My continued thanks for coming back again. This chapter is one that is supposed to give the story some direction. I don’t know if that’s clear, or if that is clear enough. I hope it works for you. If not, I know that you will let me know. What I don’t know is if it enough to keep you reading. Fingers crossed.
Update – I have made changes in the past day or so, changes in blue.
The elderly man hadn’t moved, gotten up, nothing. One moment he wasn’t there, then he was there. His smile was comforting, as if a shopping mall Santa Claus suit were to smile at you in mid December. They relaxed and sat back.
“We – we’re hearing you, right?” Chris asked.
“Yes, we can hear and see each other,” the man said softly.
“Are you the homeless guy I saw when I was getting on the train?” Chris asked.
“Yes, but I’m not homeless. I just find these clothes comfortable. Nice to meet you. My name is George.”
“I apologize. That was kind of judgmental of me. I’m Chris. This is Ann. And you are?”
Ann turned to Chris. “Did you not just hear him say his name is George?”
“I’m sure it’s because I startled you,” George said. “Do you mind if I join you?”
“Please do,” said Chris, waving towards a third seat angled their way. The man rose slowly and walked cautiously towards them, keeping his smile all the way as Chris continued. “So, I guess you’re dead like us?”
“Long time, yes.” He sat back, now smiling specifically at Ann. He nodded and likely would have tipped his hat if he were wearing one.
“This just happened to us yesterday,” Ann started. “I think it was yesterday,” glancing at Chris questioningly. “Wow, I’m losing track of time.”
“That’s normal,” said George. “It’s because you won’t sleep anymore, so the hours pass strangely. Hard to keep track, but you’ll get used to it.”
Chris leaned forward. “You know a lot about this?”
“Oh yes. Yes. If you have any questions, I’ll be glad to help.” He punctuated each sentence with a smile and nod.
“Well, I’m not sure where to begin,” said Chris.
“Then let me ask you some questions. Why didn’t you go when the light called you?”
Ann jumped in. “For me, I know it might sound overused-”
“Nothing is overused if it’s correct,” George said, bringing a smile from Ann. “Sorry, go on.”
“I wasn’t ready to die.”
“Exactly,” Chris jumped in. “Actually, as the plane was going down, I was saying that to myself.”
“No you weren’t,” Ann said.
“How can you tell me I wasn’t?”
“No, no. I mean you weren’t praying to yourself. I heard you. You were praying out loud.”
“I was NOT praying.” Chris’s insistence pushed Ann to move back slightly. There was an awkward silence.
“Anyway,” said a more somber Chris, “I was saying it to myself while listening to you.”
George interrupted, “You weren’t ready to go. And you’ve heard many theories that say when there’s a ghost or spirit around, it’s someone who is not finished here on earth, not ready to leave this life. And that’s one reason, but not the only reason. Sometimes, they don’t have a choice.”
“How do you know that?” asked Chris as George unbuttoned his ragged, gray coat.
“Just talking to people. I get a good sense for why people say and do things. You can tell me anything, and ninety-nine times out of a hundred I can tell you if you’re being honest. Let me ask you, what do you think your unfinished business is?”
Chris rubbed at his lip. “I think I just want to see my wife once more.” He glanced at Ann, who looked at him as if about to ask a question. Instead, she reached and patted his hand, greeted again by a great shock that sent her hand away.
“Oh my,” said George.
“Yeah, what is that?” asked Chris. “If we touch, we get a nasty zap. Ever see that before?”
“Not that I can think of, but I am sure it is important. I suggest the two of you stick together as often as possible.”
“Why?” asked Ann.
“It’s happening for a reason. So when it stops, there will also be a reason, and it will likely be something very important. And it might have something to do with why you are both here and not – somewhere else.”
“Uh,” Chris began, “where exactly is somewhere else? You mean Hell?”
“Oh, no,” George laughed. “Trust me, young man. There is no such thing.”
George smiled, as did Ann, but Chris not so much.
“So how do we figure out this unfinished business?” asked Chris.
“There are no directions for that. Pretend that you bought a game at a store. You open the game, and there are pieces of different shapes and colors, cards with random pictures, numbered dice, odd and ends in the box, but no directions. And you have to just look at what you have and figure out the game. And you might figure out one game.” He turned to Ann. “And you might figure out a different game, both with the same pieces. That’s all fine, as long as each one works. However, it is not very likely that your unfinished business is the same thing, so do not expect to both see that light return at the same time. One of you very likely will move on before the other.”
“So, I might see it, but she might not, and then she won’t be able to go with me?”
“Exactly,” said George, “but that does not mean you won’t eventually see each other again somewhere else.”
Chris and Ann glanced at each other, then Ann asked, “What about our families?”
“If you are thinking of seeing them, I would not,” George said.
“Why not?” asked Chris.
“There are only two possibilities, and both are bad. One is that you see them, and they’re greatly upset. That would hurt. On the other hand, you see them, and they are not upset. That would hurt even more.”
A train steward entered the car, flicked on the lights, and surveyed the lounge car. He flowed routinely around the car, opened various cabinets, checked supplies, and marked things on a clipboard.
“Can people see us?” Ann asked.
“When my sister was little, she used to see people. Nobody believed her. I didn’t want to believe her. Now I feel horrible that I didn’t. What decides who can or can’t see us?”
“I wish I could explain, and I’m very sorry about your sister. Why do birds build nests? Why do vultures pick on dead animals and not tomatoes? I wish I had an answer for you about your sister. It’s both a curse and a blessing.”
“How is it a blessing?” asked Chris.
“Her sister could have helped you get from here to wherever you are going.”
Ann’s turn. “Where are we going?”
“Call it ‘heaven’ I supposed,” said George
The steward continued to the opposite end of the car, inspecting one last area before tucking his clipboard under his arm and rearranging a few items inside the last cabinet.
“But don’t be afraid,” George continued. “It’s okay that you are still here, but it’s not where you are supposed to be. Think of how crowded it would be if everyone who died was still here. Even if you wanted to stay here, trust me you would get bored and want to leave. Just do not wait too long. Some people stay here so long, they can’t leave. They get addicted to being here, and they do not realize all the wonderful things they are missing.”
“What’s here that would be addicting?” asked Chris.
“Well, it can be fun,” George smiled as he stood, crossed the room, and pushed open a cabinet door. The train steward was about to leave the car until he saw the cabinet door that George had just opened. The steward glanced around the room, slowly moved to the cabinet, closed the door, checked it again, and then hurried from the car.
“Fun,” said George, “but not for very long. You would get bored, then unhappy, and then you never know what you might be capable of. You should move on to the next place while you can because not everyone can move on. Not everyone who goes to high school will be ready to graduate in four years. Not everyone learns to ride a bike the first day. Some people need another day, and some people will never have enough days.”
“So,” Chris said, “mediums, psychics, those kinds of people. Are they real?”
“Very few, but the real ones don’t charge money. They just want to help.”
“Wait,” added Ann. “You opened that cabinet. We can make things move?”
“Sometimes, if it’s important enough, you’ll do it.”
“We tried,” said Ann, “but we couldn’t.”
“How were you feeling?” asked George.
“Angry about being dead.”
“That’s why. There’s no place for anger here. When you are angry, you are thinking more about what you don’t want. The wrong motivations are at the center of your thoughts. When you are calm, positive, you can think more about what you do want. It’s kind of a Buddhist thing.”
Ann nodded positively and jumped in. “So when I tried to kick a trash can, it didn’t work because I wasn’t thinking about the trash can. I was thinking about being dead.”
“Yes. Your anger had nothing to do with moving a trash can. However, if you tried to move a trash can because it fell on a child, then moving the trash can would really be what you want, and then you would probably move it.”
“What about touching things?” asked Chris. “We were sitting on top of a train car. It was holding us up. But then we walked through a locked door. If the train car held us up, then why didn’t the door stop us?”
“Because it did what you wanted it to do. You wanted the sit on the train. You wanted to go through the door. If you wanted to go through the train, you would have, but you sat down with the expectation and desire to sit down, just as you are now.”
“So if I wanted to fall through the chair and land on the floor, that’s what would happen?” said Chris.
“Yes,” said George. “But it takes great mental ability to think differently like that. You might try to fall through the chair, but your mind won’t believe you unless it sees a reason other than to just prove that you can do it.”
Ann jumped in. “I sort of stepped inside someone.”
“Oh, yes,” smiled George. “That’s fun too, but be careful. That can really be addictive, and it’s not very nice. Usually, people in life who had behavior issues, problems with self identify, actors, they like doing that. And, those same people may have had someone inside them during their lives. I have seen some of us who stayed inside someone for so very long that eventually they could not get out. They literally became that person and lived out the rest of that person’s life. I tried to help them get out, but there was nothing I could do. They became something like a split personality, and they would sometimes take over and try to convince people that they were the real being. Eventually, that host body was so distraught he committed suicide, and they were both dead. Spirits who are trapped here will sometimes do that in the hope that they will move on, but it does not work that way.”
“Do they know when you’re inside them?” Ann asked.
“Not usually, unless you want them to, but they probably would just think it was their imagination. But they could shut you out if they wanted to, provided they knew or suspected.”
“Can we make people do things?” she asked.
“Depends on their focus and attitude. If someone is doing something that takes concentration, you would not have any effect. But if they were relaxed, then it is possible. Move their arms, make them walk, things like that. But please be careful. Just because you can do something does not mean that you should. Be certain that what you are going to do is necessary and something that you would accept being done to you.”
George shifted in his seat. “But let me ask you something. Why would you want to do things like that? It is a rather invasive thing, to occupy someone’s body. What gives you the right to do such a thing?”
“What if someone is in trouble or needs help?” Ann asked.
“People always need help,” said George. “How do you know what help they need? How do you get to decide when you should or should not help someone? In an attempt to help, what if you just make things worse? Then what? You have no business with such things. Your purpose, as you have chosen, is to help yourself. To find what you have missed so you can move on. I am sorry to sound so harsh, but you are not any kind of supreme authority annointed to get involved in the lives and problems of others.”
Chris waited, letting those thoughts sink in, before speaking up. “Are you some kind of authority here?”
“I’ve been around here for a long time, and I have gathered a lot from different people. I made it my purpose to pass on as much as I can to help those like you.”
“Why haven’t you moved on to somewhere else?” Ann asked.
George smiled less. “I just want to help.”
“Can we disapparate?” Ann asked.
“Dis-what?” asked George.
“It’s a Harry Potter thing,” Ann said. “Can we disappear and appear somewhere else?”
“No. You are a being, just not a physical one. You can not fly or float, but you can go through things because your state of matter is not the same as everything else. Think of a rock and air. They can touch, but they do not really affect each other. All your life, you have been the rock. Now you are the air. That is why you have trouble moving or touching things. Your body no longer works the same way. A small amount of air will not move a rock, but a strong, focused amount of air like from a storm can move a rock. I suppose it is like when people say ‘mind over matter.’”
“We were walking away from the crash site,” Chris started, “and I – felt – something that told me to go a certain way. Then I felt something that said to get on this train. Does that make sense?”
“Oh yes,” said George. “But, it is not always good. You will get strong feelings, but you will not know the difference between good or bad feelings.” He pointed at Ann. “There could be something bad about this train for you, something good for him, but it would feel the same to both of you.”
“Well that’s scary,” said Chris as Ann pulled her legs up on her seat and against her chest.
“Yes, it is,” said George.
“Any advice?” asked Chris.
“Yes. Do not ignore those feelings, but do not run to them either. Keep your eyes open, but keep your mind open too. Something might look like a bad thing, but you will not know for sure until it is over.”
“Like life,” said Chris solemnly.
“There was a kid,” said Ann. “He was looking at us like he could see us.”
“He probably could,” said George.
“But he didn’t look any different to us than the living people. How can we tell who is who?”
“He gave himself away by looking at you. But even if he was not looking at you, you still would have felt him nearby. Like I said before, your energy is different from the living. If you were blindfolded, you still would have known he was nearby. You will feel it, but you will not always know which person it is you are sensing because we look just as alive as everyone else who is dead. You can not tell the difference just by looking at each other. You looked alive to him, but he sensed someone was nearby. It is possible he has passed on. It is also possible he is living but has the sight to see you, and you were really feeling someone else in the room.”
“The light,” said Chris, “the one we didn’t go towards. Will it come back?”
“It will come back when you have accomplished whatever it is that kept you from going the first time. However, it is possible that it will come back for only one but not both. You both saw it the first time because you died together. Things are different now, and I doubt you will find what you seek at the same time, unless of course that what you are seeking is the same thing. So that light will be visible to only one of you. Stay together but think individually. It’s a nice thing that you are friends, but do not expect that you will both go at the same time.”
“Something important caused you to fight to stay. But just because it is important does not mean that it is better to know than not to know. Have you ever learned something that you wish you had not learned?”
“My sister,” Ann said, “visited a friend who moved into an old house. There was an old woman sitting by the fireplace, and she told my sister how much she really liked the friend who just bought her house. The friend said that it was an estate sale, and the owner had passed away a few months ago. My sister kind of knew the woman was just a spirit, but she wasn’t sure and didn’t want to be rude. The old woman told my sister that there was something hidden up in the attic and to please make sure her son gets it. It was a box with a lot of money.”
“Interesting,” said George.
“So my sister told this to the friend, who freaked out, chased my sister away, and told her never to come back again. My sister told to the husband. He went up and found it, but he never brought it to the dead woman’s son. He kept it. And the dead woman still haunts their house. My sister used to walk by the house, see the old woman outside in the garden. Talk to her. But she had to be careful or the friend would chase her away. They even called the cops once. Said she was stalking them.”
Does your sister still talk to the dead woman?” asked Chris, just as George attempted to interrupt.
“My sister killed herself last year.”
“Couldn’t take it. Couldn’t deal with seeing people, started to think maybe she was crazy because nobody believed her. Not even me. Well, I believed her, but I didn’t have the guts to admit it.”
They sat in silence for several moments until George reached and patted her hand. She looked at his had with curiosity before looking up at him with questions in her eyes.
“I am sorry, my dear. Please do not blame yourself. Let me warn you about something.” He buttoned his coat as he stood. “Just as there are bad people, those who commit crimes and cause trouble in life, there are also people like that in death. There will be those who will try to hurt you and hurt those who are still living.”
“You mean like a poltergeist?” asked Ann.
“Sometimes, yes,” said George. “Sometimes worse. There are things you will see. I call them ‘things’ because they are no longer people. No light will ever return for them, but they know that you still have a chance. They will try to inhabit you and hope to move on with you once it is your turn to go. Stay away from them.”
“What do they look like?” asked Ann.
“They are as different as you or I, but they are silent. They think they can sneak up on you if they stay silent. They will be drawn to you, they can feel you, just as that boy could feel you. They will not stop following you.”
“So these things are just roaming the earth?” asked Chris, “like zombies?”
“I wouldn’t go so far as to call them zombies. Just lost souls. There used to be others like me who tried to catch them, but I don’t think that happens anymore. Too many lost souls, and too few who want to help. Those spirits will eventually disappear. They become just the ghostly images that most people see. When that happens, they are just harmless spots of light.”
“Like the old woman who stayed to give her son the money in the attic,” said Ann.
“Yes,” said George. “Now, please, please remember. There is a danger in what you have chosen. You were given an invitation that you turned down for a reason. You will not get that invitation again until you satisfy that reason. Sadly, that elderly woman will never leave this earth because her reason for staying cannot be satisfied.”
“So like the other ghosts or spirits that are still here?” asked Ann.
“Yes. Those spirits from hundreds of years ago are just echoes. Their people have faded away, never made it to your heaven. You must focus on what kept you here. Find it. Satisfy it. And then you will be able move on. Otherwise, you will be one of those echoes.”
They all stood, shook hands, and George turned for the door.
“Will we see you again?” asked Chris.
“Never know.” George smiled and stepped through the door into the next train car.
They sat quietly for a few seconds.
“Oh shit,” said Chris.
“What?” said Ann.
“I should have asked him how long we have to do whatever it is or that light won’t come back.”
“I guess until it’s not possible. Like that woman with the money.”
They returned to their seats. “So, what do you think about George?” asked Ann.
“George? I believe him.”
“What’s your point?”
“My point is that he seems to know a lot about all this, and I’m thinking he’s more than just a guy named George.”
“What more could he be?”
“Really? Nothing more comes to mind?”
“Please save me the trouble and just tell me what you’re thinking.”
“What if you were just talking to an angel?”
“What if you’re nuts?”
“What if you were just talking to God?”
“I’m going home.” Chris stood and stepped towards the same door through which George had just exited.
“So not only do you think you’re smarter than everyone else, but you think you’re smarter than George, or God, or whoever he was?”
“No. I just feel I’m supposed to go home.”
“You were on your way to Los Angeles. Wouldn’t it make sense that your answer is there?”
“I feel it’s back home. And I feel you’re supposed to come with me.”
“I’m supposed to go?” said Ann. “No. You’re afraid to go alone. And you didn’t answer my question. What if we were just talking to God?”
Chris stopped and turned to face Ann. “Let’s get this straight so we don’t have to talk about it ever again. There is no God.”
Question 1: This chapter was long and mainly dialogue. Did it feel too long?
Question 2: Are the ghost rules clear? Does it seem like anything was contradictory to anything that Chris or Ann did in previous chapters?