Measured Extravagance

23 February 2003 - 2:57 p.m.

Alchera Project 14, OPTION NO. FIVE: Spirits that haunt an area or house are often said to leave subtle "clues" of their presence (sounds, smells, moved objects). Usually these clues are connected with strong habits or passions the spirits had in life. Let's say you've passed on, and you don't want to leave your home. What odd little occurences would the new family observe, hear, smell, or feel due to your past habits when you lived there?

I'd like to think I'd be a considerate ghost, but I guess it would depend upon the area to which I was confined and other rules governing my non-corporeal state. Some possibilities include: if I couldn't escape the television, I can't swear I wouldn't fiddle with the controls and the remotes ("Honey, why is it the only channel we can get in this room is ESPN?"). If anyone tries to store Minute Rice in the pantry, there will be mysterious accidents.

I'd like to indulge myself with a sniff or two of the lotions and perfumes and their liquor collection (assuming they drink decent stuff), but I'd try to do it discreetly enough that the kids wouldn't be blamed for it. Browsing through their books and magazines would be a given. When their dog thumps her tail and sighs happily because I'm petting her, they'll assume she's dreaming; when their cat inexplicably races around the room as though she's suddenly been injected with kitty speed - well, cats do a lot of that anyway.

But if they started to trash the house - if there were signs that it might deteriorate into what our place in Detroit was like before we cleaned it up, toothpaste in their beds and sugar in the gas tank of their car would be the least of their worries. I'd crank up the stereo at 3 a.m. and douse the lights right in the middle of dinner. I'd mix together the sugar and the salt (the heck with just switching them). I'd reprogram every appliance within reach. I'd singe their favorite items of clothing or toys. The idea would be to chase them out or literally scare them to death within a couple of weeks.

Frankly, though, were I to end up haunting my own home, I'm sure it wouldn't be so easy. It would mean I hadn't done enough here in my life to be able to let go. As I type that, of course, part of me instantly replied, "You will never feel as though you've seen and savored enough, no matter how long you live." And that's true, and I love my current house, but once I became unfettered by the body and the fiscal/spatial limits it imposes, I think it would be rather dismal to be limited to spying on the activities of its future residents. Given the choice, I'd rather haunt a museum or a library.

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