Hard To Accept

Submitted into Contest #221 in response to: Write a story where ghosts and the living coexist.... view prompt

15 comments

Contemporary Suspense Horror

I read a funny quote once. 

The problem with stupid people is that they don’t know they are stupid.

The joke is a paradox. Stupid people read it and they laugh. The problem is we’re all stupid. That’s the joke. And it’s not funny.

It’s not funny and I’m certainly not laughing. If I’m honest, I doubt I’ll ever laugh.

Another oft used quote is something along the lines of we all make it up as we go along. We’re all muddling along and trying to make the most of things. Making the best of a bad situation, and grinning and bearing it as we go.

Life is a state of denial. You can disagree with that if you like. That just proves that I’m right and you’re stupid. Denying that you’re in denial is right up there with as stupid as it gets.

Of course we’re stupid! We were born knowing the square root of bugger all and then, somewhere along the way our egos kick in and we think we know it all, which locks us into a perpetual state of idiocy.

Think?

You’re having a laugh there aren’t you?

We don’t think we know it all. That’s another self-refutation. There is no thinking going on here.

Instead we believe.

Belief is the single most stupid aspect that we are possessed of. We all believe things and we carry a belief system around with us. Even those who spend a huge element of themselves refuting the belief systems of others whilst denying they have one.

I’ve put your back up haven’t I? No, I have. None of us like being challenged and the worst of all challenges is against our belief systems.

What gives me the right to be so appallingly challenging?

Well, I’m about as stupid as it gets. I believed I was alive when all the evidence pointed to the contrary. I held on to the fact of my existence as proof of life. I refused to believe that I could be anything other than alive. My twisted logic was that if I was dead, then I would have ceased to exist and I held this absolute certainty that I would surely know if I were dead. Death is after all the one absolute certainty in life. 

My argument was flawed in the presumption that I was alive. I’d made that arrogant assumption because I didn’t have anything else. I could not stomach an alternative.

But I knew.

Underneath the lava flow of denial I could still feel the truth. As much as I tried to burn it away, it remained constant. Truth has an annoying habit of clinging onto its constancy.

Let me tell you something, when you’re dead the dimension of time holds less meaning. It is demoted in the pecking order and down in the bowels of the organisation of your existence it is overlooked, ignored and treated quite badly. Honestly, it should file a grievance and HR should do something about it.

I joke of course, because time conspired against me and managed to embarrass me. I remained in a state of abject idiocy for the best part of a century. 

There. I’ve said it. I’ve admitted it. 

I was dead for almost a hundred years before I could countenance the fact of my demise. I would refer to myself as a loser, but I’d already lost everything and by rights should have had nothing else to lose. That should have been such a liberating state of affairs. I’d done my living and I’d gone through the worst part of living; death.

We fear death. We loath and resent it. Death gets in the way. Death ruins the party. We would get so much more done if it wasn’t for the stone faced denizen who insists on turning up to cut the cord of our life as the sands of our meagre existence are ebbing away.

I would tell you that I believed in oblivion at the point of death, but that would be a blatant lie. I cannot tell you anything about how I was prior to my death because I cannot remember who I was. 

I do not remember my death.

Of all the things you think you would remember about your existence, it has to be your death.

But then, I don’t remember my birth either. I don’t remember my mortal birth and there is nothing there when I attempt any sort of recollection of my coming into this existence of mine. 

I think I must have come into this state of being fully formed. A facsimile of the mortal I once was. No infancy or childhood. Just the shade of the man I might have been.

If I ever was like the man who lived, a hundred years of denial have followed. More than a life time of not living but refusing that I did not live.

You must wonder what I did in all of that time. That ridiculous era spent in a state of splendid misapprehension. I suppose I went through the motions. I did what I could with what I had. I ploughed a rut and I read a lot of books. 

There were other things I did to pass the time. Things that I am not proud of. Pursuits that are seldom spoken of in polite company, or if they are, we all dismiss them as ribald and meaningless comments spoken in order to illicit a cheap laugh. 

I sinned. I did a lot of sinning. What else is there to do when you live a solitary life.

I considered myself a loner and convinced myself that this was a choice that I had made. The truth is that I had no choice and my complete and utter isolation was another sort of death. You see, some of us die more than once. People are social beings and if we are separated from that which makes us make sense then we cease to be. We are that proverbial tree that makes a habit of falling in a forest at a time when there is no one to hear it.

I heard it though. I was there. I just wish I’d listened.

I am a ghost.

Being a ghost is not fun.

Being a ghost is a terrible eventuality foisted upon you when you are distracted with the prospect of your end. Everything happens in a chaotic frenzy and you are burped out into another sphere of existence like a morsel of food from a choking diner. I was ejected into this world by the Heimlich manoeuvre of fate.

I doubt I will ever cease fumbling around for a reason for my being here. My quest for meaning is ceaseless, for what else is there? I understand that this is a futile pursuit. The diner did not place me in their throat on purpose. They intended to swallow me. Fate intervened because it saw the diner choking and could not stand idly by. No one goes in pursuit of the globule of meat that was launched from the dying person. That person holds the stage. I was the sleight of hand. I am here thanks to a magic trick that went awry.

There are others. Not once did I think that I was the only one. After all, for such a long time I thought I was in the land of the living. There is something about the nature of our existence that prevents any sort of connection. We are not built for that and we are not meant for that. I just wish I knew what we were meant for. Maybe I knew that once and forgot it along with everything else I have forgotten. 

Worse still is everything I have overlooked and ignored. Those things I have forgotten are a mere drop in that ocean. I have been deliberately blind. Pinballing myself through this existence in the vain hope that I would miraculously hit the jackpot.

Once I calmed down, after nigh on a century of cartwheeling and spinning through my existence, I began to see a little more clearly. Ghosts aren’t white sheets with eye holes badly cut out in a rushed after thought of a Halloween costume. We are not cheap special effects. 

No, we are something altogether different to those twee and half thought out tales.

It's been two generations now. Soon to be three. I suppose there is a chance that I won’t move on when my current host passes, but somehow I doubt it. I think I’d know. It’s not like knowing when it’s your time to die. This is a twisted inversion of living and dying. I just don’t think I’ve done anything worthy of my ceasing to be held in this state. I have not fulfilled my purpose. I have not fulfilled by destiny.

The living have it easy in comparison. They can coast and fail to be anything of worth and they will suffer the same fate as everyone else. Many of them live longer. After all, the people who do what it was that they were meant for shine more brightly and the light that shines brightly does not shine for so long. 

I know I did not shine brightly in my former life. I doubt I was a dullard either. That only leaves one other possibility. 

For a century I have existed in purgatory and I have watched as my granddaughter led a bitter and twisted life. She punished an undeserving world and in taking her pain out on those around her, failed ever to live. Then I observed her son spoil the world around him. He was a baleful poison that blighted everything he laid his eyes upon. 

Now I have the sad and pitiful prospect of following the bleak and tormented life of his daughter. 

Sometimes I wonder whether Elizabeth is here with me. Will George follow me as we transition? 

I don’t think they will. 

I think I have always known this. And if that is the case, then I am beginning to understand why that may be. 

I started this.

It’s all my fault.

I broke things so badly that my descendants cannot live properly. In fact, they live so badly that their offspring are broken in childhood and they carry on my evil and broken legacy. 

For a hundred years I have witnessed this and thought I was living it. In a way, I suppose I was. 

I started this.

I wonder whether I can ever finish it.

October 27, 2023 12:24

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15 comments

Shirley Medhurst
17:29 Nov 14, 2023

« Life is a state of denial. You can disagree with that if you like. That just proves that I’m right and you’re stupid. Denying that you’re in denial is right up there with as stupid as it gets » Love it. Very profound! I’m a fan of what I’ve seen of your writing. In fact, I think I’ll come back to this piece at a later date…. There’s much to think about here… Thank you for sharing… speak again soon

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Jed Cope
22:05 Nov 14, 2023

Thank you so much! I love that you're a fan. Look me up on Amazon if you ever want to embark on a full book's worth of this...!

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Shirley Medhurst
05:13 Nov 15, 2023

Can you recommend your favourite title please?

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Jed Cope
11:01 Nov 15, 2023

What do you like to read? Do You Remember is popular - it's about early onset dementia and a thirty something couple facing the challenges of that terrible disease. The Pipe is a horror that has gone down well... You'll see the reviews on Amazon. Mr Nice Bloke is fun - romance second time around from an inept bloke's view. If you like far-fetched comedy then The Chair Who Loved Me fits the bill, and there's eight in the series. Supernatural detective? Two For The Show and two more books in that series... Let me know which one you opt for!

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AnneMarie Miles
02:12 Nov 02, 2023

Hi, Jed. This was an interesting story. A lot of truth here. This is profound: "You see, some of us die more than once. People are social beings and if we are separated from that which makes us make sense then we cease to be. We are that proverbial tree that makes a habit of falling in a forest at a time when there is no one to hear it." I recently read that loneliness is more deadly than smoking cigarettes. It's become a bit of an epidemic. You're right. We are social. We cannot survive without connection. Thanks for sharing.

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Jed Cope
13:33 Nov 02, 2023

Great feedback, thank you! There's a lot to like about this resonating with you and what you have written and it does not escape me that there is a connection here and that has made my day. It hits hard to hear that loneliness is more deadly than cigarettes. But is that really a surprise to anyone? We've slept walked into a technological age. Kids playing with guns. How can media be social if it sucks away our time and energy and reduces our being truly social? Writing is a necessarily solitary pursuit, but I don't think you can write well ...

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AnneMarie Miles
14:07 Nov 02, 2023

An essay just means there's passion! And I certainly agree. More on "I just read/watched a TedTalk"... about how reading fiction (the equally solitary counterpart to writing) increases our empathy and grows our brain. So, while social media is only making us feel lonely, writing and reading are actually making people feel more connected. Which is why I spend more time here on Reedsy than any other site on the Internet :) much more connection and positivity here.

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Jed Cope
14:36 Nov 02, 2023

That's interesting - what was the name of the Ted Talk? That's good to hear those words. A confirmation of something I intuitively knew. That's to say, you have to read and read widely in order to write. And writing requires thought and necessitates going further. You learn so much and grow as you explore via writing, so it stands to reason that reading is also beneficial. When you read you don't just connect with the world that a writer has created, you connect with them. You're aware that someone created the space you move in and that dou...

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AnneMarie Miles
15:06 Nov 02, 2023

This is the one I was referring to: https://www.ted.com/talks/rita_carter_why_reading_matters/transcript But there is another great one by Beth Ann Fennelly called "How Literature Can Help Us Develop Empathy" https://www.ted.com/talks/beth_ann_fennelly_how_literature_can_help_us_develop_empathy And I agree. You connect with the writer. What's even more interesting is we often write from different personalities than our own and make our characters do things we might never do. Thus, we are exploring and inviting our readers to explore other ...

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Jed Cope
16:10 Nov 02, 2023

I'll take a look at both of those. I've also subscribed to Ted Talks now - dunno why I hadn't already done so! Too true when it comes to characters! They take on a life of their own and drive the narrative in a natural and unpredictable way! I don't think I could write if it was any other way. Every now and then I'll stop and marvel at something I've learned. Reading introduces you to knew worlds. Writing does this from the opposite direction and we live all the more as a result. I was going to use the world fascinating in my last comment ...

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Cora Van Wyk
15:10 Oct 31, 2023

This was a very interesting piece of writing. It made me think quite a bit, I don't agree with all of it but it was fascinating to read. Well done, and I'll surely use this for conversation points with friends.

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Jed Cope
15:43 Oct 31, 2023

Thank you for the feedback. I am now intrigued as to the controversial elements and the conversations that this short will spawn. That's great news that it's not only made you think, but that you want to share that thinking and go further... to me, that's a big part of what life is about. Thinking is really underrated!

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Jed Cope
15:47 Oct 31, 2023

I almost missed the opportunity to state the obvious! That's why this story is entitles Hard To Accept..!

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Mary Bendickson
19:50 Oct 30, 2023

You are such a deep thinker. Makes me seem shallow. Good writing once again.

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Jed Cope
23:46 Oct 30, 2023

Thanks, that's a big compliment!

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