I died today. First I didn't even realize it but when I got up and noticed that my body didn't - it just stayed there, lying on the bed - I understood that something might be wrong. I thought that morning coffee would chase away my usual tiredness and make my brain working better but when I came back to the bedroom, it still lay there - dead. I didn't see myself moving, neither appeared I be breathing, so I started to anticipate that I might not be alive anymore, and when I took a proper look at my hands and arms -the ones I had at the moment - they seemed to be partially transparent. This doesn't sound very much like being alive, indeed.
Two policemen came here today and after the police had inspected my home, they took my body away. Just like that. They didn't pay any attention to me, not that I'd have wanted that, though. In fact, I hid from them and seemed to succeed in that, even if I wasn't very good at hiding, when I was still living. It indeed seems that I'm dead now. Based on what I know, I think I've even become a ghost. But why did I become one? I thought only people who have unfinished business with someone or something turn into ghosts when they die. I don't remember having anything that would have been left unfinished when I died. Or well, actually lots of things but they were only some small matters, or at least nothing special or important in any case.
Why did I become a ghost when I died? What's my unfinished business? I've tried to think about those questions for...for...I've lost the track of time but it feels like a long time for me anyway, but I still can't find the answer for those. Damn it, I'm sure that I'll linger here for all eternity, because I'm supposed to complete my unfinished business with someone or something but I don't even know what it is! How frustrating!
My relatives came here today and started to go through my belongings! How bothering! I'd have preferred to shout at them to stop doing it but I guess it would've done nothing good. I'm a ghost now. I'm dead to them, I'm not supposed to hang in here to haunt my relatives, right? My sister's endless nosiness turned out to be useful for me for once, since she so shamelessly went through my writings and papers. When she had finished reading my silly, embarrassing poems and love song lyrics she accidentally dropped something interesting onto the ground. I read it when they had left. It turned out to be an unfinished letter to my childhood pen pal. I had totally forgotten him. And the letter I was supposed to write back to him.
This is utterly ridiculous. The letter can't be my unfinished task, can it? I can't possibly have turned into a ghost after I died and have stayed in this world, because I semi-purposefully forgot to reply to my pen pal, when I was a child, right? When I was little, it was popular to have one or more pen pals - in addition to the one that was living in a neighboring city, I even had a pen pal from Finland! I remember the time she sent me some horrible-tasting black candy as a birthday present. I first thought she was trying to poison me with that horrible stuff but then I discovered that those strange people actually eat that kind of candy there, where she's from! However, if it was common to exchange letters with someone either near or far, it was almost equally common to slowly but certainly forget them. First you started to become lazy with writing back and it took longer and longer from you to reply until you eventually stopped replying at all. Mostly, this was a mutual occurrence, like a wordless, silent agreement; your pen pal also started replying more slowly and they never wrote another letter to for instance ask from you if the post had lost their previous letter, since they had got no reply from you lately. I really doubt it that my pen pal would have been eagerly waiting for my letter after I stopped writing back - and if he had, why didn't he write another letter to me to ask if I had simply forgotten to reply?
The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that the unfinished letter is my unfinished business and the reason why I am still here. I know it probably sounds insane but on the other hand, being a ghost sounds insane, too. So, that kind of makes sense in a weird way, maybe. I've decided to finish that letter and get it delivered to my old childhood pen pal. Except that I don't know his address, since he probably doesn't live in his childhood home anymore...but that's a problem to be solved later. First I need to get that letter written, for instance, how am I going to apologize for replying him so late...decades later? Like "I'm sorry I haven't kept in contact with you in several years but it was just recently, after I died and turned into a damned ghost, when I remembered that you exist and I have to write back" ...uh, doesn't sound very good. Maybe I'll come up with a good excuse.
I finally managed to finish that letter, and I clearly feel that I'm going to the right direction - that this silly thing is the task I need to finish so that I can find my peace and my soul can pass on to wherever I'm supposed to move on to. About the matter of getting the letter sent to the right address: I didn't find my pen pal's current address anywhere - but I found out that his parents still live in the same place where his family lived when we still wrote to each other, and that'll have to be close enough. Most likely his parents can give that damned letter to him, when they get it! Now I just have to send it to them.
My first endeavor to get the letter sent was a failure. The post offices aren't open at midnight. I had forgotten that simple fact during this time I've been a ghost.
My second endeavor to get the letter sent was a failure, too. This time I understood to visit the post office during the opening hours, like normal people do. Surprisingly, I didn't draw any attention to myself, when I visited there. Nobody got scared by a ghost visiting a post office. I stood in the queue with others and patiently waited for my turn to run my errand. Then I noticed an official sitting at a side desk and left my place in the queue and walked to him. "Good afternoon, sir, could I get this letter delivered, please?" I asked him. He took the letter and stared at it for a moment, then instantly replying: "No." "Excuse me?" I asked appalled and wondered: "Why not?" and he patiently explained me: "It lacks the stamp." "Oh, I see," I replied embarrassed - I had also forgotten that letters need stamps to get delivered. I'm astonished how quickly I've forgotten how things work out in the world of the living. But on the other hand, I didn't send many letters during the last years of my life. I intended to go to buy a stamp at once and be done with this all but I realized that I had no money with me, and a dead person probably can't pay with the bank card.
My third endeavor to get the letter sent was a failure, too. I visited the post office during its opening hours and there was a beautifully decorated stamp on my letter. I walked to the same official again, full of confidence, and handed the letter to him, asking: "Good afternoon, sir, could I get this letter delivered, please?" But again, he simply replied: "No." "Excuse me, sir?" I asked him, not even bothering to try to hide the astonishment in my voice, and wondered: "Why not?" Then the man replied calmly, not having even a hint of fright in his voice: "Because you are a ghost." " I - I beg you pardon?" I cried out, startled by the fact that he had noticed my current condition, and he explained: "Ghosts cannot send letters, only the living can. I have never before seen a ghost trying to send a letter, never during all these years I have spent here, so therefore it cannot be possible." "Is it so obvious that I...I'm a ghost?" I whispered shocked. "Of course it is," he replied with a polite tone. I left the post office at once, feeling extremely distressed because someone had noticed that I'm a ghost. I think it's not socially acceptable to be a ghost in this society, not to mention to be recognized as such.
My fourth endeavor to get the damned letter sent was a failure, too. Full of determination, I marched back to the post office a couple of days after my previous attempt to send the letter. "Damn it, this is utterly ridiculous! During all those years of my life, I dutifully paid the taxes and now that I'm dead, I couldn't even get one simple letter sent, because I'm a ghost! That indeed wouldn't be fair! There must be a way to finish this and finally find my peace!" I thought rather irritated on my way to the post office. I walked to the same official again and single-minded said to him: "Good afternoon, sir. I'd like to get this letter delivered finally, please." "Oh, it is you again," he observed and reminded me: "I thought I already informed you that unfortunately ghosts cannot send letters." "And why not?" I annoyed questioned what he had stated. He sighed and replied stubbornly, obviously relying on the authority he thought he possessed: "Because they just can't," but this time I didn't give up so easily and argued: "Excuse me, good sir, but I think discrimination is illegal! I have the same right to send letters as any other customer!" He looked at me and replied, obviously trying to fool me with some legal terms: "You definitely are not a natural person." I, however, tried to remember the little I knew about the law terms and snapped at him: "Maybe so, but then at least I'm a juridical person!" He stared at me for a moment but then shook his head and questioned what I just said: "I would not be quite certain about that, either." At this point I think I even cursed and said to him offended: "Damn it, I don't have to deal with you anymore, I'll choose the other official to deal with, as a customer I've got all the rights to do so!" and smiled at him arrogantly. "Oh, I don't think that's a very good idea, sir," he tried to intimidate me but I wasn't startled that easily. Thus, I left him be and placed myself at the end of the long queue of people waiting for their turn to meet that other official. Now I thought I understood why there was no queue to the official I had dealt with previously. The line moved slowly but on the other hand, I had all the time in the world to wait for my turn there!
Finally it was my turn and I walked to the woman who was standing at her desk. I smiled at her politely, greeted her and asked her: "Good day, Ms, I'd fancy to get this letter delivered to the address that is written on it, please." But she just stared at me frightened, as if she had seen a ghost - which in fact was very true in this case. She turned pale and mumbled something like "I need to get some water before I faint," and left. Then I understood to look down and noticed that I had accidentally placed myself so that my legs had disappeared into the chair that I had failed to notice standing there. This ability of walking through solid objects is quite tricky sometimes, especially if you wouldn't like to draw any attention to yourself. I subtly moved out of the chair and hoped that nobody else had seen what had just happened. Soon another woman walked to the desk and greeted me: "Apologies, the other official isn't feeling quite well today. How can I help you, sir?" I explained her that I needed to get the letter sent, and finally everything appeared to go well - but then, when I was handing the cursed envelope to her, our hands touched each other and she accidentally stuck her hand straight into mine in a horrible, unnatural way that was impossible to fail to notice! I really need to find out properly how this ability of being transparent works. That warm flesh of hers felt quite unpleasant in my ectoplasmic limb. And, instead of feeling unwell and leaving or fainting, this hag cried out triumphantly: "A ghost! I knew this place was haunted! Quickly, catch the spirit, someone call an exorcist!" I left the post office with haste.
The fifth attempt to get the letter sent remained my last endeavor to do so. One last time, I walked to the post office. I couldn't deal with the female officials anymore, since they didn't take the fact that I'm a ghost very well last time I spoke to them. Thus, the only option that remained was to swallow my pride and try to beg for mercy from the only official who didn't seem to be afraid of ghosts. I cautiously entered the post office and looked around. There seemed to be no exorcists anywhere and the old hag at the office didn't seem to notice me, so I subtly passed the other customers by and humbly walked to the official that I had in vain tried to persuade to deliver my letter before.
I slightly bent over his desk and whispered him desperately: "Listen, I know you've told me many times that ghosts can't send letters but I still can't understand why!? What harm would it cause to anyone or anything if you just looked the other way this time and let me finish my business here?" He sighed heavily and explained: "Well, first of all, it has not happened ever before, so therefore I am certain that it is not allowed this time, either. And secondly, you must understand that if the mail men started delivering letters from dead persons, it would make our company seem too slow, especially if the dead person has been deceased for several years. You must understand that I cannot allow you to worsen our public image." "Damn it, the mail company is super slow already, not even ghost letters could worsen the situation anymore," I hissed at him angrily but having seen his offended expression and remembering his superior position over me at the very moment, I instantly apologized him that I had insulted his employer and took back what I had said. I changed my tone and begged him anxiously: "Please, you must help me! I'm a ghost, like you already know. As ridiculous as this all sounds, I can't find the peace for my soul, if I can't get this letter sent to Percival Cuthbert's parents, so that they can deliver it to their son!" and couldn't resist to pose a slight threat on him: "I'll remain haunting this post office for all eternity, if it comes to that!" The official looked at me with a sad face and said: "Sending the letter to his parents wouldn't even be a good idea. It would just upset them, since Percival Cuthbert has been dead for years now." "How could you possibly know that?" I cried out suspiciously - but he explained: " Because I am Percival Cuthbert." "What?" I squeaked faintly and he added: "You see, I'm a ghost, too." For a moment we both were quiet but then I asked him - mainly to break the awkward silence but also out of curiosity: "So, what's your unfinished business? Why did you stay in this world?"
"A letter," he replied after a moment of hesitation and continued: "I remained here, in my old working place, even after my death. At days I simply wander around the building and try not to cause any inconveniences in the world of the living. But the nights I spend searching for a letter that was lost decades ago. The one that I never received from my childhood pen pal. As hard as it is to admit for me...the mail company must have lost it somewhere, because I never got it." I stared at him shocked and it all felt clear to me now. This cursed letter I was holding was the reason why we both were here! I had always thought that the ghosts would have more noble reasons to linger in this world than something like a silly letter that their pen pal never got!
"I - I'm so very sorry," I eventually managed to say and continued: "You see, I'm Albert, your childhood pen pal. And here, this is the letter you were looking for. I tried to get it delivered to you." "Oh my...this can't be true! This is the letter I've been looking for all these years!" he cried out confused and quickly grabbed it. He opened it and read it; I saw something that resembled tears glistening in the corners of his eyes as he gazed through the rows I had scribbled, and I wondered if he noticed how my clumsy childhood handwriting shifted into my adulthood - or rather, ghosthood one. "I'm so sorry I didn't send this earlier but I kind of...was always so busy and postponed finishing it, I intended to reply as soon as possible but..." I told him white lies, feeling guilty and added: "And, I didn't even realize that this would be so important to you." "Well, of course it was important to me!" he replied as if it was the most natural thing in the world that receiving the letter from a childhood pen pal was a serious matter to him. "I almost thought that you had forgotten me!" he pointed out and I lied: "Of course I hadn't," and once more apologized for my late reply.
"Well, the main thing is that I got that letter from you, eventually," he said contently, not appearing to hold any grudges against me. "So, do you think that now we can finally find the peace for our souls?" I asked him. I anticipated him, having a longer experience of being a ghost, also to have a better comprehension about the matters of being one and what happens after it, and therefore inquired: "I mean, now that we both have completed our unfinished business in this world, can we finally move on to the afterlife or whatever waits for us there and get our spirits laid to rest?" He thought about my question for a while and considered: "Yes, I think so - but I'm not going anywhere, before I've had a refreshing eggnog after all this time I've stayed here, in my old working place - now that my never ending shift has finally ended! Would you like to join my company, by the way?" "Yes, please, that'd be most delightful! I definitely feel like I also need a strong drink after everything that has happened to me recently!" I replied and smiled relieved.
It was late evening already when those two middle-aged men left the post office and walked out of it through its back door. It was a Saturday night a couple of days before the Christmas eve, and it was snowing slightly. They walked together towards the local pub, leaving no footprints onto the thin layer of pristine snow; anyone who happened to notice that, thought that they were too drunk or high, since they apparently were seeing a hallucination. On their way, one of the two men asked the other: "If getting my letter was so important to you, why didn't you ever send another letter to me to ask whether I had gotten your previous one? You know, the post could've lost one of our letters or I could have simply forgotten that it was my turn to write to you." The other man was silent for a moment before replying: "Well, at that time... I know this sounds ridiculous now... but I thought that the public organizations, such as the mail company, couldn't make mistakes, ever. And, oh well...my pride didn't allow me to ask from you if you had forgotten me or grown bored of writing to me." "Oh, right..." the other man replied, seeming to feel a bit awkward. They walked in silence for some time, until the other man asked from his childhood pen pal in turn: "And by the way, why didn't you simply put the letter into a letterbox, instead of persistently trying to get it sent at the post office? That would've been the easiest way to get it delivered for sure!"