To Love a Ghost

It seems in my space-opera universe the world might be all but godless but ghosts are abundant; indeed, proof of the omnipresent ghost cult can be found in quite a few of my stories. But in every case so far the spirits of the dead have manifested to reveal information to or provide guidance to the living. So I got to thinking: why not change things up with a spectral romance?

A Ghost Ship

The far future, the age after technologies like wormholes and warp drive are mastered, would be a particularly interesting setting. It’s a blank page as far as belief systems go. Soulcraft is better understood, as is the psychic and spiritual realm. And there are any number of creepy abandoned derelict starships that a ghost could haunt. I could set such a ghost-ship location anywhere in the universe I wanted.

As for the ghost, why not a girl with a strong soul, a dreamy wonderful gorgeous girl, who appears before a man and captures his heart at first sight, the sort of woman you fall in love with all over again every time you see her, time and space winking out of existence as you pleasure her and make her happy. The very fact she appears in such a dark abandoned creepy derelict ship will be the first sign something’s up, as will various signs that she’s rather…off, compared to a normal living human being. But I’m thinking our protagonist won’t have the heart to inquire too deeply, lest the love of his life be ruined.

A very human Ghost

He might have more luck in that than general audiences might expect. According to TVTropes’s great page, “Our Ghosts Are Different”, ghosts in older stories are much more likely to be tangible, and in some cases could even pass as living humans! I’m thinking our leading girl will be of the “pass as a living human” sort of ghost. She’ll pass so much as a living human she even has sex with our man and births children, experiencing the full bloom of a loving passionate marriage in youth and motherhood, having a whole bunch of children with her man, enjoying every moment of it, time flying by as if it was a dream…because that’s exactly what it is, her dream made reality, only in her case after her death, because her spirit was too strong to let it go unfulfilled.

She dearly wanted her starship too to be brought back to life, and after kiss-studded sweet talk her man becomes her captain, gradually consumed by the ship and the woman, a family straight out of a fantasy dream world exploring the universe together, the passage of time becoming a blur.

I’m thinking time may start to lose meaning, and when the children are grown and the dream is fulfilled something might change to conclude the story. Will the boy regain his wits and the girl fade away once she has her fill of life, leaving the half-ghost children behind, perhaps with a little piece of her and her powers in them for him to cherish for all time? I actually kinda like that idea.

A very ghostly Human

Another twist might be for the boy to be dead all along, a favorite of mine that I’ve yet to use in an actual story: he’s a ghost too, but doesn’t know it. Maybe he becomes so despairful at the love of his life leaving he commits suicide, only to find he cannot die. Becoming fully cognizant of his spectral nature, he sees his beloved girl reappear, and they may be together forevermore, perhaps out of a Flying-Dutchman-like curse on her that may only be broken if she finds a man pure in heart to love her unto death.

Hmm…on the other hand, would such a curse only work on a living human who does in fact die, thus we’re back to him needing to be a living human? If I go down that road the very sanguine portrayal of suicide doesn’t entirely sit well with me, but on the flip side I love it when it appears in Richard Wagner’s operas, and “together in death” as ghosts in general was rather more common in 19th century fiction.

From another angle, though, maybe her circumstances are so difficult because:

  1. She can manifest herself and her starship only to other starships reachable through ripples in time and space, the fluctuations of the “quantum foam” if you will, that happen to intersect the location she haunts.
  2. Because she must have real children, children of her own kind, she can only mate with another ghost.
  3. But, because her curse may only be broken by being loved unto death, her beloved must genuinely intend to die for her and commit that act. Since a ghost who knows he’s a ghost would know he cannot die, there would be no intent, therefore the only suitable mate is a ghost who doesn’t know he’s a ghost.

None of that sounds easy, hence why she might have been haunting that ship for a very long time, but the power of love can conquer even the most terrible of curses.

I might just go with this last angle. It’s a really cool visual anyway for it to be set really far into the future, far enough that preon armor and lightsabers (the latter called something else of course…) are the standard; imagine a glowing energy sword that the protagonist falls upon unarmored, believing completely that he’s going to die, only for it to not harm him in the least. That’s a dramatic, medieval, classical, and futuristic way to bring off that plot point all at the same time, and honestly might be too compelling an idea for me to resist.

What End for our Ghosts?

What will be their ultimate fate after this? In Wagner’s “Flying Dutchman” the ship and the couple ascend into heaven, but that’s a bit too on-the-nose for my taste. Maybe I’ll conclude with, for the first time since they met, the starship warping off into the sunset good as new with the couple in an embrace, and otherwise keep their final post-curse-being-lifted fate ambiguous?

After all, by all indications in my fictional universe after you die you just become a ghost, though some characters in my stories have evinced a belief in reincarnation that might be true in-universe for all I know (with active ghosts being those souls who are unwilling and/or unable to be reborn). But there doesn’t seem to be any particular plane at a full remove from our own that the spirits of the dead all go to by default.

Big stuff, which I like to leave up to the reader’s interpretation rather than spell out for them in black-letter text. A really interesting concept I think for a little story. Biggest thing I’ve yet to figure out is what exactly she might have been cursed for, though an interesting twist on that might be that all those actions are simply what’s required to bring her dream to fruition, to permit her soul to stand the very thought of freeing herself and her starship from where she died, being not so much a curse, technically speaking, so much as an irresistible haunting of the place that gave her the greatest torment, which, especially after a long time, might well feel like a curse to our poor ghost girl.

Even if it’s self-inflicted duress, the very fact she chooses to drive a man to try to kill himself lends her character a slightly villainous cast, but I like the idea: it’s as cool as it is elegant. As is the whole story. I’ve got no idea whether I want to write this concept up anytime soon, but I have a feeling I’ll be revisiting this one.

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