Lost Souls

Ghost Fight

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Ghost Fight

by Ryder W. Miller

The only thing they agreed upon, at least for now was the music that was going to be played while they fought. Sendy wanted to hear Alchemy by Dire Straits, but she settle for a David Knopfler album as an opener instead. Alchemy was one of the better albums that survived the apocalypse, but it was not appropriate for the main event this evening. Andrea was the older and she had the priority of opinion in this matter. She chose Jethro Tull’s concert album Bursting Out as the music that they would battle to.

At lot was at stake. The apocalypse killed most of the human population, but it didn’t affect most of the ghosts that lived on the planet. In fact it had produced more ghosts. Sendy was one of them. Andrea had survived the apocalypse and she cared about the old ways. Sendy did not know what they were and doubted if they were still important in the post extraterrestrial attack wasteland. In most parts of the world they had invaded and taken what they needed or desired, and left. They had succeeded in conquering the human race, but they were not interested in having slaves or dominion over others in the human race. They had went for a free shopping spree, did a little bit of research and left. Humankind had yet to recover. It was rumored that they had control over some areas of the globe, but most others were in a state of anarchy. The fight this evening would determine who had dominance in this neck of the woods, actually in this part of town.

There were not many people who lived in these areas of town, but they had worked together to form communities. In groups they could better protect themselves and solve problems. But government, as it once existed, no longer existed. The ghosts existed to remind people of important things, often of the past. They could remind people and create culture and tradition.

They would meet at the street junction and use the portable generators to light the street lamps. They got the help of human beings who would bring the boom box to play the music, and there would be a crowd in attendance. Sendy did not care that the human beings would not be consulted about which music to play for the main event of the evening.

Sendy grew sad as she thought of the David Knopfler music. His brother Mark was great, monumental, and famous, but David could also burst out the soulful tunes. They were pained, but he was able to soften the sad reality with the soulful sounds. David’s brother Mark felt more at risk and was more combative at combating the dictates of the societal principal, but he was listened to by so many more people. Sendy would be singing Hosannas, and she wouldn’t be one of the Sultans this evening. Andrea didn’t want to have an opening act for this fight, but she knew she had to make some concessions. This fight would determine their role, the role of ghosts in this area. In other areas it would be different, but the fight would determine who would have influence. Sendy was under thirty and Andrea was much older than thirty. Maybe that summed up the conflict more than anything. Sendy would listen to the music for inspiration. Andrea had never heard the David Knopfler album Sendy had chosen, buy she recognized the pain and hope in the songs. If there was a rematch Andrea would suggest Alchemy or maybe The Beatles, but for now they would have to remember the old English band that never grew too old to rock and roll. The past was important Andrea would assert. The past had taught important lessons, and David Knopfler knew about them. As the lyrics went weeping in the wind Andrea had not yet arrived. Sendy sat there smiling in the confusion of the crowd.

They were not sure what the fight would be like. There had been few other rules than what the music would be. Sendy materialized first on the corners of Fillmore and Haight as the artificial lights brightened the corner. The lights did not usually work, but Sendy convinced some of the local residents to turn them on. Sendy dressed in a short red dress which was open around her waste to show her lower back and belly button. Her shoulders were also bare and her curly brown hair reached beyond her shoulders.

"Where are you you old bag?" yelled Sendy.

The crowd did not know how to respond. In this strange future, in this strange world, they had seen much worse. They were used to just planning to survive. They were concerned with the basics-food, water and shelter-but once in a while they would like some entertainment.

They had paid attention to Sendy when she arrived out of the mist. She was a reminder of the great attack from which mankind had never recovered from. She was of a more recent generation of haunters. She was assertive and attractive. Most people did not consider her very scary, and they listened to what she had to say when they could. Sendy did not expect to be obeyed, but she was persuasive in her own way. She was not of the far past. She was contemporary and lucid. They related to her, even though most people in this village in this part of town were anarchists. She had rallied them to this encounter which Andrea had requested. Andrea would be setting them strait, or at least that was her goal. But where was Andrea? She was not around while the David Knopfler taped rolled on to its end. This crowd, many of which suffered from radiation poisoning and unsolved medical problems did not have a lot of patience. If Andrea did not show up sometime soon they would grow bored and leave.

The stage was set, but the battle lines would not be drawn until the music was over. Andrea had said the she did not want an opening act and Sendy guessed that she meant it. The Knopfler tape was only forty-five minutes long and Andrea knew it. There was a song with a reference to being in the belly of the whale and then the tape ended.

Sendy looked out over the assemble crowd, but was not sure how to act.

"She should be here soon," she yelled to the crowd.

"I wish she was the one here instead of you," someone in the crowd yelled.

"Calm down, how often do we get a ghost cat fight to entertain us in the evening," said another.

"This is not just about entertainment. This is about the past. This is about the present. This is about the future," said another.

"She said she will be here. She will be here soon," said Sendy in a confident voice, even though she did not know what to expect.

"Maybe you should put on Bursting Out by Jethro Tull. Maybe that will get her attention?" said someone in the crowd.

"Alright, put it on," said Sendy.

"Oh such good new. But I will be singing my Hosannas this evening," said a young man in the crowd.

The crowd grew silent, and then the music started flowing out of the boom box.

Suddenly Andrea appeared. She was in a loose fitting business outfit with slacks, a blouse and a vest. Her dirty blond hair was short and she was wearing make up.

"I told you I did not want an opening act for this," she said to Sendy and the crowd.

Many in the crowd laughed, but some were withdrawn and cautiously afraid. For them this was an encounter with the dead, this was an encounter with the supernatural. The results of this contest could shape their future.

They looked at each other as the song It Was a New Day Yesterday, But It is a Old Day Now played.

"The past, you have forgotten the past," said Andrea.

Some in the crowd shuddered as she was louder and angrier than the music. Meanwhile the guitar raged on.

"The past, the past is over. What did we get from the past?" said Sendy.

"You do not know what the past has to offer," said Andrea.

As the flute played, Sendy said, "All I got from your planning was death. We were not prepared for the invasion, the attack."

"You are even less prepared then we were in the past," said Andrea.

"You failed. You had your shot at things," said Sendy.

"We were not perfect. We did not anticipate the attack, but we had learned from our mistakes."

"I do not want you to keep learning. I died because of your mistakes."

"Too bad you didn’t die somewhere else," said an old man in the crowd.

Many in the crowd started to boo.

"You cannot start from scratch. You are fools to think you should reinvent the wheel."

"What do you have to offer us?" Sendy yelled.

"History, continuation. Knowledge. Wisdom."

"I will not be a fool again," Sendy said and she floated towards Andrea.

Andrea saw her coming and they embraced before they tried to use their strength against each other. The crowd looked on as they wrestled. Sendy was younger and stronger, but Andrea was more organized and determined. After a short struggle, Andrea pulled herself away from Sendy and started yelling.

"I am here to teach you the errors of your ways," Andrea said to the crowd.

"Your ways got me killed, and many others killed."

"You need to look backwards before you look forward," said Andrea.

"I care about the present."

"The present is meaningless without knowledge of the past or eyes to the future."

"The present is all these people have. They are going to die of radiation poisoning."

"You deprive them of vision."

"Whose vision? I was burned alive when the ships attacked. My whole family died of the radiation."

"I died of a disease for which they later found a cure for. Progress. Science. Progress is possible."

"Who cares about the future. What if they come back?"

This time Andrea ran to embrace Sendy. Andrea was taller and tried to shake her off. Meanwhile Sendy tried to put her arms around Andrea and squeeze her, but Andrea kept her at a distance.

As Sweet Dreams played on the boom box they struggled, but they decided to separate to yell at each other some more.

"You have no dreams. You deny the past," yelled Andrea.

"You ask us to be fools. You ask us to waste the few precious moments we have."

"They mean something if you understand what has transpired before."

"They mean something if you are just keeping your eyes open, if you are just looking around you."

"We couldn’t anticipate what would happen."

"And what were you doing?" Sendy asked.

"I was trying to convince people that progress was possible. That we could learn from our mistakes and that we could solve problems. The past was a stepping stone. The past was a lesson. I have grown tired with this history deprived contemporary mess. People do not understand that we can improve our circumstances. We can keep from making the same mistakes over and over again."

The crowd grew silent.

"Does anybody agree with this shit?"

"It is difficult to get people to listen, but we are ghosts. As you know some people act like we do not exist. Others are scared into listening."

One Brown Mouse ended the tape on the boom box. It made a loud noise as the side of the tape ended.

"And I guess you were afraid of mice. You were afraid of mice weren’t you?" yelled Sendy.

"You should be afraid of mice also. If they bite you they can give you a disease. You live in anarchy. Where are your doctors you morons. If one bites you, you may catch a disease."

"So what. What the hell do we have to live for?"

"Oh shut up," yelled a man in the crowd.

"We are not weak and subservient like yourself," said Sendy.

Hunting Girl went on as the boom box began to play music again. The crowd got lost in the keyboards and flute.

"You were not a hunting girl were you?" yelled Sendy.

"I did not need to be a hunting girl."

The crowd was silent as the guitar played.

"They searched me out, even if I was not easy. I will be too old to rocking roll if I choose to be," said Andrea.

"I will never be old," said Sendy.

"That is the point. Society needs its old people. You were only young. You never understood maturity," said Andrea.

"I did not have a chance to be old, but I do not miss it."

"You do not know what you are missing. You do not know what you missed. You missed having wisdom," said Andrea.

"As I grew older things just seemed a lot more complicated. I did not understand as much."

"Things change, but eventually you pass through the stage of not knowing things. Youth confuses desire with proper action."

Sendy rushed her again, but like a bull fighter Andrea stepped out of her way and tripped her.

Sendy fell on the floor, but quickly got up. She was angry but did not rush her again.

Meanwhile the band played on without words. The drums rumbled and the guitar jammed.

Then The Minstrel In the Gallery came on.

Sendy was shocked by the fall she took, and decided to not make the same mistake again. She stood her ground and waited for Andrea to start the conversation again.

After a while, she said "Why don’t we let those assembled decide what they want?"

"You have already scared them into wanting the wrong things."

"And what things are those?"

"You would have them live for the moment. You would punish them for reading," said Andrea to Sendy.

To the crowd Andrea said "Do you choose this chaos?"

The crowd did not take the taunt likely, and they waited a few moments to respond. They responded with questions:

"What do we have to look forward to?"

"How much time do we have?"

"How can we help ourselves?"

The crowd became quiet as the music roars. As Cross Eyed Mary played in the background Andrea screamed.

"You need to have some sense of context. You need to have some sense of continuity."

"All those things changed when we were attacked. We have to start from ground zero," said Sendy.

"Why throw away the past?"

"I never got to learn about the past," Sendy returned.

"That is because you were raised wrong. I bet you did not get to learn about anything?"

"I got to learn about what I wanted to do. I was more concerned with the present."

Now Aqualung played loudly, but the crowd could hear the yelling of the ghosts over the once famous guitar jam. The jamming guitar was joined by other instruments and most in the crowd could not identify them. The crowd grew silent waiting for the discussion to begin again.

Andrea drew herself up tall and looked out over the crowd.

"Knowing about the past will give you perspective. It will teach you about progress. It will allow you to learn from our mistakes. It will teach you… "

"It will leave you unprepared. You need to live with eyes open. You need to keep your guard up and enjoy the moments you have," said Sendy.

"Knowing about the past will teach you to create your future."

Locomotive’s Breath played with flute, guitars and drums. The crowd grew silent as the music raged on.

"The people of my time did not know that Jethro Tull was one of the precursors of Heavy Metal."

"Who cares," responded Sendy.

"You just listen, but I know they are English. I know that they were from before U2. I know they were before Motor Head. You don’t know these things because you don’t care. It is not that you are stupid or incapable to learn. You just don’t want to learn."

"Who gives?" said Sendy.

The crowd booed Sendy, and Andrea realized that she had won.

"You see you must understand history in order to proceed into the future," she said walking a circle around Sendy.

A few in the crowd were cheering, but most were quiet.

The tape ended with a load click.

Andrea focused on the crowd that had become silent.

"You need to establish society again. You need to move beyond this dark ages. There will be pain and anger but there will also be progress."

Andrea was tall and focused. Sendy realized that she had lost the battle, but was trying to think of a way to cut her losses.

"We need to give up chaos. We need to recover. We need to move forward," Andrea said to the crowd.

"And what would you have me do? You are not really one of us," said Sendy.

"I was here before you. I can join you in your struggles if you will listen to reason, if you will choose the path of wisdom. Oh I am sorry. If you are willing to learn from your mistakes."

"What will you have us do? We are just ghosts. We can only cajole or inspire. It is really their decision. What will you have us do?"

"Read. Talk. Organize."

"Understand the present by knowing history?"

"Yes. You will need to read," said Andrea.

"And write and do arithmetic," said Sendy.

The crowd grew silent again, and then nervous as they disappeared without saying goodbye.

Copyright Ryder W. Miller 2006

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