The Ghost of Humanity – Part One
Jeremy Plott’s death was not what he had expected. This wasn’t wholly unusual, since very few people truly want to die and, while many people have an idea of what the afterlife is, only a select few truly believe.
None of this really matters, because nearly no one is right.
What matters is that after the Greyhound’s rear tires finished what the front ones had started, Jeremy found himself standing by the roadside. The problem was that he also found himself mangled and spread across the highway as though someone had knocked open a piñata that, rather than candy, had been filled with little human bits instead. One chunk (an arm?) had been impaled by a small cactus on the roadside.
This didn’t entirely surprise him, because Jeremy was well aware that you can’t get hit by a two ton bus going seventy miles an hour and expect to stay in one piece. What surprised him was the fact that he was still, if not alive, at the very least aware.
There had been no bright light, unless the bus’s high beams counted. He couldn’t see any flames to speak of. The only people around were some of the Greyhound’s passengers, who had disembarked in order to inspect the carnage dotting the dark highway, despite the loud protests of the driver, and none of them seemed to possess a halo or horns. After a quick check, Jeremy determined that he didn’t have them, either.
Jeremy had never been particularly religious. His parents had been the typical American lukewarm Christians who went to church on Easter and Christmas and owned a bible which remained in pristine condition over the years due to no one ever picking it up, let alone reading it. Aside from that, Jeremy’s theological expertise was limited to an ex-girlfriend who had proclaimed herself to be Wiccan; he had never thought much of her beliefs, however, because all of the books she read had authors with names like Fall Wolfmoon and Silver Oakwood, which he considered to be obvious pseudonyms designed to mask the author’s identity in case anyone ever got angry after realizing that a “love potion” consisting of tree bark, pine sap, river water, and various minerals didn’t do anything aside from make one’s digestive tract sound like a tractor trailer that hadn’t been serviced since 1963.
So, after taking stock of his surroundings and seeing no pearly gates, fiery pits, gods, goddesses, or any other supernatural accoutrements, Jeremy had exhausted his knowledge on the afterlife and decided that he’d probably figure it out eventually. After all, if there was anything he had, it was time.
After coming to this conclusion, he heard the voice. Rather, he realized that he had been hearing the voice all along and was only now noticing that it was there, much like when he had been watching TV and his mother had to say his name repeatedly in a steadily increasing volume in order to get his attention. The voice hadn’t gotten louder; the other distractions had simply been taken away.
Jeremy listened very carefully. It sounded exactly like the voice possessed by every ATM and GPS device he had ever used – British, female, vaguely attractive, and as otherwise generic as it is possible for a voice to be. After a while, he found that it seemed to be on a loop, repeating its message endlessly.
What it said was, “Thank you for choosing eternity. If you find that you have any questions, please understand that due to the high quantity of inquiries as to the nature of existence, the universe, and the human soul, your query may never, in fact, be answered. Feel free to speak your questions aloud. No one will hear you, but many people find this conducive to the critical thinking process. We hope you enjoy your stay.”
This should have bothered Jeremy, but he found himself rather unaffected by the voice’s bleak message. He had never really expected any answers after death or even any sort of situation where he would be available to receive said answers, had they been given. Despite being faced with what would appear to be a bland eternity, he simply didn’t have the energy to care. A mediocre life leading to a mediocre afterlife – it seemed fitting, if nothing else.
Jeremy forced himself to stop listening to the voice. It was still there, like the noise refrigerators make that has become an essential part of modern life, but he chose to focus on other things. He was becoming aware of the fact that he no longer had traditional senses; he could see, smell, and hear, after a fashion, but taste and touch seemed to be beyond his current state of existence. Looking down, there was a distinct lack of feet and torso – only some dirt and a small shrub of some sort. It stood to reason that, no longer having a body, he no longer had body parts, either. Despite this, he decided to reach what he still thought of as his right hand toward the shrub. Absolutely nothing happened.
Giving what would have been a sigh if he still had a chest, Jeremy attempted to put one theoretical foot in front of the other. This resulted in moving about one foot forward. Concentrating, he tried taking a large “step” toward the bus that had ended his life as he knew it. The landscape blurred and when he looked around, he saw trees, which his previous location had distinctly lacked.
After a time of contemplation, Jeremy understood that, no longer having a body, the standard physical laws no longer applied to him. However, because there were limitations to what he could now do, he assumed that there must be other laws to replace them. While this certainly sparked his curiosity, he was in no hurry to discover exactly what these laws might be. After all, little things like gravity or friction could easily kill a human; who knew what could kill a ghost?
more by KENNY STONEMAN
photograph by Artur Pokusin