Wednesday, March 16, 2011
An Uninvited Ghost
By Scott McFarlane
From E.J. Copperman’s AN UNINVITED GHOST, coming April 5!
Being dead has a great number of disadvantages.
For one thing, it is very difficult to carry on a conversation with most people. They don’t see you, they don’t hear you, and generally speaking, they don’t care about you. This is understandable, since it is hard to care about someone if you have no idea they exist.
But I have been dead a good many years now, and I can tell you that there are certain advantages to the situation, as well. It is possible to defy certain physical laws, to travel much faster than living people, to move through solid objects, and to scare the living hell out of people when the mood strikes.
On the other hand, I am at something of a disadvantage. I am blind.
My sight was destroyed in an accident while I was alive, and when I died many years later and found myself as a… ghost, I suppose you’d call me… I assumed that it would return. Then, I assumed it would return eventually. It has now, I am told, been roughly 80 years since I passed on, and I am still unable to see anything.
I have reached a point where this situation does not bother me very much. I was used to being sightless when I was alive, and accustomed myself shortly after dying to the thought that eternity would also be a literal darkness for me. I know how to cope, and being deceased, my needs are remarkably modest. I have a place to stay and the occasional task to occupy my mind, and that is really all I require.
The lack of contact with others, either living or not, did wear on me for quite some time, and even now, I find it lonely to be myself. So when I started receiving odd messages in my house (an abandoned home on the New Jersey shore that I have claimed as my own) through a child’s spelling easel, my heart—if it had been beating—would fill with hope for companionship and interaction with another.
But the messages were strange, demanding my services in a prank that I thought first silly, then cruel. I refused to participate.
And the person—or something else—making the demand threatened to leave and never return, seeing to it that I would truly be alone forever. This late in my existence, that was an unthinkable condition.
So, to my everlasting—and I mean everlasting—shame, I gave in. And helped with the prank. And I will never forgive myself.
Not long after, I started… I can’t explain it exactly to those still breathing… sensed someone trying to communicate with me. Someone, like me, who was no longer alive. Someone who claimed to be able to help those in my condition with problems that might, were we still drawing breath, be the work of a private investigator.
And to ease my tortured mind—the one part that does not decay into nothingness—I believe I will seek out that spirit, and ask his help. When “Forever” is no longer conceptual but literal, a lingering guilt can become too much to bear.
Scott McFarlane’s story is brought to the home of Alison Kerby in AN UNINVITED GHOST: A Haunted Guesthouse Mystery, coming from Berkley Prime Crime April 5.