When it occurred to me that I might walk there, I found it to be gray at 60,000 feet, gray at ten miles, gray when I passed beyond the last streaking piece of space junk in orbit, and gray when I finally arrived.
Interesting side-note: while I still "walk" (that is to say, this vague shape I have which is something like a body, it does all of the moving kind of things that give the appearance of walking . . . well, heh, "appearance" to me anyway, because who wants to be seen all the time, right? I mean, motto of the dead should be "out of sight, out of mind" right?) Anyway . . . what was I? . . . walking, okay. The long and the short of it is that I can do about sixty when I think hard about it. I was on the moon just inside of six months. I didn't realize I could get up to speed right way . . . vestigial memory of the mortal coil, so to speak . . . but once I did, it was pretty cool. "Walking", or at least looking like you're walking . . . looking like it to yourself that is . . . while at the same time matching the speed of a Volvo on the highway . . . well, it has an interesting affect. Let your eyes go out of focus and it's like you're going backwards, like when the prop on a plane gets up to speed and the blades seem to float slowly in reverse.
Do that on the moon . . . moon-walking.
But even that loses its charm.
Second, it takes a huge amount of will to make yourself visible. It takes nothing to fade away. I feel like I'm about to every second. I imagine most of the dead went on that way long ago 'cause it's not crowded, being dead . . . which is weird; there are more dead people now than ever before, but if you're dead, you're always alone. It's like looking for those Dubya supporters before the 2000 election: you kept hearing he had huge popular support, but you never met anyone planning on voting for him. And then he was elected.
But, I'm digressing. Being dead, it's all about digressing.
Anyway, if fading away is on one end of the spectrum (marked as "no effort at all"), then making yourself visible is way on the other end. Going sixty while walking to the moon is nothing compared to being visible.
On the other side of being visible is physical action in the mortal plane. That stupid movie, Ghost with Patrick Swayze and Botox chick? That pretty much got the idea right, though it was still way too easy for Swayze to work his way up to moving a penny. Anyway, let's forget I mentioned that, because it embarrasses me that a dead guy would expend the psychic energy necessary to speak to the living on that fucking script.
Anyway, the trick of all this is that I can't really close my eyes. Not to any effect, anyway. In order to be opaque enough that I block out light, I need to be visible, and visible is hard. So, while I don't really get tired, I would like to sleep, but it takes so much damn energy that blocking out light sort of defeats the whole restful purpose of sleep. Shit knows how I sense light without any organs, but I do. So I stress out, close my eyes, block out every last photon, and I can't rest. Or worse, I finally settle in and almost relax and then, bamm, I go translucent and I'm flooded with light. It's one thing, like when I was alive and I'd see the morning through a slit in one eye, the lid just barely raised. That was bad and blinding and getting up sucked. But dammit, when I go translucent, that's like my whole body is a fucking eye. My goddamn ass gets blinded. So, if you ever wondered why dark little places— behind the basement stairs, up in the attic, old cabin at night— feel like they've got a ghost curled up in there, it's probably because one is, hiding from the light, trying to get to sleep.
Only once, so far, have I been so turned around and emotionally tired that I managed to fall asleep while remaining opaque. North pole, noon, middle of fucking summer. The sky was bright white, the ice sheet glared and there wasn't another twilight in my future for the next four months. I was so fucking pissed— I can't even remember about what— so I marched north and north and north into enveloping fucking sun.
I sank half into the ice pack, the magnetic fields tugged at me and I could almost feel the cold. I closed my eyes and concentrated. It was exactly like if you tried to close your skin. Imagine that. You know what it feels like to close your eyes, how you imagine them closing, then they close. There's a feeling you have, and maybe you recognize it, if you are wearing a cast and all you want to do is close your hand, but you can't because it is in a cast. But you feel the need in your head, somewhere between your nose and your neck, deep inside of your skull. You say "Close, you fucking hand!" But you can't. It's like that, but instead you are laying at the magnetic north pole, and you are insubstantial, and you are half submerged in ice as old as the fucking moon, and there is white light everywhere so bright your ass and your elbows hurt from the glare, and you've been meditating on this for four months, because I mean, what the fuck else do you have to do, you are fucking dead, and you are concetrating on closing your entire body while at the same time trying desperately to not lose that fleeting sleepy feeling that had come over you in Bangkok, and it's that whole spirit itch, like not being able to climax after two hours of irritating sex with a woman you don't know very well, and who has already cum and is finally starting to understand what her previous boyfriend felt like when she couldn't get off, and then . . .
And then . . .
You close. You close all over, and it's tight, almost like you weren't dead. And for a second you are so cold you want to scream, but the whole world rushes through you and there is unbelievable blackness like the kind you can't find in your grave, or in the heart of the moon, or inside of mountains, or in those goddamn benthic depths that your old fuck-tard boss used to swoon rhapsodic about for the few months you worked for him before he killed you and skinned you. You are blissfully dark, and icy, and tired of the glaring moon, and the piercing stars, and the fucking sun, and all of the empty landscapes on the earth, beneath the earth, above the cloudless vacuum, on the surface of the moon . . .
And you fall asleep, as much out of focused anger as out of anything.
Asleep . . .
There is this thing called the myoclonic jerk. If you ever fell asleep in class as a kid, it probably happened to you. You drift, you're in a daze, you're tired and though you are sitting, you slowly tilt forward into sleep. Then all of a sudden it's like you are falling and you snap awake, like you were shocked, and usually you flip your book off your desk and your papers go flying.
Apparently, what really happens is that something goes wrong in the first stage of sleep, especially during the day. Your heart rate drops too low too quickly, your breathing shallows out and almost stops. It's like your body stalls. Then your brain (which usually manages sleep adequately, but maybe, like, it wasn't paying attention because you aren't supposed to go to sleep on a sunny afternoon during an Econ lecture) freaks out. It literally does shock you because you are about to fucking die.
And you knock your book off your desk, and your papers go flying, and the cute girl in class turns around and rolls her eyes.
Apparently your spirit does something similar when you try to sleep while also being dead.
I almost went the way of Napoleon and Caesar. I almost let myself fade away, half submerged in ice, totally submerged in light. But something shocked me, snapped me back. I focused on getting hard, dark, closed, and then I drifted to the edge of that eternal rest, and then zap, I was rock hard, diamond hard, for a microsecond, and a fissure formed in the ice, and the ice sheet half a mile thick, broke in half, and I was in a daze, like when I was a kid I used to stand in my bedroom doorway and press my arms out, wrists down, against either side of the frame. I would press and press and press, and then step out of the door, and then, as if of their own accord, my arms would slowly drift upward.
After the shock my whole form was like those arms. I floated up into the air without any thought at all. I rolled over and looked down as the crack widened. At the center of the fissure was my shape, exactly as I remembered it being, exactly as it appears in my grave.
But I floated higher, and the fissure closed as new ice formed in the arctic cold, and my shape faded like an image in a cloud.
But that was my mark. I knew it then. I thought I had left my last physical mark on this world three years ago. I thought my marking days were completely over and that all I had left was to stare at the moon and eventually decide to fade away like everybody eventually does.
But it's not true. Even dead guys get second chances.
And so here I am, concentrating, manipulating this computer electrically (because learning binary is a hell of lot easier than re-learning to type . . . when your dead, you'll understand). And all of a sudden I guess that Ghost guy wasn't such an asshole. He wrote a terrible script, but I get why he tried.
He wrote what he wrote for the same reason I'm writing this. Because I've got to tell somebody. Some other mind needs to know what happened to me.
So, I'm telling you.
Anyway, remember, Fuck the Squid.
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Copyright (c) 2000, 2004, David Erik Nelson, Fritz Swanson, Morgan Johnson