Being dead sucks. That probably seems obvious, but it’s worse than you think. There’s always been a lot of nonsense tossed around about ghosts and spirits, about the duality of body and soul, and if I’m honest, one of the worst things about being dead is discovering that some of that stuff is actually true. Frankly, I’m appalled that made-up mysticism without a trace of evidence did strike upon some kind of accuracy. It’s almost enough to make me renounce my own non-existence. Still, if I have to be dead and still aware, I’m glad that some of my former assumptions have proven to not be true. If the soul were merely a component of the body, I’d be fucked.
I discovered that I was dead when the plane I was travelling in took the opportunity to wreck my holiday plans, catch light and then explode over twenty miles of abandoned forest and mountain. I’d always liked the idea of exploring the wilderness, but I reckon a body would have made it all the more fun. I first discovered I was dead when I was torn free of my body. Funny thing about the physical and mental planes running in parallel is that they’re both subject to time and a bunch of the usual laws of physics, but if one of them suddenly stops, the other keeps right on going. So at about the time when my body packed in, due to fire, explosion and whatever, I experienced a moment of hideous pain, panic, and then my spirit – ghost, whatever – just kept right on going at three hundred miles per hour. Freed from the parallel track we spend our lives on, I screamed in terror until I realised I couldn’t feel anything, not even the ground I slammed into. Since I no longer had a physical body, all I could do was glide seamlessly through it until whatever velocity my body had been travelling at when my soul was ejected finally dissipated. I like to imagine the friction of rock and earth went some way to slowing me down, but who the hell knows. Eventually motion ceased and I was left, embedded in rock.
So what am I now? Hard to say – I’ve got no bits of me to look at. I don’t show up in a mirror (after a seemingly endless trek back up through the ground and across hundreds of miles of pretty but frustrating nature. I imagine myself as an entangled ball of electrons – basically my brain but without the jelly meat bits. Whatever I am, I’m not physical so that’s just how I think I should see me. There’s definitely no white sheet, and I’ve no fingers to lay a spectral hand on your shoulder. All that suggests to me that ghost stories are not likely to be true, and that their cause is likely social and psychological – even if the mind can see another mind, its body can’t. And yet my mind (because that’s all I am) can still perceive the world of the physical realm. I wonder if that’s a result of being so used to seeing the world through the meat body eyes I used to have that it still seems real, or if it’s that animism was closer to the mark than we thought and all physical things have an imprint on the mental realm – sometimes it’s a whole mind, sometimes it’s a shape that the body and mind have always had to navigate around. It’s taken some getting used to. I spent a long time being really upset about everything. All the people I knew and loved, they’d all lost me, and I’d lost them. What was left, just wandering the Earth aimlessly, staring at things?
Perhaps we should cover some of the plus points, since otherwise it’s going to sound like I’m just down on the whole being dead thing. Those physical laws that seemed so immutable when I first left my body, turns out they’re more optional than I expected. I did have a desire to see my home, and check up on my family and friends – I’m dead, not a monster. But I couldn’t figure out how to get there. There’s a bloody big sea in the way, and while I discovered that I can sort of sink to the bottom and keep moving, I didn’t relish the hundreds of miles in total darkness in the depths. Cool to be down there, sure, but I couldn’t see how I’d know which direction I should go in once I was down there. I could just wander through the world, see what the magma core looks like I guess. But what for? It’s easy to forget that there is no purpose to life, that your body’s main purpose is just not dying for as long as possible. That’s not exactly motivation to do anything once your body’s in pieces being eaten by wolves. Probably. Turns out I can float, like hope, or a stick. It takes a bit of concentration, and waves are a nightmare, but I eventually managed to pass through the ocean just below the surface. It’s a hell of a view, though if like me you’ve always been rather freaked out by sharks, I really don’t recommend it – you’re better off not dying and using a boat, or a plane.
When I finally made it back to what I used to think of as civilisation it was an enormous relief, but grasping the scale of what I could no longer experience was absolutely crushing. Everything moves around as it always did, people talking, doing, all the things that they always used to do and it’s all just beyond my touch. I’d felt like this sometimes when I was still alive, when I still had the physical suit that I could move around in: disconnected, hollow, unable to find a reason to be or to do anything at all. It was bad enough when I had the prospect of antidepressants and human contact, but when none of that is available, well. It’s a lot worse. I lost a lot of time in those first few years. I have no needs to maintain, I require no sustenance. I can just drift, sightless and deaf to the world around me. Traffic poses no threats, walls were no barrier to my dandelion seed existence.
It took years of wandering before I realised that although I had no body, nothing else had really changed. Alright, that’s a slightly bleak way to look to at it, but if there’s no purpose to physical existence except what you make of it, then meaning and goals can be found, and clutched at, perhaps desperately. You’ll note that I’d received no helpful message about being in some purgatorial state pending resolution of physical affairs, after which I’d be whisked off up or down to a fresh plane of existence. None of that stuff. I decided I’d try and haunt things properly. Be the ghost in the machine that people had always worried about. Not a ghost, not some frightful possessing demon. I’d noticed that although machines seem to have some noticeable existence that I can perceive in my mental plane, there’s no mind in there, but there are decisions being made, levers flicked by deterministic action, and where there’s physical extension, the mental plane runs alongside it. Basically, I can turn lights on and off. I’m working my way up to interfering (creatively) with computers – that seems like something that could either work out really well and find me a way to interact properly with the physical world again, or it’ll go horribly wrong and I’ll trigger world war three. It’s not much, but it’s what I’ve got. Like I said, being dead sucks.