Shuffled Off – Transmission #1

Received 2010/10/19 03:14:03

When someone dies, the world doesn’t stop. It seems like it should, but it doesn’t. Sure if it’s a famous person, or a grisly murder, there is a period of piranha-like activity on the part of media. But that’s not stopping, that is just business as usual in the land of the twenty-four hour news cycle. Even then it settles down quickly and everyone gets back to their shaky, unsure life.

It would be useful if it did stop. You know, take a moment, get your bearings, and deal with the practical and emotional details that engulf a death. But no, no stopping, no break, you just gotta continue your drunkard’s walk down the path of life.

When I died, the world didn’t stop, not a bit. I wasn’t expecting it to, but it would’ve been nice, you know?

The death effect is kind of like throwing a stone into a pond: a famous person is like a rock—it stirs things up; an everyman, like me, is more like a tiny pebble—it effects the immediate surrounding but has no discernable effect on the whole. In the end neither one really changes things much; the world doesn’t stop. Life goes on.

My ma was a mess, it rocked her world—“a parent shouldn’t outlive her child,” and all that junk. My sister Jean spent about three days contemplating her own mortality and just went back to business as usual—the college social scene is all consuming. Nate, now he was ripped up. We’ve been joined at the hip since junior high, and my exit really sent him spinning.

I used to wish there was a sign that a person was going to leave soon. Like a light over their head that they can’t see, and no one tells them about, but everyone around them sees and can act on. You know: be nice, spend time with them, tell them what you’ve got to tell them. My dad died quick, a heart attack, and it left me devastated, wishing I had said and done things different towards the end. You know the end is gonna come, but when it arrives it arrives so damn quick.

But now that it was me, I would want to have seen the light over my head too. I would have liked to look up Rhiannon and told her how sorry I was. I would have ditched work and taken a good long vacation. I would have slept a lot less, and lived a lot more.

So now you must be thinking who’s the mouthy guy writing from beyond the pale. Wooooooooooo. At least that’s what I would be thinking, I have no idea what you are thinking, I ain’t no mind reader.

OK, so my name is Joseph Jeffery Lynch, JJ to my friends. I am twenty-nine years old, and I am dead. Well mostly dead. Actually I don’t really know. The body is gone, but I seem to still have a sense of myself, of who I am, even without it. Is that alive, or is that dead? Is that un-dead? I guess if you had to choose a word for my condition, you would choose the word “ghost.” Woooooooooooo.

Scared yet? I would be if I were you. What I have to tell has its scary parts, its happy parts, and its sad parts—just like life. Is life scary to you? To me it was, sometimes, and I can now say the same thing about death.

Wonder how a ghost can write? Good question. I am using some new technology here at the University of Arizona (UA) that allows me to “type.” Part of the SECI program. Never heard of it? It stands for the Search for Extra-Corporeal Intelligence. What SETI is to aliens, SECI is to ghosts.

Don’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of it. It is kind of a ghost project (pun intended) running underneath a more respectable project studying lightweight electromagnetic (EM) shielding. Now I don’t fully understand the technology, but here I am the first beta tester.

I graduated college (barely, and with a liberal arts degree at that), but because of circumstances, that I imagine we’ll get into later, I never moved on from my college job. I worked as a janitor at UA and among other things, I cleaned up the small lab that Jin Shi and Tamara Watson run the SECI program out of. They would often be there late and we would talk about things: about ghosts, and death, and the nature of life. The basic theory is this: consciousness exists outside of the body, the body being an amplifier for that consciousness. Jin and Tam were trying to figure out another type of amplifier—so was born SECI.

“Look,” Tam told me once, “every religion in the world believes consciousness goes on beyond the corporeal form, exists separate from the corporeal form. They can’t all be wrong; we are just trying to find a way to communicate with that realm.”

Tam, she was always good to me, and she was cute, so I kinda had a crush on her. Big lips, lots up top, but not much of a butt (but I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for that!). She also had this vulnerability, this deep need; it was clear she was doing SECI for very personal reasons.

“Imagine it, JJ,” Jin said, he always had this glint in his eye when he talked about this part. “How much would this be worth? Talk to the dearly departed; solve murders; find out the secrets of the great beyond.” Clearly the monetary ramifications were what got him going.

“So how does it work?” I asked.

“Our theory revolves around detecting non-random, patterned EM fluctuations in a highly EM shielded space,” Tam explained. “Our SECI Chamber will theoretically shield all external EM radiation, so that any EM it picks up will have to be from within the chamber, from an extra-corporeal. The chamber will have in-depth instructions for the earth-bound extra-corporeal entity so they know what patterns to create to communicate with us.”

“Huh?” It was all beyond me; I’m just a janitor with a liberal arts degree.

I lived about a mile south of UA, in a little studio apartment. It was old, not in a good part of town, but serviceable. Couldn’t do much better on what I made.

I mostly used my skateboard to get around. Yeah, I know, a man of my age—what can I say? I was without four-wheeled motorized transport.

About two months ago—give or take, time is tough to measure right now—I was headed home on a blistering August night at about 2 a.m. I was kicking my way south when a black Audi A4 plowed into me.

The car, full of drunk undergrads, veered to avoid something (or nothing, they were seriously altered), hopped the curb, hit me and plowed us all into a Mickey D’s. I was out quick, and my body expired some minutes later pinned to a kiddie jungle gym.

That undergrad’s car was equipped with airbags leaving the passengers relatively unharmed. I, on the other hand, was smushed like a bug against a windshield.

The EMTs tried to revive me, they tried hard. They got me out and hauled me back to Saint Mother of the Weeping Virgin (or something like that), but it was no use.

It wasn’t bad, dying that is. I’ve had headaches that hurt more. What was hard was watching it all. As soon as the car plowed into me, I popped out and kind of floated (I guess) along and watched the whole bloody procedure.

One plastered, Barbie-blond co-ed stumbled out of the car, looked at what was left of me and said, “Oh my God, that is so gross!”

The driver, a GQ pretty-boy, called someone, Daddy I presume, and said, “It wasn’t my fault, you’ve got to get me out of this.” His voice shook and his face was pale.

There were people screaming, others with broken bones and injuries, weeping women, and one patron barfing up their recently consumed meat-like-substance.

As the firemen pulled back the car, it was surreal watching my body slide to the floor like a wet rag, my eyes open and vacant, my limbs bent at odd angles. So quick, so sudden, one moment alive, the next dead and all that is left is the meat body I used to inhabit. Like a candle being snuffed out, like a marionette getting its strings cut, like the air rushing out of a balloon, like a… Too many metaphors? Maybe, but man was it sudden, and that suddenness was bizarre and hard to accept.

The paramedics went right to it, following their procedures: mobilizing my neck; shocking my heart; pumping me full of meds; hauling me off in the ambulance. I was attached to my body by some sort of silver cord. When the body was moved, I just got dragged along.

The ambulance was cool; I had never been in one. All that gear, and it was fast. We tore through the streets, sirens blaring, weaving around what little traffic there was. Kind of made me wish I had been an ambulance jockey instead of a janitor. What a ride!

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