“I won’t leave my body, I told myself, no matter what happens.”
Hi. I’m B.T. Lowry. Welcome to this week’s scene of the week, Ghostyard.
by Tim Green
I won’t leave my body, I told myself, no matter what happens.
A riverbank is a stupid place for a graveyard. The bodies are bound to get washed away over time. People go to the river to get clean, or take their water buffaloes to wash the dust off. It’s meant to be a pure place, and a purifying place. Some worship this river, or use its water to worship other gods. But that same water filters through graves. How can it be pure?
I slowed down as I neared the graveyard, keeping an eye out for the rowdy ghosts, especially him.
On the other hand, maybe it was a good place to bury the dead. I had seen fewer and fewer ghosts there, since I’d come as a kid. Ghosts tend to stick around their bodies, and if their bodies have washed away, the spirits can go on to whatever’s next for them. Another life, usually. I’d known most of the kids in our village when they were old.
That’s why cremation is good: the vessel is gone so the spirit moves on.
Usually. The one I sought tonight was old. Old and tricky.
I won’t let him fool me.
I looked carefully at the gravestones, taking in all the details. The crack there above the old woman’s name. I’d known her. Only dried flowers there now, a garland of red, yellow, orange, red, yellow, orange. If that old ghost made an illusion, he’d have to get every detail right to fool me.
He lives here. He knows the details better than me.
Never mind that. I’d just come to talk with him, ask him why he’d been causing trouble.
Was there a purple flower in that garland?
In India, ghost-knowledge is much more comprehensive than in the West (except the movie Ghostbusters, of course). Growing up in Canada, I sometimes wondered if ghosts existed. A glimpse of one, or word that someone had had even the remotest experience of one, was cause for gossip and fear among us kids. But in India they are categorized in many ways, largely according to the life they had while in a physical body.
If someone performs spiritual practices but also nefarious acts, for example they might become a powerful ghost. Those were often the worst kind. Sometimes whole families or even villages might be ghosts together, having been ripped out of their old lives all together by some violent event. There are ghosts fixed in trees, those who know they’re ghosts and those who don’t. Some are ‘for hire,’ and a dark tantric can incite them to attack living people. They can possess people’s bodies, and it’s easier if the people are weak-minded due to intoxication or mental illness.
Ghosts have their terms as ghosts, like jail sentences. Often they are living out what would have been the remainder of their life, which was cut short by a sudden death. It generally sucks to be a ghost, because they have the same sensory desires as they did in their lives, but without the physical senses to satisfy those desires. Powerful sages and yogis can release them from their terms as ghosts and send them on to whatever comes next, usually rebirth as a human or in another species.
Interesting stuff. Some day I’d like to develop a more complex story involving ghosts.
Thanks for reading. If you’d like to see this scene expanded into a story, then tell me in the comments that this is the one you want. If you want to see what I can do with a deeper story, pick up my novel here, Fire from the Overworld. It is the story of two young mystics who fight to restore balance in their desert village, when war erupts among its spirit rulers. Feel free to sign up for the new scenes in your mailbox each week, along with guest posts, and my thoughts about living, loving, investigation and creation.
This work is licensed Creative Commons, attribution, which means you can use it however you want, even commercially. Just let people know which bits came from me. Thanks!