By William David Baker
Warning: lots of explicit language, but no sex. It’s the main character’s fault, not mine. The language, I mean. Not the sex.
I have never been superstitious. Well, not until recents events, anyway. And I’m not talking about the daft things we all did before all this happened, without really knowing why, other than they were what our parents always did, like not walking under a ladder or flicking spilt salt over the shoulder. I’m talking about the thing I used to think just as illusory, just as mythical. I’m talking about fucking ghosts. You see, I know the truth now. I know ghosts exist. Cast iron. Irrefutable. Call it what you will. There are fucking ghosts among us. You’ll know too soon e-fucking-nough, believe me.
When I talk about ghosts I’m not talking about chain-clanging, woo-wooing, white-sheeted shit either. That’s nowhere near the truth of it. Wish it was. Wish it was that fucking easy.
Shit! Did you hear that?
What’s happened now, for fuck’s sake?
I’d better get on with this while we still have time.
Well, this is how it all began.
All week long I’d had trouble sleeping. Nothing unusual about that. I’ve always been a fragile sleeper. Too much booze, not enough booze. Too much worry. Not enough to worry about. Family trouble. Lack of family trouble. Yes, anything might do it. This time is was work. There’d been some trouble at the office on Monday. It was so serious I can’t even remember exactly what the fuck it was about. All I can remember was that my usual bottle of red got topped up that night with several large glasses of Appleton Estate 15 year old spiced Jamaican. This led to the inevitable big row with my wife. There was a new twist to the old routine – my teenage daughter got in the mix for the first time, and she wasn’t on my side, either. What began as a bad start to the week just got fucked up even worse, and by Thursday I was down to two hours sleep, and not very good sleep at that. I was also confined to the spare room, and no fucker was speaking to me.
I hoped once Friday came around, that things would cool down, and maybe we could have a more normal, civilised weekend. Was I fucking wrong! Anyway, that explains why I was in the kitchen, just before midnight, fridge door open, scratching my head, scratching my balls, wondering what I could eat, being as no-one else seemed bothered whether I fucking well starved to death or bastard not.
So, I stood there, freezing my feet off on the cold kitchen floor, when the lights go out. All of them. The light in the fridge. The down lights. The under cabinet lights. Even the fucking light on the microwave’s display panel. I was what you may call well and truly in the dark. It didn’t take much working out later that it must have happened at precisely midnight. Now, the day, need I remind you, was Friday? You must remember the date, of course? Yes, the thirteenth.
Something spoke. Bugger, it said. Just that. Just one word. Clear as day, except it was night, and dark as hell.
No, that wasn’t me who spoke. Let me recap. There I am, all alone in a black kitchen, middle of the fucking night, blah blah blah, and a voice I’m sure I’ve never heard before has just spoken. No, it wasn’t my long-suffering wife, and it wasn’t my wound-up teenaged daughter. I’d have recognised them. In any case, they don’t usually talk to me – when they are talking to me that is – from the inside of the fridge, whose open door I’m still holding on to. And that’s where it came from.
I jumped in the air. Don’t mind admitting it. Well you would, wouldn’t you? Anybody would.
I heard it again, twice this time. Bugger! Bugger!
I’d only just cone down from the first shock. Now I was shaking.
Who the fuck’s there was all that I could think of to ask for a second. Then I tried a what the fuck’s going on, but what the fuck answers I expected, Christ only knows – I was trying to have a conversation with a fridge!
The voice spoke again, a nice short sentence this time. It went something like – Pardon! Is there anybody there?
This was getting more ridiculous by the minute. Now the fridge had apparently started to play games with an Ouija board. Very polite though, I thought. Sounded like a nice old gent. I was wrong, of course.
I told the fridge that I was asking the bloody questions. I made it as crystal clear as you like that I still wanted to know what the fuck was going on and now I wanted to know who was hiding in my fucking fridge as well.
Something inside the fridge clicked. The fridge motor banged in and all the lights in the kitchen, including the fridge light, came back on. I had to squint and rub my eyes because the light seemed so bright, me coming right out of the dark. I looked inside the fridge. Couldn’t see a fucking thing. I was grateful in a way. One of the last things I probably wanted to find was a chilled out axe-wielding very small homicidal maniac jumping out of the fridge at me from between the leftover casserole I’d not been invited to eat and a large lump of Stilton that needed burying somewhere deep. Yes, I know all of that was very unlikely, but I actually preferred that as an explanation, rather than the very last thing I wanted it to be which was to think I’d got an attack of bottleache from downing too much booze. Pink elephants? Bollocks!
I was beginning to lose patience and said so, which resulted in a lot of tut-tutting from the voice in the fridge, a couple of oh dears, and a polite request for me to moderate my language a bit.
Whatever this thing was, it looked like I was at last getting through to it, and so what it felt a bit offended, Hell’s Bells- it was my fucking kitchen.
It was at that point I noticed that every time the voice spoke, the fridge light sort of flickered and dimmed. Then I twigged. This thing, whatever it was, was right inside the fridge’s gubbins. It was somehow part of the workings of the fridge. I immediately thought radio. Well, you would, naturally. What else? The fridge wiring must’ve been picking up the radio. Not just broadcast radio, either. Must have been CB. I was picking up some hairy fucking trucker’s CB.
At which point the voice told me I was quite wrong, and that it had never driven a truck. Oh, there were a couple of more Oh Dears, too. It was sounding more and more frustrated with me. I can have that effect. Then I thought, Great. Now it was reading my mind.
The voice from the fridge seemed to be getting into its stride and started to blurt it out that it was a serious disaster that I’d caught him. Caught him doing what I had no idea but I was determined I was sure going to find out, Before I could get a word in though, it rambled on about how there’d be hell to pay and that nothing good was going to come of our meeting as it never had before. I was kind of pleased to hear the last bit because it meant that what was happening to me wasn’t new. So, I thought there had to be an explanation, reasonable or not, didn’t matter, so I demanded one. Straight out. No more fucking me about.
Well, what a strop that brought on, I can tell you. It wasn’t speaking to me now, it was shouting it out, screaming at me, giving me a real blasting. Told me I couldn’t talk to Ghosts in the way I was doing.
That startled me, though why, I don’t really understand now, as it was no less bizarre an answer as any explanation I could come up with. All very easy for me to say now, of course, now that the truth is out there for everyone to see.
I wasn’t going to spoken to like that either, not by any fucking ghost, or anybody living come to that. I’ve dropped fuckers before now for less. So, I told him, if he was really a ghost why wasn’t he haunting some old church yard somewhere, what the fuck was he doing haunting my Electrolux? That didn’t get exactly the response I was expecting and the ghost just started laughing, no cackling – like an old witch. Then it calmed down a bit, accused me of being quaint. Me? Fucking quaint! It said I was talking about the old ways. And that I needed to get with the times.
Well, now it was me that beginning to lose my rag. No one calls me an old fuddy-duddy and gets away with it. I’m not always that quick with getting my licks back in and while I was trying to think up a good one to go back with he starts telling me the whole fucking shebang. Like how there are two plains of existence for all of us. We get on average a good 85 years of life. He called it our four score years and five. He got quite a kick out that, but said it didn’t quite have the old ring to it, but was accurate. Anyhow, he says we get that long for living, and for the rest of eternity we are ghosts. Told me it had always been like that. Said I wouldn’t understood the science if it, but it was something to do with the conservation of energy. How when we die our bodily chemical energy is absorbed back into something he called the pool. Mental energy was a different matter altogether. He said it can’t be absorbed, but it can’t dissipate either; it remains forever. Fact. Hence ghosts. Hence him.
My thoughts immediately went to all the beatings I’d had in the Orphanage when I tried to argue with the Sisters about those Heaven and Hell fairy stories they tried to brainwash me with. The Ghost said I’d been sort of right. There was no Heaven, true enough, but there was a kind of Hell. Ghosts got punished pretty badly for any, he called them serious transgressions. He wouldn’t be drawn on it. Said it was too painful for him. Lost too many friends. I was almost starting to feel sympathy for him, but then the red mist descended on me again, and I told him I didn’t give a flying fuck for either him or his fuck-up friends. But he was a persistent fucker. Said I’d hear him out if it was the last thing I ever did. I didn’t like the sound of that.
He told me to shut up,and listen. Me! Prattled on about how you can’t have all this non-dissipated deceased energy going to waste. Things weren’t designed that way.
Fucking designed? If it had a face, I was laughing right in it now, right nose to fucking nose. It’s voice went up really high. Right from the back of the throat jobby. The fridge started to flicker like fuck. I’d really pissed it off this time. Not that I was bothered. I was told straight that I couldn’t be allowed to impugn the Great Designer like I had, and expect to get away scot-free with it. Now, I wasn’t sure what he meant when he said impugn, and I sure wasn’t going to have him threaten me with retribution from any mingin’ Scottish bastards either. I’d been the perfect gentleman up till then, but that was it. I was just about to let fly with a real mouthful when he went hysterical. Said I didn’t know what it was like in the old days. We thought we had it bad, the living. But Ghosts, billions of them with nothing to do. Just jobs for the lucky few. It was no wonder some of the unemployed spooks broke out into our world. For some kind of existence. Was it that much to ask for? And weren’t they punished enough for it? How it was only when modern science and technology evolved that they all found something useful to do at last?
Well, I had to ask, didn’t I? You would have, if you were in my shoes! You’ll know too, soon enough, anyway. All I got back was this maniacal laughter. It said there’d never been a machine or a tool made by living man that had ever worked properly. It was only the devoted intervention of Ghosts that kept our rubbish things working. I told him to go fuck himself. Telling me everything we made was fucked up. And me a Design Engineer. The fridge was not only flickering mad on and off now, it was beginning to shake like a spin dryer. I should’ve listened properly. Should’ve seen the damage I was doing. I didn’t.
It went quiet for a minute, then the voice started up again. It told me it had been off to convene a meeting with all the other fridge Ghosts. They were incensed. They were withdrawing their labour as of then. The fridge stopped working. I checked the plug. I pulled the fridge out. I gave it a shake. That seemed to do the trick. The light came back on, which was strange, as I hadn’t plugged it back in yet.
The ghost spoke again. It had calmed down a bit. It told me it thought I might like to know that Ghosts in other disciplines had got wind of how badly I’d treated him, and that there was a great deal of talk about them coming out in sympathy. I told him I should worry. He asked if I drove a car, or took the tube, or flew, or sailed. My stomach sort of sank. It said goodbye, then the fridge went off again.
So, as you try to get you work on Monday, if you have any problems, then I’ll have to confess that it’s probably down to me. Im not sure what can be done to put it right. Maybe it will just blow over. We can but hope. Hang on. Wife wants me in the kitchen.
I don’t know what all the fucking fuss was about. You’d think she’d never heard a fridge talk before. Took me five minutes to shut her up, and let the Ghost have its say. You see things have escalated out of all proportion now. Things could be worse, but I don’t know how. It seems some of the ancient, senior Ghosts have really taken up the cudgel. There’s talk of Gravity joining the picket lines. The Ghost is trying to diffuse things, but he doesn’t sound hopeful. My advice keep fucking calm and don’t fucking panic.
Just hold on to something real heavy.