The spirits gather around the Ouija board. They never know which one of them will be called, but they are hopeful. They have messages, words of advice, theories on life they have spent thousands of years perfecting. They are still working towards spiritual actualization, but that is a long process, often involving the silent voice of the almighty whispering in their ears. The almighty is not an easy entity to understand. “And then you will eat the lonely fruit of absolution,” he says. “And the prairie dogs will roost and the buzz seals will sweep to the skies.”
“What?” they reply. “What does that even mean?”
The almighty tends not to repeat himself. He will only share the secrets of the universe once.
They could always reincarnate, get back to the earthly plane they know and love, which seems like a pretty sweet deal until they remember the pitfalls of being human: migraines, traffic jams, parking tickets, insane neighbors, long work weeks, tofu cooked by well-meaning vegetarian friends, newscasters in loud clothing, food poisoning, allergies, in-laws, Judge Judy, the entirety of adolescence, hormonal imbalances, foot pain, knee pain, the pain of being around fools, malls on Saturdays, not-so-flattering mirrors, hospitals, their own death.
Clearly, the better alternative is to stick it out on the spiritual plane.
They hover near the Ouija board even when it is not in use because they know the second a human removes the board from its box there will be a virtual stampede. Every spirit from the seven closest planes will come elbowing and kicking and pushing his or her way in, clamoring to be the one to speak. Some spirits go so far as to circle the board with their energies, draping themselves around it in the only way they know how. “Hey,” the others say, “you can’t do that.” “Yes, I can,” the encircling spirit says and clings tighter.
The spiritual plane is beautiful, but they have no qualms with leaving it to congregate in the closet of the Ouija board owner. Pterodactyl-sized butterflies and waving fields of poppies are only so enticing. They can only watch so many romantic sunsets and dance across the galaxy so many times before they grow bored. Instead, they wedge themselves between coats and shoes and shirts and wait. They vibrate at different intensities, each unique pattern signifying their spiritual development. They come from different planes, but their needs are the same. They vibrate together. They vibrate apart. They wait.
Finally, a human comes, a little boy of about nine years old. He pulls the Ouija board down in the darkness, forbidden, no doubt, by his parents from using it. He tucks it under his arm and tiptoes back to his room, and the spirits follow in droves. Back in the safety of the bedroom, he arranges the board on the floor with painstaking care. Then he rests his hands on the pointer, closes his eyes, and thinks of his question.
The spirits lean closer, waiting. One pushes another out of the way and his vibration slows, a spiritual regression.
The boy flicks on his flashlight. He whispers, “Is anyone here?”
The spirits scramble—there are so many of them here—but the pointer is seized by a spirit of medium vibrational intensity who has been wrapped around the board for months. Carefully guiding the boy’s pointer, she says, “Yes.”
The boy draws back, looks down at the board as if he doesn’t know what happened. Then he replaces his hands on the pointer and asks, “Who are you?”
The other spirits move closer. There are so many ways they might identify themselves: by previous names, as ghosts, as aliens, but the spirit brushes the others away and spells out: f-r-i-e-n-d.
The boy mouths the word to himself. “If you’re my friend,” he says, “then what is my favorite food?”
The spirits exchange glances, their energies rise and fall rapidly. They are exposed to many ideas and emotions on their journey to spiritual actuality, but food is basically off their radar.
Spaghetti, someone volunteers.
Macaroni and cheese.
Rather than being wrong, the spirit with the pointer says nothing. The boy is quiet and then asks, “Are my parents going to die soon?”
He has no reason to think this other than the fact that he is nine and his parents are important and death seems large and terrible. The spirit could question him, ask him about the meaning of soon. Is soon tomorrow or ten years from now? And what exactly is death, but a trip to this new plane and time spent in his closet?
She could also tell him that years are unimportant, that time coils and uncoils, and what matters are the events in between, the depth of each experience. She can give him specific dates and times, but it is his journey to figure this out just as it is her journey to allow him to figure this out.
“What about my dog?” he asks.
Again, the spirit says nothing. The silence is deadening.
“Should I be afraid of death?” the boy asks, a small, somber person squinting into a board, searching for an answer he can’t have.
The spirit can’t help herself. Even as her vibration slows, she wraps his hands in her energy, caresses him with her being as she would her own child. But the boy only falls back, feeling nothing but bitter cold.
Notes from Guest Reader April L. Ford
‘The Sadness of Spirits’ reminds about the mysteries floating around us, keeping us safe from answers.