Ghosts For the Greater Good

This story’s Prompt, from, by Julie Duffy, was to write a children’s story inspired by the concept of “The Golden Rule.” I took some liberty with that, as it has more to do with Karma as a wider concept of which the Golden Rule could be considered a part. It’s a strange sort of story– I haven’t had my kids read it yet, since I just finished it and they’re all in bed– but I will have them read it soon and give their feedback.

You might read this story and notice a lot of “big words” and think, “those words shouldn’t be in a children’s story.” If you’re thinking that, you don’t have my children– they are sharp, and probably know almost as many big words as I do, and I know they can handle what I’ve written here. In fact, I used the words I used on purpose because if I didn’t, they’d probably compain to me that the story was too “baby-ish” or something.

Anyhow, it’s a rough draft at best, and likely not as cohesive as it could be. But I hope it’s thought-provoking enough. I’m also open to suggestions for a better title.

There is a place, not so far away, where humans and ghost people live together, but they cannot see each other. The humans live in houses, and walk on streets, and go to schools and work just like you and I do. But unlike where we live, in this town– called Hazy Vale– unexplainable things happen so often that it’s a strange day when a kid doesn’t have their books and papers scattered as they’re walking to school, or when a family doesn’t sit down to dinner only to have the soup bowls spilled all over their laps, or countless other unfortunate accidents brought on by the ghost people in their parallel world.

But it’s not really that the ghost people mess up the human world, although it may seem that way. It’s not an easy thing to explain, and I’m not sure I understand it all myself, but I’ll try. I only have the knowledge I have, because I recently visited Hazy Vale to see it for myself, and encountered a ghost with the rare ability to cross over into the human world for short moments of time. Ghosts, you must know, live a very, very long time; and so even though this particular ghost only spends minutes a day observing our world, he’s lived long enough to learn our language, and some other things about our way of life. He’s even given himself a human name– Snappy. I don’t know why he chose that name; I’d hate to hurt his feelings by asking.

In any case, Snappy discovered me in a cafe on my second day in Hazy Vale, and aptly ascertained that I was there for observation, because he saw me taking notes in a notebook, and recording myself talking about what I witnessed. We were able to converse long enough to arrange a regular meeting time at that same place, every day for the next two weeks. Here is what I learned:

The world of the ghost people is– just as the ghosts themselves– immaterial. Ghosts have no need of shelter, or food, or anything other than open air to move through. They have no need of arms, or legs, or eyes. But they do have souls, and they do have minds. And they have something else– something Snappy attempted several times to explain to me, and the closest word I could come up with in our world to compare is awareness. They drift through the universe– through multiple universes, I would guess– and they observe everything and take in everything that surrounds them when they shift in and out of these other places. Snappy and the other ghost people don’t spend all of their time interacting with Hazy Vale– they have been to countless other worlds as well. And one thing they’ve learned is that everything in the universe is connected. That no thing, no thought, no action, no event, stands entirely alone. It’s like a ripple in a pool that begins at the point of a stone hitting the water; or like a domino falling and hitting against another, and another, and so on. Except those are pale comparisons to the expansive consequences that occur within the realm of the ghost people. For their world appears to be the place where all these repercussions of the other worlds come to play out, and– eventually– to rest, if the ghosts can manage to contain them. And if they cannot do that, then sometimes they are forced to push them back out– in measured doses– to where they came from, or at least somewhere approximating their place of origin.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “What goes around comes around?” Or heard of a concept called “Karma?” Practically every human culture on the earth has some way of framing the idea that everything we do in our lives tends to come back to us in some way, some time. “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” “Be careful what you wish for.” The same sort of idea is central to all of these– the idea that our words or actions– or even our thoughts– have consequences beyond our control.

According to Snappy, he and the other ghost people have been laboring for eons– since before humanity even existed– to alleviate the major consequences of the universe. Sometimes they’ve failed; they couldn’t stop the disaster that killed off the dinosaurs (It wasn’t a meteorite, by the way, but that’s not the important thing). People have been making big mistakes since they first arrived in their respective planes of existence, and it’s been up to the ghosts to figure out how to affect the outcomes of those mistakes.

For instance, if someone driving their car loses focus because they’re trying to read a map while they drive, the consequence could be that the car drives off a cliff with five people inside. If the ghosts can prevent that from happening, then they can take the big consequence– five people dead or injured in a car crash– and break it up into smaller consequences. Like that example I gave earlier of the soup spilled on the family’s laps. Or someone tripping and scraping their knee. Or even sleeping in and being late for school.

Actually, never mind that last example. If you’re careless enough to stay up late on a school night and then sleep too late the next day, the ghosts probably decided that’s not a mistake worth saving you from, and you really should make sure you go to bed earlier next time.

Point being– it’s the big things the ghost people tend to focus on the most. But of course, they can’t be everywhere all the time, so they still miss a lot. And the closer you are to Hazy Vale, the more likely it is that they’ll catch your mistake in time and be able to fix it. That’s probably why the people of Hazy Vale continue to live there, despite the minor inconveniences associated with daily life in the vicinity of otherworldly beings. Somehow, they sense that very few truly bad things ever happen in their town– that they’re truly rather lucky all things considered. I have even been told by residents of the place, that many of them have left Hazy Vale for a time to experience life elsewhere, and they almost always decide to come back.

In fact, after all I’ve learned, I might have to convince myself to settle here as well. But shhh, don’t tell everyone else. There’s not possibly room for the whole world population here, after all. But if you choose, maybe try to do something in your own town– in your own neighborhood, or even your own home– to be a little more thoughtful, a little more careful, a little more kind. And maybe the ghosts will take notice, and maybe some of them will move to your town, and together you can make your little corner of the world just a little bit better and brighter and beautiful to behold.

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