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The Book for the Recently Deceased

A story about what I think it would be like to be a ghost.

By Donna Fox (HKB)Published about a year ago Updated about a year ago 10 min read
The Book for the Recently Deceased
Photo by Mikołaj on Unsplash

The mirror showed a reflection that wasn’t my own.

It showed an empty room, the room in which I now stood but my reflection was absent. Over my shoulder, the reflection matched perfectly. The same paintings, furniture, and coffee table. It was as though the mirror could see through me like I wasn’t standing there at all.

I lifted my hand to face height, and I could see it as I wiggled my fingers before my face. But the mirror showed no change.

I grabbed the first thing I saw in front of the mirror, which turned out to be a dusty old book. I waved it around, but it also had no reflection.

This must be a trick mirror or something, that would explain why there was no reflection.

Until a small boy and his dog came racing through the living room, so close I could have sworn they passed through me. The shock caused me to drop the book on my toe and yell out in pain.

Forgetting the boy and his dog, I bent down to pick the book up. Turning it over in my hands, I realized that this wasn’t my book, it didn’t look familiar in the least bit. The book was bound in brown leather, with gold lettering and a cartoonish picture at the bottom; two people holding hands and looking into the sunset. The title read The Book for the Recently Deceased.

This most defiantly was not a book I had ever owned, nor would I ever.

Come to think of it, I didn’t remember my home looking anything as it does now. Turning around, I examined the furniture and paintings that most definitely were not to my taste.

My brain suddenly began to race, I wondered how I came to be here and how my house had changed without my knowing so. The last thing I remembered was driving my car and then suddenly standing here in front of this ornate, albeit, trick mirror. 

Which was just another thing to add to the list of items in this room that wasn’t mine.

I set the book down, in front of the mirror, where I had found it. Then I settled in one of the uncomfortable chairs and pressed my hands to my head, trying to think about what happened. My mind was boggled with how I had gotten from the car to this unfamiliar living room. Taking a deep breath I closed my eyes and focused hard.

I was driving down the road, in my 1988 Volkswagen Beetle. She dawned a new paint job, a fresh interior, along with a whole new engine. This was her maiden voyage, freshly out of the shop.

The wind whipped through my hair and the sun beat down on my face. It was a beautiful day for a short cruise on the way home. Just as I hit the home stretch I turned onto the single-lane bridge that crossed the river near my home. Only to be met by another car approaching in the opposite direction, we collided. My car flew through the side of the wooden bridge and descended into the icy water below.

My car hit the water with a thud and water began to flood the cab as the car started to sink. Panic set in as I pulled at my seatbelt and it refused to budge, locked in place. The water level began to rise within the cab until I was completely submerged. Making me even more desperate as I fought to free myself. With one more heave, I was able to dislodge the seatbelt. Swimming out of the open window, I kicked as hard as I could until I breached the surface.

My head emerged from the cold water, I looked up to see the car of the other driver teetering over the edge of the bridge. Then without warning, the car began falling. Landing directly on top of me and I found myself unable to move out of the way.

Then just as abruptly, I found myself standing in front of the ornate mirror. With no recollection of what happened after the car had fallen or how I had gotten here.

I ran back to the mirror and grabbed another object, a small horse figurine. I moved it before the mirror and its reflection appeared. With shaking hands, I placed the horse down and returned to my seat.

I drew deep breaths as I tried to calm myself, realizing that I must have died. My heart raced and I felt sweat start to trickle down the back of my neck as I sat in disbelief.

I couldn’t believe it, there was no way that I was dead. I had to have been rescued or have amnesia about how I got home. Right?

But as that thought occurred a voice rang out through the air and disturbed my thoughts.

“Emma, dinners ready!” A middle-aged woman called out from the foot of the stairs.

Suddenly a blonde teenage girl came running down and the pair of them disappeared into my dining room.

In a fit of shock and confusion, I followed them. Only to find the whole family sitting at the table, eating dinner. The father and son happily chatted about sports while the daughter and mother argued about school.

They paid no mind as I watched them from the corner of the room, likely unable to see me.

But the scene was much too disturbing for me to bear, so I ran back to the living room. Wondering to myself how long I had been dead.

I stood before the mirror again, hoping to see my reflection but was met with nothing. The book I had placed before the mirror, suddenly caught my attention. Scooping it up I marched to what I expected to be my study but it had been transformed into someone else’s. The furniture was completely different and all my precious books were missing from the shelves.

I breathed a small sigh of relief as I saw that at least my built-in reading nook was the same. So I plunked myself down and opened the book, only to be met with empty pages.

“What the hell? How is this supposed to be helpful?” I asked aloud in a half-annoyed, half-sarcastic tone.

Suddenly the book came to life, flipping through pages wildly until it landed on one of the first few pages. Which read:

Chapter One:

How does ‘The Book for the Recently Deceased’ work?

It works by being asked a question out loud and then it will provide the answer to you.

Suddenly a monotone woman’s voice came from the book. “Was this helpful?.”

I sat stunned and dumbfounded, unable to find the words to reply.

“Was this helpful?.” The voice repeated several more times before I could find the words.

“Uh, yes,” I replied, feeling overwhelmed.

“Would you like to rate our service?” The woman’s voice asked.

“No,” I replied, wishing she’d stop talking and let me process what was going on.

This was a lot to take in, in such a short time.

Suddenly the book closed itself and sat undisturbed upon my lap, as though it didn’t have a mind of its own.

I looked around, wishing for someone else that had bore witness to the nonsense that was that experience.

Swallowing hard, I got my courage back. “Why am I here?” I asked.

The book to came to life once again, flipping to a page that appeared to be close to the last one. Which read:

Chapter One:

Why am I here?

You are here because you have died in a tragic accident, this was your last known checkpoint. You have come back to this point because you have not declared whether you would have preferred to move on or remain in place.

“Was this helpful?.” The monotone woman asked again.

“Yes,” I replied with more confidence than before.

“Would you like to rate our service?” The woman’s voice asked, again.

“No,” I replied again.

The book did as it had before, waiting for more questions.

“How long have I been dead?” I asked, feeling braver as I began to understand the purpose of the book.

The book flipped through itself, landing on the very first page.

Chapter One:

How long have I been dead?

Approximately 50 days, but for a more specific answer please contact your case worker. Mrs. Gillbert.

You may contact her via telephone at 332-322-5563. Her office hours are from dusk until dawn, Monday through Friday.

I smirked as the numbers spelled ‘dead call me’. Ignoring the monotone lady as she asked, “Was this helpful?.” Again.

Looking up, the sun was setting. I ran over to the landline and dialed the number.

After only one ring “Hello.” An older woman’s voice answered. From her voice alone I was reminded of a classic secretary from the 1950s.

“Is this Mrs. Gillbert?” I asked.

“Who else would it be, Darlin'?” She snapped. Smacking her lips together in an obnoxious way that suggested she was chewing gum, with her mouth wide open.

“I thought maybe it would be your secretary,” I admitted, feeling stupid to say it aloud.

“Bein’ a case worker for the dead, don’ pay tha’ well, Darlin'.” She stated, giving her lips another smack.

“My apologies, I’m new to this being dead thing-“

“Obviously.” She interrupted. “Waddya wan’?” She urged impatiently.

“I wanted to know how long I’ve been dead and whose in my house,” I answered without tact or hesitation.

“I’ll be there shortly.” She stated, followed by a click that told me she had hung up already.

Before I had fully placed the phone on its holder, a stout frog-like woman appeared in a puff of grey smoke.

She had a large wide mouth, smudged with red lipstick. Mrs. Gillbert wore a floral dress that hung down to her ankles and a pearl necklace. She used her index finger, on one hand, to flick a few ashes off the tip of her cigarette. While in her other, she held a case file.

“Are ya Ms. Mortimer?” She asked, taking a casual puff of her cigarette between sloppy lip smacks of her gum.

“I am,” I replied, running to her side.

She lazily flipped open the file.

“Says here, ya died abou’ 90 days ago-“

“90 days-“

“Hush Darlin', it’s rude ter interrup’.” She interrupted, giving me a begrudging look. “Ya died 90 days ago in an automobile acciden’.” She took another puff, scanning through the papers. “The Elin family bough’ yer home an’ moved in.” She finished, closing the file and looking at me expectantly.

Then her eyes racked around the room, “By the looks of it, they upgraded the place.” She stated, her eyes combing over the room with a look of admiration and an approving head nod.

“I hate it,” I stated with a stamp of my foot.

“Tha’ wasn’ a jab at ya, Darlin'.” She explained, giving me a flabbergasted look.

“Now, let’s talk abou’ ya movin’ along to where ya belong-“

“I don’t want to move on, I want everything to go back to how it was,” I shouted stamping my foot again.

Starting to feel something like a toddler refusing to lie down for my nap.

“Now, Darlin', ya know tha’ simply can’ happen.” She stated giving me a dumbfounded look.

“Then how do I evict them from my house?” I asked, feeling heat rush to my cheeks.

Suddenly the book began to flip through to a new page.

“The book can help ya, but trus’ me. Evictin’ the livin’ won’ fix yer problem.” She warned, giving me an apprehensive look over her cat-eye-shaped glasses.

She chewed her gum more obnoxiously and took another puff of her cigarette. “Ya ough’ ta fuhgeddaboudit an’ just move on to the nex' plane.” She added, with a hopeful glint in her eye.

“No,” I replied in a calmer but still shaky voice. Now glancing over to The Book for the Recently Deceased.

“Alrigh’, suit yerself.” She said with another smack of her lips as she watched me with uncertainty. “Just gimme a call, if ya change yer mind.” She stated.

“Thank you for your help,” I replied, just as she disappeared into a cloud of grey smoke.

Which I partially suspected was just an excess of cigarette smoke.

“Fuhgeddaboudit.” Her voice echoed as the smoke cleared and I was left alone once more.

Immediately I walked over to The Book for the Recently Deceased, and sitting in front of it I began to pour over its contents.

A note from the Author:

This story was inspired by a friend and fellow author Mark Gagnon.

I recently read a story by him called Being Dead, here is the link to it:

Thank you for the inspiration, Mark!

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About the Creator

Donna Fox (HKB)

Thank you for your support and feedback! 💚💙💜

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. On-point and relevant

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Comments (10)

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  • Mark Gagnon11 months ago

    Donna, I had no idea this story existed. The way you mixed humor and petulance into what some might consider a somber subject was perfect. Also, thanks for the nod. I'm humbled.

  • Caroline Craven11 months ago

    Thought this was very clever…. Loved the book for the recently deceased and having a number to call. Great stuff Donna.

  • That book would come in very handy to be honest. I love how creative this is! Fantasy job on this story, Donna!

  • This was magical. Loved every part of this especially the book asking if this was helpful

  • Hannah Moore12 months ago

    I love the notion of the book for the recently deceased. Great that it's not the only source of advice!

  • Novel Allenabout a year ago

    Wow! That was a ride. Totally new twist on the story line. Better accept. dead is dead though. But, one never knows what persistence can achieve, Just a little tweak to this word here .....'Too disturbing to bare/bear. Otherwise bravo!

  • Manikanda Ramanabout a year ago

    At the reading time, I'm been in the another world

  • Quincy.Vabout a year ago

    writing is so captivating and descriptive, it truly transports me to another world.👌👌👌🧡🧡

  • Sham gowthamabout a year ago

    exellent ..Mr donna fox ...nic story

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