Jo Withers: Accessorising the Ghost

I see from your paperwork that you’re applying for an apartment above your favourite restaurant – utterly impractical, if you ask me, but we can come back to that in a moment.

You’ve ticked the box for ‘change of clothes’, which is typical in your situation since that hospital gown does nothing for you. I wouldn’t want to be seen dead in it. Basically, you can choose any outfit you’ve worn before. Most people go for something like their favourite suit or their team jersey, something personal and easy to identify, especially if they’ve been mangled a bit and might be hard to recognise. We steer clients away from anything white and billowing or black and gothic. These days you can do tortured and modern with a good pair of battered jeans and a too-long scarf. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s comfortable – you’ll be wearing it for a very long time.

Which brings me to accessories and appendages: I cannot emphasise enough how much you’ll regret impulsive decisions. So many people pay extra for chains or decorative rotting then find themselves weighed down or balancing hanging limbs. And whatever you do, don’t opt to carry your own head. It might seem like an easy way to make your point, but a few cheap thrills aren’t worth the nuisance.

And I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I’d also suggest you change your target audience. You know you can only appear to one person for all eternity and you’ve selected your wife. I hope you won’t take this the wrong way, but I’ve seen that backfire many times. Especially in a case like yours where you’ve had a long history of illness. Cruel to be kind here – she’s probably seen it coming for a while. Nine times out of ten if they’re prepared for it, they’ll move on quickly. Don’t worry, you’re not the first to over-estimate your own importance. Sure, she might buy into it and do the weeping widow routine for a few weeks but, long-term, you’ll be nothing but an inconvenience. You have heard of Tinder, I take it? No one wants their dead ex hovering as they swipe right. If you want my advice, I’d go for an unresolved love, one that had the passion and the promise but didn’t quite make it. A childhood romance that fizzled out when you moved to college, for example. They love it, I promise. They find it hugely flattering that you’re still thinking of them all these years later.

Which brings us back to venue. Make it easy for yourself: find out where she lives and set yourself up in the attic. It’s often the toastiest room in the house (no more bone-numbing, energy-zapping cold) and it’s the furthest away from the kitchen. The dead can smell and feel hunger, but they can’t eat, so don’t put yourself through the torture. Take up residence in her attic and start making some melodic moaning in the night, enough to motivate her to check it out but not enough to terrify her so much that she sends her dad up with a broom. Right, let me hear a sample of your moaning. Lower, lower…you sound like a fire truck. Elongate your vowels. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Just keep it loose and don’t overthink it.

So, there you go. If you don’t mind completing a short survey on your way out, it would be appreciated. It only takes ten minutes and you’ll be included in the draw to win a hoverboard. Happy haunting.


Jo Withers writes short fiction from her home in South Australia. Recent work appears in Reflex Fiction, Spelk, NFFD Anthology (U.K.) and Best Microfictions 2020.