Riley rambles about T.V. shows I’ve never heard of for a few more minutes when I guess it finally dawns on him that I haven’t been paying attention. “Sorry, dude. I tend to get distracted and go on about stuff sometimes. It used to drive my wife nuts.”
This peaks my interest.
“You were married?”
Riley perks up from his prone position on the rooftop. “Yep! It woulda been eight years this May! Still amazes me that she stuck with me that long. As I’m sure you’ve figured out, I’m not the easiest person to be around sometimes. Becca, my wife, used to say I was best taken in small doses.”
He chuckles and I find myself smiling with him. After a few moments I venture, “So Riley, if you don’t mind me asking, how long has it been since you…”
I wince. “Yeah.”
He stares up into the clouds for a few minutes, as if he’s doing the math in his head and it’s confusing him. Eventually he shrugs and says, “You know, dude, I’m not really sure anymore. It’s hard to describe, but stuff works differently for us now.”
“How do you mean?”
His brow crinkles in concentration. “Well, you just died so you’re still thinking of stuff like a normal dude would, ya know? Like minutes and hours and days and worried about time and stuff. When you’re rocking the spirit world like we are now that stuff doesn’t matter as much. It’s like time goes by differently.”
I resist the urge to rub at temples that aren’t there anymore. “That doesn’t make any sense, Riley.”
“I know, right? Here, lemmie try and give you an example. How long do you think we’ve been chillin’ up here on this roof?”
I shrug. “I don’t know, maybe ten minutes or so?”
He nods. “Sure, it feels like that, but it’s probably been more like a couple of hours.”
I snort. “No offense, but I think you fried too many brain cells when you were alive, Riley. There’s no way we’ve been up…here…that…”
I look where he’s pointing. It’s the sun. The sun that’s close to setting. I could have sworn it was high in the sky, maybe noon or so, when we first popped out of the roof.
I shake my head. “No, that’s impossible.”
He grins sheepishly at me and shrugs again. “Told ya, dude. Welcome to the crazy-nutso spirit world.”
I feel like I’m going to pop a gasket. “Okay, so why wasn’t everything moving in fast motion when we were in my apartment?”
“Cuz we were focused, man.”
I look at him incredulously and have to fight the urge to make a crack about him and focusing, but it’d be too easy. Instead I venture, “I’ll probably regret asking, but could you try and explain that?”
“Man, Mike’s so much better at this kinda thing… Okay, it’s like this: if you’re interested in something, or like, super focused or whatever, you’re in the moment, ya know? You’re there. But when you stop trying to be in the moment, time just kinda flies by you.” He suddenly brightens like a kid that just figured out the answer to a question. “Like daydreaming! You ever just kinda drift off in thought and the next thing you know you’ve missed the first half of Scooby Doo?”
He levels a finger at me. “Same deal. When we’re focused on something it’s like everything is cool and the gang, but any other time it’s like we’re living in a daydream. Mike told me that’s why focusing on moving on is so important for us. It’s real easy to just kinda get lost in thought, and before you know it you’re giving little old ladies a heart attack because you think they broke into your apartment, when they’ve really been living there for years.”
He does the “crazy” pantomime again.
“You’ve mentioned Mike several times now, and he obviously has a good idea about how all this works. Think I could meet him?”
I have no idea how things work in this new…dimension? It’s all so hard to wrap my mind around, and I really need answers before I go “loony toons” myself. As if to emphasize this point Riley snaps his fingers and they actually make a sound, even though all evidence I’ve seen so far tells me that it shouldn’t have worked. So can we be solid sometimes and not the rest of the time? How does that even…gah!
“That’s a great idea, bro! He could answer your questions a lot better than I can!”
I sure as hell hope so.
“Just follow me, compadre!”
For the first time since waking up into this surreal headache I’ve found something that genuinely makes me momentarily happy. Flying is fun! It’s strange in that, like everything else has been so far, it’s off compared to how you’d imagine it would feel. I can feel the wind on my face, but it isn’t hot or cold, it’s just a sort of pressure. Still, flying, doing loop the loops, and barrel rolls, and all the other things you’ve always daydreamed about still causes a flutter in your gut and is just as fun as I always imagined it would be. For a short amount of time I actually forget how miserable and freakish everything has been since this morning. I was almost sorry when we arrived at our destination.
Once again, I’m surprised and more than a little nervous.
We’ve just landed at a church.
It’s not a large church by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just a small building out in the sticks- a country church like you’d see on “old timey” movies or television shows, with faded and chipped white paint and a steeple with a rusted bell and missing shingles. There are no people or cars around that I can see. In fact, there’s only a small dirt road lined by trees that leads to the church proper. It doesn’t look like the building has been in regular use in some time, though someone obviously still tends to the place. The building itself hasn’t fallen completely into disrepair, though it could use some fresh paint and a little TLC here and there, and the surrounding land hasn’t become overtaken by weeds and such. If I had to guess, it’s probably a family church on someone’s land, and every once in a while someone comes out to make sure that things don’t go completely to hell.
Riley doesn’t hesitate at all and just dive bombs directly through the roof. I’m still new to the whole ghost thing, and for a few moments I have a little panic attack about plowing face first into wood, even though I’d already flown through my own apartment not but a few hours ago.
Riley sticks his head out through the roof and waves me in. “It’s okay, dude. Just stop thinking so much.”
Then he disappears back inside.
Well, it’s easy for him to say. Thinking too much doesn’t seem to be a burden Riley has ever had to bare. But I know I’m being childish and I force myself to close my eyes and go. A few terror-filled seconds later I’m floating next to Riley in a musty, dark church. The sun has set and it makes the old building even creepier on the inside, and I find myself nervously listening for banjoes.
From beside me Riley sighs. “Dude, you need to relax! You’re so uptight that I could shove a lump of coal up your butt and get a diamond.”
I start to snap back on him but hesitate when I register what he said. “Wait, did you just quote Ferris Bueller?”
He smiles at me. “I figure if yer gonna steal, steal from the greats!”
“Right. Well, Ferris, I think I have the right to be a little freaked out right now. I kill myself and then wake up into some freaky dream-world where nothing makes sense. Now I’m standing in an abandoned church in the middle of nowhere that reminds me of scenes from Deliverance with a hippy ghost waiting for some guy named ‘Mike.’”
He actually scoffs at me. “Dave, I have the feeling you were a real uptight dude even before you bought it. You’re dead now, man. You let all that crap get to you and you offed yourself. Time to lighten up a bit.”
Before I can respond he takes off and flies through the roof again. I start to shout after him but my voice freezes in my throat when candles all around the room suddenly flicker to life at the same time. A blinding light springs into being from the alter at the front of the room- a light so bright that closing my eyes and covering them with my arms does nothing to shield me from the glare. A voice echoes throughout the tiny building in a booming baritone, and my whole “body” seems to resonate with it.
“Welcome, David Mathis. I am Michael, and I believe that you have some questions for me.”
Copyright © J.R. Broadwater 2013
All rights reserved
All of the characters are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.