"Butterflies in Dream" by Elaine Jiang ('19)

I have been dead for four years.

I am a ghost. To tell the truth, being a ghost is not the same as I imagined it would be.

People can make a choice after they die, either being men via reincarnation or being ghosts in Acheron (underworld). The underworld is a complete replica of the upper world. There are banks, police stations, commercial centers, vegetable markets, and even schools. The only difference is: the residents of the underworld are ghosts.

The reason why the Acheron was so prosperous, is said to be the population explosion, the human capacity of the upper world is not enough, so putting some ghosts in the underworld acts as a buffer. Therefore, the slogan can be seen everywhere around the underworld: Better to be a ghost! Being human is no better than being a  ghost! Reincarnation is no better than being a ghost! Let yourself feel comfortable in the talent of every ghost! Acheron is so enormous that it is worthy of being seen. The horse-face said, “If you are still laughing at other people becoming ghosts! Five years later you will regret it!” The horse-face also said, “Several people are ghosts, you look down on them; hundreds of people are ghosts, you do not understand them; tens of thousands of people are ghosts, you crush them; everyone is a ghost, you want to join; I'm sorry, Acheron has no room for you! 2016, be a ghost before it’s too late!”

However, the ghosts in the underworld also need money and two sources of money are: the spiritual money(a kind of special paper) burned by human relatives or friends. Another is the wages of working in Acheron. Unfortunately, my parents are not for superstition and do not believe in ghosts or spirits. They have forgotten the ancient tradition of burning spiritual money. Moreover, I have been wandering in the upper world, therefore I cannot work in Acheron. So I am a poor ghost, a really poor ghost. My only income is the monthly subsistence guarantee issued by the government of Acheron. I am wandering around the upper world because of nostalgia for a person.

Although ghosts can float around in the upper world, they cannot touch anything on earth. People cannot see the shadow of ghosts, nor hear the sound of ghosts. In short, people cannot realize the existence of ghosts and ghosts cannot have any impact on the upper world. But there are always some mischievous ghosts unwilling to be lonely. For instance, my girlfriend always appeals to ghost. She looks beautiful, so there is always a pile of ghosts peeping around her. This makes me enraged. I would beat them fiercely, every time I grabbed those ghosts. Occasionally there were several ghosts threatened, “You punch a ghost for no reason! Be careful I will find the Acheron police to arrest you!” I clenched my fists against them, “You peep at my girlfriend! You lose your face as a ghost for doing that!” Gradually, there is no ghost that would dare to approach her. However, I still stay around her to prevent those ghosts from coming back again. I could have grown old along with her when I was alive, then I should protect her well after I died.

My girlfriend has always been a strong woman. I have known her for seven years and never seen her cry. However, just a few days after my death, I saw her cry in front of our photos numerous times, and sometimes even cried to the point of almost fainting. At that time I told myself: In addition to helping her drive off those mischievous ghosts, I have to do something else for her. And four years later, I am finally able to achieve that goal.

The Acheron gives the ghosts who do not have income about 10 million subsistence allowances every month. This figure seems enormous but actually not that much, because the spiritual money factories in the upper world manufacture money too quickly. The face value of spiritual money can easily be a billion or more, the Acheron has suffered outrageous inflation for ages. I saved my subsistence allowances for four years and finally can afford a  ghost book, which is a special service developed for those ghosts who miss their friends and relatives in the upper world.

Ghost book, as the name suggests, is a set of a book and pen that ghosts can write on, and the words written on it can be seen by one specific person. I enter my girlfriend's name and ID number when I purchase it. Suddenly, I see a dazzling white light run straight into her sleeping skull, then that white light bursts into her bedside diary and ballpoint pen. Only a flash, the white light disperses, everything returns to calm. I come to her bed, take the book and pen, this moment, my hand cannot restrain trembling. This diary and this pen are the only two things I can touch and control in the upper world. The next morning, I hold the book facing my girlfriend while she opens her hazy sleepy eyes. There is one word I just scrawled on the page: Hello! From her point of view, the book is hanging in the air against gravity and one word has inexplicably appeared on the page. I do not know if she will she be scared and scream. However, my girlfriend just snaps the book shut, throws it on the floor and falls asleep again. Oh, my dear! This book is what cost my four years savings. One second, two seconds, three seconds...my girlfriend finally realizes that something was wrong, she turns around her body and shockingly stares at the book that floats in the air again. I secretly told myself: This time, I should do something real. Since I died, my girlfriend has been immersed in grief, this time I want to be the instructor of her life and guide her out of depression. I desperately search the inspiring philosophy in my head  and constantly write in the book. In her eyes, the ballpoint pen is dancing in midair, then lines of writing emerge on the page, Past is past, let it be. Present is the best time. Lay down the past, live in the moment. Tomorrow is another day. To be a dreamer, always young, always passionate, always hopeful.

She stares at the words I wrote, silent for a long time, thoughtfully. I laugh reassuringly as the sentences I came up with seem like they are having some effect on her. Then, her lips slightly move: “What’s wrong with you?” Woohoo! Seems like still not enough. Thus, I begin to write again, Young woman, you should listen to my advice… “Who are you?” Her question interrupts my writing. I decide to tell a lie, a deep lie. I am a ballpoint pen eidolon (apparition). “Oh, you're a ballpoint pen ghost.” Hey! Do not misinterpret my words! Are not you afraid? A ballpoint pen turns into a ghost! “Why should I be afraid? You cannot hurt me anyway.” Well, it seems reasonable. “You are the pen I have been using to write diaries for ages, then you must be familiar with my habits.” Yes. “From now on, you are my steward. You have to follow my schedule and remember things that I forget” Yes, my lady. Wait! I meant to be her instructor, but not her steward. Oh never mind, only if she is happy. In this way, I gradually integrate my way into her life and make her aware of my presence, although as the identity of a ballpoint pen. However, such a peaceful life does not last long.

It is the Tanabata (traditional valentine's day), my girlfriend walks into a narrow alley at night. I did not notice until a few rogues approach, they disrespect her with vulgar language. I furiously rush to the head of those rogues. As my fist sweeps through the rogue’s body like air, I realize, Oh, I'm a ghost. They quickly catch her and press her on the wall. She desperately resists and screams. I throw the book heavily on the rogue’s head, I want to bust their heads! I stab the pen into the rogue's eyes, I want to expose their eyes! However, my effort is to no avail. The book and pen can only be seen and touched by she and I, but it’s just air for others. I can even disperse thousands of ghosts for her, but for humans, I have nothing to do. Nothing! At that moment, I wake up from the joyful days I spent with her so far and once again I realize my helplessness as a ghost. While I am in despair, two glares of flashlights shine into the dark lane. “What are you doing!?” Two police officers run over and save my girlfriend from danger. I cannot even imagine what would the consequence would have been if the police did not happen to come by. After she returns home, I write in the book, I'm sorry, I cannot help you with anything! She softly comforts me: “I saw you hit those rogues, ballpoint pen ghost. Don’t blame yourself.” I fall into silence, her words make me feel even more guilty. “Today is the Tanabata, lovers should be together.” She breaks the silence, “I cannot find my boyfriend, I do not know where he went.” These days, she never mentions her boyfriend and neither do I, since I want her to forget about me. I am a bit overwhelmed in the face of her sudden reveal. After consideration, I solemnly write, I don’t know where your boyfriend is. But I guess, he might be thinking: it would be great if someone would burn some spiritual money for me. She smiles desolately after reading my words.

On the day of the mid-autumn festival, I receive an enormous amount of spiritual money burned by my girlfriend. Thanks to my girlfriend, I can purchase the service of entering her dream. In her dream that night, she sees me and desperately runs to me. I see her excited expression and the tears flashing in her eyes. She keeps asking me: “Where did you go!? Where did you go!?”

I have been around you. But how can I say it!? I raise her head and say, “Please forget me.” She stops crying when she hears my words and incredibly looks at me, shock in her beautiful eyes. She does not say anything. We are silent after that, we just hug instead of saying goodbye. Let the dream end in a hug. A strong and gentle embrace.

Ever since we embraced in her dream, my girlfriend becomes more outgoing. She begins to walk out of her tiny circle and make new friends. She meets a man, a talented and handsome young guy. I watch them dating, eating, talking and laughing. He treats her well and she looks happy. Until one day, I see him take out a diamond ring, my girlfriend cries and nods her head. Then the diamond is put on her ring finger. She likes him and he likes her, he can protect her instead of me.

I have been a ghost for five years and I decide not to be a ghost any more. Maybe in one circle of reincarnation, I can meet you again.

*****

“He's gone” The handsome fiance says to her. “As you wished, he finally put you down and no longer wanders round. He chose the reincarnation.” She does not say anything, just writes something on a book,  “Are you there?” After a long while, the ballpoint pen does not have any movement and the book does not show any writing. This time, there is no response. She removes the ring and returns to her fiance, she says, “Thank you, I will transfer the remuneration to you.”

On July 16th, another Tanabata, she flicks the diary, pages of paper passing by, dense lines of words just like snakes, and finally stops at the page he had written for the first time. She strokes the crooked word, Hello! And laughs, “How could I not recognize you? Who else could write such ugly word except you?”

My boyfriend, I really loved him. Used to...and now still.

 

New Growth by Ekram Alrowmeim

New Growth by Ekram Alrowmeim