A black and white illustration of a frog sitting in the grass. Above it, the words "this is goodbye" can be seen in the sky, surrounded by stars, the moon, and the planets.
Disgusting, maggot-eating creatures of the cemetery. (Lyla Wilton)

Cherub did not retain her full faculties in the afterlife—this seemed to happen to some because of extended coma, or maybe too much family intrusion on the magnetic field–I didn’t really know the exact cause. Cherub believed things would be rosy upon rebirth into human form, and had forgotten how difficult it is to live in a body.

On the other hand, there are dangers for a ghost in a cemetery, such as humans who could perceive spirit, some of whom are predatory toward us. 

I replied, “Boredom doesn’t kill. It is only the things we do because we’re bored. Tolerate the boredom, my little one. And if you see the person who I warned you of…” I paused. It was hard to get a ghost to watch out for a living person. But some of them were dangerous, even to a ghost…”Whatever you do, don’t give her eye contact,” I told Cherub. 

“But… you always say that,” Cherub replied.

“Because it is always so. That individual, if you notice her, will notice you back. You don’t want that, believe me.” I paused and changed tunes: “What do you think about the idea of becoming an imitation of an imitation.? You could be a person in a painting, maybe a well-known painting. How would that be? Everyone would look closely and admire the finesse of the brushstrokes. You would have a fancy French name, and no one would dare to criticize or dare decry that you weren’t such a great painting. That would be a change, wouldn’t it?” 

“But… I don’t know if it would be good enough. Couldn’t I grow tired of that, too?” Cherub exclaimed. 

“Listen to me: You do not want to become a person again,” I said. 

I felt angry when I spoke. Then I was angry at myself for my anger. Yet, I wondered, how was it that I even had a voice? After all–I was dead. When alive, I’d always disbelieved in ghosts. I ruminated on this for a while, and this was unpleasant. I had my choices. And soon, I too would have to leave this place. 

***

Some mornings before it was time for the sprinklers to come on at the cemetery, I’d rise to the surface and try to bother the croaking, maggot-eating, filthy, disgusting frogs. It was a form of entertainment to see their confusion. One time I’d tried to inhabit a frog. It was very disturbing. Frogs are very different than people, or ghosts of people, are. 

One particular morning, I caught sight of two people remembering their uncle Wyatt. They talked to Wyatt and left flowers behind. However, Wyatt had moved on and no longer lived here. I’d never liked him, and I was glad to see him go elsewhere. I think he’d seen that movie from 1990, with Patrick Swayze in it, and had decided to haunt the subway system.

Wyatt didn’t realize that on the subway system, there were hundreds, maybe thousands of ghosts that were formerly criminals. And many had died of gunfire while fleeing police. They were far more powerful than Wyatt, the ghost of a house painter and musician who’d died from losing his balance on a ladder. Wyatt, by now, was undoubtedly eaten and digested by armed robber ghosts. When someone’s ghost was eaten, the soul was gone, irrevocably gone.

I’d told Cherub never to look her in the eye. Her name was Jeannette. She was the most powerful living human I’d seen, and she would often eat ghosts because it added to her mysterious powers. She was quite wealthy because of the sheer power of her magnetic field. If you noticed her too much, she would notice you too, and she would get you. And it was very hard not to notice her. 

Of course, Cherub didn’t understand what I was talking about. And this morning, Jeannette was visiting the graves. And in her aura, she was hungry. I’d seen this happen far too much. I went to warn Cherub, but she was already in a struggle against Jeannette’s magnetic field. Jeannette was more powerful each time she visited the park. Cherub didn’t have a chance. 

Then, I feared for my own welfare. For cover, I inhabited the biggest of the frogs. But then I realized Jeannette was looking at the frogs, and I knew I was about to be eaten too, and this would truly be my end. 

Jeannette wrenched me out from the frog, and with her steely grip, put me in her stench-laden mouth. But she spat me out! 

Why? 

Jeannette said, “You are an especially bad tasting ghost. No wonder no one has eaten you so far. Now go away! Find a host on another planet. I don’t ever want to see you born on Earth. Get lost!” 

Jeannette threw me upward with such immense velocity, so much that I had escape velocity, and I cleared the Earth’s gravitational and magnetic fields. 

Soon I was aloft, among the stars. Could ghosts go faster than light? It seemed only like an hour’s trip. But if you are deceased, you do not perceive time in a straight line.

I found a planet where the beings are much nicer and smarter compared to the mean-minded, small-minded, petty, “human beings” on Earth. I will try keep in touch. This is Goodbye…

Jack Bragen lives in Martinez with his wife, Joanna Bragen, and sells his books on LULU.com.