I’ve looked forward to Halloween ever since I stopped being afraid of it, and not for the usual reasons. The costumes and decorations didn’t bother me. It was the idea of the barrier between worlds being dangerously thin -- that, coupled with the ghosts I’d already seen. No one else believed me, which only made it worse.
But the first ghost that I actually talked to cured me of that fear. My parents still think he was an imaginary friend, and I’ve decided not to explain it to them. The list of things I don’t tell them is a pretty long one.
For example, the reason I look forward to Halloween. Overhearing snatches of conversation from beyond the veil is always enlightening.
This year it caught me by surprise. I wasn’t at any of the usual places where I’d felt the veil go thin before -- I was just walking down a random street, and it was the middle of the day. But there was no mistaking the source of those voices. They always sound like they’re coming from straight up and from inside your head at the same time.
“I was a housecat,” the first voice said. I immediately stopped to listen, pulling out my phone and pretending to type in case anyone was watching.
“That’s a cushy gig,” the second voice answered, in the same proto-language that only made sense until I thought about it too long.
“Yeah, no complaints here. How about you?”
“Oh, I have complaints,” the second voice said. “Let me put it this way: if you’re ever tempted to ask for a nice peaceful reincarnation, you’ll want to be specific.”
“What did you get?”
“A tree. I was a bedamned redwood. Do you know how long those things can live? Nine hundred years of swaying in the breeze!”
“That sucks, bro.”
“Yes it does. I’m sure I missed a lot. Hey, how about you? What did you get?”
A third voice joined in, radiating excitement. “I was a robot.”
“What? No way! We can do robots now?”
“Unfair. I’m doing that next.”
“You’d better get in line quick, then,” that third voice said. “The spots are filling up fast.”
There was a little more unintelligible chattering, then the connection faded. I stayed there for a moment longer, fiddling with my phone, then put it in my pocket and moved on. A few steps later, I pulled it out again and wrote down the highlights of the conversation.
Little did I know that it would come back to haunt me, in a most literal manner.