Lucy and I sat down this evening to relax together and rather than turning to Netflix or our books, decided to challenge ourselves to 20 minutes of creative writing. We took a prompt from a quick search and set a timer. Here’s what we came up with – raw and unedited, but posted here to make it real. We can’t wait to do it again!
Write about a ghost. How do they feel about the world? What do they see and hear? How did they become a ghost?
The crisp edges curled, dried up from the summer’s long heat. Parched, it lay on the cracked asphalt, still. Not a hint of a breeze. She thought she remembered what that felt like: the stinging of sweat in eyes; the itchiness of cloth too long stuck to hot skin. She yearned for it. She reached out to gently pick up the leaf, to feel its dry edges and crunch its delicate veins. It was pointless. She could not.
It was not as she had expected. If she had thought about it at all – which she wasn’t sure she had – she thought she might feel powerless. But to not hear, not touch, not smell, not taste? It was acutely painful. It was almost physical, this wrenching absence.
Being amongst them but deprived of all that they were. The musty scents of bodies and fragrant whisps of air; the giggles like ripples of waves. Their stomping and slamming. Their endless chatter. Their cries.
She walked into the darkened cool of the house. Dirty white socks dropped in the hallway. Pink plastic ice lolly sticks lay dripping on the countertop. A wet towel and bathing suit hung limply from the door. They had just been here. She could feel the bustle that just was.
A whoosh of dry air and they were back inside. They were here. She kept to the wall, an instinctual need to hide. Mouths wide and laughing, faces flushed and pink, they tumbled into the house, soundlessly talking rapidly and flinging off sandals, spraying sand across the tiles, before running up the stairs. She silently followed, willing them now to look her way, to feel her there, watching them. Drawers and cupboards were flung open and they gulped down water and wiped it on their sweaty brows, their chests heaving, as they caught their breaths and tried to cool down. This was her moment.
She leaned forward and with all her strength, blew on their necks. The little one shivered and turned around. She grasped their hands, pulled them to her, wrapped her arms around them. She could almost feel their soft, hot skin and tangled, damp hair. She shut her eyes and squeezed. She had done it: she was holding them again.She opened her eyes, smiling.
The room was empty. They had gone. She was holding nothing. They had not felt her.
I barely notice 99% of the people who pass me by. All the space in my little ghost mind, my whole attention, is taken up by the worst and the best souls. I would like nothing more than to sit back and just appreciate humanity, the glory of the mundane lives of the many, but the pesky outliers just draw me in.
This one woman a few days back was just walking along minding her business and walked past a snickers wrapper flapping about in the grate of the sewer. Who knows what sort of exceptional upbringing might have led to this elegant figure taking the time to backtrack, bend over precariously in her expensive heels and pencil skirt, and recover that tiny morsel of urban decay from the dirt of the city streets, but she did it. And I noticed. Whilst the other 99.9% of the population just got on with getting on.
I wish I could notice those other humans. I wish I could see beyond their hurried anxious expressions and their clenched jaws and find the purpose in their lives. Can you imagine the power of all those millions of people if they just got the fuck on with changing some of the shit which goes down in this world? I sit here day after day, and knowing that I was one of those robot jobsworths, stuck on autopilot, wasting my potential. It kills me. Or it would. If I weren’t already dead.
Ghosts can’t move. Did you know that? I spent 78 years cautiously optimistic that there was something beyond death. When death seemed most scary, I found no small amount of comfort in the idea that my soul might persist, that it might be set free to roam among clouds and travel the world. Maybe even discover some new worlds. Never did I imagine that I might find myself bound to the very spot where I dropped out of existence, trapped in this most monotonous purgatory.
It must be for a reason. And I’m fairly confident that I’ll get to move on at some point. I’m at the corner of 29th and Madison – I know of at least 6 other souls who would be stood within my eye-line if every road traffic fatality resulted in a bored spectre glued to the spot where they kicked the bucket. I wonder where they all are now you got me talking on it…
Funny, isn’t it? All those years of mental and physical faculty, agency manifest, and nothing more to show for it that a few payslips and a daughter who calls me twice a year and works for fucking Facebook. And now I know better and I’m a god damned phantom idealist, stuck on a street corner screaming at the zombies to open their eyes; to lift up their heads. But they can’t hear me. And I can’t see them. Because I can see there are a few who will do enough good to make up for the apathy of the many. And there are those others who will do enough bad to galvanise just a few more. And I’m optimistic that that might just be enough. I guess we’ll see.