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How do you tell someone about a Ghost?

Okay, in my version of the world, the tilde is a punctuation device similar to quote marks, except that it quotes thoughts. If you are a comic book reader, or have been, you’ll recognize it as analogous to the thought bubbles from Batman, ~Must resist! The Joker’s laughing gas is too strong!~

So, here is the scene, set in 2005, where Duncan musters the courage to tell a former girlfriend that he has been seeing the ghost of a dead mutual friend from high school.


~Start somewhere, the words will follow. The middle is a good place to jump in,~ Duncan wondered where to begin a story that might better be told to a psychiatrist.

“A specter is haunting me in America–the specter of Habib. There don’t seem to be any powers to exorcise this specter: Not Pope Pontifex nor Queen Elizabeth, not Bush nor Blair; no bells, books, candles, nor breathing in and out of a brown paper bag for a few minutes seems to work at all.” He looked over at Megan to see if she was taking this as a joke, or getting ready to call the men in white coats. Her face was a blank slate, so he went on.

“Where is the natural phenomena that hasn’t been called supernatural by some religious group or gang of UFO spotters? This world is more full of spooks and images of Jesus on toast and barn doors than at any time since the Dark Ages. That might mean I’m not imagining this, not going the way of all flesh. However, there are two things that are clear: lots of people believe in apparitions, in personal angels, in all sort of invisible cloud being things. Secondly, I think it is high time that whatever is appearing, or materializing, or I don’t know what-ing… well, it should openly tell us what are its aims, its views, and meet the nursery tales of spirits with a statement of its own position.”

Megan remained impassive and a sense of having said something immensely foolish started to rise in Duncan’s throat, that he had attempted some sort of assault or misjudged her morals. A parade of nasties roared into his head: prison, his mother disowning him, his health failing, ~Darn it. I should not have even tried. I’ll tell her I have an appointment with a shrink next week, and should be Okay in a month or two, and…~

“I saw him. I’ve seen him a lot,” Megan looked like she had seen a ghost.


I suppose it would be fair to say this portion was influenced by The Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels (1848), and that Pontifex is the lead character in Butler’s The Way of All Flesh. (1903), a story in which the protagonist goes to prison for a sexual assault on a woman after misjudging her morals, is disowned by his parents, and his health fails. There are probably several other unconsciously made allusions, or ones that I have forgotten. I’ll try to find them when I write the Mammoth Book of Footnotes to Ian’s weird works of literature.