THE MAN STANDING IN THE kitchen had not been dead long. He had newbie written all over him.

For starters, color clung to him; his hooded sweatshirt was such a vivid red, it looked tangible—as though I could reach out and pinch it between my fingers. I had noticed over the years that the longer ghosts hang around, refusing to move on, the more they resemble black and white copies of themselves. This man looked fresh. Alive. Had it not been for the telling chill that crept down my spine seconds before I saw him, I would have mistaken him for an intruder.

I halted a moment, and almost turned away to head back to my room. But I worried that would draw even more attention to myself. Instead, I moved cautiously toward one of the cupboards, fetching a mug for hot chocolate. It was perhaps futile to pretend I couldn’t see him, but I figured worth a try. I had a paper due in my Shakespeare class, a test in Astronomy, not to mention the Our Town audition in the afternoon. No time for ghost nonsense. Yet, as I knew from past experience, the dead hardly cared about my schedule and priorities. Ignoring the man was my best option.

Humming softly to myself, I heated up some water, then mixed in the cocoa. I dropped a handful of marshmallows into the mug before sitting at the kitchen table. The hot chocolate scalded my tongue, but could not chase away the chill.

My newbie ghost had yet to notice me. He circled the tiny kitchen, each loop smaller than the last, until he reached the center. He stopped, and his gaze washed over the plywood cabinets, up to the dome light-fixture my roommates affectionately called, “Boobie.” Confusion, mingled with panic lit his face. Another tell-tale sign. He didn’t appear to know where he was, or why he was there. I doubted he even realized he was dead.

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