...The Phantoms in the Forest...
"Yes, indeed. Over Your Dead Body."
He snarled a little bit at the end of the sentence. I looked at him, looked through him. I saw my neighbor passing in and out of the wall. He had finally managed to figure it out, but where to go, now that you're dead?
So many unanswered questions. What am I doing here, among these dead...The smell of cigarettes brought me back. Oh, yes. That's right. I am obsessed with cigarettes and smoking even though it's been almost seven years since I myself quit. I am not without many of its scars and remnants. I am still mad that I even started and was a fool to myself for so long. I could be dancing right along with these sheer beings of remorse and retribution. I could be here anytime, actually. But will it be the same? Me, dead wandering around a rattley old train car? No, I have more pleasant things in mind. But for now I am hanging out with Death and his newest arrivals.
The night is long and dark. It is not the same as a regular night. The end of the season crickets are so loud - fighting for their last round of chirping before they join the earth again. They are perpetually singing as leaves and branches are cracking in the forest just beyond the tracks. Something is chittering and falling through the sky. A bat lands just outside the train window where my new friend is passing back and forth. The cracking stops and there is only silence now. My ears feel as though someone has put their hands over them, everything is muffled. The crickets are tiny chirps barely audible. The Phantom Reaper is gone. I am alone with the person who died last night. Why don't I know his name?
...The Unlit Path...
He is looking at me with a sadness mixed with rage. I am not understanding why because I have no idea who he is. I don't know anything about him and I am not sure I want to. The photographs scattered around the floor begin to float around. He picks them up one at a time and when he has them all, he exits the train.
"No, please don't."
I barely say it because its useless. The dead don't do as they are told. It's the other way around, out here anyway. I don't want to sit here alone in the dark on the railway or follow the ghost into the dark forest where hideous sounds have started up again. This time the breaking and shuffling is much more careless and accompanied by harsh voices that don't sound helpful, or even human. I wait to see if he is really going in to the small opening in the trees. It's barely visible, one shade of dark against another. I keep thinking like a human, and want to have the courage of a ghost. Finally I have no choice because I am alone and way too curious to stay behind. I can at least follow at a distance until I see something I don't like.
Now it is I that is making cracking sounds on the fallen branches below my feet. I am horrified that I am being heard and every sound I make seems to be amplified in this black velvet thickness. I stop because I cannot breathe through my terror. I have lost sight of my ghost friend and I feel so hot I could fall over. I look to the sky, there is no moon, no stars. There is no wind but there is now a building heat that is pouring out of something I cannot see. I am exhausted with the temperature. I find a hollow in a bush and sit inside it. I hear a fire burning close but there is no light from anywhere. Shadows torment me with their dancing.
...Thicker than Water...
The black flames are distinctly burning. I hear voices of those that I recognize now. My mother and my son are having a conversation. The tone of my mothers voice is vile, angry. My son is a silent conversationalist, all I hear is "Uh huh. Mmm hmm." I hear my name, pronounced as "Your Mother" and there is nothing else now. I stand up in a revived furor and am slapped in the face with a tree branch. As I push through it and wipe away blood, sweat and tears, I try to find them. My anger gives me the courage to catapult into the darkness. It is just what they planned.
I come to a clearing where a black bonfire is burning. My mother and son are here, yes, but they are engaged in a conversation that will never include me or acknowledge me. Her frail skeleton sits in a "cat" position as his sits beside her indian style. There are phantom wraiths standing behind them, arms outstretched, waiting for me. The conversation continues between them but the words are completely incoherent. The largest wraith comes forward, bone hand extended. I reach out for it, and take it. I can't bear this exchange between them anymore in death than I could in life.
The wraith shapeshifts as we walk. His boney hand becomes covered in flesh. He becomes beautiful. Too beautiful. I would follow him anywhere. Daylight starts to peek over a far off horizon. The land we walk upon goes from barren and black to fragrant and green. Birds begin to emerge from trees heavy with leaves still green. Things always look better in the dawn of the new day...don't they?