Short Story Sunday: Not Knowing (A Ghost Story)

After more than thirty years Nigel Pierce still wondered who had murdered him on that cold December morning in 1986.

Most of the memories of his former life, at least of his adult life, were fairly foggy. Over the past few years he’d managed to bring a lot of them back.

“Stop agonizing about it love,” his girlfriend Mary told him. She’d been dead much longer than he had and knew who her killer was. She knew, and she was still a ghost. No magic light came up and took her to someplace nice where she’d find peace. 

That was one of the main frustrations of being a ghost. Most of them don’t know what is going on, and they can’t remember enough to keep from being eternally frustrated with just about everything.

A lot of ghosts Nigel knew had just given up, like the gold miners who sat on the bluff overlooking the river where they used to dig for riches, and play their guitars, concertinas, and banjos all night. One even had a violin. Over the years he taught the guys from the 1850’s to play songs from the 1980’s. The miners were particularly good at “Lonely Ol’ Night” by John Mellencamp, and “And She Was” by the Talking Heads. He loved the bit of Irish still in the voice of the ghost who sang lead on most of the songs. 

Mary would dance to the songs and spread joy among the morose ghosts who lived around him. She was beautiful to watch. Over the past 300 years she’d made a conscious decision to be joyful rather than a haunted brooding ghost. Nigel couldn’t help but love her.

It was the first time Nigel had truly been in love. Still, he wondered what life would have been like if he’d found love, had children, and done everything he’d missed out on.

On Saturday he’d been at his best friend’s funeral. On Sunday he spent time with friends. On Monday he’d painted. On Tuesday he’d planned on meeting the owner of a gallery about a show in the morning, then having lunch with his agent. After laying his clothes out on his bed he got into the shower. Turning the heat up as high as he could stand it, he stood washing away the shock and sorrow he’d experienced over the past few weeks.

Then as he tried to pull himself out of the fog of mourning, someone came into his bathroom and hit him on the head with a 12 inch, well seasoned, cast iron frying pan. Then, god damn it, the killer hit him again, this time cracking his skull. He never saw his assailant. Not alive. Not as a ghost. It took him 20 minutes to die. By the time he was gone the murderer had left. An hour later a friend, a friend he couldn’t quite remember, came in and found him. The water was still running. He sat on the edge of the bed, realizing he was now dead, and watched as she screamed and tried to bring him back. Unfortunately, he couldn’t remember her face or her name. She wasn’t a lover or girlfriend or anybody romantic or sexual to him. She was his best friend’s wife, or might have been. He’d known her when they were kids, but the line between childhood and adulthood blurred in his ghostly transparent frustrating brain. He’d asked her to go to the gallery with him. He couldn’t remember the name of the gallery or where it was. 

At first, when Nigel had become a ghost, he believed the frustrating loss of memory was due to brain damage he’d received when being smashed on the head by a frying pan. Then he realized it was just.a ghost thing. Even ghosts who had no traumatic brain injuries had the same memory fog. It sucked. It just sucked. 

As he stood in the dusk, invisible to the world, Mary appeared before him. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him. 

“I will love you always and forever,” she said.

He closed his eyes and held her close. 

In the distance he could hear the faint sound of the ghost band. They were playing “Magic” by the Cars. 

He smiled, then kissed Mary again. Maybe not knowing wasn’t a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.

~ end


  1. Beautiful ghost story. Love it. I love the imagery of the ethereal ghost band singing popular songs.

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