The first death which truly affected me was that of my maternal grandfather.
I was eight or nine. I remember people coming over to the house and talking in hushed whispers around me, pretending everything was okay.
But I knew it wasn’t.
My mother eventually broke the news to me, which was tough for her as it was her father, and she knew how much I loved him.
He was a tough old guy who had survived World War 2, a heart attack, electrocution, and diabetes. He also spoke his mind no matter who he pissed off.
But he was always kind to me, and his loss cut deep. Even decades later, I see how much his death impacted his offspring and their families in negative ways.
We’re never the same when someone close to us dies. We’re never really whole again.
For months after his death, I waited for his ghost to return, to say goodbye to me.
At the time I was reading lots of ghost stories, and truly believed ghosts might exist, if you just allowed yourself to see them. The problem with adults, I’d figured, was that they couldn’t see ghosts among us because they’d stopped believing in such things.
But I was wide-eyed, young, and ready to believe.
I oftentimes went to bed, watching, waiting, thinking every noise and movement in my dark room might be him. I was both afraid and excited at the prospect of seeing my grandfather again.
Even though I was too young to recognize it, I needed closure.
So I waited every night for his ghost to come.
While there were a few weird things that happened in the wee hours — unexplained noises, things I thought I might have seen, I never had a full-on visitation from my grandfather, as far as I know.
Eventually, I stopped waiting.
Later, when I was 26, I lost my best friend, Todd.
This death crushed me in new ways.
Young people aren’t supposed to die. We had our lives ahead of us.
We had plans!
And now all I had was regrets — of the things we didn’t do, the chances I hadn’t taken though he’d urged me to, and that I’d never see him again to say sorry about our last words to one another.
But Death doesn’t give two fiddler’s fucks about plans. And it eats regrets for dinner.
While I had no such illusions about ghosts at this point, there was a part of me that held out hope — that somehow Todd could communicate with me.
I soon started having dreams — very vivid dreams where we’d be hanging out together. We’d be talking, driving around, doing the things we’d been doing since high school. And it felt so real.
Usually, I’m able to tell when I’m dreaming.
But in the Todd dreams, that wasn’t the case.
Everything felt so real until some horrible point in the dream where I’d suddenly look at Todd and say, “Hey, wait. You died.”
And then, just like that, the dream would crumble around me.
And I’d wake up feeling the loss of Todd all over again. Though not a ghost, Todd was haunting me no less.
Eventually, though, the nature of the dreams changed. And at some point I was able to keep the dreams alive even after I realized he was dead. And it was then that we were able to talk about things — how I wish I could take back the things we last said to one another, among them.
The skeptic in me believes this all to be my brain attempting to recover, playing things out for me in my sleep to make the pain of Todd’s loss a bit less so. To take away the sting of regret.
But another part of me, that wide-eyed child still waiting for ghosts, thinks perhaps in sleep we can connect with those who’ve moved on.
I think a lot of what I write is informed by the ghosts who still haunt me.
So when Sean and I wrapped up our 2013 serials and decided to write our own standalone novels to finish up the year, I knew what I wanted to write about — ghosts.
I’ve been working on a story, Crash, since I was 18. It’s one of those things that I’ve wanted to finish, but working through it has been tough as hell. It’s a dark story, darker than anything I’ve ever written, I think. It’s also a very personal story without even being about me. And each time I’ve lost someone close to me, I feel the story pulling my strings, wanting me to write it again.
Crash is about loss, and it’s about ghosts, and how we deal with them.
So I was surprised to find that Sean was also writing a ghost story of sorts.
When I read his story beats for the first incarnation of the story, I immediately wanted to help him write his story, rather than finish mine.
So I put Crash aside and helped Sean flesh out the story a bit more.
Threshold is the story of a man, Scott Dawson, whose wife is missing (and presumed dead). He’s spent months clinging to the house he can no longer pay for and trying to be a parent to children without his wife around. And things aren’t going well. He’s about to lose his house, and his kids are slipping away from him.
Soon, Scott finds out that his wife had an uncle he knew nothing about. And that uncle has recently died, leaving the house to their children.
The beautiful old mansion is the answer to all their problems. And they’ll be well compensated for staying there.
There’s just one provision in the will … one of his children have to be on the grounds at all time, or else they lose the house.
But this isn’t just any old house. It has ghosts.
And that’s only the beginning of what lies behind the walls of the mansion.
What I love most about Threshold is a secret I can’t give away, lest I spoil the book. No, it’s not a trick ending sort of book, but there is more than meets the eyes.
And I’m thrilled to have had a chance to help Sean write the rough draft. You should be seeing it later this month.
As for Crash, while I did eventually get back to it, I’m still struggling through the middle part. And since we’ve got Z 2136 coming up, I had to put it aside for a bit.
My hope is that I can get back to it soon, to finally put some of these ghosts to rest.
What about you?
Do you believe in ghosts? Are you haunted by those you’ve lost? Leave a comment below and share your story.