Page 4 of The Body Departed

I drifted closer and raised my finger, pointing at her computer.

She followed my finger. “The computer?”

I nodded exaggeratedly so that she could not mistake the gesture.

“What about the computer?” she asked.

I focused on the image of a writing program.

She studied me. “Do you want me to open Word?”

I nodded vigorously.

She turned back to her computer and clicked open Word for Windows. When a blank screen appeared on the monitor, I leaned across her body and drew energy from both her and the computer, and struck a key on the keyboard. Granted, my finger disappeared down through the key, but luckily, the sensitive keyboard recognized my touch. Ghosts and machines sort of go hand in hand.

A letter appeared on the monitor before her, a Y. I continued typing until I had formed a complete sentence.

Yes, I’m a ghost was my reply.

The little girl, who had scooted back in her chair to allow me room, squealed with delight, clapping. “You can type!”

Yes, I responded, the words appearing on the white screen.

“Do I need to type back?” she asked me.

No, I wrote. I can hear you just fine. What’s your name?

She scooted back in her chair, giving me enough room to type. “Kaira,” she said. “So how long have you been dead?”

Two years, I think.

“You think?” she asked.

It’s getting harder and harder to remember dates.

She screwed up her little face. “I can see that, I think.”

You are a smart girl, Kaira.

“So are you really a good ghost?”

Yes.

“Then why didn’t you go to heaven?”

I thought about that, my fingers hovering over the keyboard. She was just a little girl—no need to burden her with too much information.

It’s not time, I wrote.

“You’re not going to heaven, are you?” she said. She was more sensitive than I thought.

I hesitated, then typed my reply.

No, I don’t think so.

“You’re going to hell,” she said.

I think so, yes. But I’m working on that.

She pushed her chair back and stood suddenly. She looked at me warily. “Were you a bad man?”

Yes, I wrote. I’m sure I was. But I don’t remember what I did.

“But you said you are a good ghost.”

I’m a good ghost, but I was a bad man.

She continued watching me cautiously. I didn’t blame her. “What did you mean when you said you were ‘working on that’?”

I typed, Means, I’m trying to be a better person.

“But it’s too late,” she said. “You’re already dead.”

A minor technicality.

“What’s a technicality?”

Means I’m working on it, I typed, then added a winky face, complete with semicolon and parentheses.

“Kaira, honey,” called her mother from the next room, “who are you talking to out there?”

“No one, Mommy,” said the little girl.

“Come and help me, sweetie.”

“Okay, Mommy.” She quickly closed the Word document and turned to me. “I got to go,” she whispered. “You seem like a good ghost. I hope you don’t go to hell.”

“That makes two of us,” I said, but she showed no indication of hearing me. I smiled at her again and exited the same way I had come, through the closed front door.

Welcome to the neighborhood.

5

It was early morning.

My daughter was asleep. Most of the building was asleep, except for the security guard who worked the graveyard shift; he would be coming home in a few hours. Maybe I would haunt him later, kill some time until morning.

I felt restless, detached, ungrounded. Nothing new for a ghost. But tonight the feelings were especially strong, especially poignant. Something was happening, but I wasn’t sure what. Being dead, after all, was still fairly new to me.

I was in a favorite part of the building—a long interior hallway that morphed into an exterior walkway. The hallway was, in effect, part interior and part exterior, and thus not subject to the regular rules and regulations that govern my haunting. Who made these rules, I didn’t know, but they were there, and one such rule stated that I could not leave the confines of the building.

Anyway, I followed the interior hallway to the point where it turned into the exterior—or outer—walkway. At this juncture, I could nearly stand outside.

Nearly, but not quite.

Still, as I pretended to lean a shoulder against the hallway wall, I could almost feel the cool wind that rustled the leaves of the rustic hillside that jutted up behind the apartment complex.

As the wind picked up, a part of me wished it would take hold of me and carry me away.

And where would you go?

Good question.

The moon, hanging above the highest trees, looked cold and eternal. I felt cold and eternal. I also felt unhinged and adrift, as if the smallest breeze might blow me away.

As I continued staring up into the night sky, and as the wind continued passing straight through me, a pinprick of light appeared in the heavens above. It could have been a star, but it wasn’t, and suddenly, I knew why I was feeling so unsettled.

The pinprick of light grew rapidly into something much more than a pinprick. Much, much more. And it kept growing and expanding until it had burned a hole into the sky. Golden light poured out.

It was the tunnel to heaven.

6

I had first seen the tunnel two years ago.

I had been asleep. I had been dreaming of work, my baby girl, my failed marriage, and everything in between when a half-dozen loud explosions forcibly yanked me out of my sleep and, apparently, right out of my body.

To say I was confused was an understatement.

In utter bewilderment, I found myself floating in my bedroom, floating above my body, as a man, standing in the middle of my room and holding a gun, pulled the trigger again and shot me point-blank in my chest. The explosion was loud, deafening in the confined space. But my body didn’t move with the impact. I was already dead.

Hell of a bad dream.

The shooter fell to his knees and dropped his gun and buried his face in his hands. I saw that he was wearing latex gloves. His body shook as he sobbed. Eventually, he got hold of himself, picked up his gun, and stood. He looked down at my dead body. So did I. The sheet was now completely covered in blood and gleaming wetly.

He quickly left my bedroom, and a moment later, I heard my front door open and then click shut. He was gone, and I was dead.

Why he killed me, I didn’t know. Why he wept, I didn’t know. Who he was is still a mystery.

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