Sample of "The Man Without"
When she woke up she was a ghost. She didn’t know how long ago she died. The end of her life had not been as black and white as she thought it would be. She had hovered on death’s doorstep for several months and when her light was finally snuffed out it was as if her eyes had already adjusted to the dark. She paused only to take a short rest in the nothingness, an after-life nap, as it were. After all, her 65 year existence had not been nothing if not exhausting. Emotionally, physically, spiritually. In all ways, a trial. A nap had been deserved, and when she woke up, it was in her own bed, but not in her own body.
She had read enough literary fiction to know she was a ghost, and to find that appropriate. She was a tormented soul, and she wanted the closure she had never been able to attain in life with one person and one person alone: her husband, Bagley Fullham III, who would be home from practice in a mere fifteen minutes, if he had stuck to his regular schedule after her death. She couldn’t imagine anything had changed. He loved that football team more than anything else. Easily more than her. He had given all of himself to being a professional football coach, with nothing left over.
She sat up in bed with some effort. It was much more of a struggle than she had anticipated, being a bodiless ghost. She hadn’t expected to feel quite so real still. Her feet nestled deep in to the plush beige carpeting of their master bedroom, her arms hung heavily beside her, and her head felt weightier than it had even in life. Did she wear chains like Jacob Marley in Dickens’ Christmas Tale? Had she unwittingly committed an evil that warranted such a punishment?
She looked down at herself to check for manacles, but where her hands should have been was merely a hazy shifting mass of light, dazzling in its spectrum of color. She thought she looked a bit like the shimmering heat rising from black asphalt in the summer. She wondered if she would be visible to Bagley. If he would see her and say “Virginia,” in the same cold, careless manner that he always had when he came back home, followed up by some demand issued as he sank in to his armchair in front of the TV and opened his laptop, in to which he would disappear for the rest of the evening.
Perhaps it would help if she put on something familiar, attempted to look like the human version of herself. She struggled up from the bed and to the mirrored closet which bounced the light of the large window on the opposite wall across the tastefully-decorated room. Upon opening the closet she saw her husband had not raised a finger in dispensing of her belongings, although she was a far way from being naïve enough to think that he had left the perfumed scarves and elegant pantsuits there for any sentimental reasons. He was not willing to do the work himself, what other reason could there be? He would have Melissa down the next weekend to divvy up her belongings amongst the rest of the kids.
She thought these things in the subdued manner in which she had lived, but there was an accompanying physical reaction that she had not been expecting. Her head, or where her head had once belonged, felt hot. Her hands clenched. An anger left behind long ago was returning to her, and enveloping her in its flaming embrace. She reached for the cloth closet-organizer drawer where she had stored her bras roughly, but the strength of her grasp was at least ten times what she had expected. Bras flew everywhere around her. White, beige, black, blue, even an ambitious pink. She dropped the drawer in surprise. She had not expected to be strong. She had never been strong in life, not ever.
It was a pleasant surprise, and exciting. She felt somehow that this was what she had been missing. This very feeling. To touch something with her anger and see it fall apart in pieces, rather than remain undisturbed and vaguely amused. She attempted to dress quickly, but her coordination was atrocious. In addition, her clothing no longer seemed to fit. The shimmering mass that was her body was over six feet tall and quite bulky, she could tell her dimensions more easily when she had tried on a few things and looked in the mirror. She still could not see herself, but she saw the floral print shirt she had tried on. It was stretched awkwardly, as if over a linebacker’s shoulders.
After a few more attempts, she eventually settled on a flowing caftan and her loosest gardening jeans, which she still couldn’t manage to entirely button up. She then walked to the adjoined master bathroom and to her sink, where she attempted to apply makeup to the area where her face should be. With much error and correction, nude lips were eventually drawn on, eyeliner used to crudely trace eyes and blush to highlight transparent cheekbones.
When she was done, her lipstick was broken off its stalk, her eyeliner worn down to a nub and her blush smashed in to little pieces. She moved to tidy them up, but then thought better of it. She was dead, and so were her wifely duties. God knows she was owed this little bit of cleaning.
She glanced at the clock before heading downstairs. 7:41p.m. Bagley should be home in mere moments. It was time for her to meet him and finally tell him what she needed to say. She had no plans for the words. They would come in the moment. She walked downstairs and took her place by the kitchen sink, simply out of habit. She sat gently on the counter, yet it sagged and creaked tremendously.
The hands on the clock in the kitchen moved slowly, ticking away. The clock was adorned with birds rather than numbers. Sweet little birds. She had always been bizarrely emotionally attached to them, but she felt only a shadow of that now. In fact, most of her emotional memories of her home had washed away. She knew that she had lived there for 23 years, but only in her mind. Her body felt a pull towards the door and out, in search of the real home she knew existed somewhere, with some other collection of souls.
Her husband appeared at the door, unlocked it and entered with a heaving sigh. He put the key on the key rack without looking up, then ran his fingers through his dignified white hair in the entry hall mirror. She didn’t feel like waiting for him to notice her.
“Bagley,” she said, but it came out “Sir.”
Or at least she thought it did. She wasn’t certain if the sound had even come from her mouth. It was a deep voice, a man’s voice, and it seemed to come from without her.
“Christ!” yelled Bagley, staring at her with his eyes bulging and clutching at his weak heart.
“I’m a ghost now,” she tried again, but instead the man’s voice said, “Your wife’s spirit is speaking through me.”
“LeDamion!” Bagley’s looked truly outraged, “How the hell did you get in here? What are you doing, dressed up like a goddamn transvestite? Is that my dead wife’s clothing?”
She beaded her brow. LeDamion? LeDamion Cameron was the linebacker on Bag’s team. One of the few who had paid any attention to her at functions. He had brought her flowers in the hospital. A very special young man. She touched her shimmering body in wonder and understood. This was no ghost’s plasma. This was the flesh of a young man in his peak physical condition. Flesh that she temporarily possessed.
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