Fiction: Afterlife

Now that he knew, it was impossible to ignore them. He could feel them, even when he took off the damn glasses. It was nothing like he had hoped.

The news of the discovery of ghosts had kept him from killing himself almost 10 years ago.

At first it was great seeing Kristin and Ava again. Then it became a nightmare.

They couldn’t see him, or each other. It was like watching a movie with no sound. Worse, it was like being in the middle of a movie where the other actors couldn’t see him and he couldn’t hear them. Only they weren’t actors. They were his wife and daughter.

“You’re dead,” he said to the empty room.

He put on the glasses again, like a drunk going back to the bottle. The world darkened and the ghosts glowed faintly.

Little Ava was silently crying, her face was screwed into an expression of pain. Pain he could not alleviate. He couldn’t hug and console her. He couldn’t even wipe the snot from her face.

Kristin was oblivious to their daughter’s plight. She was talking to someone who wasn’t there. Her mouth moved, but no words came out. She looked angry and began shouting.

He stood up and walked over to stand in front of her unseeing eyes. She pointed her finger at him, through him, and there was no mistaking the curse on her lips. Though he knew she was unaware of him, he was compelled to pretend otherwise.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I never saw the car coming.”

Her hands were on her hips now. She was shaking her head.

Tears fell from his eyes. “Please, forgive me …”

She walked forward. He held out his arms to embrace her, but she walked through him and reached up to get something.

There used to be a coat rack there, years ago, he remembered.

She put on her coat. She shook away unseen hands and stomped to the door. Her ghostly hand grabbed at the handle and pulled, but the door remained closed. Kristin stormed through it, out into the street.

He followed her to the door, opened it and watched her walk away, then fade away as she reached the sidewalk. Like other ghosts, she was attached to a particular place. He used to think he was lucky that his wife and daughter were attached to his home. Some widowers visited their dead wives at the scene of accidents or the house they grew up in. But he got to see her and the baby every day, every damned day.

He took off the glasses and the world appeared as it should: his neighbors’ perfectly manicured lawns, a lady walking her dog down the sidewalk, the shining sun … He closed the door.

She’d be back. She always came back.

But not for long. Soon the Peacemakers would free her from this world. He had pledged his soul to the Church. He had completed the rites. He had paid the money.

Tomorrow they would come and end the haunting.

He told them it was to give Kristin and Ava peace. But, deep down, it was for him. It was the same selfishness that caused him to turn the wheel when he saw the car coming toward the driver’s side. It hit Kristin’s side instead. That same selfishness sent him to the Church.

The confessions had helped alleviate his guilt, a little. But, deep down, the only reason he hadn’t killed himself was because he didn’t want to be like them — caught between two worlds. He had been promised heaven, if he could endure this hell.


A knock on the door woke him. For a moment, his sleep-addled brain thought it was Kristin. He rolled over. She was there. He could feel her there.

The knock came again, more impatient.

He rolled out of bed, knocking over an empty bottle of beer, and ran his fingers through his hair. Today was the day.

He held onto the rail as he took the stairs and made it to the door just as the knock came again, pounding this time.

“Mr. Scott Drees?” asked the man at the door. His voice was a river through a canyon. The gray Italian suit and black cashmere scarf that marked him as a Peacemaker draped a 6-foot frame. A felt fedora shaded his eyes. A black bag was in his left hand.

“Yes, yes …”

“I am Brother Michael Martin,” said the man. “We have an appointment.”

“Yes,” Scott said. “Please, come in.”

“Peace be with your home,” Brother Martin said as he entered the large house.

“Let’s hope so,” Scott said.

“The faithful always have hope.”

Scott nodded. “Would you like something to drink … coffee?”

“No, thank you. I am on a tight schedule.”

“I think they’re upstairs,” Scott said.

“No, they are here.”

“You can see them?” Scott asked. “Without glasses?”

“Yes.”

Scott put on his glasses. Kristin was sitting on the couch, making faces at Ava who was giggling with each new silly pose.

“Can you … talk to them.”

“Yes,” Brother Martin said again as he removed a cross, bible and pocket watch from the bag and placed them on a coffee table. “Would you like to say goodbye?”

“I … I would like to say I’m sorry. It was an accident.”

Brother Martin nodded and closed his eyes. Scott saw Kristin turn toward the Peacemaker. It was the first time he had ever seen her react directly to anything in this world. She looked confused at first, then scared. Her mouth moved as if she was speaking to him.

“She says she forgives you,” Brother Martin lied.

He looked at the pocket watch.

“It is time,” he said. “Please, kneel and pray with me.”

Scott did as he was told, closing his eyes and quietly reciting the prayer he had learned in church.

His voice was drowned out by Brother Martin’s deep rumble as the man read from the bible. Scott opened his eyes.

Kristin started to back away but stopped suddenly as if she was frozen. Ava began to cry and Kristin’s mouth opened to scream. For a split second, Scott thought he could actually hear them. Then the rumble turned into a chant. Kristin and Ava vanished with a flash. All was quiet.

“They looked … upset.”

“They are at peace now.”

“How do you know?”

“I have faith, Mr. Drees,” Brother Martin said as he packed up his bag. “And so should you.”