Preface: this was written for Scott Buttki's Perspective Piece Assignment: Write From The Point-Of-View Of a Ghost. It did happen to me, I'm the consultant in this story.
While I was yet still in meat-space, we neatly divided up the world between the living and the dead. Kids like me were told stories of ghosts, returned from the dead to terrify the living. It's all kind of funny, because the people still in meat-space are the truly terrifying. They hurt each other, make each others' lives miserable, they steal and lie and murder, they make wars and justify them in the name of their eternal gods or their contention there aren't any gods. It's all so crazy
We the so-called Dead are beyond all that.
And it's not true we go around haunting people, gazing in windows from the darkness, longing to return. It's they who come to visit us, grieving pitifully. It's so hard to watch my Mom come to my crypt. Sometimes I do re-enter meat space and watch her sleeping, entering her dreams. I love my little brother, who will never know me.
I was only ten when I died, so I never really knew that much about meat space. For instance, I never kissed a girl. I never really saw much of the world. The others tell me a lot of things though. There are millions of us, you know. Some of them are pretty awful, but most of them are wonderful people. We exist in our own way, but it's so hard to tell you about how things are with us. It would be like two fetuses trying to talk about Beethoven. I met Beethoven, he's a wonderful spirit. He's so much happier than he ever was in meat space. He took me to a concert in Berlin once: a whole bunch of us went. Ach Brendan, he would say, these modern musicians play my works so beautifully. The conductors are so noble, and the audiences are so pleased. It was worth it, all that suffering and deafness. It's not so great, this modern music, not that things were so great when I was in meat space. But they still wipe tears away when they hear the endings of my symphonies. Brendan, es ist wirklich das gute Leben.
Beethoven and John Lennon are my favorite spirits. They are great friends now. The musicians all hang out together.
Notice we don't refer to the Living and the Dead. Really Dead is when your spirit fades. Even we don't know what happens to them. Maybe they go to heaven, or maybe they go back to meat space for another go-round of being born and eating and shitting and going to school and suffering and having children and working and getting sick and going on trips and eventually they come back here, but they don't remember being here before, so it's a big question and we talk about it constantly. Some of the Living aren't really alive, either. Some of the most tormented spirits come in and out of focus over here, their meat still alive on machinery in hospitals or being tortured in prisons. It's so horrible, and they're so relieved to be freed. There are worse things than dying. You have to trust me about that.
Every autumn, the Asian spirits, especially the Japanese, get ready for their great return at O-Bon. The Japanese light lantern boats and float them on the streams. Away they sail, bobbing in the darkness. It's so lovely, we so appreciate the gesture. We love the living, we really do. Halloween is sorta silly, but it didn't used to be. But in Europe, the spirits were hated, but they also pray to saints, so it's all messed. In Africa, they fear the spirits, too. Now, there are spirits I fear, but that's because they're so mean. Even other spirits don't like them. I hope there is a hell, because when they Fade, I wouldn't want their energy back in meat space.
So anyway, I'm supposed to tell you a Ghost Story. It happens to be a true story, too. I'm buried in a crypt in a mausoleum in Louisville Kentucky. On a hot summer day, this consultant from Chicago was driving around on his lunch hour. He'd driven by the mausoleum for weeks, he didn't know anyone interred here. Now why he decided to stop in and pay us a visit I don't know, and I don't think he did either, but he does take a lot of pictures of graves and architecture. He's not afraid of the dead, he often seeks peace in graveyards, and really, graveyards are nice places to visit. But it's quiet place, cool and shady. He walked in the front door, took off his sunglasses. There's a chapel in the center of the mausoleum with some nice stained glass in that 1960s style the Catholics like to use then. It's the middle of the day, nobody's there except us of course. He walks around, respectfully, looking at the names and dates on the crypts.
Then he comes to my crypt. My Mom came to grieve here last Easter and left a little sticker of a smiling Easter bunny by my name. The consultant stopped and gazed, and wiped his nose and eyes on a piece of Kleenex he had in his pants pocket. I guess that Easter bunny sorta got to him. He thought about my Mom, and that made me sorta sad, because I was sad when she put that sticker on my crypt, too.
Well, he walked around the mausoleum for quite a while, attracting the attention of all the other spirits. Other spirits had seen him in the Cave Hill cemetery here in Louisville, the one that goes right back to the beginning of the city. Usually we're all a little troubled when people come to grieve or when kids come to desecrate graves and horse around, but this guy seemed all right, and he thought about us as we were, when we were in meat space. He went back to the main door, past the chapel and stopped for a moment and turned around, looking back towards us. I guess there were so many of us there he could sense us, especially me. Some people can sense us, if their hearts are in the right place. He'd seen so much death and suffering, this consultant. I guess part of him was no longer in meat space but into our space too. Maybe that's why he felt so comfortable among us. He looked through us, feeling our presences.
Then he put on his sunglasses again and walked through the door, enveloped in the sunlight.