His eyes flickered over the ghosts, quickly fading into mist again with the embers of the rising sun. “There!” His arm lashed out. Walking slowly, the caboose of the transparent train, a women had her arms linked with a man. It was as if they were admiring the scenery, off on a Sunday stroll. “There they are. I knew they would come. Mom loves Elizabeth Bishop. Cool as from underground springs and pure enough to drink. That was her favourite line.” Nathan looked like a child on Christmas who discovered the plate of milk and cookies to have vanished over night. Jane scowled until her head ached. She rocked back and forth. She ground her teeth. She did everything she could to drown out Nathan’s voice.
“ ... Pure enough to drink ...”
“... Pure enough to drink ...”
“Why do you believe this uselessness? It’s fabricated.”
“But, my parents died before-”
“I know!” Jane cut Nathan off. “You tell me every time. ‘Of course seeing your parents would prove death is real because they died before Ghosting began’. But they never died! Don’t you get it? No one dies! That’s the point! We just get recycled. You have the choice as coming back as a newborn or restarting your life where it left off. Society collapsed. If people lost their jobs, they’d shoot themselves! Life had no meaning anymore, so they made these fake rituals and presented them as facts. That’s why I’m doing research trying to end Ghosting, it gives false hope to idiots like you. That’s why you’ve been watching all these years. I know. How can you keep doing this? It makes me sick.”
“You don’t-” Nathan tried.
“Just give up. Just give up!” Jane turned away and stared into the distance. The air ached between them.
“You know what makes me sick?” Nathan asked quietly. “You. You make me sick”
Jane kept her eyes fixed straight ahead.
“You talk all this sh*t about my beliefs, yet I dare not contradict yours. You act like you are all high and mighty because your parents were the original scientists. You are so afraid Jane.” Nathan grabbed her chin. “If you’re so sure death isn’t real, then why is there a loaded gun in your purse?” Jane stared back, considering biting his fingers off. She could almost taste the blood. “But,” Nathan said, his lips tracing the velvet hairs on Jane’s ears. “But, more than you sicken me, you sadden me, Jane. You are so afraid you can’t believe. You’re so afraid you turn to science to be your light when you can’t see you’re burning down cities.” His lips brushed her clenched jaw. “You are so very afraid, Jane, that you can’t even let yourself love someone who challenges your beliefs, because you know they are no more real than the spirits we see. You’re so afraid you aren’t living. You might as well be Ghosting.”
“Shut up.” Jane said.
“You love me, Jane.”
“I know it’s true!” Nathan was shouting. He grabbed Jane by her shoulders and shook her. “I know you love me! Let it go! Let it go Jane! You will never win. You will burn, just like your parents.” Jane raised her hand to strike Nathan. He caught it, and kissed each finger. Jane clawed at his lips. They began to bleed. “Jane.” Nathan said. Jane reached into her purse. “Jane.” Nathan put his hand on her cheek. “I’ll shoot you!” Jane cried, revealing her gun. “I’ll prove to you death isn’t real!” She pushed the barrel into his chest. A lump was forming in her throat. Nathan leaned forward. “You’re an idiot.” Jane said.
“No, Jane. I’m not. It’s not a matter of science and facts. I don’t care about how much proof you can throw in my face. I believe, and that’s all that matters, and if that makes me an idiot, I don’t care. I don’t care! But this is all I know.”
“What do you know?”
“That life is precious. And time passes. And even if we just get to do it all over again, it doesn’t make this moment any less special. Jane, please...” Nathan drew his lips closer to her face.
“Don’t!” Jane ordered, her voice quivering. “Don’t you dare! Don’t you dare kiss me Nathan!” Now she was sobbing, snot smearing her lips, mascara bleeding down her face. “I’ll shoot.” Nathan said nothing. He leaned forward. His mouth met hers. “Nathan ...”
“I love you, Jane.”
The barrel of the gun deep in his belly, the fire was half as loud as Jane expected. Nathan slumped against her breasts. His eyes were glassy. Blood spurted from his broken mouth. He whispered the final line. “Cool as from underground springs and pure enough to drink.”
And he was gone.