He sat down, shakily, on the floor next to his coffee table (despite his bad back, he still frequently sat on the floor) with his Cup-O-Joe and a swelling, itching brain. He was thinking, hard, about the walk he’d just taken, (or was it just a memory of a walk he’d taken some days before??? He wasn’t sure anymore.. )
He’d been skipping along the sidewalk, not seeing much that was around him, just enjoying the sensation of movement—when he suddenly realized he was surrounded by spirits, swarmed by ghostly orbs, the size of softballs, that floated and bobbed and swam through the air, pale, spherical, moving whisps of smoke.
He noticed them, but he couldn’t tell if they noticed that he’d noticed them. They floated about and whispered to each other and followed him as he skipped, a bit more slowly, along. His happy skip became a sudued half-hop, which shortly gave way to a distracted shuffle. His head (perhaps of its own accord) tried to remain forward facing, while his eyes (definitely beyond his control) darted this way and that, following the spirits as they traveled hither and, yes, even yon! (Which is difficult, as most folks no longer even remember which direction “yon” is anymore! But his eyes definitely went there!)
Was it a hallucination? A mystical experience? His brain cracking like a glass bowl on a marble floor? An accidental slip into the Ghost Dimension? How does one know, as it’s happening, which phenomenon one is experiencing? Are these just different ways of describing the same thing???
He slowed his shuffle to a not-quite-going-forward-at-all and, screwing up some courage, said, “Uuummm… Hello?”
The spirits instantly froze in their positions. Their weird foggy eyes all opened wider and glanced furtively (not an easy descriptor to warrant when you barely have a face to emote with, but they pulled it off) at each other and at the non-moving former skipper.
One of the orbs whispered, “Jim… Can he see us?”
“That’s not possible…” a second orb answered (although I’m not sure if it was Jim or not—I was never properly introduced to any of the spirits…) Reassured of their anonymity, the orbs began, with some trepidation, to move about again.
“Yes,” said the former skipper, “I can see you…”
He heard several whispery gasps, saw the wide open whites of a few pairs of eyes, and then the spirits started to wiggle and quickly dissolved, (like the dreams of a typical artist as he reads the critical reviews of his first exhibition… Which doesn’t really relate much to this story, but a few readers might get the simile…)
It took the ex-skipper (who, sadly, doesn’t have a name) almost half-an-hour to talk his legs into taking him home, but upon arrival, he proceeded directly to the fridge and grabbed a bottle of coffe. He opened a cupboard and pulled down a large mug and filled it halfway, opened another cupboard door and removed a flask of whiskey, then upended it, dumping every last drop into the mug with the coffee.
His hands were unsteady, so he walked carefully into the livingroom, trying not to spill too much, and sucking down a huge gulp before sitting down at his coffee table (despite his bad back) with his Cup-O-Joe and a swelling, itching brain. He was thinking, hard, about the walk he’d just taken, (or was it just a memory of a walk he’d taken some days before??? He wasn’t sure anymore.. )
He took another large swig, then set the cup on the table. He rubbed his eyes…and then thought he heard a whisper of a voice say, “Can he still see us?”
—Richard F. Yates