“Psst! Wayne! Are you there?” That is what I heard every night at midnight since I had taken the job at Heceta Head Lighthouse.
“Like I would be anywhere else,” I grumbled back. It had been a rough day and I really wasn’t in the mood to chat with Victoria, the ghost who lived in my new home.
“Oh good, I was afraid you wouldn’t be here tonight. I had the most wonderful day and just had to tell you about it.” Victoria had the uncanny ability to disregard my mood all together. I wasn’t sure if it was a ghost thing or just a Victoria thing, but she ignored my mood entirely and talked to me like I was in the same mood she was in, no matter what her mood was.
“Alright, just let me make some coffee before you start telling me so I can pay attention.” I had fallen back asleep once when she was talking to me and she did not take too kindly to that. When I had woken up the next morning my refrigerator had been unplugged and the door left wide open. Everything had spoiled overnight and my kitchen smelled like a landfill. The next night she acted like she didn’t know what I was talking about, but I know it was her. I threw on a thick robe and stumbled into the kitchen and fixed some coffee and a bagel, all the while Victoria just floated behind me, waiting patiently for me to listen.
“I don’t know why you wear that thing, it’s not like I care if you walk around naked.”
“I know Victoria, but its cold in here and the robe keeps me at least a little warm.” Yet another discovery I made, clothes were irrelevant when it came to ghosts. Victoria told me that the way a ghost sees thing is like they’re wearing x-ray glasses, everything that isn’t living is pretty well see through and so to them we’re all naked no matter how many layers of clothing we might put on. It had taken me nearly a month to get used to the idea, but now I didn’t even think twice about walking around the lighthouse naked when she was around, but December on the Oregon coast is anything but warm and this old lighthouse was a little drafty so a robe was just practical.
My coffee finished brewing and my bagel finished toasting, so I took my food back into my bedroom and settled into my lazy boy to have a conversation with Victoria. We usually talked in my bedroom since that was where she was most comfortable and it was also the warmest room in the house so it was convenient for me as well. “Okay Victoria, tell me what it was that made today so special.” Victoria became a little less transparent and settled into the chair across from me.
“Well, you know today is Christmas right?”
“I suppose technically it is, yes.”
“Well we still get to celebrate Christmas, only its less about the gifts and more about the spirit of the season. So guess who I got to see today.”
“I don’t know, Santa Claus?”
“Awww, how did you know?” Victoria sported a pouty face and sounded like disappointed ten year old.
“Lucky guess is all,” I said, trying hard not to laugh.
“Well you ruined my surprise, but yes, I got to meet Santa, or at least A Santa.”
“A Santa? You mean there is more than one?”
“Well sure, there are actually eight living Santas at any given time.’
“So its not one chubby man in a red suit delivering all of the presents, it’s actually eight guys in red suits?”
“Well not all of them wear red, and some are pretty thin actually, but yes, eight Santas. I met one of the dead ones who held the title fifty years ago. Apparently he was trampled by a herd of reindeer on December 26, 1956. He says that he hadn’t been drinking, but I have it on good authority that he was hitting the eggnog a little hard that night.” I just sat there staring blankly, my jaw hanging open. Victoria often told me some interesting things about the afterlife and the people she got to meet during the day when she wasn’t haunting the lighthouse, but never had she surprised me quite as thoroughly as she had on this night. “Anyhow, he was a really nice guy and told me all about what things were like when he was a living Santa. Did you know that back then the elves were union? Apparently there was almost no Christmas in 1949 because the elves had gone on strike and the contract negotiations had come to a complete standstill. The elves wanted better healthcare, but didn’t want to pay for it. Well you know how much healthcare costs are right? Well you know the Santas do all of their work non-profit right, so its not like they could afford to pay healthcare on top of the pretty decent wages the elves were making so of course they had to say no. The funny thing is it never occurred to anyone to talk about specifics. A week before Christmas somebody asked and the problem was worked out over night. Do you know what Christmas Elves consider healthcare? Hot chocolate. That’s right, cocoa. The elves just wanted a better quality cocoa and a guarantee that they wouldn’t run out. Once the Santas had learned that, they were able to settle the contract dispute in a hurry. Pretty fascinating huh?”
My mouth was still hanging open and I really didn’t know where to start. “You really met Santa?” Really I was pretty lucky to get that much out since my head was still spinning from all she had laid on me. Dead Santas. Elf Unions. Christmas Labor Disputes. It was all a bit much to swallow really.
“Oh yes. We spent most of the day talking. Personally I think he’s a little sweet on me, but he’s really not my type.”
I don’t know what it was, but something about the way she was talking made me think there was something else going on. Ghosts exude emotion and generally speaking it’s pretty easy to pick up on those emotions. Traditionally when people encounter a ghost and are hit with a feeling of fear and dread it is the emotions of the ghost they are feeling. As Victoria explained it to me some ghosts refuse to accept their deaths and consequently they live in a state of fear that washes over most living people. Some learn to accept it and become as regular people, their emotions fluctuating across the spectrum and some turn from fear to anger for one reason or another and they become the much more malevolent variety of ghost. Victoria had been pretty new age when she died and so she accepted her afterlife a little more easily than some and so she was pretty good at hiding her emotions from the living. I don’t know if a crack in her emotional armor was showing or if I had just gotten to know her well enough that I could tell, but Victoria seemed sad to me.
“Victoria, is something bothering you?”
“What? Me? No, nothing’s wrong, just a little tired you know. That Santa will talk your ear off if you let him.”
“I don’t believe you, come on you can talk to me,” I said. I stood up and held my hand out to her. She placed her hand in mine and stood. Now holding the hand of a ghost seems a little odd, but there is a sort of tingling sensation that accompanies contact with an actual ghost. It has something to do with energy transferal, but I never cared about the details since I rarely touched Victoria, but I could now feel it openly and if she were alive I would say her heart was breaking. “Why don’t we go upstairs, we can look out over the ocean and you can tell me what’s bothering you.” We walked hand in hand to the watch room and sat below the steadily revolving light. The air was cold and my breath exited my mouth in little clouds as I sat quietly, waiting for my spectral visitor to speak.
“You know I never told you about how I died or why I haunt this place. I know you asked, but its not something I like to think about. I can handle being dead and even being a ghost, but that doesn’t mean the memory hurts any less.” Victoria sighed and I swear I saw the breath mist in the cold night air and disappear, but I’m sure it was just my imagination. “I died on Christmas eve back in 1978. My boyfriend lived here and we were getting high in his room and well I guess I got a little too high and made my way outside and fell off of the cliff. He was so stoned that he never knew what happened to me exactly. No one really knows, except for you now of course. The tide was going out when I hit the water and I was carried straight out to sea. I honestly don’t know if I was ever declared dead or missing. From what I was able to gather in the days after my death they weren’t sure. It was like I just up and disappeared. When I first became a ghost I couldn’t fully communicate with people the way I can now. I could make some noises and maybe make a spot a little darker, but there was no way to know I was here.” Again she sighed and tried to squeeze my hand before she continued on, “I had to watch him fall apart in little spasms of time before one day I manifested and no one was here. John and all of his belongings were gone and I knew I was all alone.”
“Well you’re not so alone now,” I said. “The midnight wake up call can get a little old on occasion, but all things being said and done, you’re one of the best friends I’ve ever had.”
“Thank you Wayne. You’re the first living person I’ve actually felt like talking to since I learned how to speak in the real world. You seemed a little lonely like me and you didn’t run screaming the first time I manifested for you, so I figured you might be someone I wouldn’t mind haunting more regularly.”
“Thanks I think.” I paused for a moment, debating on what to say next when I decided on just letting it out, “you know I could find things out for you…”
“What do you mean?”
“I could see whether or not they declared you dead or missing, or whatever happened to John.”
Victoria looked me straight in the eyes and it was like she was looking directly into my soul and I was lost in her death. Numbness and cold shot through me as I felt her die in the icy waters below the lighthouse. I don’t know how long she held my gaze, but when she turned her head I had to gasp for breath.
“Thank you Wayne, but the past is better left alone. I am who I am now and don’t need to know what happened before. I’ve come to terms with it all and like where I am. Perhaps before you move on I may ask you to, but for now let’s just let it be.” She leaned over and kissed me on the cheek. The tingle of my cheek was penetrating and not at all like when we held hands and when she pulled back my cheek was still warm and that warmth spread throughout my body.
We sat looking out at the water. The night was clear with a strong breeze blowing outside and all seemed right with the world. My best friend was a ghost who could only show up at midnight. Life is weird sometimes, but you know I wouldn’t have it any other way. As I stared out at the stars I remembered what day it was and was glad that I was no longer alone.
“Merry Christmas Victoria.”
“Merry Christmas Wayne.”