Hello all. I know, I know, it’s been a month since I last posted anything here. Apparently my brain can only cope with one creative pursuit at a time and for a while, The Thornthwaite Inheritance: The Musical was taking up all my creative brain space. Doing an original musical was a new experience, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to pursue it. Not to mention that meeting my castmates and hanging out with them, both in rehearsal and outside of it, is pretty much what has got me through 2020.
The show closed last Friday, and then the weekend was spent packing things away and after-partying. Then on Monday, it was like a switch was flicked in my brain. Writing mojo was back. I just had no idea what to write (though I’ve been working on a few things).
Today my lovely friends at Swell Publications (who I also met thanks to Thornthwaite) posted the following writing prompt on their Facebook page:
“What are you doing here?!”
“What am I doing here? What are you doing here?!”
“It’s my funeral!”
I came up with an idea almost immediately, and couldn’t wait to get away from work so I could start working on it. The following story is the result. I did a quick proofread but it is basically a first (and only) draft so please forgive any weirdness on that front. It’s a sort of bittersweet ghost meet cute, which feels rather on brand for me. 😄 I hope you enjoy!
The Longer You Stay…
The girl can see him, which is Jake’s first sign that she’s different to everyone else in the chapel.
“Who are you?” he asks. “What are you doing here?”
“What are you doing here?” she retorts. “Isn’t there a heaven you should be getting to?”
Jake gestures to the crowd and the coffin on the raised platform at the front. “It’s my funeral. Thought I’d check it out, you know? See who showed up?”
The girl’s expression shifts almost instantly to sadness. “I’m so sorry, Jake.”
“How do you know my name?”
She smiles, but her expression remains melancholy. “You haven’t changed a bit since Year Ten at Dickson Valley High.”
Jake takes a step towards her. He’s still not quite used to the weightlessness of being a ghost, and he travels slightly too close. He’s only a few inches from her face now, but he takes the opportunity to study her features before stepping back. Finally, a name comes to him.
“The one and only.”
“You died eight years ago.”
“And now… what? You spend your time hanging around funeral homes?”
“Not all the time. Sometimes I just… get a feeling that there’s someone here I should show up for.”
“Did you know I had a massive crush on you when we were at school?”
She grins. Jake doesn’t know how to respond. They might technically be the same age, but Mel still looks like the teenager she was when she died. He hasn’t really thought about her in years, and now here she is, declaring that she once had feelings for him five minutes into the conversation.
“Sorry,” she says, sensing his discomfort. “I’ve embarrassed you.” She swiftly changes the subject. “Have you tried walking through a wall yet?”
It’s like she knows he hasn’t worked up to that yet. Despite being aware of his incorporeality, Jake has spent the first week of his afterlife trying to avoid situations that would remind him of his new state. Trying to walk without hovering above the ground has been challenge enough.
Mel has moved to the door at the back of the chapel. She’s standing there, waiting, one hand extended to him.
“Come on,” she says. “It’s fun.”
Slowly, he moves to join her at the back of the chapel. When he turns back to look at the crowd one last time, he realises he’s missed a fair chunk of the service. His mum is at the lectern, speaking about what he was like as a kid. His dad is with her, his arm around her shoulders. He hands her a tissue when she stops speaking due to the tears.
Jake feels something on his arm. When he looks down, he sees Mel’s hand there. Huh. So ghosts can touch other ghosts? They just can’t touch anything else. He looks up and meets her expectant gaze.
“The longer you stay,” she says, “the harder it will be to leave.”
Jake looks at his mum again. She’s composed herself and is speaking again, this time about how he ran away from home when he was five, but came back when he discovered the corner store was closed after dark and he couldn’t get the lollies he wanted.
Jake swallows. Mel is right, he realises. He can’t stay here, trying to cling onto his old life. He takes hold of Mel’s hand. She grins.
“Ready?” she asks.
With a lurch, she pulls him into the air and through the solid wood of the chapel door. For a second, Jake doesn’t know which way is up. Then he’s tumbling out the other side. Mel is waiting for him a little way down the path. He doesn’t try to walk this time; instead, pushes himself through the air and catches up with her in a second.
“This is just the start,” Mel says, a smile lighting up her face. She takes his hand again, and Jake let’s himself be pulled away.