Notice to the reader:
This isn't my normal type of story. If you're wanting or expecting a "torch the bitch" story, please, don't bother to continue. This one could've gone into several categories, and finally I just picked the one I thought fit best. Should you still decide to read this, I hope you enjoy it. As usual, there is very little sex, but a different point of view.
Have you ever slept in so long that you knew it was way past time to get up, but you still couldn't force your eyes open? If you have, you know the feeling that you can sense your surroundings, but still can't see them with eyes that just won't be forced open. You know that you're at home in your bedroom and the sun is blasting its way though the window shades because you can "see" the light through your eyelids. You can hear a bird chirping outside your window in the tree that's in the back yard. You hear the familiar sound of the furnace kicking on and eventually cycling back off. Gradually and reluctantly, you come to the realization that no matter what you do, you can't go back to sleep and you may as well get up. The world sort of "fades in" on you as you open your eyes.
I "faded in" to a conscious state in a similar manner, but it wasn't on a pleasant sunny morning, but rather a dark lonely night in an unfamiliar location. After a bit of head shaking and cobweb clearing, I began to recognize where I was; it was the intersection of a county road and a two-lane highway, a little over a mile from my home. I wondered what in the hell I was doing out here, alone, and on foot, so late at night. As a car drove by me, I looked at the road using his headlights. My car was nowhere to be seen.
I said to myself, "What the hell, Ken, you may as well start walking. Maybe you can make sense of all this on the way home." When I brushed an errant strand of my bangs out of my face, I thought that my arm looked a little transparent. "It has to be the dark and your head playing tricks on you; you can't be..."
I held my hand up between my face and the streetlight about a hundred yards back towards the intersection that I was walking away from, and I seemed to see the light through my hand. "You can't be 'see through,' dumbass. You must have hit your head; that could explain a few things." I felt my head with both hands, but it didn't feel sore or bruised, and there was no blood on them when I pulled them away.
"Pull it together, dude! Focus! What is the last thing you remember?" I found that talking out loud to myself always helped me think things through better as it would slow down my thoughts enough that I could catch any mistakes and correct them. I began going over the last bits and pieces of my life and trying to organize them into a coherent flowing timeline that would explain why I was out here.
By the time I was at the corner of the cul de sac where I lived, I had pieced together that I was on my way home from work and had stopped by the church to drop something off...or pick something up. I was on my way home from the church, which would put me at that intersection, but it should be about five thirty on a February afternoon, not the middle of the night in late March or early April—as I was guessing ( because I had been looking at the dark green grass of spring, and the flowers in bloom). I figured it to be at least two or three in the morning by the amount of traffic going down the streets that I walked home on.
This just didn't make any sense, but then again, it didn't make any sense that a man in a cowboy hat would be sitting on my front porch in the middle of the night.
"Ken Goodman, I presume. You're right on time," he told me in a matter of fact tone, with a slight western drawl.
"Who are you and what are you doing on my porch at this time of night?"
He went on in his easy going manner. "The simplest description is that I'm your 'Spirit Guide.' My name is Tom, and I'm waiting here...for you. I know that's a lot to take in, but trust me—it gets worse, or deeper, depending on how you take it. Please, sit with me for a spell; I've got a lot to tell you before you walk in there."
"I don't know who you think you are, but I'm going inside to my wife right now! I'm sure that's she's worried sick about where I've been..."
Tom cut me off, "But you're not exactly sure where you've been, yourself—are you?"
"How did you know..."
"That's what I'm trying to tell you. I'm here to help you transition to your new existence."
"My new what?" I asked incredulously.
"Okay, there's no easy way to tell you, so I'll just come right out and say it. It's a shocker; are you ready? Brace yourself: you are...dead." He said this with a stone cold sober face that gave credence to his words.
"You're out of your damn mind! I'm standing right here on my front lawn in the middle of the night talking to a lunatic! I think you need to leave right now!" I feared for my family's safety as well as my own.
"Okay," he calmly replied, "If that's what you want, I'll leave. However first, I think you need to answer one simple question for me. Does that seem fair to you?"
"Fine; what's your question."
"Where are your feet?"
I looked down where they should've been, but they weren't there. Somewhere about my kneecaps, I just faded out. "What the..."
"In laymen's terms; you are a ghost." He paused for effect, "we prefer to think of ourselves as Holy After Life Payback Seekers, or HALPS, for short."
Focusing on the word holy, I sheepishly asked, "That means there is a God and I'm going to..."
"Hey, I can't answer those questions; you'll get the answers to them soon enough. Let's just say that if you were totally and unabashedly on the roster to visit old Mr. Fire-and-Brimstone, you wouldn't be here, but your fate hasn't totally been decided, either. I would hate to use the vast oversimplification of this being your 'final test,' but what you do before you're called to final judgment could make a big difference.
"However, the main reason that you're here is that you're needed here. I don't know the future—mostly because it can and does change—and I've only been briefed on the recent past as it pertains to why you're here. No doubt you can only remember bits and pieces of your last day, which was almost four months ago. Why didn't you come back sooner, you ask yourself; simple—you weren't needed then. Events needed to happen before you returned. I don't set this stuff up, and I could try and make it sound all Zen-like with mysterious cryptic messages, but I like to keep things simple.
"A few of those events began before you died. One reason you can't recall much about the day you 'croaked' is that it is simply too painful. I'm going to run you through it quickly, kind of like ripping off a band aid. After I'm done, the memories will come rushing back, so prepare yourself—this won't be easy for you.
"You left work that day like any other work day, but remembered that your wife of three years, Becky, was going to be at a church committee meeting until five thirty. When you got off a bit early, and considering the stupid fight you two had the night before, you decided to surprise her at the church, and take her out to a nice dinner. When you got to the church at five after five, there were so few cars there that you believed the meeting must've been cancelled, but her car was still there, so you went on in.
"After saying 'hello' to the secretary, she informed you that Becky was out in the gym, getting it ready for a small dinner that night. As you walked into the gym, you started to yell out for her, but you heard grunting and other muffled sounds that made you hold your tongue. Following those sounds, you found her sitting on the church kitchen counter with her panties on the floor, her skirt pushed up around her waist, her shirt unbuttoned, her bra hanging off her boobs, and Jim Flannigan, the new guy in the church, fingering her pussy with an urgency unlike any lovemaking session you'd ever seen. Yes, they were almost fucking, and soon would've been—if you hadn't wandered in when you did. I told you that I like to keep things simple—it clarifies a lot of potential misunderstandings.
"It was then you cleared your throat and angrily told her, 'I came to take you to dinner, but it looks like you've already been bitten off more than you should have. Don't bother to come home. In a church of all places...' You left as suddenly as you'd appeared to them, and you heard her calling to you to come back. You walked on outside and got in your car still reeling from the shock. You got in your car and headed for home, when another car, driven by a drunk, ran the stop sign and killed you. By the way, he didn't do so well either. He went South for a long term visit...way South, if you know what I mean." He gave me a knowing wink before it hit me.
It all came rushing back to me, the pain from finding them, the pain from the accident as I lay there dying, and the indignity I suffered as I lay there waiting on the cops and paramedics to arrive while Becky cried her eyes out telling me how sorry that she was, her blouse still buttoned crooked. I remembered seeing dickhead standing back watching the whole scene. I swear he gave me the "I just fucked your wife smirk" more than once. A couple of other people from the church came out, as it was less than a quarter mile from there. The cops arrived and pushed the crowd back to administer first aid.
I tried to shout, but I don't think I was as loud as I intended, when I yelled, "Keep that cheating slut wife of mine and her lover-boy away from me!" They all heard it though; I could tell by the looks on their faces and the fact that Becky broke down in loud sobs. Now all that hurt, pain, humiliation, and a thousand other negative emotions ran wild through me like a tsunami crashing into the shore. I let out what could be described as a howl of pain that could wake the dead. I later wondered if it had 'awakened' any other Halps.
"Not so loud, Ken. They might hear you. Or heck, maybe that's a good thing. To the living, that sounded like a ghostly moan. That's where the living got the idea for the whole 'moan' thing. If they heard that, one of them might be peeking out the window to see what made that noise. They can't hear our normal level of talk or even yelling...well, most of the time. They didn't actually 'hear' the moan, as much as they could've 'felt the hurt' that you released when you did that. For future reference, if you want to be heard, remember that moment...relive that moment...feel all the pain from that moment, and then let it all out like you just did. If they—the living—are quiet enough, or receptive enough, they will 'hear' you."
I remembered being put into the ambulance after the firemen had to use the Jaws of Life to pry what was left of my mangled body out of my car. I remembered crying—not from the pain, but from the heartache of the betrayal, which hurt me a lot worse. I remember loosing the will to live and "letting go" in the ambulance. Then, there was a great nothing until the fade in, just a little while ago.
The motion of the curtains in the front window being pushed aside caught my attention. It was that son-of-a-bitch Jim Flannigan. He was living in my house with my wife! Being in shock, I couldn't do anything about it then, but now...his ass was mine!
I leapt up from the spot where I'd been kneeling and moaning on my front lawn and shot towards the front door. I tried to open it, but I just floated on through it. There he was, leaning over a small planter that sat in front of the window, looking from side to side for the source of the noise. I walked over behind him and kicked him in the ass as hard as I could.
Okay, maybe you saw this coming, but I was a very emotional, newly reformed non-corporeal being and, having been solid all of my life, I expected to connect...or at least feel the recoil, as he went head first towards the window. Instead, I just spun around in a bit of an ethereal whirlwind. Hell, I couldn't have kicked him anyway; I have no feet.
Tom was laughing in the doorway and Jim just stood up and shivered as if a cold chill ran up his spine. It was probably the breeze coming off of me as I rotated rapidly for what seemed like twenty seconds. He then shrugged and walked straight through me, as if I wasn't there. Well, I suppose I wasn't there...to him anyway.
I followed him back to my old bedroom, but Tom stopped me. "Hold on there, we still have some talking to do before you do anything. The first thing you have to remember is that you have been dead for quite a while, and Becky never has been one to be alone for very long. That's part of 'the why' she fell into the arms of Jimmy-boy in the first place. You used to spend a lot of time at work, earning that big paycheck and setting yourself up for that next promotion. She got into some church work to fill her time and Jim saw his chance. If you hadn't guessed it, he's done this sort of thing before, and that's why you're here."
"What is 'why I'm here...?' I mean, why am I here?"
"You're here to stop Jim from taking advantage of Becky."
"I'd say it's a bit too late for that, Tom," I replied sarcastically.
"Not like that, doofus. He's only sticking around now for the insurance check and the settlement from the drunk that hit you. As soon as he can get his hands on that cash, which should be well over half a million after the lawyer's cut; he's going to leave her high and dry."
"I thought you didn't know the future."
"I told that I don't know the future because it can change—and in this case, you can change it."
"I'd say that she deserves what she gets, don't you? The betrayer becomes the betrayed sort of thing. Karmic payback is the best kind, you know."
"It's not my call, Ken. Either way, you have to hang around here for a while before the call to judgment. You do what you think is right."
"This is going to suck a big one. I get to hang around here and helplessly watch my wife and her lover live in my house, and live what should've been my life. He's probably in there screwing her right now...in MY BED! How long must I endure this pain on top of all the other crap I've been through?"
"Like I said, I'm not sure of the future, but I believe the insurance payout will come in about thirty days."
"Great...just great. No wonder ghosts moan in pain and try to scare the living. It's the only thing they can do, because they're hurt and pissed and..."
"Now, Ken, there's a few other things you should know. First is that Becky still loves you—very much. I know it looks she picked a fine way to show it, but it was their first time. If she said it, you wouldn't believe it, but I told you this as the simple fact that it is. Also, he is a skilled predator and Becky put him through the wringer before, in a moment of weakness, she finally gave in. He's a con man, pure and simple. He now has aspirations of honing his game and moving up to a higher level of target, using your settlement money as seed money to make himself look rich...real rich.
"She was so feeling so guilty about your death wanted to end it between the two of them, but he manipulated her into keeping it going, but cooling it for a while. He just moved in a week ago. They had sex for only the second time that night. Life is not all roses and wine for either one of them."
Tom spent the next few hours telling me the 'do's and don'ts' of being dead. Then he wrapped it up, "Well, I've got to be going. I'll check in on you from time to time. If you need me, call for me. Just yell my name as loud and as long as you can. I have other spirits to guide, so I might not be able to come right away, but I'll get to you as soon as I can. Any questions?"
"How can I make this suck less? I mean, it seems like someone is trying to rub salt in my wounds. Don't you think I've suffered enough?"
"It doesn't matter what I think. This whole situation is what you make it. Only you can make it 'suck less.' You've got some thinking to do. Oh, there may be a surprise left for you, but I won't let the cat out of the bag. You can figure this one out on your own. Later, Ken." With a smile and a wave, he faded out.
I couldn't bring myself to even look at Becky, but I followed Jim around like a hawk when she wasn't around. If he farted, I could tell you how bad it stunk. If he was going to be around Becky, I left them alone. He'd be okay around her, and if they started getting frisky...I knew I'd lose it.
Tom had given me some 'exercises' to learn how to use and channel my emotions to get a message across to the living. I began to use my ghostly moans to send one word messages. It took a lot out of me to get that emotional, so I couldn't send another "message" for a few hours. I was getting better at it.
One day, I was in the family room while Jim watched baseball on my big screen (wouldn't you know it; he's a stinking Cub fan), and I was sending him a message that I considered him an asshole (he didn't seem to get that message). When I wildly waved my arms as I let my ghostly moan fly, I brushed against a lampshade and made it shake. I startled myself more even than I startled Jim! If I focused more on my hurt, maybe I could affect the physical world a little here and there. Tom had told me that a few of his spirits had developed that ability over time—usually a lot of time.
A few days later, Becky was at work and he was laying about the house because he'd "lost his (non-existent) job" to a layoff. He spoke to the person on the other end and it was obvious that it was a woman.
"Hey, Babes, it's good to hear your voice again. Are you out?"
He paused, "Yeah, I guess that was a dumb question. At least you only got ninety days. Listen, I've got a mark and I should have this wrapped up in a few weeks. Are you good where you're at?"
"You should have some cash I left in the bank for you from the last job we did together. I can't really send you any more right now. I have to keep up appearances; she thinks I'm an investment banker. I know it's not much, but can you make it last? The payoff on this one is going to be our biggest score yet, and if you show up, we might blow it."
After a longer pause, "Because if I know you're close to me, you know I'll have to come to you for some of that sweet lovin' from that smokin' hot body of yours. Trust me on this one, the dog I'm holed up with right now can't hold a candle to you. She's just not that passionate in the sack...and talk about lacking imagination. Whoa! The stupid cow could be up for prude of the year, but then again, her old man just croaked."
"No, I didn't knock him off. He sort of saw us doing it, and left in a big hurry. He got t-boned by a drunk, and we're waiting for the insurance settlement. That and the cash from his life insurance policy is enough to set us up real good. If you have enough to stay put, then please do so. We can call most every day while she's at work. I really don't want to take a chance on blowing this one; there's too much at stake."
"Yeah, she's at work right now, and I miss you so much." After that, it degraded into phone sex. I didn't stick around for that, but I did notice the big stick he pulled out of his pants as I left the room. I think I found one reason why Becky caved into his charms.
As a member of the not-quite-dead, but not-quite-alive clique, I didn't sleep as the living know it. When I got tired—usually during the day—I would fade out, only to fade in again some hours later. This left me many hours at night where I would be totally bored with no one to so much as talk to, and I couldn't even watch crappy TV over someone's shoulder. I was lonely and miserable and talked to myself constantly. I got to see the woman (actually just a covered lump on the bed in a darkened room, as I still couldn't stand to actually see her after what she'd done) that I used to love, in bed with the con-man who would clean out her bank accounts for her, leaving her as empty as she left me. Karma can be a bitch, especially if you married one.