(published with permission)
When I died, I expected to go to heaven.
Okay. Maybe hell. It’s not like I was perfect or anything. But I was sort of hoping for heaven.
Instead, I went to Alabama.
Yeah. I know. It’s weird.
I died in Dallas. I was killed, actually. I’ll spare you the gruesome details. I don’t like to remember them myself. Some jerk with a knife–and probably a Bad-Mommy complex. Believe me, if I knew where he was, I’d go haunt his ass.
At any rate, by the time death came, I was ready for it–ready to stop hurting, ready to let go. I didn’t even fight it.
And then I woke up dead in Alabama. Talk about pissed off.
You know, even reincarnation would have been fine with me–I could have started over, clean slate and all that. Human, cow, bug. Whatever. But no. I ended up haunting someplace I’d never even been.
That’s not the way it’s supposed to work, right? Ghosts are supposed to be the tortured spirits of those who cannot let go of their earthly existence. If they could be convinced to follow the light, they’d leave behind said earthly existence and quit scaring the bejesus out of the poor folks who run across them. That’s what all those “ghost hunter” shows on television tell us.
Let me tell you something. The living don’t know jack about the dead.
Not this dead chick, anyway.
It took me a while to figure out what had happened, of course. I came to, drifting along a downtown sidewalk in some strange little town. A full moon shone high above me, glinting off the windows of the closed stores. The only noise came from a little pub-like bar down a side street. I didn’t know where I was or how I’d gotten there. What better cure for that than a stiff shot?
Next thing I knew, I was inside the bar. Like I was having those fuges–the blackouts that people with multiple personalities claim to get.
Then I tried to order a drink. “Vodka martini, extra dirty. Lots of olives,” I said when the bartender glanced my way.
The bartender ignored me. I tried again. The bartender walked away.
That’s when I became Callie Taylor, Ghost Cliché.
I leaned over the dark oak bar and yelled after the bartender. “Hey! Down here! I want to order something.” I got kind of a funny feeling in my stomach–like a muscle cramp or something. When I looked down, I realized I was standing in the middle of the bar, drink glasses and all. That concerned me, so I stepped right through it and to the other side.
I won’t bore you with the rest of my moment of epiphany. Suffice to say, I figured out I could do lots of ghostly things–walk through walls, blow out candles just by passing over them, let people feel a chill when they moved through me. (I don’t recommend it; it’s kind of chilly on this side, too. Brrr.) But I can’t do much of the old live-person stuff. I can’t eat. I can’t drink. I can sort of smell food and drink, and that’s nice, but not nearly as nice as eating and drinking was. If I concentrate really hard, I can sometimes make things move just a little bit. Electronic stuff is easiest–I can make anything electric go haywire. But I couldn’t talk to anyone.
I tried to. I used every ounce of concentration I had to make myself heard. I tried over and over again. I went all over town trying to get someone’s attention.
Sometimes, some poor schmuck caught a glimpse of me. One guy just about peed himself when I showed up in a mirror behind him, and that made me feel bad. So I pretty much quit trying to do that after a while.
And of course I tried to leave. If I had to be a ghost, I at least wanted to see how my family was doing back in Dallas. Find some way to let Mom and Dad and my brother know that I was okay, really.
To be entirely honest, I also kind of wanted to see my own funeral. See who was there. I especially wanted to know if Preston Davis had shown up at my funeral. Preston was a database administrator for a local hospital and had been my on-again-off-again boyfriend for a while. I wanted to know if he cried at my funeral. And how–or if–he introduced himself to my family.
Yeah. Okay. So it’s petty of me. So what? I’d had a rough week. Cut me some slack. But apparently I couldn’t get to Dallas to check these things out. I couldn’t even go outside of the city limits. I’d hit the edge of town, take one more step, and pop! I’d be right back in the middle of downtown. Don’t get me wrong. Abramsville, Alabama is a lovely little town. Cute little downtown square with an ornate, nineteenth-century courthouse and shops selling knickknacks and jewelry and plaques with clever sayings on them. There’s a college, a couple of bars, some beautiful old houses.
But it’s not my town.
And it gets lonely, being the only ghost in town.
I know, I know. My best bet would have been to find other ghosts to hang out with. I tried it all. I hung out in hospitals, cemeteries, nursing homes, everywhere I could think of that other ghosts might congregate. I was even in the hospital emergency room a couple of times when other people died. All I saw was just a shimmer in the air above them, a wispy movement like light on fog. And then it was gone.
But as far as full-on, hanging-out-in-town ghosts?
This went on for weeks. And in that time, you want to know what I learned about being dead?
Until, that is, the night I saw some creep chop up Molly McClatchey.
Margo Bond Collins is the author of Waking Up Dead, international bestselling paranormal mystery, Solstice Shadows Publishing, 2013; and Legally Undead, Vampirarchy Series #1, forthcoming from World Weaver Press in 2014