Waiting to Leave

“Hi there matey, you new here?”

“Yup, arrived yesterday. See that big lump of mountain over there, somewhere on it there’s a rope that’s snapped. That’s mine. The ends are probably all frayed and flapping in the wind. I went down two hundred metres and landed on my head on an ice covered rock where all that lovely soft snow had blown off. Each side there was a deep snow hole. It probably would have made no difference though. Name’s Ernie, Ernest Edwards, from Newcastle.”

“Burt from London. Nice to meet you.”

“Likewise Burt. So what happened to you then?”

“The winding road going up to your big Mountain, it’s very steep with incredibly sharp bends. I was going too fast in a low cloudy, rainy, fog, couldn't slow down and went straight off the edge. Stupid really, I only had to wait for an hour or so, but no, impatience is my middle name… just could not wait. Mont Blanc, that’s what it’s called, isn't it?” 

“That’s the fella, yes, Mont Blanc, the easiest climb or so I was told. When was your crash?”

“Two weeks ago, my black Porsche and I, with my wife, came over to whizz around a few sights. We were staying with a good friend who lives near the mountain. My wife did not want to come so I went on my own. Jacques said he had something to do. I wanted to see the mountain close up before we moved on the next day. And that’s even more stupid. I wouldn't have seen anything, anyway, in that fog. So, you said you were told it was an easy climb? Who said that? I always thought it looked a bit tough.”

“George at the climbing club said it, he’s very experienced. Been up Everest so he should know. I’ve done a few climbs with the club, some quite challenging, but nothing like that. I have to say I was knackered up there. I don’t know how high we had gone but I had reached my limit so I told George we should go down. I probably slipped because I was so tired. You know, I saw a bit about your crash in the newspaper. I don’t think they’ve found you yet. Found the wreck but they thought you’d been thrown out.”

“Yes, I’m wrapped around a fir tree down the bottom of a deep trench between a couple of rock faces. I expect they’re looking but no luck so far. What about this George of yours? I don’t know much about mountaineering but I thought you should be roped together.”

“We were, and that’s a bit of a mystery for sure. I can only assume that ropes break and accidents happen. Come to think of it though, George did shout something that was mostly lost on the wind. Anyway what’s occurring here then?”

“They’ve not found you yet, have they?”

“No, not as far as I’m aware. Is that important?”

“Most certainly. You’re new so he should be along any minute to explain. I will leave that up to him.”

“What are these big black lines?  A bit wiggly but they seem to head off into the distance three ways.

“That’s right, they are the borders. We see them because in our predicament they are like walls. The living don’t because they can cross them anytime. They know they are there but not sure where. This one we are standing by is the border between France and Italy. We are in France. The line joins that one, up there, then goes both ways.”

“Right, so if my geography is correct that’s Switzerland up there. I don’t understand the wall thing though.”

“Try and step into Italy and see what happens.”

“Wow, I bumped my head. Should’ve hurt but didn’t. I guess that’s a perk of being dead. No pain. But what’s this all about?”

“Ah, here comes Pete, the Boss. Just in time, he’ll explain.”

“Morning Burt and morning to you. You must be Eddie.”

“That’s right. How did you know that?”

“It’s my job. I get a full list, it’s here on this clipboard, and have to make sure everyone is appraised of their situation. You told him anything Burt?”

“No Sir, that’s your job. I’m just waiting. In fact I’m going to find a chair. I know I don’t get tired but it just seems fitting to sit while waiting. I’ve always sat while waiting. If there was a chair of course.”

“So Pete, I can call you Pete?”

“Sure you can Eddie, Pete, Boss, Sir, whatever you fancy is OK with me.”

“What’s all this about then? I just bumped my head on the border. There.”

“Well Eddie it’s like this. You have not been found so until you are you cannot leave. Spirits go with bodies, it's as simple as that. Once you’re found you can go wherever you like but in the meantime you have to wait.”

“Wait for how long?”

“Until you are found of course.”

“And if I’m not found?”

“You have to hope you are or you are stuck here and will be here forever if you are not found. You can move around the area a bit. For instance you have wandered up here. I have no problem with that. But much further and I will have to have you brought back.”

“I can’t go and visit Italy then?”

“No, you have to stay in the country you died in, where your body is.”

“Can I help them find me?”

“You can try but it’s pretty futile. They won’t hear or see you unless you are found. A bit of a catch twenty two. A real bummer.”

“I’d say. Bit unfair isn’t it?”

“I agree but I don’t make the rules, just enforce them, so please don’t get out of line. My recovery team can get a bit rough on those who stray. A ghost prod is a nasty contraption. You might think you are pain free now, which you are, mostly. But a ghost prod… you don’t want to be on the end of that. So there you have it. Do you understand?”

“I do, thank you Sir. You won’t have trouble from me.”

“I’m afraid that’s what they all say… until they are not found. Then they stray. Then they scream. A proper ghostly scream I can tell you. Anyway, be in touch.”

“There you go Eddie, I found these two down by the lookout. Plastic but a chair’s a chair so to speak. Oh look, there’s Annie over there coming out the mist in Switzerland. Hi Annie.” Shouting and waving.

“Bit of a lack of enthusiasm isn’t there.”

“I know, Annie is down in the dumps. Bit like you but a different mountain. She fell off the Matterhorn with five others. Biggest single fatality for years. They’ve not been found yet. Three months now and not looking good. Switzerland is a small country so she’s never going to have much fun. Nowhere to go. Unless she’s found of course. Only young. Part of a University climbing team. Wales I think.”

“Why is that last one hanging back so far?”

“That’s Ron, he tried to run but got caught of course. They always get caught. Got the prod. Pete told you about the prod? Well Ron got it good. Made him smoke and the smell… singed ghost, lingers for weeks. You notice he’s down wind.”

“Well I’m determined to avoid that. So back to your car - you obviously love driving. Zipping around in a sports car.”

“Yes, absolutely, it’s my life. Or was Ha Ha. Did a lot of track days. All over Europe. I dragged Clare, my wife, along but she stayed mostly with Jacques. Got bored too easily. I was quite good actually, if I say so myself. Posted some good track times.”

“Stayed with Jacques? Were you OK with that?”

“Yes, why not. She was always keen to get there. it’s why she came really… now you’ve got me thinking.”

“Did you have life insurance?”

“Sure, who doesn't, upped it to seven hundred and fifty thousand just.. a.. few.. months.. ago. Clare suggested we review it.”

“So tell me again why neither of them wanted to go with you.”

“Too wet and something to do. Jacques had spent the morning out front cleaning his car before it rained. Offered to do mine as well.”

“The brakes, you said you could not slow down.”

“Yes, hit the brakes but no response, then I was over, no time to think anything of it. Do you think… no… but I would not put it past them. What about you? Did you have life insurance?”

“Of course, five hundred thousand, but Ruth did not come with us, She never comes. Says things like, “be careful” and “I don’t like you doing this.” Tells all our friends how she’s so worried I will fall off.”

“She didn't have to come, did she? She could just sit at home and wait for the cheque to fall through the door. Her only problem, hauling you home for burial. What about George? Did she know him?”

“Well yes as it happens, they have worked together these last two years. It was Ruth who introduced me to him. And the climbing club. Now I think about it, how strange is that? Encourage me to do something she was worried about me doing. Never thought of that before.”

“And telling all your friends about her worries. A good alibi is it not. Sow the seeds. I can hear them all talking, saying, “and she was so worried that he would kill himself,” and stuff like that.”

“They were a bit pally. She went to bridge classes twice a week. George played bridge or so he said. I never did check out those classes. Didn’t think it necessary. I don’t play. He shouted something as I slipped, it was into the wind so not too clear, but might have been something like… no I’m not sure. But it could have ended .....and good riddance.”

“Mountaineering ropes are very reliable, strong. Maybe he cut it.”

“Perhaps he did… perhaps he did. It would clear up an awful lot of loose ends that are coming to mind.”

“Seems we both might be the victims of the perfect crime. Oh well we won’t know for sure unless we get out of this limbo situation. Look here comes Pete. Either good news or another new one has arrived. He doesn't come for any other reason.”

“Burt, Eddie, good news for both of you. This does not happen often, two finds in one day, but there you go, it makes me happy. You have both been found. You Burt were a right mess, they virtually had to hose you off the tree. And Eddie, your head, well you can imagine, diving onto a sharp rock from two hundred metres. The high vis, orange, day glow jacket saved you, a helicopter crew saw you and could winch you up. Anyway you’re both found and on the way home so I can release you. Off you go and enjoy your Ghosting. So nice to have met you.”

“Well Eddie, that’s a turn up and no mistake. Do you know I’ve really enjoyed our chat. We’ll have to stay in touch. How about we meet up at the Coach and Horses in Soho. I know we can’t drink but the smell of the beer will be refreshing will it not. Say six months. What about New Year’s Eve. We can celebrate and exchange notes on our first experiences in our new careers.”

“Sounds good to me. And thanks Burt for all your help with the waiting. Well I’m off. Going to have a trip around Italy, check out a few of the main sights, then home to see how everything panned out. Look no bumped head.”

The Coach and Horses is heaving as you would expect, the New Year party in full swing. Burt is just hanging around, wandering through the pub sniffing all the different drinks. He sees Eddie come in.

“Over here Eddie, smell the aroma, fantastic, isn't it?”

“Great to see you Burt. Actually I prefer a pint of Heavy, but no matter, this is great. Look at all these people having a good time. So how have you got on?”

“Fantastic, been all over the place, met lots of others and made new friends. Oh, I saw Annie in Wales. By a stroke of luck they were all found and she’s back home.”

“And Ron, did she say how Ron was. Does he still stink?”

“No, he recovered soon after we left and they were found four weeks later. She’s over the stress and is starting to enjoy herself. You know, Jacques and Clare are shacked up together in his place in France. You were right and they are living the life, spending all that life insurance money. He fixed the brakes to fail if pushed hard on the pedal. I’m going to haunt them, make their lives a misery. Serves them right. And Ruth and George?”

“Yup, they’re in my house, well our house but hers now. He cut the rope alright, the blighter. I’ve already started haunting them and while I am away I’ve arranged for temporary cover. Don’t want any breaks in my haunting schedule.”

“Wow, that’s a good idea. I tell you what, we could do a spot of haunt exchange if you fancy a break in France. And maybe a spell of double haunting to really ram things home. That would be great wouldn’t it? A double haunt. Think of the misery that would cause.”

“Sounds the biz to me Burt. Well here’s to a happy New Year and to all our future haunting adventures.”  




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