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the beating of my ghostly heart

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Frigga told Thor to use a glass when he rinses his mouth after brushing his teeth. He doesn't, cause habit. But he keeps like holding an empty one in his hand like he's about to fill it up when he ducks his head under the running water cause habit #2.

Usually, when he straightens back up to his full height all he sees in the mirror is an 18 year old with a buff bod and shoulder-length hair that keeps getting into his eyes and which his parents keeps insisting on him needing to trim it.

This morning however, when he straightens back up to his full height, Thor sees his best friend Bruce Banner standing right behind him by the towel rack.

Problem is, Banner's been dead for over a year now.

Killed himself one night, jumping off the school's roof.

Thor doesn't hear the glass shatter at his feet. Nor does he feel the bite of the molecule-sized shards shooting into his right foot like shrapnel. He only kinda gets it that he's cut when he spins around so fast he gets a dizziness whirl and slips a little bit in his own blood. Even then, his hand flies out to cup his fingers around his kneecap for some reason as if it's what's hurting.

Breath shaky in his throat, Thor's eyes jump around like a bullet bouncing off an impenetrable surface. From the light-pink toilet seat to the door with Odin's stupid bathrobe hanging off it to the rash-like tiny red flower print on the shower curtain it goes. But no Banner in sight.

Reaching behind him, Thor grabs the basin with both hand, regaining his balance and knocking some shampoo bottles into the sink cause big shoulders bumping into stuff. Odin's anti balding cream whacks him across the knuckles on its way down and it fucking hurts.

A thread of burning pain wraps itself around Thor's ankle and snakes up his leg. The ends of his grey sweatpants are splattered with blood, each mini-drop the size of a grain of sugar.

His ever-annoying 17 year old brother Loki from the other side of the door: "Thor Odinson's pretty face, shattering mirrors since 1999."

Loki's voice sounds all garbled cause of the white noise running like an electric wire from one of Thor's ears to the other and it's not a mirror that's broken, you snot bubble.

Thor ends up just mouthing a shut up cause his voice is gone, and scans the room again.

"What, no snide comment."

Loki taps away on his phone. Black nails on tiny keys. Tap-tap-tap like a cockroach running on glass.

Who you texting you little shit you got no friends.

The words don't come out though cause

Banner was there.

Last time Thor had seen him, Banner was lying in an open coffin inside the church surrounded by dozens of flower bouquets. He smelled like jasmine and some strands of his curly hair that were pushed back from his smooth forehead (wrinkle free cause he was only 17 and people who die at 17 don't get wrinkled foreheads it's a fact) were all stiff. They put too much hair gel in when they combed it at the funeral home so he'd look presentable and not give off the impression that he's been in close contact with formaldehyde and surgical stitching wire and body storage freezers in the previous couple of days.

Banner owned exactly one suit which he only wore once—to his father's funeral two months before. The suit they wanted to bury him in was new. It was a perfect fit and he looked strangely beautiful in it, like he was dressed for a wedding. Talk around school had it that his mom went a little crazy in the store purchasing it. The police got involved. They sympathized. Had someone give her a sedative, some tissues and a ride home. The chief of police attended the funeral. The photo that was printed in the paper the next morning had him holding his hat in his hands while the priest read out the prayers. The chief's uniform was full of insignias but non of them reflected the light that hovered inside the church like fog, casting the candle flames in hissing-grey.

Thor was one of the few who touched Banner in the coffin. A few kids from school touched his hands which were placed in the dead man's position folded over his empty ribcage, keeping his tie lying flat against his sternum.  Thor kissed his forehead. One of the guys lifted Banner's string bracelet, the one he got on a trip to Morocco the year before, and walked away with it when the funeral ended. No one knows who it was.

Loki again: "hi, mom? Me thinks Thor has pulled an Alice on us and walked through the looking-glass."

Frigga mumbles something in return and Loki goes: "yeah. Dropped something in the bathroom. N—" a pause and then to Thor in a bored tone: "mom's being dramatic and wants me to see if you're still alive in there. Well, are you."

That's when Thor sees Banner again in the mirror. Going by the reflection, Banner should be standing right next to Thor, on the left.

Thor turns his head that way. Nothing there, just a scented candle (cinnamon delight) on a low shelf.

Thor looks back at the mirror.

Banner's big black eyes are staring at him. It's not something out of a horror movie. It doesn't chill you to the bone. It's just Banner and his soft sad eyes like missed you and Thor shakes his head, speechless cause it's like he took a stun gun to the heart.


Loki starts turning the knob. 

Thor jumps back, lightning speed, and locks the door.

He blinks at Banner's reflection, his shoulder blades pressing into Odin's robe cause he's standing flat against the door as if Loki can force his way inside even though it's locked. He probably could, though, Thor wouldn't be surprised if he did. Loki's into practicing witchcraft at the moment just buying all these books about spells and bad luck and stuff online and even though Thor thinks it's just nonsense for kids, the look Loki gets in his eyes when he talks about things he's read, it makes Thor doubt cause Loki looks dead serious and like he's experienced some stuff and does Thor really wanna know about it.

Banner doesn't have a shirt on. He's cut from breastbone to navel cause postmortem but no insides are showing. It's just this really long pink scar like raw fish meat, that disappears just under the waistband of his pants. He's got his chain around his neck, the one he used to wear all the time—silver chain with a tribal sun pendant that sits right over his sternum and its rays curl around like tendrils of campfire smoke.

Loki again: "did you just...?" a pause, then Loki tries the door. Another pause when he finds out his ears aren't pathological liars and Thor really locked himself in.

"Oh, wait. Is this like this new masturbation thing. Is broken glass in these days."

Thor can't help himself and hisses back: "you should know, you always got your dick in your hand. Now leave me alone."

"Ha. Nice one." Then to Frigga, "you know, mom, life as a starting quarterback can be kinda stressful when you're in high school. They say coke helps take the edge off. Just saying."

That little—now Frigga's busting down this door in two for sure.

"Thor, what is this I'm hearing about drugs!"

Thor walks up to the mirror, leaving bloody foot prints on the tiles Frigga just cleaned last night.

Thor stands in front of the mirror, pain in his foot, sweat on his forehead and jasmine in his nostrils. The entire room smells of it.

Banner's got his geeky glasses on. He wasn't wearing them in the open coffin, but it's said that his mom put this pair in his suit's pocket just before they closed the casket. He couldn't see anything without his glasses.

Banner gives Thor a sad little smile, pushing the glasses up the bridge of his shiny nose.

The blood makes Thor's bony toes stick together. It feels like he'd just impaled his foot on a telephone pole. His mom's about to bring down the door with all the knocking and rattling.

Thor shakes his head at Banner.

"What are you doing here," Thor says softly.

Banner blinks hopelessly behind his glasses. It looks like he wants to say something. To let everything out. But instead he just raises his hand and points to his mouth that stayed closed this entire time.

He taps his forefinger against his lips twice.

Then, he disappears.