My dad’s name is John Josephs Jr. and he’s a ghost, and what he misses most about being human is: SUPERFOOD SMOOTHIES.
On his plane of existence, they taste like cigarettes and feel like razorblades going down.
I know this, because Father still speaks to me, even after death. I mean really talks, which is the way it always was, and the way it seems its always going to stay.
His voice in my head, blabbing about outsourcing production and quality inspections and liability risk and my failures as a daughter. It’s torture.
‘Torture you deserve,’ is what he says.
Debatable, really. If he hadn’t been such a dick father, maybe things might have turned out better. No response to that one.
All he can talk about is how pissed off he is to be dead, trapped with all the other Astral Bodies I’m carrying around in my head. Like I can do something about it, like I’m something more than a vessel – a Life Raft stuck in the Not Quite Afterlife.
I didn’t want to start hearing all their voices, crying about the machines that crushed their body parts or the factories that lit on fire or their malarial babies. You think I wanted that?
No, but Dad tossed me out early on when I didn’t get on with Old Lady number 3. Or 4. Who can remember?
So I ended up down here, in a lean-to at the bottom of the hill beside Chemical River, where stuff happens. Some people grow a little arm out of their bellies, others maybe it’s piles of warts. Me, I started hearing voices.
Calling me. Getting inside me. Shaking my eyeballs from the back.
That’s an inner mutation, is the problem. Most of us Valley People, they call us Mutants up top. We usually take good to our own kind. But I don’t look the part. I have the straight teeth of richness in youth and, aside from the lazy eye when I’m tired, nothing visibly out of sorts with me. Until I open my mouth and say what’s in my head. But no one wants to believe that’s a mutation. It’s not weird enough I guess.
My name is Night and my Moon is a hole in the ground, dug by hand, filled with fire, and I’m not mutant enough for the real Mutants. Even though that doesn’t get me out of the Valley. And no one up there is taking me back.
It’s been about a year, give or take, since it happened. A big change and yet nothing changed. And I guess these fucking ghosts won, ‘cause they’d been saying I was next all along. Like, how I was the same as them, even if Daddy hadn’t killed me with unsafe working conditions and/or lack of medical aid. I was in for the slow game, they said. If the cold didn’t get me, the poison river would.
Hogwash, I said. Because what did I care? Like it was new information.
He wrote you out of his will, they said.
Which, maybe it was ‘cause they were in my head, which was one of the worst things they could say. ‘Cause I’ll admit I was holding out for that. The least the poor rich fucker could do is leave his first begotten daughter a chunk of his bloody slave cash. At this point, I deserved it.
He doesn’t think so, they said. Why don’t you go ask him yourself, they said.
And so I did, I trudged up the ice and snow covered hill, through the dilapidated shanties to the Dark Rim Forest and onto the side of my birth, The Gardens, all white and gray brick and stone monoliths, looming behind thick snowcoverd pine.
Outside my old house, knee deep in snow, looking in. Daddy paced at the foot of a large marble statue under the domed ceiling, into which were engraved w/ gold the words of many dead Christians. I watched him from the dark beside the greenhouse, covered by clouds of chlorophyll steam.
The Bodies started shaking, vibrating, rattling. Telling me exactly what I have to do and say and how this isn’t just about me remember, it’s about all these people who died needlessly so that old Johnny Joey could enlarge his marbled penis collection.
And speaking of which, how much money do you think you would really need to not live in a shack in the winter, eating nuclear squirrels and moldy berries and burning garbage for warmth?
All being very good points, so I decided to go for it and that is when it got a bit messy. Because anger makes me forget big chunks of time and space. I know I knocked but once he opened the door, it’s all pretty black.
When I came back to, I was in the ambulance, barreling down to the hospital and the paramedics are pumping Dad’s chest and applying the oxygen and yelling about cardiac arrest.
He was nothing but a body by the time we pulled in.
I waited around anyway, dectetives made me. No sign of foul play, they decided, like it was sports. They poked me awake from sleeping.
Anyway, lucky he was dead cause if he was alive, he would’ve told them that I was a big fat liar, that I always was. One of the reasons he had to kick me out. If he was alive, he’d have said that I went into a blind rage and lunged for his neck with my dirty little fingernails and the sheer shock of it was too much for the old ticker.
I know because I hear him, with the other ghosts. Heard him as soon as he passed.
If it was true, it was funny, that. The all-powerful John Josephs Junior, in the end nothing but a weak little heart, beating in my open palm. And I crushed it.
Not that it makes me any difference, I’m still down here in the Valley and Dad’s nothing but another voice amongst the voices, looking for some sort of peace.