Life After Death

by Graeme

Ray opened his eyes and felt an immediate wave of despair. Something had gone wrong.

“Hi there, hun. Take your time.”

Ray turned his head to see a portly middle-aged woman in an old-fashioned nurse’s outfit. On her it didn’t look incongruous, but it seemed out of place for the modern hospital room in which he lay.

She smiled sadly and placed her left hand on his arm. “Do you want to talk to me about it?”

Ray scrunched his eyes closed. It wasn’t to stop the tears but from knowing that he couldn’t do anything right. He heard noises from other nurses, but he tuned them out. For some reason he couldn’t tune out the touch of the nurse’s hand on his arm.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen. I’m not supposed to be here,” Ray said.

The nurse’s soft voice penetrated his grief. “None of us are supposed to be here, but sometimes we don’t get a choice.”

Ray opened his eyes and glared at her. “I wanted to die! Why can’t I get what I want?”

He only saw sympathy on her face. Her hand on his arm seemed to radiate warmth and comfort, something he didn’t want to feel, but somehow he couldn’t pull away.

“Why did you want to die, hun? You’re so young. You must’ve had plenty still to live for.”

“Because… because…” Ray closed his eyes as he remembered. “Because I was going to lose him. We were going to lose each other. We decided… we…”

Ray’s eyes shot open, and he pushed himself up onto his elbow. “Is Dave okay? Did he make it, too?”

He was aware of other nurses nearby, but his focus was on the woman in front of him.

The nurse’s eyes widened for a moment. “Dave? Was he your boyfriend?”

Ray rolled out of the bed and stood up. He grabbed her by the shoulders. “Tell me, did he live?”

She pulled him into a hug. “I’m so sorry, hun, I really am. I wish it could be otherwise, but you’re in for a world of pain.”

Noooooo!” Ray would’ve fallen if she hadn’t been holding him.

“He lived, hun. I’m sorry. You both deserve better than this.”

Ray pushed her gently back, opening a small space between them. Her hands slipped from his back, but she kept them on his upper arms as she caught his eyes.

“What… what do you mean? He’s still alive?”

“He lived, hun, but you didn’t. Look behind you.” She gently turned him around, and then caught him after he saw his own body still on the bed. The nurses in modern Royal Melbourne Hospital uniforms were switching off the medical equipment that surrounded him.

* * *


Nurse Joyce shook her head. “We don’t know, hun. Most people move on after they die but not all. A strong love is often a reason but not always. It seems that if there’s still something to do, or if there’s someone to watch over, a person may not move on but sticks around like you and me.”

Ray pondered her words while watching Dave sleeping in his hospital bed. “We were going to die together and hopefully spend the rest of eternity with each other. I’m going to wait for him. That must be why I’m still here.”

Joyce put a hand on his shoulder. Ray had already noticed she was a very tactile person for a ghost. “It doesn’t always work out that way, hun. When you’re ready, I’ll introduce you to Fredrick.”

“Fredrick? Who’s he?”

“You should get the story from him, but he was only a little older than you when he died. That was over a hundred years ago. He waited, but his beau didn’t.”

Ray’s head snapped around. “Dave wouldn’t do that!”

Joyce gave him a hug. “For your sake, I hope so.”

“He wouldn’t! As soon as we finished school, we were moving to Sydney to be together. As long as we were together, everything was going to be okay.”

“But something changed, didn’t it?”

“My parents found us. They told Dave’s parents, and… and they threatened to go to the police because he’s eighteen.” Ray shuddered. “We made a pact that we’d stay together despite them, but I’ve stuffed it up!

Joyce held him for a couple of minutes while he sobbed. She had a calming presence as he brought himself back under control. When he returned his attention to the young man before him, she let him go.

The silence stretched as he kept his bedside vigil, Joyce at his shoulder. He was keenly aware that Dave’s parents hadn’t made an appearance in the hours since Ray’s death. Indeed, it was only the nursing staff who entered the room.

After one of the nurses had completed a set of observations and had left Dave alone, Ray spoke to the nurse at his side. “Why are you still here, Joyce? Are you waiting for someone?”

She sighed and dropped her gaze to the floor. “I don’t know why I’m here.” She looked up. “All I can think of is that my job is to help those like you who find themselves trapped between life and the afterlife.”

Ray thought for a moment while he watched Dave sleep. “Are you happy?” he asked quietly.

She gave him a hug. “Thank you for asking, but overall yes, I’m happy. I don’t like seeing people in pain, but when I’ve helped someone and then see them move on, it makes everything worthwhile.”

Ray shifted around so he could watch Dave while also looking at Joyce. “Move on? You mean leaving here and…?”

She smiled. “Most people move on after a short time. It seems like some event triggers their departure, and they find themselves no longer bound. But we don’t know what’s the trigger because it’s different for everyone. All we can do is wait.”

“You said most. How long have you been here?”

She sighed. “Over sixty years. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, so I keep doing what I think is right.” She brightened. “And it until it happens, I’m not stopping. Just be glad I’ve softened a lot over those sixty years or I’d be dosing you with cod-liver oil like I used to do to all my patients when I was still alive.”

She patted him on the arm. “I think I’ll leave you two alone. When you want to talk some more, you can find me. I’m always around.”

Ray watched as she turned and walked through the closed door. He shuddered; the sight emphasised to him that after seventeen years, he was no longer part of the usual world.

* * *

“Hun, you could do with a break for a couple of hours. He’s not going anywhere until tomorrow.”

Ray’s gaze didn’t leave Dave, who was lying in the hospital bed watching a mindless TV show.

“They said he’ll be leaving soon. I want to make sure I go with him.”

Joyce chuckled, though with a sad tinge. “You’ll get your chance, but I told you: he’s not going anywhere until tomorrow.”

Ray glanced across. “How do you know?”

She rolled her eyes. “I can’t use those new-fangled TV screens they’ve got instead of decent records, but I can look over someone’s shoulder while they’re reading. The discharge papers all have tomorrow’s date on them. Now, I want you to come with me. There’s something you need to do before you leave.”


For the first time, Ray heard a hint of steel in Joyce’s voice. “I always allow a newcomer a period of leniency when they first arrive, but I don’t tolerate rudeness. Now, please come with me. There are things you need to learn and I don’t have time to teach them to you.”

Ray winced. “Sorry, I didn’t mean it that way.”

She smiled. “I know, hun, but you can’t spend all of your time with him. You’ll go crazy if you try. Trust me; I know what I’m talking about.”

As she led him through the mercifully open door — Ray wasn’t ready to walk through things — her comment made him realise there was still so much he didn’t understand. “Can someone really go crazy here?”

She sighed. Unlike most of the time when she spoke with him, she didn’t make eye contact. “It’s rare, but yes. It’s not pretty when it happens. Enough of that. It’s time for you to meet Fredrick. He’ll teach you what you need to learn.”

She increased her pace, discouraging conversation, until they were outside the hospital building. Ray’s attention was immediately drawn to a sombre young man, barely an adult, dressed in a style that could only be described as colonial peasant.

“Fredrick, this is Ray. He’s the one I spoke to you about. Ray, this is Fredrick.

Ray held out his hand. “Hi.”

After a moment’s hesitation, Fredrick took it, but quickly let go. “Pleased to meet you. Joyce has asked me to show you how to do certain things. They’ll make your… existence… a lot easier once you learn them.” He turned to the nurse. “He really is as strong as you said. I don’t know if that’ll make things easier or harder.”

Joyce smiled. “I’ll leave him in your capable hands. Bye, Ray. Listen to him; he knows what he’s talking about.”

Before Ray could respond, she disappeared.

“What the…” Ray stared at where she’d been standing and then turned to Fredrick. “How did she do that? And what was that about being strong?”

The bare hint of a possible smile touched Fredrick’s lips. “Disappearing’s the first thing I’ll teach you. Joyce doesn’t do that in front of newcomers until they’re ready. Instead, she goes out of her way to appear as normal as possible while they adjust.”

He held out both hands, palms up. “Grab hold and close your eyes.”

Not sure of what was going on but knowing that there was a lot to learn, Ray did what he was told. Even with his eyes shut, he sensed that something had happened. Immediately afterwards, he felt Fredrick let go of his hands.

“You can open them now.”

Ray found himself in the middle of a lightly wooded valley. The sun was low over the western hills, and before him were the ruins of a small blackened brick chimney in a colonial style. From the plants growing over and around it, he knew it had been there for a long time.

“Where are we?”

Fredrick leant forward, placing one hand against the partly tumbled-down brickwork and wiping the other across his eyes. “It used to be home.”

Ray saw a shudder pass through Fredrick’s body. Reaching forward, he put a hand on the other guy’s shoulder, but snatched it back when he felt a painful wave of sorrow and regret. He stared at his hand and then at Fredrick, wondering what had happened.

“Contact can pass on emotions, especially if they’re powerful enough. That’s what I meant when I said you’re strong. You don’t hide what you feel, and it almost bursts out of you, but we’ll go over that later.” Fredrick straightened and turned around, his face expressionless. “The thing to remember is that while you may think you’ve got a body, you don’t. Your mind, your soul, is what controls what happens. Most of the time, you can just do what you used to do when you were a corp, but there are times when you need to do things differently.”

“Corp?” Ray asked.

Fredrick’s lips twitched again into that almost-smile Ray had seen earlier. “Don’t say that in front of Joyce or you’ll really find out why you shouldn’t make her angry. I picked it up from Henry who coined the term. It’s short for corporeal, but Joyce thinks it’s too close to corpse.” He glanced back at the chimney and shuddered. “Let’s get out of here, and then you can have your first lesson.”

Fredrick led them up the eastern side of the valley. Ray glanced around, trying to work out their location, but all he could determine was that they were in the countryside. There were no clues as to how far they were from the hospital.

“Where exactly are we?”

“New South Wales, about forty miles northwest of Albury. It’s where I grew up.”

“Who’s Henry?”

Fredrick glanced across but seemed more amused than annoyed at the questions. “He was someone who passed through about thirty years ago. A scholar of sorts, he was only around for a few years while he waited for his beau. He was good company.”

Ray thought for a moment. There was something about what Fredrick said that he thought was strange. “He was gay?”

“Do you mean happy or homosexual?” Fredrick shook his head. “I don’t think anyone who comes here is happy — well apart from George — but he’s a special case. Henry was patient, though. Always calm until it was time to be reunited with his guy.”

“I meant he liked guys, not girls. Like me. Like you.”

Fredrick gave him a quizzical look. “Yes, his love was another guy.”

“Is that common? Are there a lot of ghosts like us?”

Fredrick stopped walking and turned to face Ray. “A number, but there are also those that like girls, and some that like both. Don’t ask me about the girl incs, though. I don’t do a lot with them. We don’t know what makes us like we are, but there’s something about pain, rejection and desire that seems to combine. Those that don’t move on are exceptional in some way, and there are more guys who like guys who end up as incs because of it.”

“Incs? Is that short for incorporeal?”

“Yes, and that one’s okay for you use with Joyce, though if you do she’ll know you got it from me and probably know the other one, too.” Fredrick turned away and resumed the climb. “Not much further to go.”

A couple of minutes later they were over the ridge and looking into the next valley. A small farmstead could be seen in the distance.

“First lesson time: how to go where you want without walking.”

Ray frowned. “If that’s the first lesson, why did we have to walk up here?”

“Because we needed to get away so I’m not disrupting your attempt to travel. To bring someone else unwillingly, like I did when I brought you here, the thoughts involved have to be strong. We need those feelings weaker so you can control where we go and I don’t swamp you.”

“I don’t understand.”

Fredrick sighed. “I told you that it’s your mind and soul that control what you do. Walking you can do without thinking, so your body does what your mind tells it to do. However, your mind can do a lot more than that if you let it. You can go wherever you want just through willpower. The stronger the thoughts or emotions, the easier it is.”

Fredrick held out his hands. “We’ll do it like the first trip, but this time I want you to think of a good friend. Not Dave, because if we went there, you probably won’t have the control to go anywhere else. We’ll start with someone else so you can practise. Is there someone else you’d like to see?”

Ray stared at the hands. “But you said contact passes on emotions.”

“It does, but don’t worry about it. I’ll have my emotions in control so you won’t sense anything. I only want the contact so I can follow what you’re doing.”

“What about my emotions?” Ray was scared that he would give away something he shouldn’t, though he wasn’t sure what that would be.

“You’re strong, as I said before, but all I sense from you is honesty and compassion. There’s nothing to be afraid of, and in time you’ll learn to control what you send, but that’s a lesson for the future. Today, you’re learning the basics. Now, have you thought of someone?”

Ray nodded as he took Fredrick’s hands. “Rachel. She was my best friend and the only one who understood me.”

“Okay, close your eyes and think of her. Tell yourself that you want to see her again.”

Ray did what he was told, but nothing seemed to happen.

“You need to want it more. Think of some event involving her, where you really appreciated that she was there. It’s the emotional image of the person you’re using to find her.”

Ray thought of the time when he and Dave were almost caught by Dave’s parents. It had only been Rachel’s intervention that gave them time to provide an innocent appearance. He remembered how grateful he’d been.

He sensed something had changed, and he opened his eyes. He was in the dining room of Rachel’s house. Rachel was sitting at the table, doing homework. Her eyes were red, and there was a collection of used tissues beside her. Ray knew instinctively that she was crying because of him. He hadn’t meant to hurt her, but he had.

“Well done.” Fredrick looked around. “Nice place. There’s a lot of love here, which must’ve been nice.”

“You can sense that?” Ray was glad for the excuse to look away from Rachel.

Fredrick shook his head. “I can see it. Look around and you can see little things that show what the family is like.” He pointed to the dresser behind the dining-room table. “Next to the crystal glassware are various mementos, like that small clay model made by a child. It looks like it’s been there for a long time, too, so it must have a special meaning for those who live here.” He pointed at the wall next to the dresser. “The paint on that wall is really uneven. It’s so bad that I’m guessing the parents had children helping them paint. It’s still there, so the children weren’t punished for doing a bad job nor did the parents try too hard to cover it up. That tells me that it was done with love.”

Ray stared at the wall. “I never noticed. I don’t remember Rachel ever saying anything about the painting, but I know the model was done by her younger brother. Yes, you’re right. There’s always been a lot of love in this house.”

“But it wasn’t enough, was it.” Fredrick made it a statement, not a question.

Ray sighed and dropped his eyes. “No. It was our parents that were the problem. They were going to… we weren’t going to be able to see each other, ever again.” He looked up. “Is that what happened to you?”

Fredrick shook his head. “I found out afterwards that Ma and Pa knew about me and Alfred, but they were ignoring it, pretending it never happened. No, what happened to me was just an accident. A fire that killed me and my baby sister.”

“The place where we just were?”

Fredrick shoulders slumped as he nodded. Ray started to reach out but pulled back as he remembered the pain he’d felt in the valley. He didn’t want to share that again. After a short pause, Fredrick gathered himself together.

“Next lesson. Not only can you go to a person you know but also to a place. Why don’t you try to send yourself to your bedroom? Same as before, close your eyes and think of where you want to go.”

Ray glanced at Rachel and winced at her obvious grief. He started to close his eyes, but stopped. “What about the holding hands?”

“If you have trouble, I’ll make contact so I can sense what you’re doing wrong, but I don’t think you’ll have a problem since you managed the person-finding so easily. Instead, I’ll just go to wherever you end up. Now close your eyes and send yourself away.”

Moments later, Ray opened his eyes and found himself in his bedroom. He was amazed to find the place spotless, with everything back in its place. He had wrecked the room prior to trying to kill himself and had expected it to still be in a state of chaos. Instead, the bed was made, replacement posters were on the walls; even the smashed glass in the picture frames had been replaced. The only thing that was missing was the picture of Dave and Ray that had been taken before their true relationship had been revealed.

Fredrick appeared and glanced around. A slight frown wafted across his face, but he didn’t say anything as his gaze settled on Ray’s face.

“It’s not the way I left it. Someone tidied it up, but I don’t know why.” Ray’s eyes darted around the room, trying to discern a reason for the room to be so neat.

Fredrick’s voice was gentle. “Could it be because they felt sorry about what happened?”

No!” Ray took a deep breath. “I told them how I felt about Dave. How I never wanted to be apart from him. I told them I couldn’t live without him, and they didn’t listen! They hated me and they hated Dave, and they didn’t care about what I wanted at all!

Fredrick’s eyes widened, and he glanced around the room. Ray followed his gaze and saw the pillow on his bed rippling. He heard a sound behind him and spun around to see the picture of him as a thirteen-year-old shake and then fall over.

Fredrick grabbed him by the arm. “Think of Joyce! Go to her! Now!”

Ray felt a surge of something through the contact, an almost motherly feeling that reminded him of the portly matron, and then found himself back in the hospital, standing at one of the nursing stations. Joyce was reading over the shoulder of one of the young nurses. She straightened and turned around, a frown appearing on her face.

“What is it, Ray? Is something wrong?”

Fredrick appeared. “Sorry, Joyce, but I needed to get Ray away as quick as possible, and sending him to you was the easiest way to do it.”

She raised an eyebrow while locking her eyes on Fredrick.

He grimaced. “I used his bedroom as the target for location practise, but that triggered some strong emotions, and we had the start of a poltergeist incident.”

Ray stared at Fredrick. “A what?”

Fredrick ran a hand through his hair. His expression was sheepish. “A poltergeist incident. They’re rare, and we’ve got no idea on what causes them, but sometimes, uncontrollably, we can force the corporeal world to react to our presence. The only common factor we’ve been able to identify are strong emotions, but that’s not enough by itself. We just don’t know how or why.”

Joyce put a hand on Ray’s arm. A soothing feeling came down through the contact. “One of our problems, hun, is that we have a purely oral culture. We can’t write anything down, so if someone learns something but doesn’t tell anyone and they then pass on, that information is lost. Writing allows knowledge to accumulate, but we can’t write. We’ve had scientists who have become what we are, but rarely, and none recently. There’s so much we don’t know. That’s why I asked Fredrick to teach you as much as he can. It’s useful for you, but it’s also important that the information is shared.”

“I think that’s enough training for now. Why don’t you go see your beau, Ray? I’ll be back tomorrow, though if you want to see me before then, feel free to come to wherever I am. You shouldn’t have any problem.” Fredrick rested his hand on Ray’s shoulder for a moment, leaving a sense of deep sadness that seemed somehow associated with the quiet-spoken young man, and then he vanished.

Joyce gave him a small push. “Go, hun. You need to relax.”

Ray took a couple of steps, then turned back to face the nurse. “Can you tell me something about Fredrick before I go?”

She frowned. “I can, but that doesn’t mean I will. That depends on what you’re asking.”

“Oh, okay.” Ray hadn’t expected a grammar lesson, and it threw him for a moment. He paused for a moment, trying to work out how to phrase his query so it wouldn’t seem insulting. “Fredrick sometimes comes over as a young country bumpkin and other times as someone much more mature and worldly. I don’t understand him.”

Joyce smiled. “That’s because he’s both a young country bumpkin and an old, experienced man. Don’t be fooled by his appearance. He’s a young man from rural Australia in the 19th century, and that’s his core. But he’s been around for over a hundred years, and that’s more than a century of experience with people and the world. He’s a complex mixture, so don’t worry that you don’t understand him. Just accept him for who he is and you’ll do fine.

“Now go and watch over Dave. He’s got trials and tribulations ahead of him, too.”

* * *

Ray watched Dave start to pick up the pieces of his life. He wasn’t surprised to find that Dave’s parents sold their home and moved, though only an hour away, to another part of Melbourne. He was also angry, though not surprised, at the restrictions they placed on Dave, including tight curfews and limited phone and computer access. Ray did his best to trigger another poltergeist incident, but nothing happened. That made him even more angry, as his rage didn’t have a visible outlet.

Making a decision, he stood up and closed his eyes. Fredrick had told him that he’d eventually be able to transport himself without that step, but he still needed to block out external stimuli to muster the concentration required. Even so, it took him three attempts to bring to mind the correct mental image to allow him to make the shift.

Ray found himself standing in a suburban backyard. The weather was sunny, unlike what he’d just left in Melbourne, but otherwise he had no idea as to his location. Fredrick was seated on the ground next to him, watching two young men kissing passionately under the canopy of a large gumtree.

“Hello, Ray,” Fredrick said, not taking his eyes off the couple. “I’m a little surprised you’re here.”

“Er… Hi. I… um… was wondering…”

Fredrick looked up. He seemed amused. “Not into voyeurism? Neither am I, but these guys are special. I come and see them as much as I can.”

“Why are they special?”

Fredrick nodded towards the couple. “The guy with the spiky black hair is Brett, the great, great grandson of my elder sister. He’s the first of my relations to be openly going out with someone of the same sex. I look at him and his boyfriend, Mike, and I wonder if that’s what I could’ve had with Alfred.”

Ray sat down. He kept his focus on Fredrick, though he couldn’t stop the occasional glance at the young couple. “Joyce told me that something happened with Alfred, but she said I should ask you.”

Fredrick sighed. “It’s not really that much of a story. After I died, he mourned for a while. I so much wanted to comfort him in my arms, but I couldn’t. All I could do was to watch and wish. Eventually, he moved away and met someone. It hurt, but I was also glad. He didn’t deserve to spend his life alone, and if I couldn’t be the one, Geoffrey wasn’t a bad choice.”

The two watched the young couple making out for another minute before Fredrick put a hand on Ray’s shoulder. Ray felt a sense of wistful affection from the connection. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“For being here. For letting me share my family and history.” Fredrick clambered to his feet. “But I think it’s now time to go. Unless I’m very much mistaken, Brett and Mike are going to move inside soon, and they deserve some privacy.”

Ray stood up. “Have you ever caught them having sex? I mean, if you just go see them whenever you like, you must’ve sometimes…”

An elusive almost-smile appeared on Fredrick’s face. “Come with me. I think we can continue this conversation elsewhere.” With that, Fredrick disappeared.

Ray followed, but when he opened his eyes he was momentarily struck dumb. “Is this…?”

“Stonehenge? Yes. Welcome to England.” Fredrick walked over and put a hand on one of the uprights while gazing up at the stone above him. “About forty years ago, I was teaching a new guy how to travel, and he brought me here. He’d visited England as a child and loved the place.”

“We went from Australia to England, just like that?”

Fredrick nodded as he turned his attention back to Ray. “That’s right. It helps if someone can show you where to go, but you can go anywhere now. I thought it was about time for you to realise how much is possible. And, believe it or not, that’s not a change of topic from what we were discussing.”

Ray thought for a moment. “Because that includes going to places that people think are private and watching them have sex.”

“Exactly. Some people get a kick out of it but I don’t. I enjoy people being in love, but there are some things I don’t need to know.”

“You’ve known a lot of people over the years, haven’t you?” Ray was watching Fredrick closely and thought he saw him flinch.

“A lot. Most are only around for a year or two, but they’ve all got something unique to show me. Stonehenge is one of the more interesting places, but I’ve been all around the world with the aid of others.”

“And seen lots of things that maybe you didn’t want to know?” This time Ray was sure Fredrick flinched.

“Sex is part of human nature. Some people are more into it than others, and when you’re invisible and can walk through locked doors… I don’t do those things deliberately, but I’ve trained a lot of incs over the years, and there’s been too many times.” He paused and took a step forward so he could look into Ray’s eyes. “Did you and Dave ever do anything physical?”

Ray dropped his eyes. “A little. Nothing serious.”

Fredrick put a hand under Ray’s chin and gently raised his head. Ray felt compassion through the touch. “And how will you feel if you see Dave doing those things with someone else?”

Ray pulled away. “He won’t!”

“Dave’s still young. Unless something happens to him, he’s got a long life ahead of him. How do you want him to spend those years?”

Ray’s mouth opened wide. He didn’t want to think about what had been asked. He could tell from Fredrick’s expression that it wasn’t malicious, but the question was one he wasn’t ready to face. Ray closed his eyes and fled back to Dave.

* * *

No, Dave. Don’t do it!

Ray’s screaming had no impact on the unaware teenager. Under the watchful eye of his parents, Dave was placing the accumulated memorabilia of his relationship with Ray into a large black garbage bag.

Ray sank to his knees. One by one, the various items were discarded. Used movie tickets from secret dates, exchanged photos, seashells they’d found together on the family trip where they had their first kiss, Christmas and birthday presents, including those from before they were even out to each other — it was all discarded.

In the end there was only one item of Ray’s that was left behind; Dave continued to wear the baseball cap that Ray had bought for him at the Royal Melbourne Show. His parents didn’t appear to understand its significance, and Dave never mentioned it. Ray could only hope that that meant Dave still held onto him in his heart and that it wasn’t just a final memento of their time together.

As Dave’s parents picked up the garbage bag and headed outside to the rubbish bin, Ray fled. He didn’t want to see the symbolic disposal of their relationship.

Seeking the one person he hoped would understand, Ray found himself on a sunny beach of warm pristine white sand. Fredrick was seated nearby, staring out at the rippling ocean. He turned his head at Ray’s approach and then clambered to his feet.

When Fredrick opened his arms, Ray took the implicit invitation and let himself be enveloped in a warm hug.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Fredrick whispered into Ray’s ear.

Ray shook his head, then changed his mind. “His parents are trying to make him forget me.”

With gentle prompting from Fredrick and the support of the quiet compassion he felt through the hug, Ray managed to stammer out the story. When he finished, he looked up. “I’m going to lose him, aren’t I?”

“I don’t know. I suspect you’ll always have a place in his heart, like I always had a place in Alfred’s heart, but I ended up sharing that heart with Geoffrey. The two of them loved each other, but every few years they’d come and visit the grave where my body is buried. Geoffrey was a kind man and good for Alfred. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I couldn’t begrudge Alfred his happiness with Geoffrey.”

Fredrick leant forward and gave Ray a chaste kiss on the forehead. “Do you love Dave enough to let him find a second love?”

Ray shuddered and started to cry. Letting himself rest against Fredrick, he forced out a response. “Yes, but not now. Please, not now. I’m not ready for that.”

The two held each other, Fredrick sending waves of sorrow-tinged compassion through the contact. After a couple of minutes, Fredrick let go. He stepped back, gave Ray one of his elusive almost-smiles, and nodded his head towards the gentle waves.

“Would you like to go for a swim?”

Ray glanced down as his clothes, the same clothes he’d worn since his death. “I don’t have…” His voice trailed off as he glanced back to find Fredrick dressed in nothing but a pair of boardshorts. Ray couldn’t help notice the well-toned body with a soft overall tan. “How did you do that?”

“Time for me to show you. I keep telling you that your mind controls your body, and that includes your clothes. With a little bit of concentration, you can change what you wear easier than you could before.

“The simplest way to begin is to close your eyes and imagine yourself getting undressed and then putting on whatever clothes you want. Your mind will remember what you’re wearing and will keep it there, just as if you were still a corp. With practise, you can go straight to the new clothes without the undressing first, but learning that will take a bit of time.”

Fredrick put a hand on Ray’s shoulder and passed on a sense of confidence and amusement. “Unless you want me to watch while you undress, I’m going to go swim. Join me when you’re ready, or call me if you’re having trouble.”

Ray felt himself going red at the thought of being naked in front of Fredrick. “Er… I’ll be fine. I’ll join you soon.”

“Okay.” Fredrick turned and started towards the water.

Ray had a thought. “Wait!”

Fredrick returned, a frown on his face. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong, but I was just wondering. If we can change our clothes by just thinking it, can we change other things, too?”

Fredrick raised an eyebrow. “Other things?”

“I mean, like our… er… bodies? Could I get ripped abs, like you, or make myself bigger?”

Fredrick seemed amused. “The answer is yes and no. Yes, you can get your body to think it’s in better shape, but most people can only make the changes that they could make with exercise, and at a similar rate. If you’re thinking of changes that couldn’t be done naturally, your mind knows what your body is like, and it’s almost impossible to tell it otherwise. It can be done, but I’ve only known a couple of incs who had the mental self-control to achieve it. It’s not something I or most incs can do.”

“Okay, thanks. You go swim and I’ll join you shortly.” Ray waited until Fredrick was heading away before he turned his back, closed his eyes, and started to mentally undress.

* * *

Ray didn’t want to be there and didn’t want to leave. He could see what was happening and was powerless to stop it. Dave was on a portable massage table in the living room of his house, receiving physical therapy from a handsome young blond. There was more contact going on than seemed professionally required, and Dave wasn’t objecting. Dave’s parents had left to go shopping, and the two young men were alone.

When Dave reached over to give the blond a kiss, Ray ran out of the room. He knew that Stuart had been giving Dave emotional support as well as helping him with his physical recovery, but he didn’t like how that support was developing.

Ray stopped when he was outside of the house, turned his face upward and threw a wordless scream at the sky. He slumped to his knees and rested his face in his hands.

“You look like you could do with some cheering up. How about coming with me for a Friday night out?” Fredrick asked.

Ray spun around. “How about fucking letting me know when you’re fucking there? And it’s Saturday morning, not Friday.” It was only after he spoke that he saw that Fredrick wasn’t in his usual anachronistic garb, but was wearing boardshorts and a floral shirt open at the chest. He was also barefoot.

Fredrick frowned. “What’s got you upset? And it’s still Friday in California, which is where I was planning on taking you.”

“California?” Ray felt his anger losing its focus as Fredrick distracted him with a change of subject.

“Yes, California. I want to introduce you to George, who’s one of kind. Interested?”

Ray gritted his teeth and gave the house a cold glare. “Yeah. I need to get away from here.” He sighed. “Sorry, Fredrick, you caught me at a bad time. Dave’s started seeing someone and they’re in the house at the moment. I know he’s good for Dave, but I just can’t…” He shook his head and tried to let go of his anger. “Yes, I’ll come.”

“You’ll need to get changed, then. George likes real casual, and you’re currently overdressed. Are you able to do it without getting undressed, or would you like some privacy?”

Ray grimaced. “I can do it sometimes, but not always. Give me a sec.” He closed his eyes and concentrated on wearing clothes like Fredrick’s. Opening his eyes, he glanced down to make sure his outfit had changed.

“Hey, if you’re going to copy my stuff, I think I need to change, too.” By the time he finished speaking, Fredrick was wearing cargo pants and a tie-dyed T-shirt. “Follow me. Oh, and George is a little eccentric, so please don’t mention that he’s a ghost. He doesn’t handle it very well. Just go with the flow, as George would say, and everything will be cool.” Fredrick disappeared

Ray focused on the sensation of sorrow and regret that he identified with Fredrick and was pleased when he found himself next to him, standing inside what appeared to be a converted attic. A young adult with a beard down to his waist was sitting cross-legged on a decrepit mattress. He was smoking what smelt like a joint.

“Hey, man. Didn’t see you come in. Who’s the new dude, and when are you going to learn to smile?” His eyes appeared to be focused on something beyond Fredrick.

Fredrick sat on the ground nearby. “Hi, George, this is Ray. He’s a new friend of mine.”

“A friend of Freddy is a friend of mine. Care for a drag?” George extended the joint towards Ray.

Ray glanced a question at George as he sat down between Fredrick and George and received a shrug in return. Wondering how it was going to work, Ray reached over and took the smoke. “Thanks.”

“It’s cool, man. Many more where that came from.” Another lit joint appeared in George’s hand which he immediately smoked.

Ray had never tried marijuana, so he inhaled gently. Of all the sensations he was anticipating, the one he got was unexpected: nothing. He couldn’t even feel the smoke in his throat. He tried a deeper breath but with the same result. He took the joint out of his mouth and examined it closely. It appeared the same as when he first received it.

Ray looked at Fredrick and wondered what to do. Fredrick gave him one of his elusive almost-smiles and put out his hand. “May I?”

“Sure.” Ray handed over the joint and then watched as Fredrick inhaled deeply. Ray’s eyes narrowed as he noticed that there was no change. It was as if Fredrick wasn’t doing anything.

“So, man, what brings you back to the Summer of Love?” George asked Fredrick.

“You, of course. This is where I always go if I want to relax.”

“Cool, man. I’m sure there’s still some hot chicks downstairs if you’re looking for some special relaxation, or I’ve got some new dope around here somewhere if you want a trip. I tried some earlier, and it was real wild.”

“Maybe another time. How’s things hanging?”

“Oh, you’ll never believe how outta sight the new dope is. It was like I was on another planet or something. I even thought I saw Paolo walk through a wall. It was so cool.”

Ray’s eyes opened wide. When he started to say something, Fredrick gave a small shake of the head. Ray took the hint and stayed quiet while George and Fredrick chatted. After about ten minutes, Fredrick stood up. “Time for us to go, George. Good to see you again.”

“Where are you off to, man? You only just got here.”

“This is Ray’s first time in San Francisco, so I thought I’d take him down to the Castro district to see if there’s a party we can attend.”

George’s eye’s widened. “A party. Sounds really groovy. I think I’ll come, too.” He tried to push himself upright, but staggered and collapsed.

Ray reacted first, putting an arm under George’s shoulder and helping him to his feet. The sensation he felt through the contact was one of confused amusement. Ray then looked over to see a shocked expression on Fredrick’s face.

“You’re coming?” Fredrick’s disbelief was blatant.

George smiled. “Yeah, man. It’s been a while, I think.” He frowned. “I’m not sure I can remember the last one, but I’m sure it wasn’t that long ago.” He grinned at Ray. “Thanks, dude. My legs seems to have gone to sleep. I must’ve been sitting for longer than I thought.”

Fredrick stepped forward and put his hands on George’s shoulders. “Are you sure?”

“Of course, Freddy. It’s going to be groovy! There might even be some new drugs to try.”

Fredrick moved so his face was only inches from George’s. “You look a bit tired. Why don’t you close your eyes and let us take you there? It’ll be easier, especially if your legs are still asleep.”

“Okay, dude. You’re the man.” George closed his eyes, a happy smile on his face.

“Ray, I’ll take him and you can follow. Okay?” Not waiting for a response, Fredrick and George vanished.

Ray closed his eyes, felt for Fredrick, and shifted himself. Opening his eyes, he found himself on what appeared to be the roof of a warehouse. A crowd of a couple of hundred people, mainly guys, were either dancing or circulating, and the sound of music could be heard coming from somewhere inside the building.

George looked excited. “Groovy man! Looks cool, but what’s with the weird clothes?”

Fredrick sighed. “It’s been a while, George. There’ve been some new styles recently.”

“Wicked. What’s that noise?”

“Music. There’s a nightclub below us, and that’s what they’re playing.”

“That’s supposed to be music? So not cool, dude. Hey, Freddy, why don’t you get me a drink? I’m thirsty.” George smiled at Fredrick and waved a hand suggesting that he move along.

Fredrick rolled his eyes. “Okay, I’ll see what I can find. Don’t get into trouble while I’m gone.”

Ray started to go with Fredrick when he found his arm being gripped by George. The excitement that came through the unexpected contact stopped him.

“Can you do something for me, dude? Make Freddy smile.”

Ray blinked. “What do you mean?”

“Freddy’s too serious, man, but he called you his friend. Make him smile. He needs it, dude.”

“I don’t understand.”

George glanced around. “He’s brought lots of guys to me but doesn’t call many his friend. He’s too serious. He needs to lighten up.”

Before Ray could respond, a large redhead strode up. “George! What are you doing here?”

“Manuel! How’s it hanging, man?”

Other guys noticed George’s presence, and within a couple of minutes he was surrounded by a small crowd. Ray let himself drift to the outside of the group. Fredrick joined him soon afterwards.

“I’m confused,” Ray said.

Fredrick dropped an arm across Ray’s shoulders. “About what?”

“About George. He’s a hippie, I got that, but he doesn’t seem to realise that he’s, er…”

“Dead? You’re right. I don’t think he does. Did you catch his reference to the Summer of Love? As far as I know, he died during a drug episode sometime during that summer and didn’t realise it. He’s still doing exactly what he was doing then and hasn’t changed a bit. He also doesn’t seem to realise it’s no longer 1967.”

“What’s with the marijuana and the drugs? That joint didn’t do anything for me.”

Fredrick shrugged. “My best guess is they’re like clothing to him. He creates them when he wants them, but they’re not real. I believe he’s permanently drugged out, but I don’t know if that’s because he was drugged when he died, or if he’s just remembering what it was like and reliving it. Your guess is as good as mine. Regardless, he’s unique: the only one who became an inc while still happy. Well, at least as far as I know.”

“You seemed shocked when he said he wanted to come to the party.” Ray concentrated but couldn’t sense anything from the contact Fredrick was maintaining. For the first time, he wondered what Fredrick was finding out about him from that touch.

“I don’t think he’s been outside of that attic since he died. He knows lots of people, but they’ve all gone to him. He’s never gone anywhere.”

“And now he’s here. Where is here, anyway?” Ray looked around.

“The roof of one of the nightclubs in the Castro district of San Francisco. Everyone you can see is an inc. This is one of a few places around the English-speaking world where we congregate to have fun. The others are in Sydney, New York, Manchester and London. I’ll take you there at some stage, but one of the reasons I brought you was simply to allow you to meet others.”

“Is it safe?” Ray was feeling his age, remembering that nightclubs were sometimes dangerous places.

“Yes, it’s safe. The undesirable elements of society never end up as incs. They just don’t seem to meet the requirements to become one. So go and have fun. No one will try to take advantage of you.”

Ray felt a feeling of warmth from the arm across his shoulder, but, after George’s strange request, he was acutely aware that there was little sign of that warmth in Fredrick’s face. Just a hint in the eyes and voice.

Before he could say or do anything, Ray was distracted by a rising voice nearby. It was George.

Wha… what are you saying?

Fredrick dropped his arm from Ray’s shoulder and started to push his way through the crowd, but not before Ray felt a moment of fear through the contact. Ray tried to follow but couldn’t keep up.

I’m dead? Really? Wow, that’s so wicked, man. Does that mean I’m like a ghost?

Fredrick stopped, and Ray was soon at his side. “This is going better than I thought. I was afraid he’d go nuts. I guess he’s still so drugged out that he doesn’t really understand what’s going on.”

Ray pointed. “But what’s happening to him?”

Fredrick looked back to see a soft glow appear around a now translucent George. “Oh, my god!”

George held up a hand in front of his face. He grinned. “Groovy, man. I can see right through myself.” He looked around and caught Fredrick’s eye. “Hey, Freddy, I’m a ghost!”

Ray gripped Fredrick’s arm. “What’s wrong with him?” He started to relax when he sensed wonder tinged with sorrow, rather than fear, coming from Fredrick.

Fredrick raised his voice. “Well done, George. I’m really glad for you.” He put his mouth by Ray’s ear. “He’s moving on. After over forty years, he’s moving on!”

As Ray and everyone else nearby silently watched, George’s body faded until all that remained was the soft, slightly pink, human-shaped glow. A faint but distinct sound of “Wicked!” was heard before the glow suddenly vanished.

The silence that followed was broken by the gabble of multiple amazed voices discussing what they’d seen. Ray turned to Fredrick. “That was moving on?”

Fredrick nodded. He was still staring at the spot where George has been standing. “Was it me, all this time?” he whispered.

“What do you mean?”

Fredrick shook his head. “I need to go tell Joyce. George was one of the long-timers, and Joyce will want to know he’s gone.” He reached up to ease Ray’s hand off his arm.

“Wait! What did you mean just now?”

Fredrick’s mouth twisted into an expression of disgust. “I told everyone that I thought George was better off not realising he was dead. Now, I find that as soon as he knows and understands, he moves on. Was it my fault he stuck around?”

No!” The stern interjection came from a large Hispanic man, apparently in his mid twenties, who had come up behind them.

Fredrick spun around. “Er… hi, Paolo.”

Paolo grabbed both of Fredrick’s arms. “Listen to me, my Aussie friend. I know what you’ve said, but not everyone listened to you. I’ve tried several times to explain things to George, but he didn’t listen. Today was the day he decided to hear, and that was the trigger for him to move on. Maybe he wasn’t ready to accept it before now, but today he was. That’s got nothing to do with you, understand. It’s not your fault!

Fredrick pulled himself away. He stared at Paolo for a moment, rubbing his left bicep where Paolo had gripped him. “Maybe, but I still need to let Joyce know.” He disappeared.

Paolo sighed and then looked at Ray. “You’re a friend of Fredrick?”

“Sort of. We’ve known each other for a few months now. He’s been helping me adjust.”

“Ah, another Aussie, Welcome, dude! I’ll let you into a little secret. Our mutual friend, Fredrick, takes things too seriously. He’s one of the oldest ghosts around, at least in the English-speaking world, and he feels he has to look after everyone else. He doesn’t let many people get close to him, so if you get the chance, be a good friend. That’s something he needs more than he realises.”

Ray thought back to a conversation he and Fredrick had at Stonehenge and the feelings he’d sensed while watching George. “I think I know why he does that. He told me that he’s known hundreds of people, but they’ve all moved on. He didn’t say it, but I think he takes it hard when they go. I know there was a bit of sorrow in what I felt from him while we watched just now.”

Paolo’s eyebrows rose. “You sensed something from the Iron Aussie? He keeps his emotions so well controlled that I’ve never felt anything from him.” Paolo smiled and put an arm across Ray’s shoulders, granting Ray a sense of strength and dedication, flavoured with regret. “That makes you someone special, so if you ever want to chat or hang out, feel free to come and find me.” He squeezed once and then let go.

“I can’t always sense things from him, it’s only sometimes. Most of the time I get nothing.”

Paolo laughed. “That’s all most of us get from Fredrick. Now, do you want to go back and see him, or would you like me to introduce you around? It’s going to be a great party if you want to stay, George has seen to that. Everyone’s so hyped up with him moving on, and I think they all want to celebrate.”

Ray looked around as he thought. He was uncomfortable being left by himself, but he suspected Joyce would probably want to have some solo time with Fredrick. Trusting in Fredrick’s earlier comment that it was safe, he made his decision.

“I’d like to stay. I’ve never been to a party this big before.”

* * *

“What’s up, dude?”

Ray turned to see Paolo standing behind him. “Oh, hi.”

Paolo squatted down next to Ray. “You seem a bit out of sorts.”

Ray nodded to where Dave and Stuart were sitting together watching a movie on the TV. They were in Stuart’s apartment. Dave had told his parents that he had an appointment with the young physical therapist but hadn’t mentioned it wasn’t a professional appointment.

“Care to tell me what’s going on? I’m a ghost, not a mind-reader.”

“Dave, the dark haired one, is… was… my boyfriend.”

Paolo watched for a few seconds and caught the two smiling at each other. “Oh.”

“It’s only been four months.” Ray buried his face in his hands.

Paolo put his arms around Ray and pulled him into a hug. “He knows you’re not coming back, Ray, and that’s got to be hard. He doesn’t know you’re still watching over him.”

The compassion Ray felt broke his self-control, and he started to cry. “I know, but it still hurts. It’s like I’m losing him all over again. I’m trying to give myself some distance, but it’s so fucking hard!”

“You’re not the only one, Ray. I, too, have been through the same thing. It’s not pleasant, but it really is up to you how you deal with it. Take a lesson from our friend, the Iron Aussie and learn to be pleased for Dave.”

“My head tells me you’re right, but my heart doesn’t agree.”

Paolo sighed. “And as a ghost, your heart is in much more control than when you were alive. I understand. I wish Fredrick were here. He was there for me, and it would be good if he could be here for you, too. He knew just what to say to me when…” He shook his head. “Have you seen Fredrick recently?”

“Not since the party last week. Why?” Ray wiped a hand across his eyes as he forced himself to regain control.

“Because I’m worried. I’ve tried to find him, but he’s hiding from me and the others.”

Ray was puzzled. “Hiding? What do you mean?”

“Fredrick’s got a trick that he hasn’t taught anyone else, and that’s hiding from us when we want to find him. Normally, I can find any ghosts I’ve ever met by simply thinking of my impression of them, but if Fredrick doesn’t want to be found, it doesn’t work with him. I think he’s learned to mask his emotional signature, but he won’t explain what he does.”

“Could he have moved on?”

Paolo shook his head. “The feeling’s different. He’s done this to me once before, so I know what he’s doing. Why don’t you give it a go? You’ll see what I mean.”

Ray closed his eyes and thought of Fredrick. He could sense him, but that sense was somehow obscured. It was similar to how it felt when he was first learning to find people and didn’t have it quite right. Ray opened his eyes. “Okay, but maybe he just wants to be left alone.”

“I’m sure he does, but I’m worried and I’m not the only one. He took George’s moving on hard, and I think he needs someone with him. That’s why I sought you out today. I’m hoping you can find him and make sure he’s okay.”

Ray glanced at where Dave and Stuart had started to cuddle and decided he needed to get away. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thanks, man.”

* * *

Ray was surprised to find himself in a formal garden surrounded by a crowd of well-dressed people. His first impression was that it was a wedding. Then he saw the two guys that everyone was watching. It was Brett, Fredrick’s kin, and his boyfriend, Mike, both in tuxedos, smiling at each other while a middle-aged woman was giving a sermon about love.

Closing his eyes for a moment, Ray focused on remembering the clothes he’d worn to his last school formal. With his quick change complete, he glanced around and finally spotted Fredrick a few paces away. Fredrick was dressed in a grey suit, white shirt and a deep blue tie.

Ray stepped forward to stand next to Fredrick, who flicked his eyes towards him, but nothing was said. Side by side, the two watched the commitment ceremony unfold.

As the vows were being spoken, Ray was startled to feel Fredrick tentatively take his hand. Ray squeezed gently and tried to push a feeling of affection and goodwill through the contact as he turned his head slightly to look at Fredrick. Fredrick did the same, and Ray saw his rare elusive almost-smile on his face. Ray was, however, acutely aware that he was not receiving any emotions through Fredrick’s clasp.

The ceremony concluded, and the two let go of each other so they could applaud and cheer along with the other guests. When everyone else surged forward to congratulate Brett and Mike, Fredrick retook Ray’s hand and walked him to the shelter of a nearby tree.

“How did you find me?”

Ray smiled. “I didn’t. You blocked me off just like you’ve got everyone else blocked off, so my only option was to try to work out where you’d be.” He nodded towards the happy couple. “Brett was my second guess. Your old home was my first.”

A sense of surprise came through the hand that Fredrick still held. “Why there?”

Ray was happy that Fredrick wasn’t shutting him out. “Because what happened with George upset you and made you acutely aware of your own… non-mortality, if there’s such a word. I thought you’d either go back to your beginnings or to a happy ending. I was right with the latter.”

Fredrick raised an eyebrow. “A happy ending? Brett and Mike are just starting out. I hope they’re a long way from an ending.”

Ray laughed. “You know what I mean.” His smile slipped from his face as he tried with all his heart to push a feeling of compassion towards his friend. “You never had a chance to have what they’ve got, and they’re your proxy towards your own happy ending. Am I right?”

It was like a dam wall bursting. Ray physically staggered at the waves of sorrow, regret and anguish that emanated from Fredrick. It was only the sudden hug he received that prevented Ray from falling to his knees. Ray tried to push back with his own emotions but didn’t feel like he was succeeding until he felt a change. A sense of wonder came through the hug.

Moments later, Fredrick relaxed his grip and opened a small space between them. He stared into Ray’s eyes as if he wasn’t sure what he was seeing.

“You love me that much?”

Ray’s mouth dropped open, but before he could deny it, he knew Fredrick was right. He hadn’t admitted it to himself until that moment, but as his feelings for Dave had faded, his feelings for Fredrick had grown.

“I guess I do.” Ray smiled and then leant forward to give Fredrick a soft peck on the lips. “What about you?”

A sudden absence of feeling made Ray jump in before Fredrick could say anything. “Damn it, don’t do that to me! Stop shutting me out. You knew how I felt even when I wasn’t aware of what I was feeling. Don’t hurt me like that!”

“I’m sorry, Ray, but I can’t go through this again. I’m not strong enough.”

Fredrick let go, but Ray grabbed him before he could disappear. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

“You’re glowing, Ray. You’re moving on.”

Ray was shocked speechless. He glanced at his arms and could see that Fredrick was right. He looked back into Fredrick’s eyes and felt the pain as the barrier between them wavered.

“Then come with me!”

Fredrick shook his head. “That’s not something we choose, Ray. It just happens. I’m happy for you, I really am, but I just can’t…”

“Please, try? For me?”

Fredrick dropped his gaze. “I’m really sorry.”

Ray let go so he could put a hand under Fredrick’s chin. He lifted his head so they were looking at each other again. “Then do one thing before I go. Please?”

Fredrick paused then nodded. “Okay.”

“Smile for me?”

“But… I can’t… it’s been so long…”


Fredrick grabbed Ray in a bear hug. Through the pain and fear that surged out of the older guy, Ray heard the words he wanted to hear. “For you.”

Fredrick stepped back, slipping his hands down to take Ray’s as he did so. Hand in hand, he stared at Ray.

And then he smiled.

The two stared at each other for a couple of seconds until they were interrupted by cheers and wolf whistles. Thinking that it was something to do with the commitment ceremony, Ray turned to find it was he and Fredrick who were the centre of attention. Nurse Joyce was nearby, dabbing happily at her eyes. Paolo and others from the party were also there, cheering loudly.

Paolo stepped forward. “I’m going to miss you, my Aussie friends. I’m just glad you stopped blocking us so we could be here for this moment.”

“What are you talking about?” Fredrick asked.

“You’re both glowing, my friend.”

Fredrick’s gaze flicked down at his arms and then back up at Ray. A crescendo of joy swept into Ray, who echoed it back to Fredrick.

Ray’s sense of everything except Fredrick faded. Moving by instinct only, Ray pulled Fredrick towards him and then, somehow, into him. They were still two distinct entities, but Ray knew that they were linked together — and always would be.

* * *

Nurse Joyce slipped away from the parallel, corporeal and incorporeal, celebrations of love. It had taken her a long time to discover a soul mate for Fredrick, but the wait had been worth it. She wondered about herself, but she suspected that as long as she was happy helping people, she would remain.

Eventually, she’d also move on, but she was content to wait.

Copyright Notice — Copyright © October 2013 by Graeme.

The author copyrights this story and retains all rights. This work may not be duplicated in any form — physical, electronic, audio, or otherwise — without the author's expressed permission. All applicable copyright laws apply.

Disclaimer: All individuals depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.

I would like to thank C James and MikeL for the advice they gave me on early versions and thebrinkoftime and rec for editing this story for me.