I’m sorry to report that if you can hear me, you’re dead. Such a shame. But don’t worry, we’ll help you adjust. Being a modern ghost is tricky. We’re so used to a never-ending stream of information that being deprived of it one day is like running into a wall you didn’t even know existed. It’s a bigger shock than dying. Dying is inevitable. No one knows there’s no shit-posting in the afterlife.
Sometimes, you’re stuck in the place you died. The side of the road can be boring as fuck. But the more you separate from the life you once knew, the more you can move around. Overhearing conversations about pointless shit becomes fascinating. You’ll still reach for your smartphone, but soon adapt to reading over other people’s shoulders. You’ll start to learn who watches what, so you can keep up with the news and even binge whole shows if you’re lucky. It’s the ghosts who stop thinking and growing that become poltergeists. The poor bastards are just trying to prove they still exist by scaring the shit out of the living.
The rest of us know the rules: keep active and avoid the living you know. Staying active is pretty easy. Some ghosts form sports leagues and that keeps them occupied. Former meatheads discover that their physical strength doesn’t translate to the ghostly form. It’s all brainpower. You should see Steve Jobs knocking it out of the park. Literally.
The second rule is the hardest to follow. Sure you still care about them, but when you die, something is severed. The people you love become stories you left unfinished. The desire to know their middles and endings can be all-consuming. It’s the simplest way to become a poltergeist. Watching people talk about you like you’re not there, like you can’t see or hear them is maddening. So you begin following around complete strangers and watch them repeat your mistakes and realize there’s nothing you can do. Your past is chiseled into the earth; your future is written in the air. Your time alive was precious because it was limited. Now you have a meaningless eternity. And then you have to find someone else to haunt. Maybe a therapist.
Chelsea Stickle writes flash fiction that appears or is forthcoming in Jellyfish Review, Cleaver, Pithead Chapel, Hobart, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and others. She’s a reader for Pidgeonholes and lives in Annapolis, MD with her black rabbit George and an army of houseplants. Read more stories at www.chelseastickle.com or find her on Twitter @Chelsea_Stickle.