Holy poop, I thought to myself. There I was in front of the man who tried to drown me in the very lake that we were standing next to. It was dark and there was no one around. The air smelled damp from the rain that had just ceased. There was nothing stopping him from finishing what he started. But first, I wanted to know why.
“Why?” I screamed, half hoping that someone else would hear and come running to my aid. “Why are you doing this?”
“Why?” Rod mocked. “Well, you said it yourself. You are the world’s biggest asshole and you shit all over everyone you meet. You don’t deserve to live.”
I couldn’t argue that point, but I wasn’t going to lie down and take it. “Maybe not,” I said. “But who are you to carry out my sentence? I may be unworthy of life, but who are you to deem yourself as executioner?”
“I am the one who hears all. I am the one who sees all. I am the one who knows all. I. Am. All.”
“That makes you sound pretty high and mighty, Rod,” I told him.
Rod’s lip curled. “Why do you keep calling me that?”
“What? Rod?” I asked. “That’s your name, isn’t it?” The person who I thought was named Rod shook his head. “Oh, well, it’s something like that, right?” I guessed. “It’s, like, Rod or Claude or Maude or G…”
Then it hit me like a brick wall. My brain started putting everything together. The comfort and and help he provided me in my time of need… Hearing, seeing, knowing and being all… Rendering the ultimate judgement… Not to mention getting on my nerves at the drop of a hat.
I whispered to the person in front of me. “Are you… God?”
The man looked at me like I was a complete idiot. “My name is Craig.”
“Oh,” I said, feeling a little let down. “That was a little anticlimactic.”
“Sorry to disappoint you,” said the man who was not God.
“No worries,” I told Craig. “Anyway, I believe you were going to kill me or something?”
“Kill you?” Craig sounded taken aback. “Oh no, I have no intention of killing you.”
Now I was confused. “So then what the serious fuck, Craig? Isn’t that what all this is about? Isn’t that why you brought me back here? To finish what you started?”
“Yes,” he said. “I brought you back here to finish what I started, but what I have started does not end in your death.”
This fucking guy, I thought to myself. Now I was getting pissed off. “So, tying me up, dumping me in a lake and leaving me to die wasn’t meant to kill me? Gee, I guess I read that situation wrong.”
Craig’s comforting eyes returned. “The purpose of this little exercise was to make you think about your actions and how they affect others.” An empathetic smile appeared on his face. “In that regard, I think today was a success, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Yes,” I told him. That much was true. I had definitely thought about my actions and their consequences more that day than I had at any other point in my life.
“And how did today make you feel?” he asked.
“Like shit,” I replied as I looked down at my feet and the slick ground. I raised my head back up when Craig put his left hand on my right shoulder.
“Yes,” he said. “Developing a conscious tends to feel a bit awful.”
My nerves were shot. I was exhausted and I just wanted to go home. “Alright, enough of this,” I said as I smacked his hand off of me. “What’s the end game here? You wanted me to think about how shitty I am to other people, and I did. You wanted me to feel bad about how shitty I am to other people, and I do. Mission accomplished. What I still don’t understand is why you? Why did you decide to teach me this lesson today?”
Craig’s eyes changed. Where I previously saw comfort was now replaced with what appeared to be sadness. A little light bulb went off in my head. “I did something to you, didn’t I?” I asked. “I did something and I don’t even recognize you. Ugh, I am the worst! Look, whatever I did to you, I’m sorry, okay? I am so, so sorry.” Tears were welling up inside me. It wasn’t long before I could feel a couple of them rolling down my cheeks. “Please forgive me.”
Craig smiled. “I have nothing to forgive you for, Chris,” he replied. “You have not wronged me.”
“Then why, God damn it?!” I screamed, more tears forcing their way out. “Why did you do this to me?”
“Honestly?” Craig continued to smile. “Because I like fucking with people. And you, sir, needed to be fucked with.”
I really didn’t know what to say. Even after everything I had gone though that day, all I could think about at that moment was the fact that Craig was still wearing a full tuxedo. “And why are you wearing a tux, again?” I asked as I tried to wipe the tears off my face.
“Because when I’m fucking with people, I like to wear a tux,” he responded.
I felt a red hot rage burning up inside of me. I was already getting angry, but for some reason Craig wearing a penguin suit while he messed with me really made me mad. “I’m inclined to drag you into that lake and drown you,” I growled, trying to sound intimidating.
“Good luck with that,” he laughed. Then he put his hand on my shoulder again. “Anyway, Chris, I hope you learned a lesson from all this.”
“Don’t take rides from strangers? Yeah, I got it.”
“No,” he said. “The lesson is that you should endeavour to be a better person so that, in time, you will become the best person you can be.”
That’s a nice sentiment, I thought. Tying me up and leaving me to drown was a weird way to go about conveying that sentiment, but it’s nice nonetheless. Then Craig spoke again. “Also, and maybe more importantly, you shouldn’t be so rude and crass all the time.”
You have got to be fucking kidding me. I stood there with my mouth agape. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This is why this fool decided to put me in a situation where my death was a realistic possibility?
“Rude and crass?” I slapped his hand off of me as hard as I could. “Rude and crass? You did all this because I’m rude and crass!”
“Yes,” he said, calmly. “And my psychiatrist thinks I may have some kind of mental disorder.”
“Well that makes sense,” I told him.
“I’m also a ghost. Goodbye,” he said as he began to fade away.
I was stunned. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard or what I was seeing. Craig was simply vanishing before my eyes.
“Wait!” I called out. “This doesn’t make sense. You touched my shoulder. You slapped my face. You interacted with all those other people. Shouldn’t you have just passed right through me? And shouldn’t I have been the only one who could see you?”
As he continued to dissipate into the moonlit night, the man who I thought was named Rod, but was actually a ghost named Craig, gave me one more warm, comforting smile before conveying his final words to me. “That’s not how ghosts work, stupid.”
And with that, the man who tried to drown me in order to teach me a lesson about being a better person was gone, vanished into the night.
“I totally knew he was a ghost,” I said out loud to no one. I stood there for a while trying to process everything that had happened. But then something else occurred to me. “Wait,” I said out loud to no one again. “Ghosts wear tuxedos and have psychiatrists? Crazy.”
After a few more moments of standing by myself next to the lake, noticing the moonlight glittering off the small ripples on its surface, I walked home.
The walk back home was pretty uneventful. The first thing I did when I got back to my apartment was head to the bathroom (because I really had to pee), but after that I found the Milky Way that had inspired me to keep living that day. It was sitting on my nightstand, right where I left it. I picked it up and held it between my thumb and forefinger.
“Thank you,” I said just before I ripped it open and consumed it in three bites. It was the most delicious thing I had ever eaten. Even though it had that white stuff on it that old chocolate bars get sometimes.
After all that, my adventure was over.
You may be wondering if I actually learned anything from my little ordeal. Well, I’d like to think so, even though everything that happened to me was caused by a nut job of a spectre. Since then, I try to think about how my actions will impact others, and I try to choose my words more carefully before I say them (although I’m still working on that part). All that to say, every day I just try to be a little better than I was the day before.
So, I know what you’re thinking. You want to know why I’m telling you all this. I mean, no part of this story really painted me in a positive light. Well, the truth is I wanted to convey something to you. One little lesson that I think everyone should know. And that lesson is this: Be considerate of other people’s feelings. Because if you don’t, a mentally unstable ghost will try to kill you by tying you up and dumping you in a lake.
And one final thought that just occurred to me: If I was right about Craig being a ghost…
What else was I right about?