by Dash Owens
As Edward, Belinda, and Junie began to give Maeve some answers, she asked even more questions. During one early morning, the ghosts were demonstrating to Maeve how they traveled at different speeds.
“It’s easiest to focus on an object that’s moving first. Imagine you’re right next to it,” Edward directed, pointing to a car at a red light outside the theater.
“It’s like when your mind tells your body to walk, so you walk,” Junie added. “You tell your legs to run, so they run.”
Maeve drifted next to the black Ford Focus, waiting for the light to turn in congested downtown traffic. She had seen the other ghosts disappear and reappear throughout the theater, and she finally asked for a lesson. When the light changed, Maeve focused on the car. At first, she glided alongside it, but she only lasted half a block. She began to think of how improbable the whole endeavor was, which also meant she lost her focus. She turned around to see Edward, Junie, and Belinda suddenly next to her.
“Good start! Again!” exclaimed Edward.
They continued to practice with cars and bikes. Maeve discovered a trick: she imagined herself driving a car or riding a bike like she had when she was alive. She tried to construct a mental model of how it would have felt. And then she did it for a block, then two, then three. Every time she finished, Edward, Junie, and Belinda appeared to offer their congratulations and advice.
“I need to learn that,” Maeve said.
“You will,” Belinda grinned. “Practice makes perfect!”
Maeve looked at her three fellow ghosts, all of whom smiled at her.
“Are you happy?” she asked, though their faces made it seem like they didn’t understand her question at all. “I mean, do you feel happy? You always seem to be laughing, smiling…you seem happy.”
They all exchanged a look.
“Oh dear,” cried Junie, “Forgive us, Maeve. We be-en ghosts for a long time…We don’ always remember what it was like at first.”
Edward added, “Truly, truly apologize. It’s…hard to explain. You’ll see…eventually.”
“See what?” Maeve replied. “I barely can think about something for longer than a few minutes. I forget everything. Sometimes I feel angry…like I think it’s anger. But most of the time…nothing. Like absolutely nothing.”
“It gets better,” Belinda moved closer to Maeve. “You do feel honeybear. We all do.”
“But that’s IMPOSSIBLE!” Maeve, exasperated, yelled. “I don’t have nerve-endings. I stand near disgusting human bodies masturbating and farting all day and I know it’s gross, but I don’t care. I can’t smell, I can’t touch, I can’t taste, I can’t feel!”
“Are you sure you aren’t feeling something right now?” asked Edward.
“Right now I’m mad. I’m really mad. It’s the only thing I ever seem to feel. I feel so so angry and…”
Edward cut in: “How do you know you’re angry?”
“I just am! Listen to my voice, my expression…”
Edward, again: “Sorry, Maeve. Let’s be clear: you do not have a body, but you can speak to us. You can hear our voices. Correct?”
“Your mind feels disorganized, disoriented. You don’t feel the way you felt things when you had a physical body, but you still sense…you sense that you’re angry, that things are not the way you want them to be. You still have preferences and you still have memories. All those things mean something to you. So you do have feelings, Maeve. You are not the same as you were before, but you are still alive. You have transformed.”
“Oh Edward, that’s too philosophical,” Belinda joined in. “We’re butterflies, Maeve. We used to be caterpillars but look at us now…we’re sometheen brand new.”
Junie sighed. “Bellie, that’s no better.”
Maeve looked at the group and tried to decide if their words were comforting or infuriating. Why was she still here? For the first time, Maeve thought it would have been preferable to cease, to not be conscious or cognizant of any existence beyond the one she forfeited in a moment of rash decision making. What was so terrible about her life before? Debt she would never pay off? A frustration with every academic and professional institution she interacted with? A dreary hopelessness obscured only by online shopping and East Village outings? So what! In her rabid search for more grades, more money, more prestige, she only found more disappointment and more debt. She could have walked away from all of it and still felt the light wind as she lay on the grass and rubbed the thin pages of a paperback between her fingers. But Maeve knew her choices were fixed; here she was with no choice besides companionship with a small group of impossibly jolly ghosts.
And that’s when Maeve realized her unfinished business; her desire to end it all without any consideration for the consequences, without any thought for her family or Mary or the profound small experiences that made life a sensuous thrill ride. But she had changed her mind. That tiny thought haunted her. She glanced down at the goopy white blotch permanently on her left breast. She had chosen life, but for all the wrong reasons. The uncertainty she brought into death must have caused her spirit to linger. How do you finish something like that? She had struck an unresolvable chord. She was doomed in this gray boundary between life and death.
“Can we…do something? Go somewhere?” Maeve asked the group, her tone low and defeated.
“Ooo yah,” squealed Belinda, “I heard all the people in the theater talkin ‘bout this “Last Castle” show…”