ghost did. Phil knew that these events were caused by the kind ghost that knew how to clean up after himself. He'd heard plenty of stories about ghosts and poltergeists that made giant messes and tore apart furniture. So far, the only stereotypical ghost vibes Phil got from it was a dip in temperature whenever Phil sensed he had entered the room. He never actually saw him, of course.


To Phil's dismay, the ghost boy had yet to make another physical appearance since his first night home. He itched to see him again; mainly because his ethereal features were beginning to slip from Phil's memory.




Phil finally found his chance when, two months after noticing The Occurrences™, he heard a voice as he was watching Game of Thrones late at night.


It was just as a very loud battle scene began when Phil heard it. It was faint above the roar of bloodshed, and he nearly didn't notice it until he listened more closely to the soft melody drifting from down the hall. The tinkle of a music box and the voice of an angel; both coming from Phil's room.


Unlike most people, Phil's heart didn't pound. He just wanted to hear more; like a mad sailor drawn to a siren.


Phil paused his show.


Now he heard it, clear as day. He was taken aback by how sorrowful yet beautiful the voice of the ghost was; however, it didn't surprise him much. It just seemed to... match. Phil smiled a little; stuck in place as the song went on.




"Upon one summer's morning

I carefully did stray

Down by the Walls of Wapping

Where I met a sailor gay

Conversing with a young lass

Who seem'd to be in pain

Saying, William, when you go

I fear you'll ne'er return again."


Phil padded quietly down the hall and stood just outside his door. He contemplated opening it; though a deep part of his soul said not to; to enjoy the lovely performance only he would be gifted enough to hear.


The music box that played the tune to, "Jolly Sailor Bold," had ended abruptly, and there was a frustrated grunt in Phil's room. Phil decided that it was now or never. He opened the door.


His room was filled with a pale white light, just enough to throw shadows across the walls. The ghost sat, sniffling and looking unsatisfied, on Phil's bed; and glanced up as Phil looked in on him.


He looked just as he remembered him. Curly hair, double dimples, and the deepest eyes Phil had ever seen. He cast Phil an overcast smile and a two-fingered salute; and just like that, he was gone. The music box, which had been sitting on the ghost boy's lap; now laid, dejected, on the bed.


Phil picked it up and examined it for a few seconds. He hardly remembered that he had it, as it had blended into the many knick-knacks strewn around his flat. Phil smiled as he remembered when his grandmother had given it to him.


"Be careful with that, Philip. It's very old, very special." Nana poked his nose gently with a gloved hand. Phil pouted dramatically.


"I thought you said you bought it from a thrifty antique shop, Nana." Phil picked it up and looked it over. "There's a price tag right here that says, '£4.50'."


Nana chuckled and lifted the music box from her grandson's grubby, ten-year old hand. "Just because I bought it cheap doesn't mean that it isn't special. It was special to someone somewhere. They just didn't need it anymore." She twisted the handle on the bottom a few times, looking satisfied after she opened it up and a little boat sailed porcelain waves inside. "See? Perfectly fine."


Phil grinned and began to hum the tune.


Phil smiled and absentmindedly wiped under his eyes with the back of his hand. He collapsed on the bed and stared at the ceiling, feeling like his body had just been dipped in ice-water. He twisted the bottom handle of his music box, and the melody began to play again; but this time the ghost did not appear again.


"Perfectly fine." Phil repeated, the song washing over him. "I love you, Nan."


"I love you, too."




As Phil's first month in the new apartment drew to an end, he began to hear that ethereal voice from the past nearly every day when he came home. Most times, it was the Siren Song (as Phil had come to call it), and other times it was a song from the oldies radio station Phil would occasionally play on his phone.


No matter how many times Phil heard the voice of the angel that lived in his home, he yearned for more.


Phil had nearly jumped for joy when he stumbled upon a Tumblr blog dedicated to learning about how to live with and/or talk with ghosts. He followed it right then and there, and tried out one of the more popular methods that very same day.


The way that it worked was that you set up some kind of recording device, like a phone or a camera, and recorded audio. When you were done, you listened to the file and to any ghostly voices it picked up that the human ear couldn't hear. It was fairly simple, and Phil just wanted to see if it worked.


Phil set down his phone in the middle of the table and opened up a new audio file; and dug in to his Chinese takeout. When he felt the temperature drop slightly in the room -a fairly common phenomenon that his ghost friend caused - he began to talk.


"Hello," He began softly, poking at his noodles with a pair of chopsticks. "I'm just testing something. Don't feel obligated to respond or anything." Silence.


Phil cleared his throat. "Umm... What's your name?" He paused, in order to give the ghost time to answer. "My name's Philip Lester, but nearly everyone calls me Phil. I'm a weatherman, if you were wondering." Still more silence, but a plastic grey chair across from Phil moved slightly, which was reassuring.


"Oh dear, I feel a little weird saying this," Phil chuckled. "But I really like it when you sing."


Phil's arms became speckled with goosebumps, and a chill ran up his back, and he vaguely wondered if this was a good or a bad sign. Ultimately, he decided that now was a good time to end his experiment. He clicked the little red button on his phone, and began to listen to the audio file.


"HelloI'm just testing something. Don't feel obligated to respond or anything."  After Phil's opening statement, he heard a crackle on the recording that sounded distinctly like a chuckle, and it certainly didn't come from him.


"Okay." Said a gentle male voice, slightly higher than Phil's. Phil's stomach flipped, and a giddy feeling filled his entire chest with bubbles.


"Umm... What's your name?"




"My name's Philip Lester, but nearly everyone calls me Phil. I'm a weatherman, if you were wondering."


"Phil's a lovely name." The voice replied. Phil's entire face lit up with a bashful smile.


"Oh dear, I feel a little weird saying this, but I really like it when you sing." 


Phil heard a pleased sigh on the recording just before it cut off. 


Phil's brain was slow to process all the information he had just been given. He couldn't handle it. His body felt pleasantly disconnected; as if he had just received a heartfelt compliment from a crush.


Phil abandoned his meal and took to Tumblr for some way to hear that beautiful voice again; except in real time. He hoped to everything holy that it was possible.




A few weeks later, Phil's 'EVP Listening Device' arrived in the mail.


Supposedly, the little mechanical box that looked a lot like a walkie talkie with headphones attached, was supposed to achieve Phil's exact goal; however, it costed an arm and a leg, but Phil had money to spare.


Phil tried it again in a similar experiment to the one he had attempted earlier. Phil sat down at the table, slid the headphones over his ears, and waited for the trademark temperature drop.


When Dan finally entered the room, Phil began.


"Hello, again." He chuckled a bit at the ridiculousness of the entire situation, but forged onward. "I've got this do-hicky here that's supposed to make me able to hear you, I guess." Phil gestured to the brick sitting on the table. "You can say something, if you want."


The headphones crackled a bit. "You're insane." The familiar voice of Dan giggled into his right ear.


Phil grinned, and instinctually looked towards the clear grey chair across the table to the right, the one he had a strong feeling Dan was settled in. "I don't exactly know how to answer that."


"You don't have to. It's just... no one's ever made this much of an effort to try and talk to me. Not since... I was alive, I guess." Dan sounded melancholy and wistfull. Phil's gaze dipped down to his hands, where they were toying with a wayward thread from his pants.


"I'm sorry," Phil sighed. "That sounds so lonely."


"It was."


"Well, you've got me now. I can assure you that I won't be leaving any time soon."


"That sounds nice. But why?"


Phil was puzzled. "Why what? I don't understand."


"Why stayWhy try to talk to me? Aren't you freaked out that you're sharing a flat with a dead person?"


Phil smiled. "Well, already you're a better flatmate than nearly everyone else I've roomed with. To be serious, though, I honestly don't know why I'm not terrified right now. You just don't scare me, I guess."


The latter, of course, was a lie. Dan scared the crap out of Phil, but that fear coursing through his veins had changed over the weeks into something else, but still somewhat similar. He just couldn't pin point it yet, so it was altogether easier to say it wasn't there at all.


"That's interesting. I hope that doesn't mean you're a psycho, because you seem like a very respectable man, Phil."


Phil laughed, and a pleasant feeling filled his chest. He couldn't remember the last time he had laughed, genuinely. "I'm 99% sure that I am not a psycho."


"Only 99%? You scare me, Lester."


"Oh, shut it."




The night continued on like that, with easy flowing conversation and a ridiculous amount of bants. When Phil looked over at his stove and noticed that it was nearly 2 A.M, it finally registered in his brain that he needed sleep.


"I should probably be getting to bed now," Phil yawned and stretched like a cat, and rubbed his tired eyes. "But I have one more question for you."




"Do you sleep?" There was a bit of silence, as if Dan was thinking to himself.


"I..." Dan sounded puzzled. "In the sense that I lie down and close my eyes, yes. But do I actually sleep? Not really."


"Then what's the point?" Phil laughed drowsily.


"Well,"  Dan replied. "It's hard to explain to someone who's living, but I guess it makes me feel more... human? Like my soul is a little more settled, a little more full, warmer, in a way. As I said, it's hard to explain."


"I think I get what you mean. Also, another question. Where do you sleep, exactly?" Phil asked, the gears turning in his sleep deprived head.


Dan gulped. "Uhh... Can we pass this question? This seems like a good question to pass..."


Phil smiled coyly. "No, no... I want to know. I'm curious."


Dan mumbled his response so quietly it nearly wasn't picked up by the EVP device.


"Sorry, I didn't hear you."


"In your bed. I sleep in your bed. Okay?"


Phil shook his head and chuckled a bit. "Dan, it's not that much of a deal. I don't mind that you sleep in my bed. Platonic friends do it all the time."


"Yeah. Platonically."


Phil decided to test the waters. "Speaking of platonically, I don't mind if you also don't mind sleeping next to me tonight. If you don't mind, of course."


Phil could almost hear Dan's smile through the headphones.


"That sounds perfect."




For the longest time, Phil didn't even realize that he had built a routine around him and Dan. Four years of eating takeouts together, watching television together, and just plain spending time together all seemed to blend into one perfect dream.


During those four great years with Dan at his side, always waiting for him to come home at the end of the day; Phil's career progressed so well a prestigious promotion came his way. He couldn't pass it up.


But there was a catch.


He finally decided to break the news to Dan on a Sunday night in December, when the mood was light and cheery; the snow making everything cozy.


"I'm moving to London."


Dan had nearly dropped the plate he was carrying in his invisible hands. Phil watched the plate move on to the counter, a few anxious seconds passed without a reply. The temperature was dropping by the second.


"What?" Dan asked, his voice just hiding the emotion a layer underneath.


Phil sighed, and continued to scrub dishes. "My boss offered me a promotion. I'd be able to stay in one place. No more jumping around from city to city for weeks on end. I'd be a producer, I'd be making 30k more than I already do. But the catch was that'd I'd have to move to London. I'm sure this'll be an easy fix for us, Dan-"


"Phil," Dan's voice dripped with despair. The room was certainly colder now, and Phil shivered.


 "I can't go with you. I'm no poltergeist. I gave up my shot to leave for a better place when I died. My soul is tied here, so I have to deal with the consequences. 


Phil dropped the plate he was drying, and it shattered into a million pieces on the tile. "God, Dan... I'm so fucking sorry-"


"When do you leave?"


Phil sniffled. "Next month. I've already put down the down payment on a flat."


"Goddamit, Phil."


"I'm sorry."




The day the last box had been piled into the moving van had been the worst in Phil's life, and he'd had plenty of bad days before.


Dan had been silent for nearly a week now.


No deep conversations.


No singing.




Just silence, as if the last four years of Phil's life had only been imagination.


Every step he took while taking a last look around his old apartment was torture. He checked every room one last time, to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything.


There was one thing he had left out on purpose; something that Dan had told Phil years prior gave him enough juice to become semi-physical, even just for a few minutes.


The old music box.


Phil stood in the center of the empty lounge, hoping against hopes he would see that familiar white light again. He twisted the handle, and the tune to "Jolly Sailor Bold," began to fill the room.


And just as if a miracle had been answered, there he was, in all his angelic beauty. The same curly hair with slightly more color, the same dimpled cheeks, the same coy smile that Phil had, ultimately, grown to fall in love with.


Phil immediately knew something was wrong. Dan looked like every second he was here was a stab to the gut, and his smile was on the borderline of a grimace. "Dan? What's going on?" Phil rushed over to the boy and was shocked when his hands touched what felt like skin. "Are you okay? Dan?"


Dan's chin rested in Phil's shoulder, as if he knew that Phil was the only thing holding him together at this point. "I... asked for a favor from someone above... so that I could just... hold you... before I never see you again." Phil felt warm tears soak through his thin shirt. "But, fuck, Phil, it hurts, it hurts like hell."


Phil pulled him closer. "You never had to do this, Dan. You never had to out yourself through all this pain, for what?" Phil's eyes burned. "To say goodbye? Dan, your soul isn't worth this..."


Dan put just enough distance between him and Phil to look in his eyes. Phil had never seen Dan's real eye color. It was melting chocolate and gold flakes; deep and rich and more than Phil could ever afford, and rimmed with red that had resulted from the endless tears dripping down his cheeks. Dan sucked in a shaky breath. "There is one thing that my soul is worth, Phil."


Phil really didn't know what happened next, whether it was him or Dan that leaned in and connected their lips, but the next thing he knew, he was tasting the salt of their tears, and drinking in the airy feeling that filled him up from head to toe. Dan broke off first. "Love." Dan whispered. "It's love, Phil." 


Dan's forehead leaned against Phil's as he dissapeared, a draft wiping him away until Phil was holding nothing but an idea of someone who loved him.




"I'm too tired for this."


It was a stormy day, worse than most, and Phil tended to drift off on days like these. Endless paperwork made him want to be sick when he could just be watching the rain. So that's what he did.


The sleet pounded on the windows of his office, and he couldn't help but be reminded of the times he spent with Dan on the balcony, just watching the trees sway and the people flit about.


There was a knock on his door, and he faintly realized he looked like a brooding villain when who ever it was entered. Phil turned to greet the person, and nearly stumbled backwards in surprise.


Curly hair, dimpled cheeks, and a coy smile just hidden by business like posture. The man grinned at him and handed Phil a cup of coffee. "Sorry, your Secretary was busy and she needed someone to send this up to you, so I volunteered." The man reached out his hand. "I'm James, James Howell."


Phil chuckled and shook James's hand. He paused for a second, trying to figure out how to formulate what he wanted to day next. "Uh, do you want to go grab some drinks later? Sorry, it's just, you look like someone I used to know."


James laughed, and a familiar tug in Phil's belly returned. "Yeah, I get that a lot. I can't tonight, but I can give you my number, if that's perfectly fine with you?"


Phil nodded. "That's perfectly fine with me." James smiled and pulled out his phone.


"I guess it's settled, then."


"I guess it is."