my fellow misunderstood
By Isha Shah
They say the dead are scary. That they are violent, out for revenge, craving your blood. They’ll bring you to your knees in hysterical frenzy, they say, lurking in the corners of your vision and filling you with cold dread. They bring screams and sobs and wide, wet eyes, and absolute paralysis.
They say the dead are disgusting, with half-skinned bodies and half-attached heads and yellow, bloody skin. They say the dead sneer at you with their crooked, moldy teeth; their sunken eyes pinpointing your location even in the depths of darkness, and their papery hands, cob-webbed with veins,reaching toward your throat.
They say the dead curse you, that they envy you your life.
But truly, ghosts are not the red darkness we fear nor the tepid green that sickens us. No, ghosts are sad. They are grey wisps with barely discernible shapes; clouds of vaporized misery that fill nooks and crannies with the smell of yesteryears. They do not seek revenge on or envy the living. They are weary of life and its desert parched of joy. They are stragglers, longing to join their family in whatever comes after ghost-hood. They are everywhere, with unrecognizable faces and breathy voices, laughing or crying over some tragedy of the modern world.
They are not great, invincible forces of nature.
They are the chatter at the back of your head, the whispers that pull you to untraveled places. They are the calls you hear from far away when no one is around to say your name. They are the muddled answers to your unspoken questions, the pains that haunt you day and night. They are the softness in your inescapable sorrows, the bitter companionship that you never want but always have.
They are not the bloody shadows that you fear nor the garish yellow that you despise. They are the misty despondency that you have come to call home, the weighted gloom you cannot escape.
They are not knives in the dark or wailing wildfires or bloodied handprints.
They are family, the moments we could not freeze, the memories we let slip like sand through our knuckles, the friends we never loved again. They are the regrets that you carry with hunched, weary shoulders, the shattered mistakes that you try to glue together. They are homesickness incarnate, some resigned to their fate, others enraged and bitter.
But all sad.
I would know, after all. They told me so.