I remember being so cold and so tired that I sort of floated above my body. I watched from this floaty vantage point as my brother, Homer, swam to the shore near my family’s home on Isla Paradiso.
As he hauled me out of the water shouting for our dad to come and help him, I remember thinking that Homer was really strong. We were both wet. We were both cold. We were both exhausted, but there I was just flopping like a fish and Homer held me with shaking arms and legs until our dad could take me from him. Even then, Homer managed to walk into our house and tell Dad about what had happened to us.
Dad was all warmth, his embrace like a fire. I moved a little farther outside myself because it hurt too much to feel his heat. He rubbed my skin raw with a blanket while my mother cried and fussed over Homer.
Eventually paramedics came, and I remember chaos and noise as they took me and Homer to the hospital. Mom rode with us in the ambulance. Dad drove the car so we could get home.
Blackness followed. Then pain, like a thousand pound weight on my chest, and this horrible hacking noise that seemed to accompany it. Coughing. It hurt, so I pulled farther from myself.
Images of my parents: crying. A snapshot of my brother sitting near my bed. He held my hand like a girl. I wanted to pull away, because dude…I wasn’t a stinking girl, but I couldn’t seem to make my arm move. A flash, and then my sister was next to me on the bed. She’d crawled right up and under the covers with me. Why wasn’t she at her fancy school? Why was she hugging me so tightly and begging me to wake up?
I tried. I really did. But by then I wasn’t feeling anything. The noise was just a dull buzz in the background. The pain was like a drum, pounding and reverberating through my body until it, too, faded.
Then I woke in my house, the sort of floaty feeling was still with me, but I could see clearly and the pain and noise were both gone. I got out of my bed, and I remember thinking it was odd that I didn’t have to go to the bathroom. Usually I had to take a leak right away or I’d risk an accident.
I don’t know when it registered that I wasn’t alive anymore. I shied away from the word “dead”, though. I mean, how could I be dead if I was still sleeping in my bed? I moved around my room, touching things. I could see through my own hands, but interestingly, I didn’t seem to pass through what I touched.
“Cool,” I thought.
I scared my brother to death when he woke up and saw me. “William!” he practically screamed.
“What?” I asked.
“I-is that you?”
“A-are you a g-ghost?”
“I guess. Neat, huh?”
Homer came down from his bunk and just looked at me, and then he started to bawl like a baby. I didn’t know what to do. I had never seen Homer cry before. It made me uncomfortable. I wanted to tease him and tell him to stop being such a girl, but something held me back. I guess being dead gave me the sensitivity I lacked in life. The old me would have said something rude like: “Gaaaay!”
“Hey, Homer, it’s ok. I’m sorry I scared you,” I said instead. “I didn’t mean to.”
Eventually Homer stopped blubbering and asked me how this was possible. I didn’t know. “I’m only 10,” I said. “I don’t know about this stuff. One minute everything was dark and then the other I woke up here.”
“How can I see you?” Homer asked. It was a good question, but since I didn’t know the answer, I just shrugged.
“Do you think anyone else will be able to see you?” I shrugged again.
Turns out Charlotte could see me, too. I sort of floated into her room (I discovered I could float through walls even though I could touch things without going through them. I thought it was pretty neat!)
“Morning Char,” I said when she finally woke up.
“William! What are you doing in my room? Get out!” Charlotte said with groggy indignation. Then she did a double take as she realized that I was supposed to be dead but was clearly present, albeit in a somewhat altered state, in her room.
“This isn’t real,” Charlotte said, rubbing her eyes. She kept them closed and continued, “Ghosts are just figments of people’s imaginations. The hippocampus produces a memory of one’s loved ones and they ‘see’ a manifestation of that memory. It’s a mirage.”
“Spoil sport,” I scoffed. “I’m no hippo manifest or whatever you said!”
Charlotte finally opened her eyes again and glared at me. “Hippocampus,” she practically snarled. Charlotte wasn’t much of a morning person.
“Whatever,” I repeated. “Doesn’t make it less true that I’m really here. You can see me with your own eyes.”
“No I can’t. I’m still dreaming.”
To make her believe me, I floated over and pinched her. “Ouch!” she screeched and swatted at me. We both looked down at where her hand impacted solidly on my translucent arm.
“Don’t hit me!” I said, as she screeched again and started babbling about energy transference or something and matter conversion and some other stuff I didn’t understand. Charlotte’s a frickin’ genius. Half the stuff she said, I didn’t get.
“Look Char,” I said, finally interrupting her scientific tirade. “I’m as real as you are. I don’t know how it happened or why. I suppose I died and stuff, but I woke up like this and you can see me, so I guess I’m not completely dead?”
Charlotte gave me a speculative look. “I can see you. I can touch you. Yet you aren’t really here in body. Interesting.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “Interesting. Maybe you can do some research or something to figure it out.”
“I’ll do some research,” she agreed. I sighed. She seemed to be going into some sort of shock. I realized that it might take my scientific sister some time to come to grips with having a ghost for a brother.
I smirked. When she was like this, Charlotte was fun to tease. “I’ll just haunt you until you figure it out,” I said.
“I’m being haunted,” Charlotte muttered. “That’s crazy. Maybe the grieving process has made me crazy. If I think I’m crazy, does that mean I’m really not?” I laughed as she continued to mutter all the way down stairs and into the kitchen. She popped toast into the toaster oven absently and postulated theories about how a manifestation of energy could appear solid.
I sat down next to her at the table and stared at her toast. I wonder if ghosts eat?
Turns out ghosts don’t eat. They sleep…sort of. I kind of floated in my bed and went into a meditative rest-like state. Also, I discovered that ghosts age.
On our birthday, our parents didn’t throw the customary party for Charlotte. She’d made them promise not to.
“Why don’t you want a party?” I asked her. “It would be interesting to see if anyone else besides you could see me. It would be like an experiment,” I said.
I had decided not to tell Charlotte that Homer could see me, and I hadn’t told him that she could. Our parents, unfortunately, couldn’t see me at all. Pretty much no one besides my siblings could.
“I do not want everyone feeling sorry for me,” Charlotte told me. “It’s my birthday. I just want to feel normal for a little bit.”
“What’s normal?” I asked. “You see dead people, sis. That’s not normal.”
“I don’t see dead people! I just see you!”
“I’m dead,” I said bluntly. She just glared at me. “I haven’t figured out what you are,” she said. “But I will!”
After our birthday, Charlotte added another bit of data to her ever-running analysis of my state. “You’ve started to mature,” she said. “I thought you’d be fixed at the point in which you died.”
“You thought I’d be a kid forever?”
“I wasn’t sure.”
Homer was as surprised as Charlotte and I were about my aging. Like Charlotte he figured I’d be a kid forever.
“Don’t get me wrong, bro,” he told me, “it’s weird enough being haunted by my kid brother, but it is strange that you seem to be growing up even though you are dead.”
“I don’t get it either,” I said. “It’s a mystery.”
Homer was a more relaxing companion than Charlotte. Since moving to Twinbrook, he’d taken up fishing. It was nice to go out with him. When we fished Homer didn’t have to be cautious about talking to me.
“Look Will, I think it’s great that I can see you and have you here,” Homer once told me, “but you have to be careful. People might start thinking that I’m going crazy if they see me talking to you. They’ll worry that I might be turning out to be just like my mom.”
I felt bad that I might be causing people to misjudge Homer. I promised him that I’d be more careful. “I can still go places with you, right?” I asked. “It’s boring staying around here all the time. I will be super quiet. I promise.”
“Just don’t do things that would make me acknowledge you or I’ll look like I’m crazy or just stupid. No one else can see you.”
“I know. I won’t bug you,” I swore.
When Mom and Dad moved the household to Twinbrook, I was really afraid that I wouldn’t be able to go with them.
Charlotte, who approached everything from a scientific point of view, said, “I’ve been doing some reading and some say that ghosts are tethered to specific areas. It’s possible that you might stay here in Isla when we move.”
“Then you need to tell Mom and Dad not to go!” I said, panicking. “They can’t leave me here. What would I do all day? Haunt the waterfront?”
“I don’t know William. I am just telling you what I read. From our experiments, I can’t tell whether or not you will come with us. You seem to be able to move freely around Isla. We even proved that you could travel over the water.”
“Then maybe it won’t be a problem.”
“We’ll see,” Charlotte said. She made some notations in her secret notebook about me. She kept it in some sort of code. Even I couldn’t read it. I guess she didn’t want it known that she was researching something as unscientific as a ghost. Sometimes I didn’t think she thought of me as her brother anymore. I was just an interesting phenomenon she was studying.
Maybe that’s why I liked to hang out with Homer more.
“What are you doing Will?” Homer asked as I sank my ghostly form into the hot water. I really liked this new hot tub the parents had at the Twinbrook house.
“I’m soaking,” I said, giving him my patented ‘duh’ look.
“But I didn’t think you could feel water or heat?”
It was true. I couldn’t feel the water or the heat. Charlotte’s experiments showed that I was pretty much impervious to temperatures. Also, while I could touch objects and be touched, I didn’t experience the sensation of touch the same way as a live person. For me, it was like a memory of touch—a phantom feeling (pun not intended).
“I can imagine what this is like,” I said, relaxing with my arms up. I kicked my feet in the water, marveling that they seemed to cut through it just like solid feet.
“Look, Will,” Homer said, giving me one of his stares that said he was going to say something I might not like. “I need to ask you something.”
“Go ahead,” I said, cautiously.
“I need you to leave me alone sometimes. I know you get bored, but I have a life bro. I need you not to be there in the background all the time. It’s distracting.”
“So I’m a distraction?”
“Dude, you followed me on my date with Penelope Coddle! Not cool, bro!”
I’d never been on a date before. I wanted to see what it was like. I guess it was crossing the line, though.
“Sorry,” I muttered. “I didn’t mean to cramp your style.”
“It’s ok, but it was hard to concentrate on her, you know? I kept looking over her shoulder and there you’d be!”
“It wasn’t like you were going to get some!” I said defensively. “She was giving off a no touching vibe!”
“That’s not the point Will. Maybe if I’d been more attentive, she’d have let me kiss her or something. And I don’t want my kid brother spying on me when I kiss a girl!”
“You make me sound like a Peeping Tom.”
“Being dead sucks,” I complained to Charlotte over a game of chess. She was beating me, as usual. It’s no fun playing chess with a genius! I knew I wasn’t going to win, but I did pride myself in making her work for her victories. I kept score in my head based on how long the game took and how few pieces I lost.
“I imagine that being dead the way you are is very much like life,” Charlotte said. I snorted.
“Actually,” Charlotte continued, “I imagine it might be better than life. You don’t eat. You don’t defecate. You don’t experience extremes in temperature or physical sensations. So, in effect, you don’t suffer many of life’s nuisances.”
“What you’re really saying is that I don’t experience life at all. I don’t get to experience anything! I just float around and watch stuff happen around me. I can’t even really affect anything that’s happening. And only you and…” Whoops. I almost spilled the beans about Homer.
“Only me and…” Charlotte looked away from her pieces and stared at me. “Can someone else see you? Why didn’t you tell me? I need all of this data! You shouldn’t leave anything out or we get false results!”
“It’s just the cats!” I said, covering my near slip. The cats really could see me, so I wasn’t even lying about it. Actually, all of the pets seemed to be able to see or at least sense me.
“William!” Charlotte glared at me. “This is important information! I’ve told you and told you that you have to give me all the data you can think of!”
“Data schmata,” I scoffed. “I’m tired of being an experiment!”
“But what? What do you think all this data gathering will get you? You get a bunch of useless information that does no good for anyone. I’m still dead. There’s nothing you can do about that!”
I pushed all the pieces off the board in frustration. Charlotte just sat there, stunned.
“You don’t know that.”
I promised Homer that I wouldn’t follow him around when he went out in public, and I made Charlotte promise me that she’d stop collecting data on me.
Both promises distanced me from my siblings, the only people who knew I was even around. I wished that there was some way that I could just disappear like ghosts are supposed to do, but I couldn’t.
Being a ghost really does suck.
A/N: I completely cheated for this generation. I needed William to be a ghost and I wanted to be able to control his interactions with the rest of the family (i.e. Charlotte and Homer). So, he never died in the game. Instead, I used Twallan’s mod to turn him into a ghost. I know that he didn’t drown (which is the ghost form I chose) but I figured that his death was caused by being in the water too long. There really wasn’t a “death by pneumonia” which is how I explained William dying. Anyway, William is in the family like a playable ghost. I could cheat to make him “real” again, but I think it’s pretty obvious that Charlotte, at least, is going to do some research into bringing William back to life. I hope everyone will find this last generation enjoyable. I am looking forward to concluding this story even though I am going to miss the Fields family.