On the Other Side of the Ouija Board

Steven was getting pretty pissed off with the living, of late. Ouija boards everywhere, all these jumped up bastards surrounding themselves with candles, trying to feel like their dull little lives would be a tiny bit cooler if they could just rattle off a ghost story at the local pub. Everywhere he floated these days, Steven found these obnoxious breathers pestering him with their Ouija boards, their ridiculous questions – Is anybody out there? Is Granny Marshall listening? Give me a sign! Admittedly, Steven quite liked that last one – he was getting rather adept at giving them a sign, but they never seemed to cotton on. Steven’s favourite ‘sign’ came in the form of ghostly flatulence – he would summon up the rotting gasses from his decaying remains, where they lay buried in mud some fifteen miles away, and he would release this ungodly spectral fart into the room, directly into the face of his questioner. Sadly, it never seemed to terrify them – they usually blamed it on the dog. Best he ever got was a bit of retching. And then the inane questions would resume.

Is Granny Marshall listening? Well, what the bloody hell do you think! Steven found it endlessly infuriating, how naïve the living could be about these matters. He honestly wondered whether the whole world had gone completely senile – didn’t they understand the most basic fundamentals of time and space, let alone of social etiquette? If they had a friend called Bob, and Bob lived in London, then Bob lived in fucking London, didn’t he? Just because Bob had a passion for Levi jeans, you couldn’t walk into a shopping mall in the middle of California and start hollering, “IS BOB LISTENING? GIVE ME A SIGN, BOB!” No matter how dead Bob, or Steven, or Granny Marshall might be, they weren’t God, and that meant they were never going to be omnipresent. And didn’t they realise the dead had better things to be doing, believe it or not, than floating around the rooms of their relatives, watching them burp and fart and masturbate, year after year, on the off chance that they might finally bother using a Ouija board – Granny Marshall had places to be, and things to see! Things that were far more interesting than watching her grandchild scrolling endlessly up and down Facebook while picking her nose – the kind of spirits who found that interesting, weren’t likely to be the ones you wanted to converse with, as Steven saw it.

Although, of course, Steven supposed it was really the telephone that had fucked it all up – breathers could actually do that these days. They just pressed some buttons, and summoned up any living entity, anywhere on the planet, speaking right into their ear. And for some ridiculous fucking reason, they assumed that ghosts had worked out the same technology. Those bloody breathers thought that Ouija boards were like a telephone switchboard, and that any ghost in the vicinity would happily sit there all night like an unpaid receptionist, wiring them through to any poltergeist, ghoul or shadowchild anywhere on the planet. And quite frankly, Steven thought they should all just fuck right off. In fact, that was his signature phrase – it took a lot of effort to push those damn things across the board, particularly against the will of breathers who inevitably shoved the thing about on their own, spelling out all the drivelling bollocks of their deluded, egotistical minds, but on days when Steven was feeling particularly powerful, he got great satisfaction out of telling them, amidst a sinister cloud of ghostly flatulence, to –

F – U –C – K – R – I – G – H – T – O – F –F

But the thing that Steven really didn’t get, the thing that really, really ground his gears about the whole Ouija board palaver, was why the breathers gave a shit in the first place. Didn’t they realise that ghosts were just dead people? Didn’t they realise how socially inept, bizarre and deranged they seemed, behaving in this way? When Steven had been a living person, no one had found him very interesting at all! Certainly, no strangers had spoken to him on the street, much less invited him randomly into their houses and begun asking him personal questions about their love life. So why in hell did the living do these things to him now that he was dead? Why was talking to strangers suddenly so fascinating, just because the stranger was a dead one? Wasn’t it just a bit weird, to walk into a half empty room full of total strangers – an art gallery, for instance – and suddenly start hollering “HELLO?! AM I GOING TO GET PREGNANT THIS YEAR? GIVE ME A SIGN!” – Steven knew for a fact that you’d get tossed into the loony bin within a month, if you treated the living the way they treated the dead, but with this Ouija board craze, all rules of politeness and sanity went straight out of the window!

Of course, Steven did get bored, and lonely, now and then, so occasionally he’d indulge the whims of these socially backwards breathers, but it was always a depressing affair. No one ever gave a shit about Steven. He could’ve told them a few interesting things, if they’d actually bothered to ask – the dynamics of summoning up a ghostly fart, for instance, or how in cemeteries, the undead got drunk on ectoplasmic mead and told crude stories about all the personal secrets they’d been given across a Ouija board –

“You would not believe it mate, you would not fuckin’ believe it, the shit I was told last night by this girl! I mean, she wasn’t bad looking, all in all, had a bit of a weird eye, been eatin’ too many pies, but I’d’ve done her if my cock wasn’t rotting off in that tomb over there, but anyway, anyway, that ain’t the point, is it? I’m gettin’ off topic here! Point is, she ain’t bad looking, so I told her I was this handsome vampire, you know what they’re like these days, vampire’s the thing to be – so I’m this six-foot tall vampire called Edwardius Prenderghast (that took a lot of shovin’ around the board, let me tell you, but it was worth it!), and as soon as she thinks I’m this muscly sexpot spectre, she starts telling me all this bollocks about her relationships falling to bits, and how she thinks it’s because she’s got the soul of a fucking fairy and no one understands her, and how she’s drinking this iodine bollocks to clean out her third fucking eye – what the fuck is it, mate, with humans these days obsessing over having an extra eyeball in the middle of their fucking foreheads? Oooooh, I’d be an all powerful god if I could just clean up my imaginary fucking eyeball! Flouride in the water what does it, innit, clogging up my fucking mystical eyeball! That’s why I’m so fucking single! Jesus fuck, mate, this bird was bollocks raving nuts. She went off at me for half the night about all this crap – wanted me to summon up a unicorn ghost for her, so I told her I was already riding one, and she got really excited then. Like…sexually excited. And you know I’m up for that, rotten cock or no, but I couldn’t get into it, fact is, I couldn’t stop laughing. Best thing about being dead, I reckon – breathers treat you like the local priest, they tell you fuckin’ everything! And none of ‘em know that every night we’re down here takin’ the piss out of all the total bollocks they spout!”

So admittedly, for Steven and the rest of the dead, there were some positives to Ouija boards. The living got their ghost stories, and the ghosts got their “aren’t the living a bunch of total twats” stories. But all the same, it made Steven a bit depressed. The living were so self obsessed – if he ever replied to them on a Ouija board, they’d just ask him questions about themselves – Will I get a new job soon? Does Mikey really love me? Will I ever get pregnant? – or they made him jump through pointless, stupid hoops – What’s my favourite colour? Blow out a candle! Knock on the window! GIVE ME A SIGN! – or worse, they made it patently obvious that they didn’t give a shit about Steven, and only wanted to talk to a very, very specific ghost, which was a double kick in the eye. For starters, Steven had been polite enough to reply, and they didn’t even give him the courtesy of a five minute chat about spectral fart technology, and secondly, why in hell did they think ghost stories were so unusual? These sodding breathers, why couldn’t they put two and two together? Billions of them on the planet these days, thousands of years in human history – didn’t they realise how many people had died in the world? Didn’t they realise that they’d be tripping over ghosts left, right and centre, every moment of every day, if every goddamn Granny Marshall remained floating about the planet waiting to talk to them across a Ouija board?! It was so obvious, but the breathers never got it – it was a curse to be stuck here, and every time they asked to speak to someone who wasn’t there, who was in a better place, Steven was reminded of his curse – of his misery.

The real reason the ghosts liked to get pissed up every single night and bitch about breathers, was because it made them feel better about their own shitty situation. Nothing cheered up a morose soul quicker than talking about what a wanker somebody else was, so that was what they did, every damn night for all eternity, or until they finally found their way home. What lay on the other side, what lay in the promised land, the earthbound ghosts still didn’t know. Some of them had caught glimpses, and it wasn’t at all like the Biblical heaven – understandably. The humans only knew life on Earth, caged in their bodies, trapped by the rules of earthly physics. The great beyond had a whole new set of rules, and from the little Steven knew, it was surreal enough to blow the minds of all those Bible-clutching breathers. But what he did know, was that you weren’t alone there, not anymore – not ever again. Souls lost their shape there, which sounded terrifying, but it wasn’t really – everyone melded together, until communication was wordless and immediate, until loneliness and misunderstanding and awkwardness ceased to exist, until every soul was immersed and glowing in the everlasting cuddle-puddle of eternal bliss. From the glimpses he’d seen, it was as warm and bright as the haloed flames of a million shining candles, it was a soft feather bed on a winter’s day, the laughter of young lovers, it was gleaming gold and pearl white and rose pink, the colour of peace, the colour of angels, and one thing Steven knew for sure was that no one ever came crawling back to this shitty existence, having spurned the embrace of that perfect realm. But despite all his longing, Steven had never made it there.

The problem with the great beyond, was that it truly was beyond. The laws of physics on Earth were very different to the surreal set of rules in the great beyond. And that meant that travelling between the two was somewhat fraught with difficulty. Every soul had an automatic ticket, precisely four days after the expiration of their fleshly form. Four days, a spirit had, to say his goodbyes, and get ready for lift off, but not every spirit made the flight. Most that stayed behind were bitter and evil, and rather than saying goodbye to their loved ones, they realised how much fun it was to be dead, and sinister, and accursed. They chose to stay behind, forever fucking with the minds of the living. Others remained on earth because they were afraid – fear of change was innate to the human condition, and ghosts weren’t so very different. Most of the spirits getting drunk in cemeteries filled this category – they were comfortable with their world of beer and football, and they couldn’t leave without seeing the next match, without getting a solid confirmation on whether Stella Artois existed in heaven, could they? Then, finally, there were the disorganised spirits, who just plain old missed their flight. Steven was one of those.

Steven had always been disorganised, and it seemed a cruel irony that his disorganisation had not only killed him, but cursed him to wander the Earth eternally. On his final day as a breather, Steven had missed his train, and been forced to take a phenomenally expensive taxi to his business meeting, which as a final insult after shelling out fifty fucking quid, had been ploughed into by a lorry and Steven had been crushed to death between that sodding lorry and a particularly large and stubborn tree. And after that, well, he’d gotten the memo about the Four Day Rule – get back to your corpse for the pick up, or you’ll be sorry – but after spending four days shooting around England trying to get a quick glimpse of his ex girlfriend in the nude, and paying a final visit to his mum’s grave in case she was waiting there for him, he tried to fit in a quick visit to a stripclub to really make the most of his invisibility in the changing rooms, and he got so carried away that he misjudged the time and got there an hour late. And that was that. Stuck on earth forever.

But there was hope now, finally – a slim hope, but hope nonetheless. A crackpot idea had been passed on by an old ghost called Edgar, which all the other ghosts had blown off as babbling nonsense – a way to hitch a ride into the great beyond. It had seemed like utterly deluded bullshit for years, until all of a sudden, Edgar disappeared. Vanished completely – couldn’t be found anywhere. He’d actually made it, out of this accursed place, and into the great beyond. And after that, Steven had been forced to believe. Edgar’s theory had been that a newly-dead soul had passage to the great beyond, obviously – that golden one-way ticket – and perhaps, that soul could bring a passenger along…but only if both souls were willing. This was where the challenge lay, he had said, remorsefully. Four days was all you had, to track down a freshly dead soul, and befriend it so hard it would risk its own everlasting happiness to bring you along with it. Which, of course, was complicated even more by the fact that newly dead souls were so damn busy during those four days – so many relatives, so many friends, to say goodbye to; most of them floated about weeping piteously as they watched their wives and children grieve them. It wasn’t really the best sort of time to sidle up and start with the New Friendship Conversations, asking them what team they supported, whether they’d read a good book before they kicked the bucket, that sort of thing. They’d usually just stare at you with reddened eyes, and tell you to fuck right off.

So, although Steven had the formula, he was well aware that it might take months, years, even decades. Edgar had been trying since 1976, before he finally vanished into the great beyond. And after a long period of depressing failures, Steven had decided that the only way to preserve his sanity was to take the occasional break. Three weeks out of every month, he haunted the local hospital – an obvious breeding ground for newly-ejected souls. This way, he could float about, reading patients’ charts and listening to doctors, getting an idea of who was likely to croak. Then, he’d stay in their room for days on end, getting to know the dying one, and all their family members, so that as soon as they dropped dead, he could behave as though he was their guardian angel, watching over them, ready to ease their transition from the trauma of death, towards the eternal bliss of the great beyond. His approach was getting pretty well polished now, but it was still slow going. Ghosts were as unpredictable as breathers, and in a hospital like this, Steven had plenty of competition – all too often, the newly dead would latch onto a ghost in the same situation, frequently another ex-breather they’d known in the hospital. They were in the same boat, and Steven couldn’t compete with that. It was a long and frustrating crusade, and as a result, Steven had begun taking one week off in every month, just to keep himself halfway sane.

But between the hospital trips, and all these sodding Ouija boards, Steven was getting more and more pissed off with the living. All those poor unfortunate bastards dying in hospital beds, full of regrets, scrabbling to make amends to those they’d hurt, those they’d ignored. And then out here, in the world, all the healthy breathers were just carelessly pissing their lives away, huddled over that damned Ouija board, obsessively harassing the ghosts of total strangers. If they were so desperate for conversation, why didn’t they talk to their lonely old neighbour instead? Why didn’t they do some good on Earth instead of relentlessly pestering imaginary entities, or talking to ghosts who thought they were deluded fucking wankers? Wasn’t there something better they could be doing with their precious, limited time? Instead of trying to talk to the ghost of Granny Marshall when it was much too goddamn late, why didn’t they go and visit their mum instead, so that when she died, they wouldn’t have any regrets – they’d just let her drift off into the afterlife, where she was supposed to be. Round and round they went, in this shambolic, idiotic spectacle – obsessing over the realm of the dead, obsessing over the ghosts they’d wronged, ghosts who’d moved the hell on, whilst continuing to blunder through their real lives, ignoring all the other people, the living people, who needed them so much more.

It was a pretty infuriating thing to watch, night after endless night, and the only things Steven could do to keep his sanity intact were to spend half his week off getting pissed up in the cemetery with the other lost causes, and the rest of the time, he would vent his wrath through the medium of spectral farts and snarky Ouija board messages like

S – U – C – K – M – Y – D – I – C – K

and

Y – O – U – F – U – C – K – I – N – G – P – I – L – L – O – C – K

But mostly, Steven just kept his eyes on the prize. He had the solution now, the recipe for success – eventually, he would vanish, just like Edgar, into the eternal bliss of the great beyond. And so, when the breathers drove him mad, he tried to satisfy himself with that, with the knowledge that soon he would be free of all these imbeciles, the dead and the living alike. All these misguided prats huddled over their spooky boards, they’d find out soon enough. And by then, Steven would be long gone, basking in the candlelit warmth of his hard-earned afterlife.

Soon enough, they’d see.

 

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5 Responses to “On the Other Side of the Ouija Board”

  1. Brava! A very different look at the afterlife…

  2. Awesome, simply awesome.

  3. Careful. With all these well-thought-out afterlives, you’re going to start yourself a cult!

  4. Great story! I think you should send a copy to Stephen King. He got started as a short story writer. I love horror and mystery anthologies from the 70’s and 80’s. Yours is a classic! fuckrightoff is hilarious! God luck with publishing your stuff! I love your vlogs on Youtube. Maybe, you could read one of your stories in a video. Your voice is amazing.

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