I closed my eyes and attempted to focus. Earl’s dialog about having the urge to scratch his privates as a ghost, despite having no reason to itch them was distracting to say the least. Rather than the less than savory image he presented, I filled my mind with visions of my wife, my Donna.

She was wearing a pale yellow sundress last night at our BBQ, it brought out the gentle tanning of her skin and brought out the straw color of her hair. I could almost smell the chicken and bratwurst I had been grilling while she laughed and carried on with our friends, Peggy and Kevin. The light from the stupid tiki lanterns she had insisted on filled the area around the pool in a pleasant glow. I remember looking up at the stars as I grilled, thinking that the night had been especially clear. Certainly not the sort of night that you’d expect the Earth to just end like it had.

I’m floating in those stars now, not unlike the debris that marks the remains of my home, my world. I reach out with my conscious and attempt to feel her presence somewhere in the vast, drifting wasteland of Once-Earth, but I find nothing. I’m greeted with a sense of great emptiness, speckled with pinpoints of passing energy, possibly other spirits that are doing what I’m doing. Maybe they’re looking for loved ones or just a stranger in the void. Somebody to assure them that they’re not alone in the world. Should I ever encounter one of those lost souls, I’ll give them Earl.

“You know what I really miss? Pork rinds! Mmm! Dip those bad boys in hot sauce and watch your eyes tear up and your pants burn off!” Earl is supposed to be not distracting me and his answer to that task is to distract himself by babbling.

I don’t bother dignifying his prattle with an answer. I reach out with my mind once more, further this time. Beyond the scope of the debris field, beyond the space I can see. I feel as though I’m attempting to fill a jug of water with just enough pinholes in the bottom that water never quite fills it but never quite runs out either. I’m at a mental stalemate with the Universe, as I allow my mind to extend out as far as it will go. Besides a momentary itch at the edge of my perception, there’s nothing. No sign of Donna and for that I’m pleased and sad. I can’t remember my last words to her because I was so drunk I’m sure I stammered them. I remember her laughter as light and amused. She was happy. I’ll have to be satisfied with that and the fact she won’t be caught in this Purgatory like I am.

“Think we’re done here.” I announce. “I can’t sense her.”

“Probably for the best. Means she probably died painlessly.”

I stared at Earl for a long and uncomfortable moment, long enough to make my burly ghost companion slightly self-conscious. But it’s not anger at him, it’s befuddlement at myself for not even considering why the Earth exploded or broke apart or whatever the hell it did. I had done the same thing with Donna; it was as if, as a spirit I’m designed to have a measure of apathy for living matters. Earl displays the same thing in his own crude way. What ghost tries to make fart noises with his armpit, while somebody’s looking for their loved ones? Perhaps its a coping mechanism for those who pass on, so they can finally leave this world. A depletion of one’s humanity to forget and to fade away. Except I wasn’t ready to fade yet. I was ready for some answers.

“So now what?” Earl looked like he was eager to explore the girl ghost possibility again.

“We’re going to Mars. I want to know how this happened.” Maybe then I could fade away. Maybe then I could be with Donna again, once the questions in my mind were answered.


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