What No One Tells You

Submitted into Contest #65 in response to: Write about someone’s first Halloween as a ghost.... view prompt


Holiday Horror Fiction

I suppose this will be yet another situation where no one explains what to expect.  I should have anticipated this.  It would be one element consistent with life.  

There has been much literature centered on speculations of what the afterlife looks like.  I never sought it out, but it is hard to avoid.  So much of what is read in the mortal world contains their musings.  Everything from the Bible, to Dante’s Inferno, to the Harry Potter series suggests what happens after we die.  Death, after all, is one of many people’s greatest anxieties.  Unfortunately, much of the literature is wrong.  

Tonight there are a few ghosts running around.  I am invisible to them, as usual.  I never expected that to change.  These creatures run down the sidewalk weaving through crowds.  I hear their shrieks of delight and mock-fright.  I see the extra fabric flapping behind them in the weak breeze.  I see the corners of candy wrappers blowing into the grass after not making it back into the pillowcases and reusable shopping bags being used as candy receptacles.

If I was visible to them, what would they see?  Would they see me as I was in life?  Would they see me as I was just after I left the world of the living?  Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in between, or is neither of those options.

The embalmer made me look better than I ever looked in life.  I suppose that has something to do with how those I left behind wish to remember me.  We all have our priorities, after all.  

I rarely wore makeup in life.  I had little patience for spending extended periods of time examining and prodding at my face.  The colors used by the embalmer were obviously part of someone’s fantasy more than they represented who I was.  Very telling, if you ask me.  Of course, no one asked me and no one ever will again.  

These mortal ghosts and skeletons don’t know what it means to die.  Most are trailed by groups of women in animal ears and orange and black sweatshirts.  I watch a mouse call over a glow-in-the-dark skeleton and push the sweaty hair off his face once his hood is removed.  She unscrews the cap of a Poland Spring bottle and hands it to the boy.  He drinks greedily before handing the bottle back to her and taking off to catch up with his band of misfits.  

I yell “BOO!” but the only sounds heard are the joyful noises emanating from the costumed children and the houses they visit.  

I never cared much for Halloween.  The costumes sold in stores are itchy and made from cheap fabrics and going door to door in order to solicit candy from strangers was never my cup of tea.  It certainly is interesting to view things from this side of the divide though.

The cemetery is full of older children, largely dressed in black.  A few are talking about my grave - how new it seems, if it truly is unlucky to stand on someone’s final resting place, if the dead mind someone being so close to their corporeal remains.  If I cared about my corporeal remains I would have kept them.  As I watch these adolescents, I cannot help but wonder how the embalmer’s makeup has held up.  Does it last a few weeks?

The truth about dying is that there is no white light.  There is no moment where your life flashes before your eyes.  There is no moment of peace, clarity, or regret.  There is simply nothing.  I could see my corpse, its head flopped to the side, hyoid bone broken.  But I could not move even my smallest finger.  I could not cause doors to slam or the plumbing to act up when the officials came to take care of things.  I could not make lights flicker or cause anyone to feel as if they walked through icy air.  I could not do anything.

I watched much of what happened after.  There was no autopsy; the cause of death was glaringly apparent.  The embalmer straightened my neck and studied old pictures from childhood dance recitals with an intensity I did not think humanly possible.  I attended the services and accompanied the group to the gravesite.  I watched the coffin containing my earthly remains be lowered into the Earth.  I watched as they filled the dirt in around it.

I kept waiting for something to happen.  I thought I’d move on.  I thought I’d learn to navigate this ghostly space that I inhabit.  Nothing happened.  

I cannot influence the mortal world and I have yet to see any other spirits such as myself.  I am alone and this time I am truly invisible.  I see days turn into nights and then brighten into days once more.  I watched the leaves turn from late summer’s green into autumn’s brown, red, and orange.  I watched those leaves fall to the ground.  And yet, I seem to be stuck.  

No one tells you this.  No one tells you that once you die you may be stuck in a realm just beyond the mortal world.  No one tells you that there is nothing you can do.  No one tells you if there will ever be a time where you can truly move on.  

If I wanted part of the mortal world I would have opted to remain as part of it.  I wanted nothing to do with life.  I wanted that for so long that I made the decision to leave.  And now, I am what I can only describe as a ghost.  And no one tells you what it’s like to be a ghost because no one knows.

This is the first Halloween since my death.  This holiday clearly has nothing to do with the dead as it has not changed by abilities in the slightest.  But, given that this purgatory has been persistent, I am still hoping.  I am hoping, dear reader, that perhaps Halloween will not end without a change in my ghostly status.

October 31, 2020 03:58

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.