For all I know about death, the only certainty I really have is that I don’t know how to deal with it. My dad died and once again a gaping hole opened in my life.
I was never going to go out and enjoy another game of catch with my dad. I was never going to sit down for a meal and talk fishing or sports or even girls with him. I’d never help him in the garden.
What’s worse, I knew that he wasn’t going to come back. I had never seen another sentient ghost like my brother. Germane and Julie were both right that William was different.
Because there was so much to settle after Dad died, I wasn’t able to call Charlotte at the University until the next morning. I wished that I could have sent William to tell her about Mom, but that was as impossible as delegating some of the details of Dad’s estate to him.
Although she immediately started to cry, she didn’t seem surprised. “I knew you were going to tell me this,” she said through her tears. “I don’t believe in premonitions, but I saw that it was you on the phone and knew. You never call me. It had to be something bad.”
Flustered, I said, “I’m sorry. I should have called more.”
“It’s ok. But now that it’s just us, we’ll both have to do better. I’ll come home in a few days for the services. Can I bring Tiffany, too?”
Hearing her words about being just the two of us caused me to choke. I nodded at her question, but then managed to croak, “Sure.”
“It’s ok, Homer. There was nothing you could do,” Charlotte said to comfort me. “Dad’s with mom now, if you believe in an afterlife like that.”
Charlotte didn’t answer right away. “I don’t know. I think there is a lot we don’t understand about life and death.”
The funeral service was well attended and then everyone came back to our house afterwards. Julie was very helpful with everything, though I got the impression that she didn’t like having to play hostess for me.
William floated in and out of the house during the funeral. I knew that Julie, Germane and myself were the only ones who could see him. I could tell he needed to grieve, just like we all did, and I felt bad that I couldn’t talk to him like I could talk to Charlotte or Tiffany or any of the other guests. People would start to think I’d become as crazy as my real mother if they saw me talking to air as if it was my dead brother!
Dad’s death changed everything for me and for William. In William’s case, he begged me to help him convince Germane that he, too, should work for S.E.E.
“Who better to fight ghosts, than a living ghost?” William asked.
“But, William, no one can see you!” I argued.
“Doesn’t matter. Get me one of those Ghost-o-matic things and one of your old uniforms and let me go out there and do something.”
“What will you be able to do?”
“Something,” William said, determined. “I know that they are studying death. Maybe someday they can explain me.”
“What do you mean, explain you?”
“Figure me out. I’ll even volunteer to be tested. I don’t care. I just can’t stay like this forever. There has to be something more than this!”
I could tell that my brother wasn’t going to give up, so I did as he asked and convinced Germane to allow William to work for S.E.E. Now we were both ghost hunters, for whatever that was worth.
I understood how William was feeling, at least a little. Dad’s death made me question everything. I found myself talking to the ghosts I was supposed to be trapping. Sometimes, they even answered back, in their own way.
I learned that most ghosts that stayed around in physical form had had traumatic death experiences. From pieced together information I got from some of those ghosts when I asked about my dad, I learned that since he died of old age, he had passed on to the afterlife like he was supposed to do. The ghosts who lingered stayed because they couldn’t find peace in death due to what had happened to them in life.
The more humanoid the ghost, the older it was and the more power it had. These were the ghosts that communicated with me. I found that I didn’t like trapping them anymore. Instead I tried to get them to move on to whatever exists after death. Some I managed to ease in this way, but others had turned bitter and mean. These would taunt me and tease me, forcing me to use my weapons against them.
As for the smaller ghosts and the annoying poltergeists, there was no reasoning with those spirits. They were manifests of pure emotion…either loss, fear, or rage. These, too, I had to turn my weapons against.
Not only was Dad’s death changing the way I did my job, it was also affecting my relationship with Julie. At first, with her being so helpful during the funeral, I was grateful to Julie. I regretted any doubts I had had about her. I remembered how much Dad had liked her, too.
But as things changed at work, Julie became more distanced from me. “I just don’t get it, Homer,” She said to me while we were lying in bed one night. “Why aren’t you trying to capture these ghosts? That’s how you get paid, you know.”
“I know. It’s not about the money,” I tried to explain.
“What is it about then?”
“Well, since my dad died…”
“What about your dad? Are you worried he might come back as a ghost like your brother?”
“Well, what then?”
“I don’t know. I just want some answers, you know, so I started to talk to the ghosts.”
“You do what?!”
I explained how I had talked to the ghosts and some of the conclusions I had drawn based on the way they had communicated with me.
“You mean they actually talk to you?” Julie asked.
“Not really. They sort of send me impressions, emotions. Stuff like that. But I’ve managed to get a few answers.” I told Julie what I discovered.
She listened. “Look Homer, it isn’t our job to ask these sorts of questions. We collect specimens. Let the scientists upstairs figure out all the answers. Just go back to doing your job!”
I pulled away, getting up. “I just can’t do that!” I said. “I need to know these things.”
Julie looked at me sadly. “This really isn’t about your dad at all, is it? This is about William, isn’t it?”
I stepped back from the bed and ran my hands through my hair. “Of course it is!” I practically shouted. “He’s the reason you guys asked me to do this job in the first place. He doesn’t deserve to live like this! He’s neither dead nor alive. I need to know if there is any way…”
“To bring him back?” Julie asked, starkly. She, too, got out of bed. “You can’t reanimate the dead, Homer. That’s ridiculous.”
“Is it? Is it?! He’s a living ghost. Some would say that’s ridiculous!”
“You’d probably have more luck making sure he’s really dead,” Julie said. “You should try all that talk you do with the other haunts! Ease his way to the afterlife or whatever!”
“It’d be better than he is now,” I said, softly. “At least he’d be at peace.”
“You don’t know that.” Julie was putting on her pants and pulling on her sweatshirt. I watched as she laced her shoes and left my room. I didn’t follow her down the stairs or stop her from leaving.
Despite the fact that I was managing to ease more ghosts than I captured, I still earned a promotion at S.E.E. This upset Julie even more, but Germane said I deserved it.
“No one knew you could ease the ghosts,” Germane explained. “The science-guys found that just fascinating. They want you to keep journaling your experiences and continue to investigate the sites. They say there are different readings on your scanner when you make nice with the spooks.”
“Interesting,” I said. I accepted the promotion and continued to work as I had before.
“What do you think of the new uni?” I asked William, showing off my new gear. “Like the glasses?”
“Why would you need sunglasses at night?”
“They’re special spook-seeing glasses. I just push a button on the side here and they show me everything in infrared or black light. I can see the ghosts better now.”
I thought my promotion might help ease things with Julie, but it didn’t. Instead, she was annoyed that what she viewed as shoddy work was getting rewarded. After we argued again instead of having sex after work, I knew that I had to end things. Being with Julie and facing her mood-swings was getting harder and harder to deal with.
The next morning, I confronted Julie, who was sitting in one of my parents’ old rocking chairs.
“Aren’t you cold?” I asked her when I saw her out there without a coat. It had snowed the night before and there were still flurries.
“I don’t mind the cold,” she said. “Besides, I know what you are planning, and I’d rather just get it over with.”
“But we can talk inside,” I tried to be reasonable.
“No. Just tell me that we’re breaking up, so I can leave. Go ahead, do it.”
I put my hands up, trying to get Julie to calm down. “Things don’t have to end this way,” I tried. “We can go inside and speak rationally. I’m not sure why you’re so upset. You always seem mad at me now.”
Julie balled up her fists. “I’m not always mad at you!” she denied, though her body language said that she lied. “You know, Homer, this is your problem. You always think that everything is about you. You’re so overly-emotional!”
She took a deep breath and then continued, “You know what, I don’t need you to break up with me. I’m breaking up with you! I don’t want to go out with a man who is so weak, he can’t even do his job properly. Get over this fascination you have with bringing back the dead, and get on with your life for Sims’ sake!”
“Fine!” I shouted. “Go ahead and break up with me. I can’t give it up. I want to find answers about my brother, and if that bothers you, we definitely should break up!”
Turning away from her, I headed into my house. “And I am doing my job. Just not the way you want me to. But I’m still doing a good job. And this is me getting on with my life!”
I slammed my sliding door shut and locked it behind me. I heard Julie get into her car and drive off.
At that moment, I was extremely grateful that most of my work was done solo. I would only see Julie occasionally at S.E.E.’s offices. In the meantime, I would do my job my way. And I would find answers to my brother’s condition.
I didn’t think anything would mar the rest of my time at the university until I got the call from my brother telling me that my dad had died. I was in the lab when the call came in. Normally, I wouldn’t have answered the call, but when I saw that it was Homer, I just knew that something bad had happened.
Just as the phone rang, William manifested near me, and my premonition was confirmed. William looked like he had been crying. That’s when Homer told me about dad and I started crying, too.
“You knew, didn’t you?” I asked once I’d hung up. William nodded. “Is that where you’ve been?” Another nod. “What are we going to do?” I threw myself into my brother’s ghostly arms. I didn’t care if anyone in the lab saw me. I thought I was alone, but who knew if they had cameras installed.
“We’ll go home tomorrow,” I finally managed to say. “Homer says there’s going to be a funeral.”
“I know,” William said. Those were the first words he’d spoken. “I go home a lot,” he explained. “I never told you, but I can pretty much manifest wherever I want. I go home.”
At his words my mind filled with a million questions. I wanted to interview him and take notes about this transporting phenomenon he mentioned. I wanted to do tests, run experiments. Those questions would have to wait. I forced myself to keep quite and drew William in for another hug. I could tell he wasn’t handling Dad’s death well at all.
“It’ll be ok, William,” I comforted. “We have each other and Homer. We’re still a family.”
“But Mom and Dad are gone!” William wailed. “And they are never coming back!”
It was true. I had no idea what made William the way he was, but I had never seen other ghosts, let alone the ghost of my mother. I didn’t expect to see Dad’s ghost either.
The funeral was difficult. I was glad that Homer had allowed me to bring Tiffany. I don’t know what I would have done without her there. Julie Glover was a big help for Homer. She practically organized the whole reception at home after the funeral.
“Thanks for helping Homer,” I told her, gratefully. “I know he’s been really upset. I’m glad he has you to be here with him.”
“I don’t mind,” Julie said. “I did try to get him to hire a service for this party, but he said that we could just do it ourselves. But I’m the only one doing anything! I just hope he helps me clean all this up when you all leave. I shouldn’t have to do everything around here!”
I raised my eyebrow at Julie. I had never heard her speak so rudely. “I’m sure he will,” I assured her, frowning. “But I know that Tiffany and I will help, too.” She sniffed and then sat down on the couch.
I looked over to where Tiffany was talking to Homer. I hoped he hadn’t heard our exchange. That’s when I saw William floating toward me with a plate of food. I opened my mouth, shocked at his display, but it seemed that no one noticed him.
I pulled him aside later, “William, you have to be careful! What if people notice a floating plate or something?”
“No one will,” William said. “No one ever notices.”
“Still,” I said, worriedly. “Just don’t do anything that would ruin this day for Homer. He needs this service. Already I can tell he’s doing better with Dad’s death. I wish I didn’t have to go back to school tomorrow.”
“Homer will be fine,” William assured me. “I’ll stick around here for a bit. I’ll watch out for him. And besides, he has his job and Julie.”
I looked over to Julie, who was grumbling under her breath at the empty plate William had abandoned on the table. I wasn’t so sure that he was right about Homer being ok with Julie. I’d always liked her, but now I was beginning to see why William had had reservations about her.
But I couldn’t spend too much time worrying about Homer. I had classes to attend, studying and labs to do, and homework that piled up each day I was gone. I also had my own girlfriend to help me ease the pain of Dad’s passing and help me cope with both of my parents being gone.
“What are your plans today?” Tiff asked me a few weeks after our return to the university. It was a Saturday morning, so we had no classes.
I yawned. “I don’t know,” I said. “Studying, I guess. Mid-terms are coming up.”
“Boring.” Tiffany rolled over and stretched causing the blankets to fall away from her body. I didn’t respond, distracted by her breasts.
“I have other plans for us,” she continued. “You need some fun!”
“Charlotte! Stop staring at my tits and listen. We’re going to have fun today!”
I smiled and reached for her. “Ok,” I agreed.
After a bit, Tiffany rolled over and stretched again. “That was fun, but it wasn’t what I was talking about. Get up and get dressed!”
Once we got up and had breakfast, Tiffany told me that we were going to have fun all day. “No talking about school, homework, labs, or lessons, ok? Promise?”
I laughed. “I promise. But what are we going to be doing instead?”
We headed to the Student Union building first where we played pool. I loved that game, and Tiffany knew it. “You suck at every game,” she grumbled when I won. “How can you be so good at this one?”
“It’s all about math,” I said and started to explain, but Tiffany shut me up quickly. “No math! No. Let’s get a bagel and coffee and then we’ll go to our next stop.”
Our next stop was the bowling alley. I’d never bowled before. It took me some time, but I managed to knock down a few pins.
After bowling, we went and saw a movie. Tiffany picked it out, so it was a comedy. I wanted to see the documentary, but she flat out refused. “This is supposed to be a date, not a boring seminar or lecture!”
After the movie we went to the diner and ate outside since the night was so nice. Unlike Twinbrook, winter hadn’t quite taken hold of the University. Before we went home Tiffany asked me to pose with her for a romantic selfie.
“How is it a selfie if we’re both in it?” I teased, but she shhh’d me and then held up the phone. “You think too much. Just pucker up and think ‘cheese’!”
I did as I was told and the flash went off just as Tiffany’s lips met mine.
I thought our romantic date was over since we headed home after eating, but I was wrong. Tiffany insisted on giving me a massage and then we ended the night pretty much how the day began: with the two of us in bed together.
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day, and Tiffany was right—it was good for me to forget about school for a bit.
By the time we graduated, I had learned how to relax and have fun and still maintain my 4.0 GPA. I’d also been offered a job at the Twinbrook Science Institute. I’d learn the full details of my job when I came home, but the headhunter who recruited me said I was uniquely qualified.