I don’t have a heartbeat. I also don’t have a heart. Being a ghost, I guess all I really have is myself, and I’m not even sure I have all of that.
I always thought ghosts were either terrifying, invisible things that made the walls bleed or friendly floating apparitions that looked like they were made out of a white sheet. Maybe those exist, but they’re not the kind of ghost I became.
The kind of ghost I became was the kind who was more or less just like the girl I’d been in life, but made of smoke and daydreams rather than flesh and blood. It’s not as bad as that might sound, or as good either. It’s inbetween, which is what being a ghost is overall. Inbetween one life and the next, inbetween passing on and staying behind.
My name is Heather, and that’s one of the things I managed to keep. A part of myself that didn’t slip away when I lost everything else. Or almost everything else. I still look the same as I did before. Mostly. Still the same broad nose, still the same dark skin, still the same t-shirt and jeans and sneakers that I always wore, except in the right kind of light, or at the right time of the day, all of those things, all of pieces of me you can see, aren’t quite fully there. It’s not that I’m invisible or translucent, it’s more like I’m an optical illusion and unless you’re looking just right I fade from view completely. But then that’s the nature of ghosts I guess.
There’s a lot fewer of us than you’d think. Or at least, I’ve met fewer ghosts than it seems like I should have. Most people seem to pass on pretty easily, especially the ones who had really hard lives.
So how did I become a ghost? I guess it was the usual story. Girl makes a mistake, girl’s in the wrong place at the wrong time, and girl wakes up to find she’s lost a few pounds. Or all the pounds. I think I must have screwed something up because I have no memories of how I died. I remember a car accident, but those memories feel unreal. Like I stitched them together from movies and TV.
The more important question than how I died though is why I stuck around? Why am I one of the “Inbetweens”? That’s not an official name. It’s just something that sounds better to me than ‘ghost’.
I think I stuck around because I’m missing something. My memory is terrible, but, amusingly, it was when I was alive too. Somewhere in the missing bits though is something important, something that I can’t afford to leave behind.
It’s an infuriating feeling to have something be so important to you and then not be able to remember anything about it. Or it would be infuriating, but given that I’m already dead and don’t have a heart, my emotions feel softer and smaller than what I remember them feeling like. Which might be because everything about me is softer and smaller than it used to be. Inbetween-me is maybe five feet tall while living-me was five feet four inches. I’m not younger looking though, unless I died as an adult and forgot everything back until I was fourteen.
That’s possible, heck anything seems to be possible, but the Inbetween world seems to reflect the living world and both of them look like how I remember the world looking, so i don’t think I lost a lot of time with my missing memories. When I look around I see the same fashions, the same cars, the same gadgets, and the same people. It’s my world, I’ve just lost my place in it.
I tell myself that and it’s mostly true, but I’m not sure if I ever had a place in the living world and the Inbetween world has some throwbacks that speak bits of history that have never quite moved on either. Like the weird old carriage I saw the first day after I died. It was pulled by some kind of strange wispy horse things, and was following a schedule marked as 1886.
Old things like that turn up in strange places but they come and go more than the rest, fading into the background and dwindling away for a while even if you keep your eye right on them.
The things in the living world are more solid than that, of course. In the living world, nothing changes form like smoke (unless it’s actually smoke), shadows are just patches where less light is falling and things that are alive, or have a spirit associated with them, glow with a pale inner light in colors that reflect who and what they are.
I couldn’t see that glow when I was alive, but the first time I laid eyes on it as an Inbetweener I knew exactly what it was. It just felt right. People are warm. They glow. That doesn’t mean they’re friendly or nice of course. Not any more than fire is friendly or nice.
Inbetweeners have a glow too, but ours is different. It’s pale and flickering. Even with the darkness of my skin, the light that shone from my Inbetween self was just a weak gray compared to the riot of colors that strobed from the living.
A pale glow was better than the other alternative though.
Where people glowed bright, and Inbetweeners were smokey and dim, there were other things that didn’t glow at all. In the Inbetween world, the shadows were more than just spaces the light didn’t reach. They were places the light couldn’t reach. Places where light was devoured, whether it was the light from the Inbetween sun, or the light inside a ghost.
The same as I recognized the glow within people as being right, the shadows of the Inbetween felt very wrong. With everything glowing with light and spirit, there weren’t as many shadows in the Inbetween as there were in the living world, but the places where they lurked screamed of danger.
I kept away from those spots as best I could but there was only one problem; they didn’t seem to be interested in keeping away from me.
I was running from a shadow, racing to find some spot in the Inbetween where other people were gathered, for safety, when the wind hit me.
Given that my ‘body’ was made of smoke and daydreams you wouldn’t think either shadows or wind would have much effect on me, but you would be wrong. The wind caught me up and whipped me away from the hungry shadows, but blew me into a much worse problem.