Today, I wake up atop the Great Pyramid of Giza. Although it’s been a while since I died, I’m still getting used to waking up on my feet and usually in the most absurd yet breathtaking, out-of-the-blue, didn’t-see-that-one-coming locations AROUND THE WORLD. Not that I’m complaining — I’m sure at some point in the forty-six years of my existence on Earth, I might have expressed a desire to see the Great Pyramid without actually believing I’d go there. My bucket list was over a thousand items long, and I think I’m going through it now that I’m dead. No unfinished business, like my Aunt Antsy (not her real name) used to say in her parrot voice.

Before I consciously realize I’ve willed it, a giant mirror appears in front of me, hovering in the air. Something I have become used to is waking up in the body of my twenty-something-old self — when I was healthy and athletic, my skin flawless and my hair intact, my body not yet ravaged by radiation and chemotherapy, and the corners of my mouth curling upwards in a perpetual smile that reaches my twinkling eyes. I am excited about the day ahead.

I blink and find myself at the lake, where I usually join my friends for a swim, followed by brunch on the lakeside. There aren’t many of us, and finding friends has not been easy. I was alone for the first four months of my afterlife and it drove me crazy — well, as crazy as a ghost can be. Then, Butterfly came along (we no longer go by our original names but by the shadows cast by our so-called bodies). A fifty-four-year-old mother of three, she was a correspondent for a Middle-Eastern news channel and lost her life to a fanatic who believed she deserved to die for posting a video on social media with her hair uncovered. Even though we did not have much in common, except that we were both mothers, we became friends — I believe there must have been a reason for her to be sent into my afterlife. Nothing here is random.

A few months later, Husky joined us. A Ukrainian pilot, Husky died at thirty-two, defending his country against the Russians. He left behind his wife and two young daughters. Turns out Husky volunteered every weekend at an animal shelter before the war and saved the lives of scores of abandoned dogs and cats.

Pine joined us recently, an eighty-one-year-old Columbian businessman and philanthropist, caught in a cross-fire between the police and the mafia. He left behind his wife, five children, seventeen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Like the rest of us, Pine helped many people throughout his life, mainly through his charities.

I’m called Girl in case you’re wondering. My shadow is a little girl. 

Here, of course, we all are twenty-something and healthy and without any aches or pains — in fact, we’re in better shape than we ever were in real life. I suppose leading a life of good karma has its rewards, at least at the end after you’ve endured the vagaries of life — among the four of us, that includes heartbreaks, accidents, divorces, death of loved ones, terminal illnesses, painful afflictions and of course, violent deaths. 

When we emerge from the lake after an invigorating swim in the cool water, our bodies dry themselves in the blink of an eye and we’re dressed in gorgeous, comfortable clothes. Everything here just happens — we don’t really have to do anything that would be considered mundane, like changing clothes or getting ready in the morning. The table is laid out with scrumptious food and drinks from four corners of the world — I suppose people retain their proclivity for certain foods even after death. I realized early on that no matter how much I eat, how many times a day, or what I eat, I never put on weight in the afterlife. And it’s not only my body that’s healthy. Here, in the afterlife, we’re not plagued by anxiety or fear, sadness or disappointment, anger or regret. Our emotional state is like the surface of a placid lake, where tiny ripples of happiness occasionally surface, but it’s primarily undisturbed tranquillity. I say goodbye to my friends and close my eyes.


Although I can go to any place and any period of my life by closing my eyes and thinking about it, whenever I picture home, I always appear at the end of the street. It’s evening already — another day has passed. In the afterlife, time is non-existent. I can skip the day if I want and go directly to the evening when the sun goes down — I’m a friendly ghost, but I’m still a ghost.

The neighbourhood has not changed much in the one year that I’ve been gone. People — mostly the elderly and the young/super-fit — are out for their evening walks or runs in the neighbourhood park, depending on the state of their knees and backs. There are several groups of people, mostly women, huddled together to chatter. Some parents are playing badminton or football with their kids while others are aware of nothing except their mobiles. While my mind is censuring the parents ignoring their children — I want to grab their shoulders and shake their human bodies until their numb brains realize they don’t have forever with their loved ones and the end comes abruptly and they must make the most of every minute — some kids come hurtling towards me on their bicycles. Out of habit, I leap out of their way only to remember I’m invisible and made of nothing. I allow two teenage girls to walk through me and catch a whiff of their perfumes as they do. Although I’ve had people walk through me countless times, it’s still odd that they are so utterly unaware of my presence, and makes me feel wispy and inconsequential. 

I see that the old cat lady has adopted another stray. I remember the day she rang my doorbell and frantically explained that her beloved cat had gone missing and could I look around the neighbourhood for her. I was in the middle of something — my husband and I were having guests over for dinner — but I felt sorry for her and could not say no. We eventually found her cat but it took two hours and we ended up serving restaurant food to our guests. That day, if anyone had told me that my old neighbour would outlive me, I might have laughed. It wasn’t so funny in the days and weeks after I died when I would watch my family grieve for me through the window, my heart breaking for them. 

My husband would put up a brave front for the rest of the family, especially our kids, but at night when he was alone in our bed he would curl up next to the pillow and look at our old albums. Eventually, the tears would dry up and he would collapse into an uneasy sleep. My children expressed their grief in different ways. For example, there were periods of crying alternating with spells of silence, over-indulgence in new hobbies, obsessing over new friends, recklessness and plenty of anger. They were mad their mother was taken away from them.

I wish I knew then what I know now.

I pass by the imposing house on the street, the one that has been unoccupied for decades and has a mysterious past that nobody knows about. There were rumours about its history — some said an old man was found dead after a month when an unearthly stench pervaded the house and oozed out onto the lawn, others said a young woman killed herself in the basement, some even said a double murder took place there. Since I’ve been dead, I’ve only seen ghosts like my friends and I’m yet to come across an evil spirit. But the dark shadow hanging over this house tells me something isn’t right here — there is some sort of negative energy here and to think that it has been in our neighbourhood all this time and that my family, friends and so many other people still live here, gives me the chills. I’m still not completely used to this newly acquired sensitivity about other ghosts. Maybe one day I’ll go inside that house and see if I can do something to make my neighbourhood safer. Another thing about being dead — you no longer worry about your own safety because the worst that could happen to you already did.  

A leaf lands softly on my shoulder as I ascend the porch stairs to my house. I hold the leaf in my hand and rub my fingers over its veins. I grab the door handle — it’s unlocked as expected — push it open and go inside. 


“Goodnight, Mom. I love you.” My twelve-year-old daughter wraps her arms around me in the way that twelve-year-olds who have lost their mother and are always fearful this might be their last meeting do.

The sweet smell of her hair and the comfort of her warm embrace fill me with peace and I wish this moment would last forever.

“I’ll see you tomorrow evening. I love you too,” I whisper in her ear.

Finally, I let her go and she disappears into her room. I shake my head as she immediately plays her current favourite song. It helps her sleep well, she says. It’s amazing how kids can switch their emotional states just like that.

My fourteen-year-old son is taller than me and although he looks gangly, his embraces are bone-crushing like his father’s. He mumbles something about a secret project that he needs money for and could I talk to Dad about it. Pretty please, he says, turning on his charm.

I watch him disappear into his bedroom which has started looking more and more like a gaming room with the huge monitor on the table and the microphone he uses to record for his YouTube channel.

On the display board in the corridor, my husband has pinned the latest update from UNICEF. This must have come in today.

Thank you for your monthly donation to UNICEF. Your contribution is important and will help us achieve lasting results and provide the necessary protection and interventions for every child whoever she is or wherever he lives.

I feel strong arms envelop me in an embrace.

“Hey, you scared me.” I turn around and tell my husband.

“I deserve an award for scaring a ghost,” he says with a chuckle.

I smile at my husband, whom I still adore after twenty-one years. Twenty-one and a half, if I count the past six months I’ve been visiting my family. 

“I’m so glad you’re back,” he says, squeezing my hand. “Come soon. Chamomile tea is getting cold.”

“I’ll be there in a minute,” I say as I watch him disappear into our bedroom.

The UNICEF note provides the details of premature newborns who were given special care and survived a whole year as a result of our donation. There are photos of the babies and I touch each one of them.

I wish more people knew that acts of kindness and compassion compound over time — and you may feel that nothing good is happening in your life and where is the result of all that good karma, but you must be patient. Because if you don’t see the results of your good karma during your lifetime — and maybe you die at a young age of cancer or you’re killed in a mindless act of violence or you worked really hard at your passion but never saw success or true and lasting love always eluded you or you had to endure a hard childhood that impacted your entire life — you will find yourself in a wonderful afterlife.

In my case, my family can see me only after dark and I disappear from bed every morning, but they know I will be back again in the evening. Beyond the perimeter of my house, night or day, I’m invisible to everyone. But to be able to spend time with my family, to touch and hold them, to talk to them and comfort them every single day is the greatest blessing.

If you’re alive, don’t take it for granted, hold your loved ones close and make strangers smile every day.


October 28, 2023 02:34

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Karen Mobilia
22:19 Nov 13, 2023

Beautiful and poignant. I love the passage regarding having patience to see outcomes of all our good karma. That really spoke to me.


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00:41 Nov 10, 2023

Fabulous story!


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Judith Jerdé
16:39 Nov 08, 2023

Kanika, “I wish I knew then what I know now.” Words to live by! I like that you included the good work that UNISEF does. An all around insightful story. Love the first line, it pulled me right in.


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Andrea Corwin
02:08 Nov 08, 2023

Great story, kept my interest throughout to see what would happen next. 😍


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Martin Ross
17:06 Nov 07, 2023

What a wonderfully imaginative take on the ghost story and the afterlife. Great universe-building, and I love how you hit on the seemingly pandemic violence of modern times while focusing on love and appreciation. Nicely done — I’d like reading more about these characters!


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Mary Bendickson
15:48 Nov 06, 2023

Loved this sweet ghost story with so many messages and even hope for the afterlife. Thanks for liking my Run Forest Run


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08:30 Nov 06, 2023

Well written, you cover a lot of deep topics in this story! Life is filled with so many memories. Story flow, I feel it might be an idea to begin with the more visceral active part of the story, like from "Goodnight mom!", and then fill in the details bit by bit mixed up with the action. Admittedly I try to follow that advice myself and often don't succeed as it often feels more natural to explain the world in the beginning.


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