A Better Place

A short ghost story

Peter sat at his kitchen table.  He felt the presence before he saw it.  The room got a little colder and the lights a little dimmer.  Oh, this is some typicalhaunted house shit. He’d been in the new, old house for over a month and strange sensations and occurrences had become the norm, but this was something different.  While the temperature and dim lights were passive indicators of the ghost’s presence, the apparition pulling up a chair across from Peter was as direct an introduction as one could get.

They stared at one another for an unknown length of time. Peter felt a lump in his throat and fear in his skin.  What sat across him almost wasn’t there.  He could barely make out the furniture behind it, but the clarity ebbed and flowed as if the apparition was flowing within its form. 

It spoke first, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”   It threw its head back and produced a laugh that seemed to fade between the present and the hereafter.  “It’s okay.  I won’t bite, but I might mess with your toothbrush now and then.”   He laughed again, and the effect was more unnerving than the first time.  

“What are… I’m sorry, who are you?”  Peter asked.  

“Oh, you were right the first time; what I am is complicated, but I’m not much different from what you are.  The “who” part is a sticking point.  Seems I can’t let go of that and, well, here I am still.”

“I’m confused.” Peter said.  

“Oh, sure.  I can see that.  I think if I were in your shoes I’d be baffled too. I usually just mess around with people. Knock things over or maybe hide something.   This is the first time I’ve sat down for a chat. Didn’t know if it would work out or not. Apparently, it does.”  It looked a little surprised and a little confused.  “Anyway, I think things are changing around here and I wanted to introduce myself.” 

Peter nodded slowly. Still trying to buy time for a brain that couldn’t grasp the situation.  “Um, can I help you or something?  Wait, changes, what changes, what are you talking about?”  

“Well, I don’t know. I died upstairs, in what’s now your bedroom room in 1955.  Went right to sleep, never felt a thing.  When I came around, it was like I was in the realest dream a person could be in.”  The ghost motioned with hands that faded while in motion but solidified while still.  

“I’ve been here ever since,” he continued. “I always thought the end would be a bigger deal and for some, it’s like nothing you could ever experience while alive, but for me, well, it’s just day after day being invisible and all alone.  Well, alone until now.  It seems you and I can commune, which is interesting.”   

Peter had no less than a million questions running through his mind, but one popped to the front:  “What’s it like when the others go, like what do you mean it’s like nothing you could imagine while you’re alive?”   

The ghost solidified more than he had before and cleared his throat, which made an otherworldly sound again. “I’ve only seen it happen once, but anytime a person dies, you know it.”

“How?” asked Peter. Thoughts were running through his mind at an insane pace.  
“A few years ago, a family moved in. Nice people, but they were a little distracted.  They didn’t tend the boy closely, and he wanderedinto the road.  A car came up over the hill, going too fast, and hit him square.  The kid never felt a thing, but when he left this earth, he went in a flash.  I heard the car lock its brakes and saw the impact and what happened next was the most magical thing I’ve ever experienced. He blew up like a star, so bright and so hot. I don’t feel hot or cold anymore, but when that boy went, it felt like the air caught fire and it looked like it too. It was like snow, that instead of falling had been blown out of the sunand was going off in all directions.  The parents were devastated and moved within a month, but if they could have seen how their boy went out, I think they would have felt differently. But that’s not how this works, is it?  The amazing thing was that the lights never faded but instead seem to work themselves into the fabric of reality.  I can’t come close to explaining it, but that’s what I think it was.  He went back to what he was, what we all werebefore we were born.”  

Peter would have been skeptical if this hippy slant on death wasn’t being told by someone who wasn’t already dead.  

“Yeah, that’s right, he went back into place within the fabric of life. The little crystals of light just unwound and worked themselves back into everything.   Holy shit, I’ve never said this out loud to anyone, for obvious reasons, and I know I couldn’t sound crazier.”  He shook his head and an ethereal trail accompanied the motion.  

Peter was silent.  He wasn’t sure if the ghost or his story had locked his mind up more. “Well, why didn’t you turn into a bright star type of thing?” he asked. 

“Um, well, best I could tell, I loved me too much to dissipate like that.  I always thought of myself more than anyone else and I guess that carried over. I was always apart from everything and never a part of anything.  I was all wrapped up with myself when I was alive and myself is all that’s left.”  

A lump formed in Peter’s throat.  He watched, but the ghost seemed quiet and distant.  It seemed to contemplate things.  Peter felt like he needed to say something but just didn’t know what to say.  He searched his mind looking for a proper word of encouragement or phrase that may provide comfort to this being before him.  He came up empty; in fact,he wanted to leave now. This ghost and its existential crisis weren’t Peter’s problems.   This was all too deep for him.  He wanted this strangest of strange conversations with a ghost or a hallucination or whatever to end and be behind him.  

He noticed a flash in his peripheral vision.  All the windows in the house lit up.  Small flakes of light drifted through the walls. Numerous passed in front of Peter‘s face and even more surrounded his body.  The house filled with a brilliant light show – small crystalized suns bounded everywhere.  He noticed the unwinding the ghost had mentioned.  He watched as the crystals untangled and then work themselves into the air.  They looked like actors exiting a stage, but instead of disappearing behind a curtain, these illuminated objects slipped into the very fabric of space and time itself. The light avoided the ghost, rushing around him the way a stream rushes around a rock.  

The ghost’s face hung on him and he looked more faded than he had before.  “Looks like one of your neighbors has passed on. You’ll get used to all of this after a while,” the ghost said in a voice that sounded more like the wind than a noise created by a human.

“Wait, what?  What are you talking about? I’ll get used to it?  What am I getting used to?”  Peter knew the answer to the question before he asked.  

Not only had the light flowed into everything but the ghost, it had avoided Peter too.  He looked down at his hands and could see the table.  Small traces of light remained and danced and weaved their way speedily around him, careful to avoid contact.  

The ghost broke the silence.  “You know hell isn’t fire and brimstone – it’s a never-endinglight show where the lights get what they deserve and the ghosts get what they’ve always wanted.”