Category: Short Story
Genre: YA Ghost story
Approximately 31 printed pages (or about 26 minutes to read).
Being dead was unlike anything Chance Phillips had expected. When he learns a friend, a live friend, is in danger will he and his Ghost friend Jeremy be able to save her in time?
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Available for $1.99. Kindle
Death ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.
For one thing, death’s harder. When alive you don’t have to think about what you’re doing every moment. Sure, life has struggles, and they seem so important at the time, but those struggles lose significance when you die. When dead you have to concentrate, focusing on the world around you, or you’ll drift along your life.
Death is weird that way.
My name’s Reo and I’m a baby ghost. No, I’m not an infant, crawling around with a poopy diaper, looking for my binky. I look the same as I did when alive, a seventeen year old, gangly boy. I hate to say that, but being dead gives you a better perspective and, yeah, I was a gawky, dorky looking dude. I’m a baby ghost because I’ve been dead for a short time. Three days dead to be precise.
Reo’s my ghost name. In life my name was Chance Pertwith Phillips. Yeah, Pertwith is horrible. It was Dad’s middle name, too. He said he was starting a family tradition. Guess the tradition died with me.
Don’t ask me why you get a new name when you die. Seems a bit pointless to me. I don’t have the foggiest who picks the names.
First thing I remember after dying was being in a white space. Like in the clouds. No walls, no ceiling, but there was a floor. I couldn’t distinguish anything around me. This short, heavy man with a grizzled, gray-stubbled face floated over to me. He had bare feet and wore dingy, denim overalls, with no shirt underneath and one strap undone. He reminded me of one of those black and white photos of poor kids back in the depression. You almost expected to see a wheat stalk between his teeth. Instead, he chewed on a cigar.
He stuck out his hand to me. “Heya, I’m Marty.” He clenched the cigar stub in his teeth as he spoke.
I stuck out my hand to shake and my hand passed right through his, our hands occupying the same space. It took a half a second for me to realized what happened and I jumped backward, falling, then scrambling back several feet. “Ugghh,” I said, involuntarily.
Marty bent over laughing, loud guffaws sounding like some asthmatic donkey. He stood there, hands on knees, wheezing.
I got to my feet, watching this character, ready to bolt if needed.
He slapped a knee with one hand before straightening back up. “Ho boy. Works every time. I tell you. It’s the little things that make death so fun.”
I stared at him, not amused. He had said “death” and I recognized the truth. I was dead.
“Ah lighten up kid.” He produced a clipboard, brown with a large silver snap stretched tight over an inch of paper. Don’t ask me where the clipboard came from—maybe from down the front of his overalls? He flipped through the clipped pages. “Let’s see. Here you are. Chance Phillips?” He raised an eyebrow to me.
I nodded, still ready to run.
“Okay. Chance was your life name. Your name is now … Reo.” He paused dramatically before saying my new name with great flourish. “I’m your counselor. Your transition liaison.” He made air quotes. “Here to help you adjust to death. Now, can I get you to sign here?”
He held his clipboard out and offered me a pen. A small silver chain snaked from pen to clipboard.
I reached for the pen. My hand went right through it.
Marty exploded with laughter again. He laughed so hard he spat out his cigar. It landed near my feet. “Oh God, kid. It never gets old. Only half you newbies fall for it twice in a row.”
What a jerk. Me just realizing I had died and this douche kept pranking me.
He cleared his throat. “Now, better stop fooling around and get to business. Can you hand me my stogie?”
I folded my arms over my chest. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me three times and I’d have to wear a tee-shirt saying “I’m with Stupid” and a giant arrow pointing up.
He nodded. “Good kid. So you do learn.” He reached down, grabbed the cigar, stuck it back between his teeth.
I had so many questions. What happened next? What do I do? Is there a God? Was this all there was, standing around in a cloudy room?
Marty must have noticed my confusion. He grabbed my shoulder. I mean really grabbed it; I felt his fingers squeezing. I didn’t flinch though. “How come …” my question trailed off.
“How come I can touch you now, but not when we shook hands?” he said.
“You’re a baby, kid. You don’t know how to touch. I’m 82 years dead now. It’s easy for me.”
Death isn’t just weird, it’s surreal.
“Don’t worry kid. You’ll learn. I’ll catch up with you later. For now why don’t you go play.”
He smacked me in the chest with an open palm—which I also felt—and I snapped back to my tenth birthday party.