Weekly Photo Challenge: Family & Hidden

Going out of order with my photo challenge catch-ups, I know. 🙂 But it’s the holidays, and for me holidays means family, and one of my missed photo challenges over at DP was Family. At first I was browsing looking for your average family photo–not a posed one, because as nice as those can be, they aren’t the real everyday truth of a family. Those pictures are the unexpected ones, or the ones taken on any old weekday. But in my search, I found this photo by yi-ching lin tagged for the “Family” photo challenge and I kinda love it.(I’m unable to insert the image directly in this post, so I highly recommend you go there and check it out. Yi-Ching has a lot of great photos on his/her blog, in fact!)

It’s a more morose take on the idea, yes, but it instantly brought Ghostlight to mind. A big part of Bette’s life is that her brother is dead and she doesn’t know why, and her family has been falling apart ever since. I’ve been itching to write the next section, and after seeing this picture it struck me: this girl is seeing ghosts, new murders have striking similarities to Graham’s mysterious death, why hasn’t she gone to visit grave yet in this story exactly? Duh!

For added flavor, I’m throwing in some elements of this picture I mentioned a few weeks ago by three sticks of watusi.

Family & Hidden

Mist still hung heavy in the air; it hadn’t burned off with the morning, instead choosing to hang around for the whole day. But really, how much more fitting could it get? Halloween was a few days away, there were unsolved murders, I was seeing ghosts, and now I was standing in front of a cemetery gate. A chill mist that felt like it was sinking into my skin and weighing down my bones would’ve only been more appropriate if I were also in London.

I stepped closer, curling my fingers around the cold iron bars on the gate. I wanted to go in, to visit Graham’s grave…to answer the question I’d had in the back of my mind since this began. Would his ghost be there? I just wasn’t sure what answer I wanted. If he was there–and, presuming ghosts could also be seen in the daylight, another answer I didn’t yet have–it would mean getting the answers I’d wanted for three years. But if he wasn’t, then there was no telling what that meant. Maybe he was gone on to his afterlife. Or, more likely from how he’d died, his ghost, his soul, was somewhere else altogether.

Only one way to find out, Lauden. No more stalling.

Letting go of the iron gate, my last refuge, I stepped into the fog of the graveyard. The temperature dropped around me and I knew that even if ghosts weren’t visible, they were still here. The mist obscured what might be real, or imagined, or spectral at first, but a few feet further revealed the outlines of colorless people, lurking about their graves, watching my approach with sad confusion. I don’t think they knew I saw them, and that was fine with me. After trying to sort out so many ghosts at the tree the other night, the chill in the air as they clustered around me, I was happy to let these ones think I was just like any other mourner. But I did study them out of the corner of my eyes as I passed.

They were less clearly defined than the ghosts I’d seen at night, and most of them were sulking in a solitary fashion, even if they had neighbors. One set of graves, a trio of them in fact, provided a different tableau altogether. A husband, wife, and child, buried together and now haunting their plot together. The couple held hands while the child ghost talk excitedly to them about the other ghosts and people he’d seen visiting the cemetery.

What kept all of them here? Had they been murdered like the ghosts at the tree, and that was why they lingered? Was there some other family member they were waiting for? Or did they even know? Hell, there were enough things I’d done without really knowing the reasons, especially in the last few days. I hadn’t yet seen much reason why death should be any different; if anything, the ghosts I’d met were even more out of it than the living.

That thought brought me to a halt. What if Graham’s ghost was here–and what if he was as lost as the Lantern Man’s victims? Graham had been sharp in life, very intelligent and even craftier than any of us knew. I’d prepared myself for the thought of his ghost existing here, but not for the idea that if he was, he may be very different from the brother I had known. Three years is a long time, and what kind of company did ghosts make? Shreds and shadows of the living, cut off from what they knew, unable to move on. Unable to move at all past a certain point, depending on what anchored them here. What’s his mind, his memory, his fire–whatever you might call it for a ghost–was as much a shadow as the rest of him?

I didn’t try to peer through the mists at the ghosts around me as I turned and hurried out of the cemetery. Some answers I really wasn’t ready for.


Sense and Hauntability

There are many variations on what ghosts are and what they are like in fiction. I’m writing a story that features them rather predominantly, so I’ve been thinking lately on what that means. What are my ghosts like and why? If they are going to be characters, however large or small, they should be given some serious consideration.

To begin: How do ghosts exist in the first place?

Not everyone becomes a ghost. Some die and move on to whatever comes next (if anything), while some linger. What is it that lingers? Essentially, in my story, it’s the soul. The intangible life force that makes a living thing live and gives it awareness and uniqueness. What makes a soul linger? A lot of things. So far, it seems a violent death can bind a soul into lingering in this world rather than moving on or crossing over. They are tied to the place of their death, or something associated with it at the very least, and can only wander so far from it. A ghost doesn’t eat, doesn’t take in energy the way a human body can and does. It has only so much of itself to give, and much of that is already being used to exist at all. What it can do beyond that is limited.

Unless, of course, it finds a way to gain more energy after all. But there is only one source for a ghost–the energy of other souls.

A soul that is in transition can be absorbed, or eaten, or claimed, or otherwise taken in by another. That energy (or as one ghost calls it, soul fire) gives it strength–strength to move further, to manifest before mundane eyes, to even manifest physically for a time. What’s a soul in transition? A person who is dying, or a ghost who is crossing over. Basically the soul is vulnerable when it’s not firmly attached to something.

So, a ghost is a soul, and a soul is a kind of energy. They can use this energy for various purposes, such as making houses make strange noises, knocking things off a table, opening doors when no one’s there to open them and so forth. But while a ghost haunts the place it died, it isn’t necessarily nothing more than a moaning spirit. Why shouldn’t ghosts be able to talk, converse, have thoughts and opinions and everything else? If the soul is, as we most often believe, what makes you you, then shouldn’t that hold true even after your body is gone?

But something more than just the physical presence must change. Death is traumatic, and all of the senses a person had as a human being are gone. New senses must exist now. How does a ghost experience the world?

Apart from the lack of the five senses in the way we know them, a physical body brings with it certain limitations that now no longer exist. A ghost need not have a concept of time the way we do, or even the bonds of it. Some ghost stories focus on a ghost that is trying to express a message of warning. What if time is a new sense for a ghost, the way touch or smell or hearing are for humans? If they can see a little ways further than us into the past or future? Or at least, some of them can, the same way some people have better eyesight than others.

Likewise, there are ghost stories where the ghosts know the secrets of the people they are haunting. What if ghosts can also ‘see’ into your mind? Thoughts, feelings, secrets, dreams?

Personally I’m enjoying expanding on what senses a ghost has, not only for trying something new with ghosts, but it gives me some tools to use in the story, while still limiting how much they can be used, by whom, and how well. After all, sometimes your eyes and ears play tricks on you–who’s to say what a ghost believes it has seen in the future or heard in your mind is any more or less reliable than our own senses?