A Ghost in Love by R C Larlham
I woke up dead. Again.
I’ve been doin’ that for (a lot) more centuries than I care to count. Now I had to find a new body, reanimate it and go somewhere no one could possibly recognize it.
I’d just completed thirteen years as a cop. My partner was a female cop named Janine, and we were in love. I was trying to persuade her we needed to make ours a physical relationship when the armed robbery call came in.
Janine had stumbled as we hit the alley and come face to face with a young punk with a gun. I yanked her back as he brought the gun up, and he shot me square in the face, thereby raising the ante from armed robbery to murder of a cop. Janine exploded into action.
I shook my head to clear it and levered myself out of the body that I had so carelessly allowed to be shot. Janine had the idiot in a hammerlock with his right hand almost touching his left ear and her sidearm jammed into the right side of his neck. He was in obvious pain and struggling. They were dancing around an iced-over puddle. As she swung him around she stepped onto the ice, slipped, looked up and back, and saw me! She froze, just long enough to lose control of everything. She did about a half backflip, hit the ice, and her head hit the edge of an upended chunk of asphalt. It sounded like a dropped watermelon. You don’t live more than a thousand years without learning that that sound means death.
The punk tried a runner. I touched an overhead line and him simultaneously, sending him to sleepy land. He collapsed. I heard our back-up’s siren drawing closer.
How in Hell had Janine seen me? I knew she had—we’d made eye contact. I looked across to her and moved toward her. For a second I thought she wasn’t dead. She sat up. But as she stood up and stepped out of her body I realized my love was a ghost.
For a moment she just stood there looking down at herself. Then she looked at me and asked, “Doak, what’s happened to me? Isn’t that you on the ground? What do I do now?”
“I’m not sure what else you should do, but you might want to get dressed,” I said, “It’s not that you have to, but I’ll be able to think better while I give you, ‘Being a Ghost 101.’”
“I’m a ghost? You mean I’m. . .I’m. . .?”
“Dead,” I finished for her. “Yeah, and you’re a ghost… the first ghost I’ve ever seen. Now, lesson number one, imagine yourself dressed.”
“No, I got that. I mean, why imagine? What does that do?”
“You appear as you think of yourself. Right now it’s all automatic. You’ll learn to change appearance, but for now. . .”
A-a-and she was dressed. . .in her uniform.
“You sure you want to be a cop twenty-four seven?”
She was abruptly wearing jeans and a man’s shirt tied under her ribcage. “Like this?” She was smirking.
“Um-m-m. . .yeah sure. That’s fine.” I was stumbling all over the place. I’d never seen a ghost before. Didn’t believe in ghosts, in fact. And she’d been nude, gorgeously so. She was maybe thirty-five or so, fuller in face and body than my Janine, but still, when she spoke, my Janine.
“What’s the matter Doak? You’re acting as if you never saw a ghost before.” She looked at me quizzically.
“Um-m-m. . .yeah, about that. . .” I began
“Oh. My. God! You never have.” She laughed a little. “How long since you became a ghost?”
“I’m not sure. About a dozen centuries. I slept through some, and date-keeping wasn’t as much attended then.” I gave her my best ‘reassuring’ grin. “How about you? You got dressed and then changed, and damn quick too. How long have you been a ghost, and how many ghosts have you seen?
“Twenty years. This is the third time I’ve died. First time, a semi lost a tie rod and turned left on a two-lane road. My car went from sixty to zero in about thirty-six inches. I didn’t stop when my car did. I woke up a couple seconds later drifting above it. Counting you, I’ve seen one ghost.”
“Well,” I said, “I intend to find a body, access my money and go be someone else far away. You likely ought to do the same.” I had an insurance, pension and 401(k) beneficiary already set up. I’d show up with my attorney and claim the money. . .just as soon as I became him. My attorney had the paperwork ready.
I wasn’t getting away so easily.
“Doak?” Softly—questioning. “I thought we had something. Does this have to change that?”
“Y’ know,” I said, “I’ve never tried to have a relationship with a ghost.” I grinned at her. “Why not? I still feel the same. You?”
“Yes. Yes I do.” She relaxed and hugged me. “What do we do next?”
”Well, you’re gonna need a plan to collect your financial assets, or you’re gonna start your next life broke.”
“Oh. How do we do that?”
Oh boy, she was unprepared for what had happened, but I hadn’t been either the first couple of times.
“OK, what did you do last time?”
“Janine and I were cops together in Cleveland. I got shot and she had a heart attack right there. I knew she had no close relatives, so I just jumped into her body and assumed her identity. I emptied her accounts and moved.”
“Can’t make that a habit. Let’s go find a couple bodies. Then we’ll see my attorney. We’ll get you squared away.”
That was twelve years ago. Turns out, love isn’t limited to the living.
R C Larlham is an Environmental Engineer, retired from DTE Energy Company. He now lives north of Detroit and south of the Moon with his daughter, her husband and their two children. He became a SciFi enthusiast at twelve, when he picked up a copy of Analog lying alongside a country road. He has published a two-volume memoir of short stories titled The Old Man and Me Books 1 & 2.