Originally published in Lost and Lonely, a Not One of Us publication.

Ghost Gardening

I went to the used bookstore today and ran my fingers over the vinyl records like you used to. They still didn’t have any copies of Hunky Dory. I’ll keep looking for you, but in the meantime we can call an end to our strangest book game. I found this, and you’ll never top it:

A Guide to Ghost Gardening by Thom Klock

It doesn’t have notes in the margins like your best discoveries, so I’m writing these. Hopefully they don’t end up as illegible as some of the scribbles in that mass of sci-fi, self help, new age, and popular science pulp--your intellectual barometer of our town.

Pg. 3

Starting a spectral garden is easier than it may seem, and can be a very rewarding hobby. The first step to a successful garden is to prepare the soil. Old memories make excellent fertilizer. These can be found attached to items at thrift stores, pawn shops, and the Salvation Army. Wedding and engagement rings are prime examples. Look for clothing that is guaranteed to have meaning attached to it, such as wedding and prom dresses. Mugs dedicated to grandparents, old toys, and videogames carry the unlimited potential of childhood.

I gave your stuff to the thrift store: jewelry, clothing, shoes, pillows, that table we purchased from the antique barn when we got lost trying to find the wine tasting. This page made me momentarily regret it. But just for a moment. I haven’t told anyone because I know our friends and your family will be angry. I couldn’t take seeing those things anymore. I need to get over you, but it’s so hard.

Pg. 4

Ashes from burnt down houses carry more than just potassium for the soil. Flames do an excellent job of adhering trauma to matter.

A fire would have made things simpler. Erase every possession in one blaze. Remember when you called 9-1-1 when our neighbor’s house caught fire that February? You spoke calmly to the operator, but I could hear the panic behind your professionalism. Our friends always talked about how confident you were. I thought about that while I watched you watch the flames lap against the snowy air. You rubbed your lips over your teeth, fidgeting as simply as you could. Afterwards I barely slept as you shifted in bed all night keeping us both awake, listening for a fire alarm, sniffing the air for smoke.

The fire was arson. The daughter destroyed everything to hurt her father. In your case I don’t have anyone to blame.

Pg. 5

To charge the ground, bury a piece of wreckage stolen from an accident, or simply sprinkle glass fragments about.

When I visited your road on the one year anniversary, I noticed a piece of glass in the dirt, a shard the size of a pebble. Everything was ritual until that point. Even though I told myself the location was significant, it never felt so until I saw that glass. I doubt the piece belonged to your car. Then again, there haven’t been any other wrecks there. It could easily have sat among the stones and dirt of the shoulder for 12 months.

I took the shard. I’ll scratch this page with it to show you.

Pg. 17

Newspapers are good for creating synchronicity traps. As frozen pieces of history, they can transcend it. I find the 20-year-old horoscopes to be the most accurate.

When we got our first apartment together, we found that old Sunday paper in the kitchen cabinet, plugging up a hole where the shelf wasn’t flush with the wall. We laughed at the old the hair styles, comics, and toy ads. Aries eerily matched your day at work, but you said they’re designed that way. When I read the others to you, they didn’t fit.

Pg. 28

The aether has a memory, like a piece of carpet showing impressions of furniture and walkways. Life is like a piece of furniture that leaves indentations. An ecosystem is like a living room based on feng shui.

The living room looks like you. I wouldn’t have put the couch where it is. You did. The arrangement of the furniture holds your memory. The color of the paint, the curtains, everything is a piece of you. I need to leave this place.

Pg. 46

Gardens near heavily trafficked roads receive a steady source of animal energies. State highways through the countryside provide exceptionally good harvests.

I’ve rented an apartment in a subdivided house. It’s tucked in a clearing in the woods just off Route 17. There’s a cul-de-sac community across the road, but this place is isolated. It’s great for my neighbors to smoke pot. Three other people live here. One is rarely home. I told the couple that I don’t mind if they play loud music. The fourth apartment is abandoned.

The house is old and crumbling. The porch needs a new coat of paint. There are water stains on my ceiling, but they haven’t dripped since I’ve been here. Spiders, pill bugs, and crickets share the place with me. I let them be. You always killed such things on sight.

There are stranger problems though. I keep finding salamanders in the sink and bathtub. I didn't think they could climb walls.

I started a garden in the back. A regular one, nothing like what’s in this book. Although this book was the inspiration for it. There’s a weed that isn’t in any guides or websites. Dark purple leaves and a flower shaped like an origami box poke out of the soil. I don't remember planting this.

Pg. 51

In a sense, the entire Universe is alive. Patterns change over time, yet retain memories of past iterations. Forests, societies, water cycles on Mars, all are influenced by what came before and will affect that which comes after. Just as sound ripples through air and water, our actions ripple through the aethers of the noumena, the way light was once thought to ripple through an aether-filled cosmos. These echoes are what humanity describes as ghosts. Just as our personal appearance and living space are artifacts of our personality, these reverberations are artifacts of our lives.

I hear shifting above me, like something rubbing on the upstairs floor. It could be rats, but the sound is slow and sporadic, not like scurrying. I looked through a window of the empty apartment. Paint peelings covered the floor, but nothing else was there. I tapped the glass. Maybe I thought something would respond.

There are more origami flowers. My neighbors don’t know what to make of them. Their friends run a community garden, but their amateur horticultural knowledge doesn’t help. The buds are shaped like gems with waxy sides. When I cut a flower off and cracked the box open, I found a salamander inside.

The shifting above my bedroom keeps me awake at night. Something big is lumbering about, dragging itself over the floor.

I’m breaking into the abandoned apartment tonight.

Pg. 68

The word “supernatural” is a misnomer. To define something as “beyond nature” -- when nature is the Universe and the Universe is the set of everything that exists -- is to classify something as nonexistent. Yet are not paranormal phenomenon merely processes we have not modeled? Remember, just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s not super.

Everything was rotten. There were holes in the kitchen tile leading to the space beneath the floor where rusty pipes and wires lay. The water stains on the ceiling looked like hieroglyphics, or old newsprint from a foreign country.

Little orange salamanders crawled over each other in the kitchen sink. Blue ones with yellow spots plodded through the living room.

Hellbenders lurked in the bathroom. I thought they were big--two feet long--until I checked bedroom. The thing in there was the size of a person and covered in old plaster. I thought it was dead until it shifted in response to my presence. As it dragged its bulk through the dust and paint shards on the floor, I heard the sound I came looking for.

Leaving the place, I saw the origami flowers glowing. I don’t remember planting them.

Pg. 85

To obtain ghost plants, an initial live plant set up is vital. A real garden should be grown and then burnt to the ground (or poisoned) just before harvest. No food should be taken from it. This violent end will force the energy residue of the tomatoes, carrots, and squash to stay embedded in the framework of space-time instead of evaporating. Ghost rabbits from the highway will be attracted to the food as they are merely processes with no notion that they are dead. A sufficient ghost rabbit population will attract ghost foxes.

I know this apartment is haunted. I’m going to burn it down when my neighbors aren’t home.

Pg. 102

Forest fires create extensive ghost ecosystems, but few have been modeled. The field is ripe for doctoral research.

It smelled like February. The ash even replicated the snow. I tried to mimic your confidence as I called 9-1-1, but it wasn’t the same.

Since then I’ve been driving a lot, stopping anywhere that looks interesting. I find myself in the woods sometimes, just staring at the understory. The leaves high up cast shadows down below. These trees are old. Their forest is open like a cathedral and just as quiet. There are salamanders here. Finally, someplace they belong.

Pg. 115

In mythology, psychopomps ferry souls between this life and the underworld. In the theory of spectral impressionism, psychopomps are elementary particles that transfer information from phenomena to noumena.

A science magazine in a grocery store had salamanders on the cover. Apparently they move nutrients between land and water as adults lay their eggs in ponds where the young feed on bugs before returning to the forest. I guess all those little things really are important.

Pg. 138

Once started, a garden lasts at least 100 years, although it becomes less noticeable with time. Due to the merely symbolic nature of the organisms involved, the rabbits will never deplete the vegetables and the foxes will never deplete the rabbits. The garden becomes a loop in which semantic energies are trapped and repeat behaviors learned in life until the entire system fades as a whole.

In complicated ways, you left effects on the Universe--chaotic butterfly disturbances. You inspired people, broke hearts, and delayed traffic at your end. Somehow, in some way, all those events you planted influenced people, changed their lives, and changed the lives of others. Your ghost exists on the world through those cascades.

Before I get in trouble for the things I’ve done, I’m donating this book to a different store in a different town so maybe the echoes of your existence will find it someday. You won’t be able to read these notes, but someone will, and they will influence her life, and influence her ripples on the world. Maybe your ripples will collide with hers, and I’ll touch you one last time.

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