Wednesday, October 17, 2012


It is better to be haunted by the dead than the living. The dead are, by far, more easily dealt with. The dead tend not to want much, just someone to listen to them. To observe and note that they are still around, still have something to say. Once so acknowledged, they move on or fade into the background. The dead are largely ambivalent to our existence beyond that need to have someone notice them.

On the rare occasion when the dead become more persistent, more pernicious, there are ways to deal with that. These ways are effective, and permanent, and guaranteed. Banish a ghost and it is gone. Destroy a spirit's link to our world and it remains forever sundered. Be gone and haunt no more.

I was visited by a spirit, once. Not a ghost. Ghosts are more permanent fixtures. This spirit was passing through. It did not shake me to my core. It did not alter my perceptions. I do not see dead people unless I visit a funeral home. The spirit had a message to convey, and that was all, and I have not heard from it since.

The living are different. They can be thousands of miles away, living out their lives, oblivious to the ways in which the ghostly memories of them constantly intrude upon another. Unlike ghosts, which can be ignored (you would be surprised at how quickly your mind relegates the ghost on the landing to just another personal landmark, like the table with the vase of flowers at the end of the hall), the phantasmic souvenirs of the living command your attention.

This is not about obsession. This is not about wanting to be reminded, about looking for signs and portents in the mundane minutiae of the cereal aisle or the particular path a leaf takes when falling. This is about trying to forget, then coming around a corner and finding yourself face to face with a reminder that is as specific to that person as it is out of place in its location. Not just one item, but half a dozen, each unique and specific, each undeniably linked to that person.

Like a bumper sticker in support of a college a thousand miles away, suddenly there on the car in front of you, when all you were thinking about was what to make for dinner. Or a news article about how hard it is to find this little spot, this little piece of something, that you found once before, and not by yourself. As out of place as a palm tree in Maine, as random as a star falling into your backyard.

The dead do not apologize for haunting. It is what they do. The living, if confronted, say that they are sorry, though rarely what they are sorry for. And what have they done that they should be sorry for? It is not on them, they are not doing anything but going about their lives, oblivious to what is inadvertently left in their wake.

The dead know they haunt.

The living do not.


The above is part of the October 2012 blog chain over at Absolute Write. There are a number of other great writers (and soon to be great writers), some you may know, some you may not, participating in this event, and I don't really have space to list them all. That said, you can find the two in front of me here: and here: and I encourage you to check them out. (Hillary Jacques also has a new book coming out, which you should preorder.)

And the full list can be found over at Absolute Write.

In case you're wondering, my entry is entirely fictional. Except for the parts that are not.


S.R.Howen said...

Ha, I agree with this one. The living do haunt you esp., if for some reason they are ignoring you. Then the reminders are worse.

Rafael said...

Haunted by the living. That's an interesting concept.

Linda Adams said...

Haunted by the living. That's going to have me thinking about it for a while.

Linda Adams -- Soldier, Storyteller

meowxbark said...

Some of the living haunt on purpose. They're known as "stalkers".

Love the post. Very thought provoking.

Hillary Jacques said...

You nonconformist, with your non-fic...or is it? :)

This is lovely, and something I'd think everyone can identify with even if they don't - or don't allow themselves to - think on it much.

Adore the last lines.

And thank you for the pimpage. Much appreciated. :)

orion_mk3 said...

I am reminded of one of the few J. K. Rowlings lines worth quoting: "Do not pity the dead, pity the living."

Diane Carlisle said...

This is so true and very well written. Sometimes I log into Facebook and I see some glaring friend request from High School and I'm like, "Whoa."


wonderactivist said...

U like the parts that are not part.

Christina Jean Michaels said...

This is so true. Music triggers it for me. Even after ten+ years, if the mood is right and the right song comes on (or wrong, depending on how one looks at it), I'm taken back to a time I'd rather forget. What an interesting concept. Excellent post!

Simon P. Clark said...

Very nice piece, and very well written as well. Walks the line nicely between essay and fiction - not something you see a lot!

Diane Dooley said...

Oh, I can definitely get on board with this post. I've never met a ghost or encountered a spirit, but I've absolutely been haunted by the past. Nice job, Bos!

randi lee said...

Awesome story. You have a great concept here.

C R Ward said...

How very true this is. I think we've all been haunted by the living at one time or another.

Alynza Smith said...

I love your take on this...very interesting. Great job!