The night of the funeral, Wing-Ching drinks himself to sleep. When he wakes, it’s with a headache that blurs his vision, and the sun is already high in the sky. He can’t stand up, though, from the floor where he’s landed in a web of sheets, so he stays there. Besides, he doesn’t have it in him to try.
He’s passed out again, just like that, when his friends pick the apartment’s lock to find him.
Wing-Ching’s eyes are red, sunken above black bags by the end of the first week. He doesn’t sleep at night – the blackness behind his lids is asphalt, and he sees red, Sheung Sing’s blood pouring down to splatter across the street. Hears him scream. The thud of his body.
Wing-Ching has seen people die. Has killed people. Has known that their own lives were destined to be short. But this is not how Sheung Sing was supposed to go, sniped from afar by a sharpshooter on his day off, for fucksake.
The police hadn’t found the killer. They had found Sheung Sing, though, two blocks from Sheung Ching’s school clutching a bag full of candy as red as his blood – on his way to attend Parent’s Day for the first time in his life.
They hadn’t even begun to track Beast yet, and there he was. Gone.
When Wing-Ching falls onto the bed, still dressed in his uniform, his eyes are so dry that he can’t even cry.
They make him take leave. Cheap Kan says it’s for his own good, but Wing-Ching knows it’s because the division is better off without him.
Until you feel and act normally again, Kan had said. Indefinitely, Wing-Ching had thought.
And so he’s at home, now, staring at empty space, imagining dust collect slowly to fill each nook and cranny. He half-thinks he’d like to be buried by it, too. Sheung Sing’s belongings are still strewn about the apartment, littering every corner along with memories. There’s his apron by the kitchen counter; his glasses, atop books on the table; a scarf thrown across the couch to be picked up later.
It was a gift from him to Sing last Valentine’s Day, when they’d gotten themselves just drunk enough to confess. They’d kissed for the first time and made love right here, eager and sloppy.
He knows he should clean. Dust these things. Tidy them, put them away – lock them in the past.
Death happens, move on. Death happens, move on. Death happens -- and Wing-Ching keeps staring at empty space. The door to Sheung Sing’s room remains locked.
By the end of the second week, Wing-Ching can swear he’s going crazy.
He sees shapes from the corners of his eyes, shadowy wisps that dance at the edge of his vision. When he chases them, glancing their way, they disappear only to reappear, later. Sometimes they’re still but sometimes they move, blurring fast. Fast enough for Wing-Ching to become dizzy; to put down the cold, stale cup noodles he’s forcing himself to eat and lay flat on his back.
He weighs 5 kilos less than the day Sheung Sing died. He’s lost muscle, lost fat, is starting to lose his mind. But he doesn’t tell the others when they come visit; when they fill his fridge with groceries or force him into the shower, leaving the door unlocked. Wing-Ching gets it. They’re afraid he’s following Sheung Sing.
And maybe he is. Maybe he wants to. So he doesn’t tell them about these things.
About the knocks on his apartment door long past midnight, in a rhythm that mimics the way Sheung Sing’s name would roll off his tongue; how the curtains flutter though the windows are closed and the bulbs are starting to flicker. Wing-Ching hears pained wails, more animal than human as they seep through the walls of Sheung Sing’s room. Once, Wing-Ching bends down, looks through the keyhole. And he screams without sound, for an eye is staring right back. But when he looks again, clutching a gun in trembling hands, it’s gone.
Yeah. He’s lost it. He’s lost it and there’s no return.
Because it gets worse, after that.
There’s a halo to his reflection in the mirror, if he cares to look, and the glass is cracking for no reason. Wing-Ching sees his skin shimmer in the damp air that follows a shower, translucent, oscillating between splotches of lavender and gray. He wouldn’t care but when he glimpses down at his naked feet, he observes a shadow – a shadow with a shape that doesn’t look like his.
Then, Wing-Ching begins to feel cold. It starts at night and soon seeps into the day; his friends glance at him, eyebrows raised, for it’s the middle of summer and he’s bundled in thick layers. They blame it on his weight, make him eat more. But that isn’t the problem – because when Wing-Ching holds soup in his hands, he sees the steam, but the bowl is ice-cold. And so is the soup, as it trickles down his throat.
It happens late Friday evening; the kind that would’ve found Wing-Ching and Sheung Sing staring up and out over bright city lights, hunting stars in the sky. They would’ve downed sweating beers, arguing about worthless things like bills and luck and whose turn it was to cook. Eventually, Sheung Sing’s eyes would’ve darkened, his attention turning to unsolved cases. But if Wing-Ching shut his mouth with a kiss, he’d have let him – let him steal his attention and lead them to bed instead.
Wing-Ching thinks about this, fingers drumming a rhythm-less beat against his thigh while he gazes at closed blinds.
They rustle. Then, the days-old newspaper lying on the tabletop rustles; Wing-Ching’s fingers still as he freezes. The window is closed, the fan is off, and there’s no current in the vents since the air conditioner is broken – not that he would’ve used it, because he’s shivering. Can’t stop.
Again, the newspaper rustles. It falls to the floor as if it’s jumped off the table, and the blinds bounce so hard they ricochet – a vase drops down to break, spilling fake flowers and dust. Beads of cold sweat slide down Wing-Ching’s spine, pool at the small of his back.
“H-hello?” he murmurs, pinching his arm, twisting skin like this is a nightmare. It might be – he isn’t sure of much anything anymore.
The curtains cease their fluttering and Wing-Ching breathes a shaky sigh of relief. Good, that’s good, might’ve imagined it, Wing-Ching tries telling himself though he knows that’s not true – the flowers are still scattered across tile, after all.
And sure enough, the scarf that he hasn’t moved for so long moves itself. It floats in midair, twirling and billowing as if there’s a storm it’s trying to catch – and Wing-Ching shrieks, tumbling off his chair.
“Sheung Sing!?” he yells, “Sheung Sing!?”
It’s half-plea and half instinct, and Wing-Ching doesn’t really know if he even wants a reply. But he gets one.
It’s me, Wing-Ching. The words are a whisper in thin air, softer than the sound of the scarf falling into his lap and almost lost beneath the raging pulse of his heartbeat.
But he hears them. He hears them, as sure and true as the fact that Sheung Sing’s dead.
And Wing-Ching starts bawling.
That night, Wing-Ching learns 5 things.
- Sheung Sing is a ghost.
- Ghosts can’t speak unless their name is called.
- Sheung Sing is a ghost, and that hurts more than knowing he’s gone.
- No, no, it isn’t that he hasn’t moved on because of the man who killed him.
- It’s Wing-Ching’s fault. His fault for not being ready to let Sheung Sing go.
And Wing-Ching keeps crying.
They make love, somewhere in the space between Wing-Ching running out of tears to spill and Sheung Sing becoming a cold blanket that wraps around his skin. He feels like electricity, sparks that could be snowflakes landing on his body – something alive. Real.
Wing-Ching’s cheeks are pink with guilt when Sheung Sing tells him he won’t be haunted now that his spirit has been named. But, he says, stumbling over words that Wing-Ching must strain his ears to catch, he’ll disappear – dissolve into nothingness – if he keeps staying like this.
And Wing-Ching knows he has to let go or Sheung Sing will be lost for good, this time.
“I missed you, I’m sorry, I-I miss you, I’m sorry so sorry, I love you,” he’s babbling instead, until his voice cracks and air seems to solidify as it pours down his throat.
I miss you, too. I love you, too. Sheung Sing murmurs; the words settle into Wing-Ching’s heart like wet mist or raindrops clinging to glass, forcing him to relax so that his breaths are steady and his pulse calm – as calm as it can be.
“So,” Wing-Ching tries once he’s no longer trembling, “I just need to let you go. Imagine, or well, will you to move on?”
Sheung Sing hums; it stirs hairs at the nape of his neck. I think so. But you have to mean it, Wing-Ching.
“Oh,” he replies, and despair is a pit churning his stomach. “Okay.” I love you, Wing-Ching bites his tongue not to say again. It’s true, though. He loves him. Loves Sheung Sing, and that’s why he has to do this right, let what’s past remain where it belongs.
He pictures Sheung Sing somewhere else, in a place that could be heaven, and the thing inside his belly coils and grows like a twisted, thorny vine to crush the air from his lungs. He’s hyperventilating when Sheung Sing tells him It’s okay, don’t worry, there’s still time.
Sheung Sing was never good at lies.
It’s half past two and the sounds of the city are dying when Wing-Ching chokes on a sob.
“One more night,” he confesses. “I just want you with me for one more night, Sheung Sing… a chance to say goodbye.”
Wing-Ching wishes he could touch him – hug him, hold him, kiss him. Let their fingers stay intertwined till the sun rises again. But he can’t; tells himself he should be content with this – Sheung Sing a translucent shape at his side, cool against his skin like autumn’s last breeze. If Wing-Ching closes his eyes, he imagines he can hear the beat of Sheung Sing’s heart, a steady murmur of air.
So he’s surprised when Sheung Sing says We could touch, even if it will be… different.
Wing-Ching doesn’t care if it’s different.
Sheung Sing’s spirit slithers into him, and Wing-Ching gasps as if someone’s spilled frozen water in his veins. Sorry, Sheung Sing mumbles, and now Wing-Ching can hear his voice from within his own head, resonating, heavy and heady.
“It-it’s okay,” he replies, words slurred.
He’s already half hard, anticipation pooling low in his stomach, when Sheung-Sing moves his hands – unsteady, trembling – to the inside of his thigh; gives an experimental stroke through the thin fabric of Wing-Ching’s pajamas. He squirms – no, Sheung Sing inside him squirms – and Wing-Ching flushes down to the base of his neck.
“You feel what I’m feeling,” he whispers, and the realization is as hot as it is embarrassing. Because it’s not him moving, certainly – his body is Sheung Sing’s puppet.
When Sheung Sing hums, it sounds like a moan, and Wing-Ching echoes him, out loud.
Sheung Sing is clumsy, so much clumsier than he would’ve been if he were human, but Wing-Ching’s eyes are half-lidded as he watches his hands pump his cock – too tight around his base, too rough down his length. Sheung Sing tries squeezing Wing-Ching’s nipples and he’s pinching too tightly, tight enough that Wing-Ching’s head hits the headboard as he arches his back. Away or into the touch, he can’t tell.
“Sheung-Sing!” he groans, pleading, and though Sheung Sing apologizes, it’s a possessive growl that rings in his ears; almost enough to make him cum just like that.
Yeah, Wing-Ching, you like that, hmm?
“Y-yeah,” Wing moans, high-pitched. I like you I like you I love you I love everything about you, he’s thinking. I wish this didn’t have to end.
And maybe Sheung Sing can hear his thoughts, too, because he slows down, after that.
When Wing-Ching cums, it’s to cool fingers wrapped around his cock, grazing nails against his slit, and the feeling of cold lips pressed against his.
But perhaps he imagines this because he’s impossibly hot – or maybe so cold that he’s burning.
“I love you,” he murmurs, as Sheung Sing says the same. I love you.
Wing-Ching falls asleep just like that, limbs splayed above the covers instead of tucked beneath. Except that’s alright. That’s alright, since Sheung-Sing’s shape envelops his body, cool but warm, like melting snowflakes. Wing-Ching’s fingers tingle and he squeezes, imagining Sheung-Sing’s hand palm-to-palm with his.
He’s smiling through tears as he drifts asleep.
When Wing-Ching wakes, it’s to the sun on his skin, filtering through blinds that weren’t opened by him. The scarf is draped across his chest; at his side, the broken vase with fake roses has been fixed. It holds real roses now, pinker than dawn and as soft as Sheung Sing’s last words to him.
And for the first time in weeks, Wing-Ching is warm.