Tag Archives: spirits

Moving On: Chapter Six

 

Moving On

“Dude! Dave, snap out of it!”             

Riley shakes my shoulder and I completely spaz. With a scream I flail and end up falling out of the chair. I’m still flailing and screaming when Robin bends down, lays a hand on my chest, and speaks in a soothing, calm tone of voice. “David, listen to me. You need to calm down. It’s okay. Relax. You’re safe, David. You’re with friends now. It’s over.”

Eventually the screams die out and my throat feels raw. I’m beginning to hyperventilate, my whole body is shaking, and I feel almost as bad as I had after being sling-shotted. What the hell was that?

Now that I’m not freaking out nearly as bad, Robin is trying to sooth the others. As I fight to steady my breathing my eyes drift over to where the kids had been sitting. They’re all huddled together in a corner, holding their hands over each other’s ears. They look terrified and I feel like an ass for scaring them, even though it wasn’t intentional. It’s not like they haven’t been through enough already. The rest of the group looks equally wigged out. Some stood up to get a better view of the show. The young couple is over by the kids, trying to calm them down and get them back into their chairs. The rest are still in their seats with various expressions of “what the hell?!” on their faces as they stare down at me. I guess what just happened to me isn’t exactly common.

Figures.

Robin holds up his hands in a placating gesture, as though he’s trying to calm a frightened animal. “It’s okay, everyone. David will be okay. He just had a flashback of his death, is all. That happens sometimes. It’s very intense, but he’ll be fine. Everyone, please, just take a seat and we’ll get started again in a few minutes.”

He turns his attention back to me. “David, are you all right?”

I was a damn sight short of “all right” but I manage to nod and mutter, “Yeah.”

He and Riley each offer me a hand and pull me up. I’m still shaky but they manage to get me back into my chair. My body feels like jello, and it takes effort to keep myself upright and resist sliding back down to the floor. I’m supposed to be a freaking ghost! Why is my body acting like I’m drunk?

Robin waits until I’m not squirming any more before asking sincerely, “Are you okay, David? I know the first time that happens can be pretty traumatic.”

The only thing I can manage is, “What the hell?”

He nods, understanding. “I know. It’s upsetting, just as much after the experience as it is during. We don’t have physical bodies anymore, but we still remember what it’s like to have them.” He points to his head and taps his temple a few times with his finger. “This makes it real. It still reacts as though you’re still alive and in your body. It’s why you’re still breathing heavy right now, even though you really don’t need air…or even technically even still have lungs. It’s what you think you should be doing, so you are.”

That’s ridiculous.

He must see the disbelief in my expression because he smiles and shrugs. “You’re skeptical, I can tell. Try me. Really think about why you’re reacting the way you are. Think about why you’re breathing heavy. Really concentrate on it.”

I want to tell him to shove it. I’m reacting this way because I’m scared out of my mind! How else am I supposed to act?

But I guess that’s his point, isn’t it? I’m only reacting how I think I should be.

I focus on my heavy breathing. It feels like all those times I’d tried to go for runs like all the other good yuppies. I’ve never been very athletic, and after about five minutes of jogging I’d end up breathing like an asthmatic. My chest would burn and I’d struggle to try and breathe normally… just like I’m doing now.

That’s really stupid. I’m a ghost. I don’t have lungs. I don’t need to breathe. Why am I doing this?

To my complete surprise, all at once, my chest stops burning and I’m not breathing at all. Then I start to panic because I’m not breathing at all! Then I realize just how stupid that is, and I’m fine again.

Jeebus, at this rate I’ll end up in a ghost nuthouse.

Robin smiles and pats me on the back. “Good! You picked up on that pretty quick. Usually it takes people a lot longer.”

My throat still feels hoarse, and now I wonder how much of that is in my head and how much is real. Does this body really “feel” anything? Can I be hurt?

I don’t know, but thinking about it is giving me a headache…which is another thing to think about.

Dammit!

“Yeah, I’m special that way. What the hell was that?”

Robin blinks for a second, confused. “Uh, like I just said, you had a flashback to your death. Death is traumatic, and for spirits, when we remember our deaths, it’s like we’re reliving it. Kind of like a ghost version of PTSD.”

I wave a hand and shake my head. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get that. I mean the things at the end. The shadow people.”

Robin’s expression darkens and suddenly Mr. Rodgers isn’t having such a great day in the neighborhood anymore. His voice drops to barely a whisper and he leans down closer to me. “You saw them?”

The intensity in his stare makes me flinch back a little, but I nod. “Yeah, what hell are they?”

He glances around nervously at the others before leaning back in and whispering in my ear, “See me after the meeting and we’ll talk about it. I don’t want to frighten the others.”

Frustration flares but I manage to keep myself in check. No sense in pissing off the one guy who might have answers. Besides, as freaked out as he looks right now, I know arguing won’t do anything but make things worse. “Fine.”

Robin straightens and closes his eyes for just a moment, calming himself, and then he takes his place back at the head of the group. He tries to put on a front that says everything is fine, but I can tell that my mentioning of the shadow people is really flipping his wig. Whatever they are, they’re obviously not good, which is freaking me out even more.

If I was really reliving my death, does that mean that those…things were there when I died? If so, why? They didn’t exactly look friendly…

Son of a bitch, ever since I died my life has just gone straight to hell.

Robin claps his hands to get everyone’s attention again and he forces himself to chuckle. “Well, that was a little bit of excitement, huh? David is going to be okay, everyone. That kind of thing does tend to happen every once in a while, so if it happens to you, please, just give yourself a little time to recover. It can be very upsetting, but I promise you’ll be fine.” He looks back at me. He’s smiling, but there’s a new intensity behind his expression. “David, how are you doing now?”

I’m freaking the hell out, that’s how I’m doing!

“I’m fine.”

“You feel up to giving it another go?” He holds up a hand before I can respond. “If not, it’s totally understandable.”

To be honest, I’m nervous as hell about trying making myself “appear” again. What if the flashback hits and those things are there? But I can’t keep running if I want to get the hell out of this…plane of existence or whatever the damn term is. I know that being able to make myself be seen is a necessary step in that direction. “No, I want to try again.”

Robin genuinely smiles this time, a little bit of sunlight breaking back through the clouds. “That’s great, David; very brave of you. Okay, I want you to close your eyes again and think about what you looked like, and then keep that image in your mind. Focus on it and believe that it’s still how you look. Concentrate on that thought alone- ‘this is who I am.’”

I nod and close my eyes again. I picture myself, how I’ve always seen myself when I look in the mirror. I don’t focus on any particular memory, because that’s how I got into trouble the last time. Instead, I imagine that I’m standing in front of a full length mirror and looking at myself. I’m 5’10. I weight about 180 pounds with a broad build, but thin. My brown hair is trimmed short and well groomed. I’m clean shaven, with brown eyes, a slightly angular face. Jenna always said that she thought I looked like a younger John Hamm. I thought she was nuts, but I wasn’t about to argue with her. Who would? John Hamm is like masculine sexuality personified and if my hot girlfriend wanted to see me that way who was I to disillusion her?

I start to imagine I’m in one of my suits, but that’s not really me. That was a role I had to play. I was always more comfortable in jeans or khakis and a t-shirt. I decide to go with my favorite pair of jeans and the navy blue sweater that Jenna had gotten me for Christmas. She liked the way it looked on me. Satisfied, I hold that image of myself in my mind, focus on it, and then I open my eyes.

Everyone around the circle is smiling at me. The kids all start to enthusiastically clap and cheer, which encourages the rest to do the same. I look down at my hands and see, well, my hands. I’m wearing the jeans and the blue sweater.

I’m me.

I start to laugh again, but this time with relief and pride, and for a few precious moments I’m not worried about anything. For the first time in a long time I’m ecstatic just being me.

Robin is practically beaming. “Great job, David! You just took a big step.”   

Yep, me and Neil Armstrong. I thank everyone and once the cheering dies down Robin stands up and addresses the group again. “Okay, guys, I think we’ve had a pretty eventful night already, so let’s just call it a bit early. We’ll meet back here at the same time tomorrow. Remember to practice what you’ve learned, and I want you to keep working on your lists of things that you think you may need to address in order to move on, okay? Great. Good night, everyone.”

Everyone comes by to shake my hand and officially introduce themselves, but Robin comes to my rescue. “Hey folks? David has had a rough night. Why don’t we give him a chance to recover a bit, huh? I’m sure he wants to meet you all, but let’s save it for tomorrow, okay?”

I smile and give everyone a little wave as they disperse. Some just sort of fade away, others fly through the ceiling or walls and after a few seconds it’s just Riley, Robin, and me. Robin looks really nervous as he gestures back towards the chairs. “We better sit down.”

As soon as my spirit butt hits the chair Robin is leaning in and looking deadly serious. “I want you to tell me exactly what you saw and felt, as best as you can. I know how painful that might be for you, but it’s important.”

I feel Riley pat me on my shoulder. “It’s okay, man.”

I nod and relay what I saw and felt as best as I can, though I’m sure to not concentrate on anything in particular for too long. That’s a really fun balancing act to try and manage, but I sure as hell don’t want to trigger another flashback. The entire time I’m speaking Robin’s expression is growing increasingly sour, and when I finally finish and describe the three shadow people he looks like he’s seen, well, a ghost.

“This isn’t good. No, not good at all.”

“Gee, Robin. You really know how to reassure a guy.”

His head snaps up and he looks like he might be sick. “This isn’t funny.”

Anger flares again, but I don’t bother holding back this time. I stand up so quickly that my chair flies backward. “No shit! I’m fucking terrified right now, so how about one of you give me a straight answer as to what the hell is going on! What were those things?”

“Vampires.”

I spin and look down at Riley. I expect to see him smiling but he looks almost as scared as I feel. “Vampires?! Give me a break, Riley.”

Robin stands up and shakes his head. “That’s just what we’ve come to call them. They aren’t vampires in the way that you’re thinking. They used to be spirits just like us, but now they’re…something else.”

Riley chimes in, “They’re really old spirits that have hung around long after they should have faded. Their tethers are gone, but they stick around by feeding on other spirits.” He suddenly gets a really distant look on his face that creeps me out. “Mike told me all about them after a couple tried to do it to me, right after I died.” His voice drops to barely a whisper. “Mike stopped them.”

“Mike stopped them? How?”

Riley shakes his head and jumps up from his chair. “I- I’m sorry, I just can’t talk about this right now. I’ve gotta get back to Becca.”

Before I can protest, Riley takes off faster than my old cat when the vacuum came on.

Damn.

“He has a reason to be afraid, and so do you, David.” Robin gestures for us to sit again and I reluctantly take the chair that Riley had vacated. “Those spirits are bad news.  They roam in packs, and when they feed, they completely drain their victims. It dissipates them.”

“Dissipates?”

Robin nods solemnly, holds up both fists, and then dramatically snaps them open, like a child describing an explosion.

“Poof. Gone. Spiritual death.”

Spiritual death? Well, things just keep getting better and better.

Main Archive Page   Chapter 7 ->

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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Moving On, Ongoing Serials

Moving On: Chapter Four

Moving On

The candles go out as he disappears, leaving me sitting in the dark. When I was a kid and my mom used to drag me to church, our cranky pastor used to do that to the church lights when he was ready to get home to his fried chicken and football but his “flock” was hanging around gossiping for too long after service.

You know, subtle.

“Wow, Mike. Thanks for that.”

I know I should get going, but I just don’t have the energy to get up and move yet. Instead, I find myself thinking long and hard about some of the things Mike said. I think about Riley and how I treated him today. I think about how he died and what he left behind. I find I’m ashamed to admit that I wouldn’t have done what he did to save that woman. I’d like to think I would have been one of those people that would go back in the store and at least call the police, but I know I would never have directly tried to intervene myself.

That line of thinking leads me to Mike’s rather blunt assessment of the kind of man I was, and I guess still am. I never really thought of myself as a bad guy. Then again, I guess most narcissists wouldn’t, would they? I did always see myself as the smartest person in the room. I’d get frustrated when I saw people who were walking disasters get promoted ahead of me. I’d feel left out because I wouldn’t be invited out after work. I felt like my world fell out from underneath my feet when Jenna walked out the d-

No.

No, I’m not going to think about that. Not now. I’ve got enough to deal with as it is. Right now, I need to get my not-quite-solid butt back to my “tether” before sunrise. I don’t know what Mike’s definition of “unpleasant” is, but I sure as hell don’t want to find out.

Of course, as soon as I have that thought, a beam of muted sunlight breaks through the grime on the church windows and hits me right in the eye. Very funny, Michael, God, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or whoever the hell is running things.

Very.

Funny.

“Well, shi-“

 It feels as though my entire body is being pulled inside out. My stomach does flip flops like I’m on the worst rollercoaster in the history of bad theme park rides, and just when I feel like I can’t stand it any longer I find myself back on the floor of the bathroom in my apartment- a mirror image of my position the day before. I also feel like I got hit by a semi-truck, backed over, and then run over again for good measure. It hurts to move. Hell, it even hurts to blink.

“Well, looks like someone got sling-shotted. Sucks, don’t it?”

Against my better judgment I force my eyes to open and instantly regret it as the slow, persistent pounding in my head suddenly becomes a death metal drummer. Once my eyes focus I see Riley staring down at me from his perch on my bathroom sink. He shakes his head in sympathy. “Harsh, man. Same thing happened to me my first night.”

I grunt in affirmation. It’s all I can manage. He nods in understanding and hops down from the sink. “Well bro, good news is the crappy feeling will pass in a few minutes.” He casually looks around the room. “Wow, your landlord was quick on the trigger to get this place cleaned up. It looks much nicer without all the blood and unhappy people everywhere.”

I grunt again and try to sit up. Big mistake. The room spins and my head drops back to the floor.

Riley helpfully chimes in, “Yeah bro, don’t rush it. Only makes it worse.”

Thanks, Riley. You’re a veritable fount of helpful information.

I lay on the floor for a few minutes, first wishing for death, then realizing that I’m already dead, followed closely by wondering if this might be hell and if the devil is just screwing with me. Meanwhile, Riley has been rambling the entire time, but I’ve been too focused on feeling like hammered dog crap to pay any attention. After about five minutes of this routine I finally feel like I can sit up and manage to do so.

Riley, pleasant and cheery as ever, waves at me excitedly. “Look who’s finally up!”

I try to remember the harrowing tale of Riley’s death and home life that Michael told me last night, but instead all I see are images of me beating him like a piñata and wondering if candy might come out. That mental image makes me smile, an expression that Riley takes as encouragement.  

“There we go, buddy! Feeling better?”

The smile dies a horrible, messy death, as I groan and try to stand up. I’m a little wobbly, but manage to make it without falling back on my butt. “This. Sucks.”

Riley nods emphatically. “Yeah, man. You better believe I’m home long before sunup every day after that first night. Once was more than enough for this guy. You should be right as rain in a few. You have a nice place here, by the way. I didn’t really get a chance to look around last time.”

I use the sink for support as I mutter, “Yeah, thanks.”

I’m feeling a little guilty about the piñata thing now that the pain isn’t wracking my body. As I watch Riley look around like a yokel during his first trip to a real city I feel a pang of sympathy for him. “Hey Riley, I’m glad you came by today. I wanted to tell you I’m sorry if I was kind of a jerk yesterday.”

He waves the comment away like he’s shooing a fly. “Naw man. It’s cool. You had a lot to process. I understand.”

I manage a smile for him. “Thanks. How’s your wife doing, by the way?”

I didn’t think it was possible for Riley to get any perkier than he already was, but I’m wrong. He starts to beam. “She’s doing great, man! Won’t be long now! I’m so excited I can hardly stand it! I’m going to be a father!”

I nod. “Yeah, congratulations. Michael told me all about it last night.” I study the floor for a few moments, my own shame suddenly overcoming me. Here I was, a man who took his own life, standing with another who had his taken from him. I hadn’t really thought of it that way until this moment. “I’m sorry, about what happened to you. It’s not fair.”

The sunshine dims just a bit, but he still manages a wan smile. “Yeah, that sucked pretty hard, man.” He shrugs. “But crap happens, ya know? That lady ended up okay, and I’m still able to be there for Becca. So, it’s all good.”

I shake my head. “I don’t think I’d be taking it half as well as you. I mean, you still get to see her, but it’s got to be hard not being able to talk to her, or for her to see you back, right?”

He frowns. “What are you talking about man? She can see and talk to me.”

He starts to laugh again as he points at me and what I’m sure is a comical expression of dumbstruck confusion. “Oh! You got me! You’re just messin’ with me!”

Maybe the slingshot trip messed me up more than I thought. I try to stand up straight and shake my head. “Wait, are you saying Becca can see and hear you?”

“Sure, man! I mean, it takes some real concentration, and it can be draining so I can’t do it for long periods, but she’s my tether, so it’s not too bad.”

Unbelievable. Michael had mentioned it was a possibility last night but I’d not really paid much attention to it. “So, does it work for other people too, or just Becca?”

He stops pacing around the room and scratches at his head. The action kicks up little wisps of spirit-smoke. “You know, I’m not sure! I haven’t really tried it with anyone else.”

“So how does it work?”

He leans against the doorway and I half expect him to fall right through like out of a slapstick cartoon. “Well, it takes a lot of practice. I think I scared Becca half to death the first few times. It’s like, you gotta really concentrate on what you’re doing.” To demonstrate he walks back over to the sink and grunts as he picks up my toothbrush that’s resting on the counter. He’s obviously straining with concentration and effort, but sure enough he’s lifting it. In the mirror’s reflection it looks like the toothbrush is floating on its own. “You have to focus on each word, and have really clear in your head what you want them to see and hear… or in this case, what you want to move.”

He sets the toothbrush back down and falls against the counter for support, breathing heavily, like it weighed a ton. “Whew!”

He has to catch his “breath” for a second before continuing, “It’s almost like when you’re all bound up from not eating enough of that nasty bran cereal, so you’re trying real hard to take a-“

I hold up a hand. “Yeah, I’m picking up what you’re throwing down, Riley. Thanks.”

He gives me a thumbs up as he pushes off the counter and stands up straight. “No problem, man. It’s actually kinda why I came by this morning. I was thinking you might want to meet a few of the other locals, you know? We try to meet once a day and talk. Help each other out.”

  I can’t help but chuckle. “What, like a spirit support group?”

He laughs with me but nods. “Yeah, something like that. They might be able to tell you stuff I can’t. A lot of them have more experience with this ghosting thing than I’ve got. They’re the ones that taught me how to do my little magic trick there. If anyone can teach you about how to make yourself be seen and heard, it’s these folks.”

I nod and take a few test steps. When I manage to walk a straight line without falling over I figure I’ll be okay to leave. “That’s a good idea man. Thanks. Let’s head out.”

He starts to warn me but I’m not listening as I try to step through the bathroom doorway and into my living room. The next thing I know I’m back on the floor and the death metal drummer is getting to his solo in my head. “What. The. Hell!?”

I look up and see Riley wincing in sympathy. “Ooohhh, sorry. I tried to warn you but wasn’t fast enough. I think you’re still on the energy mend, bro. You probably won’t be able to leave for a little while. It’s all good though, cuz the meeting isn’t until sundown anyway.”

The dizziness fades quickly, thank God for small favors, and I’m able to stand back up. “Wait, so I’m stuck in here until I recharge? How long is that going to take?”

 “Well, since you got sling-shotted, it’ll probably take most of the day.” He shrugs. “At least it did for me.”

“So I have to spend the day stuck here in my bathroom?!”

He nods, and then sticks his head through the doorway to admire my living room. “Yeah, that sucks man. You should have killed yourself in here! You’ve got a sweet setup!”

Anger and visions of piñatas are back with a vengeance, and I growl through gritted teeth, “Hey Riley? You like candy?”

Main Archive Page   Chapter 5 ->

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Moving On, Ongoing Serials

Moving On: Chapter Three

Moving On

If ghosts had bladders I’d be peeing right now. Just as suddenly as it appeared, the light blinks out and a man with short blonde hair wearing a white t-shirt and jeans is in its place. With a bemused smile he winks at me and says, “Boo!”

I lower my hands and grimace as he laughs. When he sobers he waves his hands around the room and says, “I’m sorry about the theatrics, but it’s just too much fun to pass up.”

I fold my arms over my chest. I’m still extremely nervous, but I’m also more than fed up with being screwed around with. I put up with that crap all the time when I was still alive, and I’ll be damned if I’ll put up with it while I’m dead. “I didn’t realize that angels had a sense of humor.”

He grins as he leans back on the alter. “Who said I was an angel?”

I mimic his previous gesture and indicate the building and all the candles. “You saying you’re not? What with the church, the candles, the blinding light, and the big booming voice?”

His grin becomes lopsided, like Harrison Ford about to deliver a one-liner. “Well, maybe I just really dig the Wizard of Oz.”

And this is where I finally lose it.

“Can someone please just give me a damned straight answer! I slit my wrists to get away from bullshit like this! So I could finally find some kind of peace! What do I get instead? A bad LSD trip, a brain dead hippy, and a smart assed angel! Is that all life is?! Am I doomed to just be eternally miserable surrounded by morons and assholes?! God!”

Now that I’ve spent all that pent up frustration I feel like a total idiot. Michael hasn’t so much as blinked since I started my little tirade and he’s still just staring at me with that smug grin on his face. We stand like that for a few minutes before he finally pushes off of the alter and arches an eyebrow at me. “You done throwing your little temper tantrum?”

Anger, hot and fierce, blooms in my chest again, but I bite back my response. As if Michael could tell, he nods and takes a few steps towards me. “Good. Now we can get started.”

My voice is strained, and I’m suddenly very tired as I float down to the floor. “Started with what?”

“What you came here for. Answers.” He shrugs. “Well, some of them anyway. There are some things you’re going to have to figure out for yourself.”

Before I can say anything he holds up a hand to forestall comment. “Not my rules, David. There are some things you’re going to have to work through on your own. It’s a part of the process.” He levels a finger at my chest. “And it’s your own fault.”

Exasperated, I point to myself. “My fault?”

He sighs. “You took your own life, David. You left a lot of things unresolved. You basically just made the process a whole lot more complicated for yourself.”

I rub my face with my hands, surprised that they feel solid but too tired to care why at this point. “More complicated. Just freaking great. And you send Riley the village idiot to explain things to me. Thanks for that.”

For the first time Michael actually looks angry. In the blink of an eye he’s nose to nose with me and jabbing me in the chest with a rather large finger. “You stow that crap right now, you hear me? Riley may be a bit eccentric, but he’s a good man and he volunteered to help you when nobody else really wanted the job.”

Ouch. So I’m a pariah even in the afterlife. Sucks to be me.

I wince but still can’t help but retort, “If Riley is such a good man, then why is he still here in limbo? Why didn’t he just get a free pass to the other side or whatever?”

Michael’s hard expression goes soft, and he suddenly looks as tired as I feel. He nods over at a pew next to us and takes a seat. Reluctantly, I join him. Once I’m seated he leans forward on the pew in front of us, like it’s Sunday School and all he wants to do is go back to sleep. “He should have, but Riley chose to stay.”

I snort. “He chose to stay?”

Idiot.

As if he can hear my unspoken thought Michael stares daggers at me and repeats, “He’s a good man; a good man who doesn’t want to leave his wife alone on this world while she’s still pregnant with their unborn child.”

Aaand my smug balloon is popped. “Oh.”

Michael sits up and continues heaping the coals on my head. “He was at a grocery store about a month ago, picking up some things for his wife when, as he was leaving, he heard a woman scream. She was being attacked by a man in a side alley. Most people would have just kept walking, afraid to get involved. Maybe they would have run back in the store and called the police, knowing that by the time they responded it’d be too late to help. Not Riley. He didn’t hesitate for a second. He ran to help her, and he was stabbed in the chest while trying to pull the man off of that poor woman. Riley was a hero, and saved that woman from being raped and probably killed. He gave his life for a total stranger, and now he refuses to leave his pregnant wife alone until his child is born. But, he still volunteered to take a day away and go to help you through your transition.”

Wow.

Who has two corporeal thumbs and feels like a total ass?

This guy.

He lets it sink in for a moment before adding, “Just something to think about the next time you see him…if he decides to see you again.”

I nod, unable to speak past the foot in my mouth.

“So!” Michael’s voice brightens as he slaps me lightly on the back. “Here’s what you need to know for now. Riley already told you about the most important thing.”

I mutter, “Moving on?”

“Yep! You may not have cared for his description of it, but believe it or not it was fairly apt. You need to resolve whatever crap it is you’re still carrying around with you that’s holding you on this plane of existence. Until you do, you can’t go on to what’s next.”

I glance up at him. “What is next?”

He smiles and shakes his head. “No spoilers. Right now what you need to focus on is you. Whatever comes next is entirely dependent on that.”

I sigh in frustration, wanting to protest but knowing it’s pointless, and nod my head instead. “Okay, so what do I need to do?”

“That’s entirely up to you.”

I glare at him but he’s unphased. “Hey man, it’s not my life. I can’t tell you about you and what you need. You’re the only one that knows that, whether you realize it or not. This isn’t a paint by numbers kind of thing. Riley wasn’t wrong, though. It’s important that you don’t throw a pity party for yourself and just hang out at your tether for too long. You do that and you’ll start to lose yourself. All that’ll remain is a shade that’s entirely fueled by those unresolved feelings.”

“Thanks, Doctor Phil.”

 He chuckles.

“So, what’s a tether?”

“It’s your emotional anchor to this world. For someone like Riley, it’s a person that he deeply loves. For someone like you, it’s usually where you died.”

I snap, “What’s that supposed to mean? ‘Someone like me?’”

His demeanor darkens and his blue eyes become tiny ice crystals. “A suicide.”

“Oh.”

“And one of the first things you might want to work on is that huge chip on your shoulder. The world was never really out to get you, you know.”

I grunt. “Coulda fooled me.”

He stands up and shakes his head. “David, did you ever stop to consider that maybe the reason you felt so alone all the time, and why you were always so miserable, is because you were a selfish, smug, self-important, jerk?”

I sit back, stunned. “Wow, Mike. Don’t hold back. Say what you really feel.”

He sits on the back of the pew in front of us so he can face me. “Hey, the truth hurts kiddo. Now’s the time to suck it up and accept it.” He shrugs. “Or not. The choice, like everything in life, is yours. So are the consequences. Just because you decided to take the easy way out means you get to shurk the responsibility for your choices when you were alive.”

Emotions are rolling around inside of me like a washing machine. I’m angry and more than a little hurt by what he’s saying, but I also know there’s some truth to it too, which stings even more. And to think, this morning I thought I was actually ending it all. Instead it looks like I just made things infinitely worse.

Go me.

While I sulk he continues, “Your tether is important. It’s where you go to recharge, for lack of a better term. You’re probably already feeling pretty tired just from the flight over here. As you get used to your new spiritual body you’ll realize there’s a lot of stuff you can do. When you concentrate and learn to focus enough you’ll be able to turn yourself solid and manipulate stuff in the real world. Maybe even have people hear you. But doing anything like that burns a lot of energy, and when you boil everything down, that’s pretty much what you are right now- energy. So every day you’ll need to recharge. Your tether is where you’ll be drawn back to when you’re too low on energy, or at the dawn of a new day.”

I glance up, momentarily torn from my pity party. “What do you mean?”

He rubs at some stubble on his jaw. “Think of it this way: whenever you leave your tether you’ve got a big spiritual elastic band tied around you connecting you to it. When you run out of juice, or when dawn hits, the band will snap you back there to keep you from just winking out of existence. How long you’ll be stuck there recharging depends on how much energy you drained. But here’s a nickel’s worth of free advice: go back on your own. Don’t let the clock run out. I hear being snapped back is…unpleasant.”

Great, so it’s like just about everything else so far. Death sucks.

“Okay, the energy thing makes a kind of sense, I guess, but why do we get snapped back at dawn?”

“Dawn is a new day. A time of renewal. It just works that way. It’s a universal rule, I guess you could say.”

He stands up and stretches. “Speaking of which, that’s enough to get you started. Dawn is coming and you’ll want to get a move on.”

I hold up a hand, afraid to actually try touching him. “Wait! Please, just one more question?”

He pauses mid step and looks over his shoulder. “Sure.”

“What are you, really? Are you an angel?”

He turns back to me, smiles, and places a hand on my shoulder. It’s warm, the first kind of heat I’ve felt since I “woke up” this morning. “What I am or am not doesn’t really matter right now. All that matters is that you think about what I said and decide for yourself where to go from there.” He straightens. “And maybe I’ll see you around.”

“Maybe?”

His smile fades, and the pained look on his face shakes me more than anything else he’s said. “Maybe. Good luck, David.”

And then he’s gone.

Main Archive Page   Chapter 4 ->

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Moving On, Ongoing Serials

Moving On: Chapter Two

Moving On

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…”

“Bit it?”

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?”

“Uh…sure.”

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.

Awesome.

“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.

Great.

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.”

Main Archive Page   Chapter 3 ->

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Moving On, Ongoing Serials

Moving On: Chapter One

Moving On

“Well, I have to be honest. This isn’t what I was expecting.”

I watch as paramedics desperately try to save the life I took.

One of them, a man who looks like he was pulled from a magazine cover, is pumping frantically on my chest and counting as another, a young woman who can’t be over twenty, works the bag that they have over my mouth every thirty compressions from inside my bathtub. Meanwhile we’ve got another two, an older white gentleman with silver hair and penchant for colorful language, and an African American with a head shaved so cleanly that the fluorescents of my bathroom bulbs occasionally glint into the older one’s eyes. You can tell because the older one winces and mutters a string of even more colorful curses each time it happens. They’re each working diligently on a wrist, trying to stop the bleeding. I want to tap them on the shoulder and let them know that I’m impressed, and maybe even a little touched, by their effort, but it’s too late. I feel especially sorry for the black guy because he’s been trying to wrap my left wrist while mounted on my toilet for the last few minutes.

Sorry, guys. I couldn’t afford a bigger place.

Maybe I should have killed myself in the living room? That seemed inconsiderate to the landlord. I figured blood would be harder to get out of carpet than it would be linoleum. Besides, the bathroom is the room you do this sort of thing in, isn’t it? You hear someone slit their wrists in the bathroom and it makes a sort of sense. You hear the same story, only it took place in the living room or a bedroom or something, and it just seems weird or creepier somehow.

Odd.

Oh well. What’s done is done. Which is the same conclusion I think these poor people have come to as well, because they’ve stopped their frantic ER routine now and are looking like whipped puppies. The older man is still cursing as he walks from the room. The younger girl is crying a bit, as the magazine model holds her. I’m guessing I was her first suicide.

Mozel Tov.

The black guy just looks mildly disgusted as he stares down at my body. He mutters, “What a waste,” as he follows the old man out the bathroom door.

Story of my life, pal. They should put that on my tombstone.

From beside me, the other spirit asks, “What were you expecting?”

“Hm?”

“A minute ago you said ‘This isn’t what I was expecting.’ What were you expecting?”

I shrug, which seems an odd gesture now, considering that I don’t have a body anymore. Mortal habits die hard. “I guess I don’t really know. A bright, white light? Complete darkness? Nothingness? I’m not really religious, and I never really bought into the Heaven and Hell stuff, so I guess I never really had a solid idea as to what would happen after it was over. I just didn’t count on standing over my own body, watching myself die while some poor schmucks tried to save the life I just threw away. I especially didn’t count on watching it with another…spirit, or whatever you are.”

He nods with my comments, and when I finish he mutters, “Yeah man, totally. Been there.”

I arch an eyebrow. “What, so you’re just another dead stiff, too? You’re not an angel or anything?”

He laughs. “Me? Oh, Hell no! Ha! If I were, how screwed would you be?!”

He laughs for a few more seconds while I grow increasingly nervous. When he sees that I’m not laughing with him he sobers and continues, “No dude, I’m just another spirit rocking the limbo plane with the rest of us. But it’s a common courtesy that when one of us kicks it that there’s someone there to help with the transition, you know? We try to look out for each other. Tell new people the basics so they aren’t just left holding the bag by themselves and end up becoming a poltergeist or some crap like you hear about on T.V.”

I go to run my hand through my hair, a nervous gesture I used to have; only I don’t have hair anymore. I stop mid-way, realizing how stupid I must look, and lower my “hand”. “Okay, so if you’re here to give me the ‘ghost 101’ class could we do it someplace else?” I nod towards my body, which is now being photographed by police officers as they do their best to avoid the rivers of smeared crimson covering my bathroom floor. “This is a little…weird.”

“Oh! Yeah, sure man. Duh!” He moves to slap his forehead and instead kinda displaces his own face for a second, like a hand moving through smoke. It is the strangest thing I’ve seen yet. “Just follow me!”

And then he floats through the friggin ceiling.

Excellent.

I stand there for a few moments, both exasperated that even in death I seem to get the short end of the proverbial stick, and wondering how long it’ll take the moron to realize that I haven’t followed him. Sure enough, about a minute later he sticks his head back through the ceiling to look down at me. “I’m so sorry, dude! I’d forget my own head if it weren’t corporally attached! All you gotta do is think it man. Will yourself to move and you’ll do it. It’s weird at first, but trust me, it’ll work.”

Weird. Trust you. Right.

I feel like a complete moron, but I try it. I look up at the blue-white ghost-head that’s staring at me and try to imagine myself floating up to where he is. Just when I’m about to tell the idiot that he can take his ghost lessons and shove them up his smoky butthole I realize that I’m almost close enough to head-butt him. A moment later and we’re both in the apartment above mine and watching as Mrs. Vandervall knits whatever hellish creation she’s working on this month as her army of cats continues to desecrate her living space. Then we’re through that floor and onto the next, and so on until we’ve reached the roof. It’s a beautiful day out. The sky is a clear blue without a hint of clouds, and the sun makes my ghost escort glisten.

No, I refuse to make a Twilight joke. I may have committed suicide, but I still have some pride.

My escort lies down on the roof and sighs contentedly. “Ahh, much better, yeah?”

I nod and sit next to him, wondering if I’m just going to fall through. I don’t. Score one for the home team. I turn my head to him. “So, do you have a name, or do I just call you Casper?”

He glances up at me, confused. “Huh? Oh!” He chuckles. “Casper. Hey, you’re a pretty funny dude! No, my name is Riley.”

Of course it is.

I keep expecting him to pull out a joint from his ghost pockets and offer me a toke. Then all we’d be missing is bongo drums. I’d bet money that Riley had dreads in his previous life.

“Hello, Riley. My name is David.”

“Hiya Dave!”

He waves at me like an excited five year old.

If there is a God, he’s laughing his ass off at me right now.

I sigh and resist the urge to roll my eyes. “So, Riley, Ghosting 101?”

“Huh? Oh! Yeah! So, uh, welcome to the afterlife. Or I guess the pre-afterlife. Or something.”

Well, we’re certainly off to a wonderful start.

“Yeah, thanks.”

He grins like an idiot. “No problemo! Now, we’ve already covered how you get around… Mike gave me a list of crap to talk about but I always forget…”

“Mike?”

“Oh! Yeah, Mike. He’s kinda like the guy in charge around here. He’s the one that tells us when we need to go see someone like you and give them the 4-1-1.”

“And he sent you to me. Sounds like a swell guy.”

Apparently, Riley isn’t good with sarcasm. We’ll add it to the list. He smiles even wider and says with complete sincerity, “Thanks, man. I think you’re pretty great yourself.”

At this point I’d kill myself again if I thought it’d do any good.

Riley continues, “Well, I can’t remember the list, exactly, but the most important thing you need to know about is moving on.”

“’Moving on?’ You mean this isn’t it?”

“Oh, no, man! This here is what they call limbo. This is the plane between life and the afterlife.”

“The afterlife…as in Heaven? Hell? Sheol? Valhalla? ”

He laughs and slaps at his knee, which again just displaces like smoke. “Hell if I know, dude! No one can really tell me for sure what goes on after. All I know is it’s important that we get there and that we don’t hang around in limbo for too long.”

“Why not? This doesn’t seem so bad, present company excluded.”

“Well, because spirits that hang around limbo too long tend to go a little loony toons, ya know?” He whirls a finger next to his head in the common “crazy” pantomime gesture. “All those scary ghosts that you hear about, those are the ones that didn’t or couldn’t move on.”

Interesting.

“Okay, so what do we have to do to move on?”

“Good question! I have no idea.”

Wonderful.

“Riley, have you been a spirit a long time?”

“Me? Nawww.” He shakes his head for a moment, then, as if I can actually see a light bulb go off, he laughs. “Oh, you’re joking with me! Ha! No, sorry dude, it’s just that it’s different for everyone. You gotta make up for past mistakes, or settle unfinished business, or whatever, and when you do you’re done and can move on. C’mon, dude. Didn’t you ever see Being Human?”

I sigh. “I must have missed it.”

“Too bad, dude. Awesome show. Witwer kills it! I hear the UK version is better, but whatever. USA all the way is what I always say. Hey, that rhymes! Which reminds me of this other show I like that was about…”

I never thought it would be possible to be depressed after you’re already dead.

<-Main Archive Page   Chapter 2 ->

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Moving On, Ongoing Serials