“We aren’t here,” Lindsay said. “We’re just echoes of ourselves. Shadows.”
Kate watched Lindsay thrust her arm into the pedestal of one of the lion statues. Like the rest of her, the arm appeared solid, but when she pushed it into the stone it went in as if she–or the statue–were only a projection.
“If I still existed, I’d be able to feel that,” Lindsay said. Her brown eyes were rimmed with thick black liner, and she wore a navy hooded sweatshirt with “#Resist!” scrawled across the front in white fabric paint.
Whether she existed or not, listening to Lindsay made Kate tired. “If you didn’t exist,” Kate said, “you wouldn’t notice that you didn’t feel anything.”
“Consciousness is an illusion even when you’re alive,” Lindsay said. “It’s been proven by science.”
“So,” said Vicki, floating a few steps higher, “how do you know that you don’t feel anything? Maybe you’re deceiving yourself when you think that you can’t feel your arm going into the stone.”
When Lindsay didn’t answer, Vicki laughed. Vicki’s laugh always made it sound like she was delighted with whomever she’d been talking to, never mocking. “Watch out! I lived with a philosophy professor for five years.”
“When was that?” Kate asked. Like her and Lindsay, Vicki had been living alone when she died.
Vicki didn’t answer right away, giving Kate time to regret the question. She always asked either too much or too little.
“Until four years ago,” Vicki said at last. “He died of a heart attack.”
While Kate was trying to mumble an apology for having brought the subject up, Lindsay burst in with her usual tact. “When you say ‘lived with,’ you mean you two were a couple, right? Do you ever wonder what he’s doing now?” Ghosts could only see and hear others who had died within a few days of them. Those who died farther apart saw each other as increasingly indistinct apparitions, and those whose deaths had occurred more than a week apart could not perceive one another at all.
“It has crossed my mind,” Vicki said.
“Really?” Lindsay seemed not to hear the dryness in Vicki’s voice. “See, I think dying has been easier for me than for you two, because I didn’t have any false expectations about what the afterlife would be like. I thought we’d just, like, die, and there would be nothing.”
“How is that not a false expectation?” Kate asked. “Is that what happened?”
“Fuck you!” Lindsay said. “At least I didn’t think I was getting into heaven for not having sex with my boyfriend.”
Kate couldn’t even count the number of times she had tried to explain to Lindsay that her relationship with God was not quid pro quo, but Lindsay seemed unable to grasp any worldview outside her own narrow experience.
“See, I knew religion was crap even before I died and stayed right here,” Lindsay said. “You must feel pretty stupid now.”
Kate unfolded her limbs and stretched into an upright position, hovering inches above the floor. “The only time I feel stupid is when I realize I’ve wasted another hour listening to you.”