Original Ghosts

Written by Clementine Hetherington 

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She can feel gusts of cool wind on her face. It smells briny, like the ocean. Tangy. She can almost feel a texture in her mouth, left there by things she can barely remember. Bits of grainy sand granules. Salt water. A sour tongue from lemonade sold on the boardwalk; all of these things mixed together to form a recognizable taste, a trigger. Subconscious memories unlocked and released, but only partly. The what is there but not the who, why, where, or when.

There’s a noise, and this is unfamiliar to her. Well, she knows what it is, but it holds no importance to her. Singing. A high, clear voice—human, she thinks. She should be sure, why isn’t she? ~the dock is full, the ships are ready, come and take me, take me to sea~ The voice is beautiful, she thinks. The song is haunting. It sends a chill through—why doesn’t she know her own name? Why is she afraid?

Suddenly she realizes that she sees nothing. With effort she tries to pull her heavy eyelids up. Her eyes flicker open. She blinks, squints. It’s bright. There are white curtains fluttering at a bay window. That’s the breeze.

There’s a girl. Brown hair, long. Pale skin. She’s arranging seashells on a bureau. That’s who’s singing. She’s wearing a tight sleeveless shirt. A style the suddenly nameless girl has never seen before. Short shorts—very shirt. She can see the girl’s legs. She knows she would be blushing if this was like—before. Somehow she knows it’s not. Things have changed.

She can see the ocean outside the open window, close. There’s a square box on the girl’s wall with a flickering, moving picture inside. She knows she’s never seen anything like that before.

She looks down at herself. She’s wearing her favorite dress—white, lacy, elegant. She matches the curtains. But the dress is different now, it’s clear, see through. She looks down further. The wooden boards of the floor can be seen through her feet.

A ghost.

She’s a ghost.

She remember that much about being human.

*

Why is she in this girl’s room? She keeps coming back. Not of choice, just sucked back in, like through a vacuum. Day after day—or rather, period of awareness after period of awareness. She really has no concept of days anymore.

She remembers, now, what happened. She drowned, in the ocean right outside this place. So she guesses she has some clue as to why she’s stuck here. But why this specific room? There must be many other houses on this stretch of coast. This girl doesn’t look like she needs a haunting.

The girl is beautiful. She watches her. She combs her hair, she sings, she cries. She lives. All of it fascinating to the ghost.

She realizes she wants to touch her. Maybe this girl could make her feel again, bring her dead nerves back to life. Her heart. Get her veins flowing, pumping blood through her body. And love. Two important substances, one physical, one emotional but both flow outward from the center of her chest. She wants them both but love, love she needs, yearns for. She feels a bitter, stabbing pain when she realizes she can’t touch her, can’t have any of that—her hands pass through solid objects. That’s how she comes in, through the bedroom wall, as if she’s not even there at all. Which maybe, she’s not. Probably not.

On the thirtieth day in this limbo she starts to cry. She hasn’t ventured much out of her little corner but today she does. The tears flow freely down her cheeks as she crosses the room, wanting to be only a little closer to her. How cruel, that she be not only dead, but stuck with someone who can be of no comfort to her?

She realizes she feels for this girl the same way the male heroines talked about their women in the romance novels she read—except possibly, more sweetly.

Romantically, madly, without reason or prudence (for surely this is the worst of possible situations).

She comes up behind the girl and starts to lightly stroke her hair.

The girl turns around.

They stare at each other.

'Why are you crying?' the girl asks in worry. Her cheeks are rosy pink.

'I’m dead.' And I love you, she thinks.

'Oh,' the girl bites her lower lip and furrows her brow. 'When did you die?'

'...1910…. I believe….' It’s all starting to blend together. She knows things she shouldn’t know.

The girl’s eyes widen in surprise. 'It’s 2010.'

The ghost feels a laugh bubbling up. “One hundred years exactly. I’d thought this situation could not be any more fantastical.” Somehow this news elates her, though. It seems meant to be. One hundred years.

The girl smiles.

*

They grow closer. Ghost and human fall in love. For some reason they two can touch, and they kiss. They hold. They love. When their souls brush against each other they feel so electric that the ghost is convinced she’s been zapped back to life, she feels alive, really alive, for fleeting moments though her body remains clear and cold, her heart unbeating.

*

'Would you like to go swimming?'

'I don’t think I can,' the ghost says. She’s scared. The water is what killed her. But it made her this happy, so…. Maybe.

'We can try.'

'Alright.'

The water is rushing, bubbling, foaming. It looks not angry, but wild. Indifferent. The girl leads the ghost into the water. It seems wherever the girl goes, the ghost can follow.

They swim, they float, they kiss.

The sun sets.

'I’m dead, and I love you,' the ghost says, and she fades into sea form and drifts away, dissolves into nothingness.

The girl couldn’t follow the ghost like the ghost could follow her.

But, hopefully, she helped to guide her love home.