Welcome to this year’s Christmas story challenge! Here’s a somber little number to get us started on one of the longest nights of the year. Check back on Elizabeth’s post outlining the rules through the week! She’s also got a nice list of stories from challenges past.
The first thing you should know about me is that I was a nuclear physicist. I didn’t believe in woo-woo, and I didn’t believe in goddamn ghosts. I believe in the laws of nature and mathematics. And, yeah, sure, my girlfriend told me about that baffling Hamlet and his “more things in your philosophy” quote. But ghosts aren’t real. I never believed.
The second thing you should know about me is that I was supposed to get married last Christmas to the most beautiful woman on the planet. Kind, smart, super-sexy and she loves me too. But I was hanging lights on our house (our first house) after a freak rainstorm, and the law of gravity ruled against me. What a fiasco. No wedding, no honeymoon, and she still wears my diamond and gets drunk every night while I continue to not exist. Believe me, it’s the last thing I wanted.
And yet, here I am. And it’s been nothing like the woo-woo people led me to expect. No tunnel, no bright lights, no mysterious angels with blazing swords, carving out a stairway to heaven. And, baffling enough, it’s not been anything like my serious atheist colleagues have posited, either. No nothing. I’m just hanging around the house, still grizzly from the three-day razor stubble after my last Thanksgiving, ambivalently sloughing around the house and the estate, alternately angry at my fate and overjoyed to see Jenny’s sweet naked face in the mornings. There was supposed to be nothing after death. Not something. And I’m still having trouble believing it.
And so this is Christmas, one year later. Jenny’s got her wedding dress out – I’d never gotten to see it, and I want to blurt out how wonderful she looks. She’s having trouble with the zipper, and I wish I could reach around, and pull the damn thing up for her. Feel her smooth back under my fingers once more. I try, but she shivers, like someone’s walked over her grave. Smart girl – she loops a bit of thread around the zipper and pulls it up herself. Such an unbelievable woman.
She deserves more than this stupid, self-imposed widowhood. I can’t do much in my present state – can’t roll marbles or button clothing, but I can change the temperature. I’ve learned about the collusion our molecules and atoms have with heat on an intimate level that I’d never learned professionally while I was alive. I can shut a door. I can turn on the TV. I can make the floorboards creak in sympathy. I can send shivers down her spine, but not like I used to. Believe me, I’ve tried.
I’ve got a feeling this is my last chance, today. My last chance to send my love, and then I’ll have to get going. I never used to pay much attention to hunches before. I’d follow them up, and they were always 50/50 as to whether they would pan out or not. But that was when I was alive. Since I’ve been dead, my hunch rate has been running at 100 percent. But it’s going to be OK. I’ve been practicing all month while she’s been at work. I believe I can do this.
I turn on the TV, and then I carefully manipulate the pixels. First there’s snow on the screen. She turns it off with the remote, then with the exaggerated care of drunkenness, sets it where her elbow won’t bump it. I turn the TV on again. Oh, this time, I’ve got her attention. I get the snow back on the screen, instead of the digital blackness, and then I juggle my pixels. I didn’t have time to learn how to make them in color, but I think I’ve got a pretty good likeness of myself in black and white. “Jenny, Jenny, I love you. I’m sorry. Please do what you need to make yourself happy again.” This is so unbelievably hard.
She touches the screen. “David? David? Where are you?” So unbelievably hard.
“I’m going, babe. Be happy.” And then, it happened. The tunnel opened from our fireplace, and the light began to glow. I was going. To the void, or to another plane of existence, I don’t know yet. “Be happy, babe.” I believe I’ll find out soon.