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Do you ever wonder why there aren’t more ghosts? I mean, if everyone who has ever died becomes a ghost, why aren’t we infested with them? Every corner and closet of every house should be crammed to the full with dead spirits. They should be crawling out your ears, so to speak. And yet ghost encounters are so rare and unusual. Why, if there are so many dead people, are there so few ghosts?
I wondered about this while I was alive and I didn’t get the answer until I became a ghost myself. You see, I died, just like everyone else, and I would have gone to sleep like everyone else too if I didn’t know Jack. But I do know Jack…and that made all the difference.
When people die, they are dead. They sleep in the ground and nothing ever comes of it. Sure, sometimes they might sleepwalk or something like that but they always end up right back in their grave, peaceful and harmless. But ghosts, like me, are a different matter. We never sleep. We don’t sleepwalk. And we aren’t undead. We are just ghosts, a bodiless spirit that used to belong to an animated corpse that died. So we have no place to go and nothing to do but be a ghost.
When I was alive, I liked to write. Not stories or newspaper articles or poetry, but letters and notes. I kept up a good correspondence when I was alive. I didn’t really write to anyone in particular, just anyone. I needed someone to listen to me, I suppose. So I would write down what I wanted to say to someone in a note and leave it somewhere where someone would be sure to find it (park benches, laundromats, restaurant tabletops, a purse still on the shelves in a store, in the pocket of a shirt not yet bought and so on and so forth). No one ever wrote back. I didn’t blame them. It’s a pretty psycho thing to do. But that habit didn’t change after I died.
For the last couple of months since I met my demise, I’ve been gloomy and depressed. Death will do that to a person. Part of me wished that Jack would have just put me to sleep like a normal person. But he loves me and thought he was doing the right thing. I couldn’t blame him. Oh I should have told you right off the bat (I’m a bit of a scatter brain so you’ll have to forgive me) Jack is my boyfriend and a grim reaper. He reaped me.
Jack and I went to school together all during high school, and dated for most of it. We were inseparable. I ate lunch with him everyday and he called me every night. Once a month we would go out on a date just for the heck of it. On one of our dates we watched a horror movie and made-out the whole time. The movie wasn’t scary. On another date, we burned down an abandoned fishing shack by the river at night. That was a good date.
At graduation, he pulled me aside. I thought he was going to propose. Instead, he had another bit of news for me.
“You’re going to die,” he said, his eyes all serious. I laughed a little.
“Yeah, someday,” I retorted and turned to mingle with the other graduates. He grabbed my hand and pulled me back into the corner of the gym.
“No, Hailey, you’re going to die to day! Any minute now!” He stammered, looking down at his watch. “I’m going to have to reap you now.” He was scaring me just then. When I tried to pull away again, he pulled me back and cupped my face in his hands, looking into my eyes intensely. “Listen carefully, Hailey: I’m a grim reaper. I’m here to take your soul.” I gulped hard.
Jack had never lied to me before. Even when he was mad or upset or ashamed, he never lied to me. So why would he start then and about something so strange? I had a lot of questions for him but it didn’t seem like the time to ask them.
“Will it hurt?” I asked. He shook his head. “What’s death like, Jack?”
“It’s like sleeping, where you don’t dream. You don’t dream, you don’t think, you don’t toss and turn and wake up in the middle of the night. Everything is black and it doesn’t bother you because you don’t know any better,” he said, but he was thinking about something else. He wasn’t telling me something.
“Is there any other option?”
“What is it?”
“I could make you a ghost.”
“I take your soul out before you die so that when your body dies, your soul stays alive,” he said. I rolled my eyes.
“Well I wanna do that!” I said. You may be wondering why I was so quick to accept this. But you see, I’d felt my death coming from a long way off. I woke up that morning and for some reason it felt like I was reading a book about my life and I had just gotten to the last chapter. Hearing Jack say this only confirmed that feeling.
So he just looked me in the eyes hard for a moment and I felt my soul detaching from my body. I started to float towards the ceiling but he grabbed me by the ankle and pulled me back down (reapers can feel ghosts just as tangibly as they can feel anything else). And we sat down on the bench as my mindless, soulless body wandered off through the crowd. A few moments later, we watched me die. The balcony over the gym entrance collapsed with all the people crammed onto it. I was squished.
“Congratulations,” Jack whispered sadly, trying to be encouraging. I just shrugged my shoulders.
“So what now?” I had asked him.
Not a whole lot happened for the first couple of weeks. I didn’t go to my funeral. I didn’t go back to my house. I stayed with Jack and his family (grim reapers the lot of them) and learned how to be a good little ghost. Jacks’ family told me the rules of being a ghost. This is what I learned:
Good ghosts don’t haunt people.
Good ghosts don’t haunt houses.
Good ghosts are just happy that they aren’t asleep in a grave.
Good ghosts don’t wake the dead.
I wanted to break all of those rules but I never did. Instead, I told Jack to get a pen and paper and write down what I told him to write down. And this note is one of those things I had him write down.
My new life with Jack and his family is a bit strange, I’ll admit. The reapers come and go as they please. Sometimes his family members will leave for days and days on end, reaping people all over the district (there are only so many reapers assigned to an area, you see). They don’t get assignments on pieces of paper or in emails or anything. They are just guided by a sort of feeling (at least that’s how Jack describes it) and you just know who it is that needs to be reaped. Sometimes (he told me) the people will glow sort of, as if signaling me. He told me that I glowed and that made me smile.
Most days I just sit and watch t.v. in the guest room (where I’ve taken up a more-than-guest-like residence) and sulk. Jack will come back from a reap and cuddle next to me and nibble on my ear and little and I’ll giggle and be happy for a while. When you’re dead, you never have anything to do and you never have to worry about anything. I don’t bath cause I don’t have a body. I don’t eat ‘cause I don’t have a body. I don’t do anything. Sometimes I fix my ghostly hair but it always ends up just floating around my head. I feel like I’m constantly underwater, just floating along, weightless. If I’m not careful, I start to float away and only Jack can pull me back to the ground. So I have to concentrate constantly on staying put so my soul won’t float up to heaven or wherever souls go.
Perhaps someday I’ll let myself slip off the face of the earth. Maybe I’ll just keep drifting away, up through the stars, sucked through a nebulas or a black hole or some cosmic implosion. I might sit in the heart of a star for a while or gaze my toes against the spinning ring of some enormous unlikely colored planet with a few too many moons. I don’t know. And perhaps, after all of that I might find out where the souls go and if there really is a heaven with a god and everything or just vast speckled space or something completely different that no one even knows about. And I’ll enjoy that for a while, whether it’s an unimaginable paradise or the vast expanse of the abyss, but I’m sure after all of that I’ll concentrate really hard and float back to earth, back to this place, back to the dark-lit room with the t.v. screen casting a bluish light on the unmade bed and I’ll snuggle in close to Jack. He’ll hug me close and nibble my ear and make me laugh and I just might fall asleep right there when I come back from the universe.
But for now, I think I’ll just stay here. And keep writing notes for anyone who will read them.