ghost story

It was a normal day. The ghost floated downtown to conduct some routine haunting. Twenty hours per month was the minimum requirement for its continued membership in the Association for Miscellaneous Paranormal Phenomena (AMPP). Last year the ghost had let its membership lapse. Not purposefully, of course. But the ghost was easily distracted. While most of its colleagues were dedicated to their work and felt no need to pursue activities outside of haunting, this particular ghost drifted through the afterlife without focus.

It’s been said that all spirits are restless, but that’s only what the living say and what do they know. Most spirits, in fact, lead the same type of dull, repetitive lifestyles they led while alive. Many remain in the places where they died and haunt those spots for eternity, regardless of how they felt about them prior to death’s release. This may be an armchair in front of a TV, or a cubicle at the insurance company. The majority of these ghosts are passive and unobtrusivethe living rarely notice their presence. High-profile hauntings are not the norm, despite what the media reports.

The ghost in this story is different. During its early years as a living being, it tried to fit in, adopting the typical modern lifestyle of working at a boring job and participating in banal leisure-time activities. But when all of its friends and acquaintances began to pair off and raise families, its existing sense of alienation grew stronger. It knew too much of the darkness in the world, and felt itself tinged by that darkness. It no longer felt capable of living its current life. So it quit its job and set out on an aimless course in search of the usual things living beings look for on such adventures. It witnessed many wonders and met many kind others. But this adventure did not turn out to be the type of transformative experience known as a Hero’s Journey.

Once returned from its fruitless quest, the being gave away all its possessions and went into the woods, where it lived a solitary existence. Its only companions were the birds and other creatures of the forests. The being was as content as it could be (which only registered as marginal on the contentment scale), and spent its days roaming far and wide, searching, always searching for what cannot be found in the outer world. On certain rare days it felt at peace, like there might be something beyond the numb state it knew as normal. But the feeling was so fleeting it could not even be chased. When the being grew old and could no longer roam without effort, it left its body behind and continued on as a spirit, which brings us back to what started out as a normal day.

The ghost was having some fun with the revolving door at its former place of employment when something unsettling happened. One of the office drones looked right at the ghost. Now, the ghost was accustomed to living beings looking through it, but it felt very certain that this being was looking at it, recognizing it as something visible to the living. The drone’s face paled as it exited the revolving door and shuffled across the lobby, peering back over its shoulder at the exact spot where the ghost was floating.

This revelation rattled the ghost. Here it was floating around causing all manner of mischief, feeling liberated in its presumed invisibility, when in fact there was a real possibility that some or all of the living could observe its antics. It had spent much of its corporeal existence making itself as small as possible in order not to be noticed. Now it seemed that what it thought it had achieved in the afterlife was yet another lie.

Dismayed, the ghost floated through the wall and out into the street. It cruised around downtown without interest. It stopped in at the venerable Ghoul Club, but found only the regulars lounging around smoking their pipes and retelling their same old haunting tales. How boring, the ghost thought, how utterly mundane it is to be a ghost. Why, it’s no better than living was! The only good part of being a spirit has been that no one could see me, it thought. But now even that turns out to be a sham!

So the ghost paid a visit to its local union representative.

‘Hey Lou,’ it said. ‘I don’t want to be a ghost anymore.’

Lou balked at this. ‘You what now?’

‘I’m done. I want out of this game.’

‘But, it’s unheard of,’ Lou lamented. ‘You can’t just quit being a ghost!’

‘Don’t care. It’s not working for me. I think people can see me and it’s a real drag. How do I get out of it?’

‘Are you sure you’re not imagining things? I’ve never heard of people seeing ghosts.’

‘I’m sure. Today some guy looked right at me and turned white while I was haunting him.’

Lou opened a drawer in his desk and rustled through it. He pulled out a form and pushed it across the desk.

‘Here, fill this out.’

‘That’s it?’

‘Yep. And you gotta turn in your Ghoul Club card.’

The ghost filled out the form and gave Lou his card.

‘Well, Lou, I guess I won’t see you again. Thanks for helping me out.’

Lou shrugged. ‘Your loss, buddy. What are you gonna do now? Do you even have a plan?’

‘No, Lou, I don’t. But I reckon I’ll figure something out.’

Lou stamped the form and the ghost disappeared.

THE END

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5 Comments

  1. Creepy for the ghost, getting spotted like that. But I would like to have been it, while in the woods with the birds and other creatures of the forest.

    Your ending is pretty definitive. This wouldn’t be an allegory about writing as much as existence, would it? You’d be missed down at the Ghoul Club if so.

    Reply
    • I struggled for days with how to end this one. I was hoping to get it done in time for Halloween. Certainly the ‘definitive’ nature of its ending was partly borne of frustration with my debilitated creative process, but never fear, I personally am not turning in my card.

      Reply
  2. Being the sucker I am for ghost hunt shows and haunted history tours, I really appreciated the proposal that ghosts’ existences might just be every bit as uninspiring as their embodied counterparts’. Is it more fearful, in some ways, to have to face the fact that life beyond the grave might essentially offer no more of a bonus than being invisible, than it is to believe in the standard vision of the spectral as something exotic?

    Thanks for this.

    Reply
    • Thanks for reading. It’s an interesting question. I think we tend to project so much of our own fantasies onto what we don’t know or understand that it is a bit scary to sit with the idea that ghosts might lead mundane existences. It’s similar to coming to the realization that money doesn’t buy happiness, and so wealthy people do not in fact lead perfect lives.

      Reply

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