However, at long last I was really going to see other skepters. Even if they disappeared a few days later. And they could tell me nothing, where they were going or why, because I was the oldest skepter that there was, in fact older than anyone I met. One day, to my surprise, I met someone who pulled me out of the sea of doubts which was drowning me. It was not, as you could expect, a skepter. It was a living girl who, however, had a strange gift: she could see dead people. She had a strange theory on us: she believed we had feelings. And in my case a feeling of guilt did not let me go. She never told me where, but she asserted we all finally went away.
I met her at Spain Square, in Seville. I like Seville. There I first saw horse carriages when I was with Uncle Prudence. Now I could go anywhere I wanted, so I often visited that place. In that square you can see an inlet for every one of the Spanish provinces. One day I was sitting there, thinking on how complicated life is and how long death is, and then I saw a young girl who was sitting on a bench. She smiled at me, to my surprise, so I asked:
"Can you see me?"
"Are you dead?"
Well, I did not expect that answer!
With a defiant face, I said:
"You know?! And aren't you afraid? And if you are alive, why you can see me, but not anybody else?"
"Because I am a witch. That is valid for your four questions", she said in a disarming smile.
"What is your name?"
"Witch Maribeth. It sounds like a film title".
"Yes. But you are sad".
"No, Maribeth. We skepters have no feelings".
"But you are tired of seeing always the same things. Every day I meet skepters who ask me things. They harass me, really. You are the nicest one. You are treating me as a normal person".
"They harass you? Why?
"Because they know I can see them. And they ask me things".
"I ask you noghing. I mind my own business. But it is nice talking with a living girl so nice as you are".
"Thanks. Don't you really want anything from me?"
"If I were alive, I could ask you a kiss, but I do not think you can give it to me. And if you gave it to me, I doubt I could feel anything. I can really only hear and see. I cannot experience the other senses, unless I invade a living person's body. But I do not like it very much".
"Can you do it? And why you don't like it?"
Now I laughet at her impatience. And with a friendly smile, I said:
"Because I feel heavy, I feel my host's complexes, pain, frustration. In addition those feelings make me take part in their lives and that is wrong".
"You are right. It is not honest. You give them an unfair advantage".
"Of course. But many of them suffer from injustice. And their own problems and minuses prevent them from solving their problems. They do not let them the solutions they have right in front of their noses".
"Have you helped anyone?"
ˇ"Yes, in China I helped a child in his studies. And a soldier to get his wife back. And then I understood that I cannot be everybody's Guardian Angel".
"Guardian Angel... Well, if at least there were one, the world would be a little better".
"Well, there might be guardian angels, even if we have not seen them yet".
""Well, I suppose you have many questions. You asked yourself many since you died, didn't you?"
"Yes, of course. The first one I asked is the most intriguing one: since I died I met only two dead people: the woman went back to life and I lost her, but the child went to Heavens, or at least that is what he said. But I remain here, and I have seen nobody else. Do you know where dead people go?"
"I think they go to Heaven. Those who ask my helpt, when I manage to help them, disappear. They say they have finally got their inner peace, adn then they dissolve into the air. Or at least it looks like that..."
"You mean you stop seeing them".
"That is weird. And are you not sure where they go?"
"No. They all may not go to Heaven. Probably some go to Hell. You were good or bad in your life?"
"Well, I do not know. I could not evaluate that, don't you think?"
"Uh huh. How old were you when you died?"
"Waw, a long life. Maybe your thought evolved so much that the idea of God did not fit inside. That is why you stay here, because you've got to have faith to move on".
"So what happens with faithless people? Does God not love them?"
"God loves everybody. But he might have left you behind consciously. Till you wake by yourself to faith".
"Well, then he could come and chat me up a little bit, as you are doing now".
"He might", she said with a smile. "Or he might have done so already without you being aware of that".
"Well, I have to go. It's been a pleasure..."
"Angel. My name is Angel".
"Do you see? Maybe you are a real angel. An angel yet to learn his trade".
"And how will I know that?"
"Well..., you say you cannot perceive any sense, right?"
"But when you helped the Chinese, did you feel any pleasure, could you not feel better because you did?"
"There you see! Angels are made of this. That is your mission, surely".
"You are forgetting something".
"I felt that because I was still inside one of their bodies at the time. I felt with them. But once out of them, I stopped feeling".
He smile was frozen.
"Oh, OK, I have to go, really".
"Then good-bye, Maribeth. Take care".
I thought that was the last I'd see of her. But I was wrong.
She went home. Then I remembered one of the nicest streets in Seville is Snake Street (Calle de la Sierpe), where many years back there was a music store, Damas', where I bought music sheets for guitar, in my first young years, when I visited uncle Prudence. I wanted to walk along that street, so I went there. When I was at the beginning of it, I saw her at the other end, as Maribeth was entering the street from Spain Square. Two people were following her, and they were talking to her, though she paid no attention to them, but she looked angry. What's the matter with her? I said to myself. Then I saw sideways a child run across those two people. My god!, I said, so they are the skepters she meant! So I leant on the wall till they went past me and I followed them as if I was not interested, pretending I was minding my own business so that they thought I belonged in the world of the living. But I was aware of what they were saying.
"You've got to go to the police", the man was saying. "They can't get away with it".
"After they killed us", the woman said, "they want to keep the money for them".
Soon I realized those skepters wanted vengeance on somebody. I saw Maribeth was very angry, but she did not dare answer them because the street was full with people and so it was not a good idea to be seen talking alone. But people could not see or hear me. So when I knew about the problem, I said abruptly:
"Aren't you ashamed to harass a poor woman who has more important things to do than going to the Police Station to say that two ghosts gave her information?"
Both of them looked at me and then they thought I was a witch like Maribet.
"But they did kill us!"
"So what? Now you are dead, and even if they sent your murderers to jail, you will stay right dead".
"But that is not fair!", the woman said. "In addition, they have the money".
"And what do you want it for?"
"For nothing. I want the other heirs to have it".
"You are stopping for a trifle. And you are bothering the only person who can listen to you. What you are getting is only that she wouldn't pay any attention to you".
They stopped and faced me:
"And where the hell did you come from? If you are a skepter, why do you side her?"
"Because I never had a football team, or a political party, or a religions while I was alive; and so I was not going to wait till I am dead to side two badasses only because they are on the same side of death as I. I was never in any band, and Maribeth is a woman who needs some help, not that two assholes like you pick on her. Because, look, guys: how were you going to compensate Maribeh for that favor?"
"Well.., really..., making truth be known is a pay in itself".
"Ho, of course. Do as you say must be pleasure itself. When you lived..., what did you do? Were you a politician?"
"So what do you suggest us we do? We can do nothing against the living".
"And why should you do anything against anybody? Are you stupid? You were kicked from life, mate. You have nothing to do any longer. Caput. Go to bloody heck. You are redundant. There is nothing for you to do here. So get used to the idea. As long as you have the cue of a feeling towards anybody alive, you will not be able to go to the next dimension, wherever it is. And eternalize here is no good for you. Nor for this woman, either".
"So what are you doing here? Do you want her only for you? Do you want her to do a job for you and you are upset because we distract her?"
That nonsense got me off guard, and I laughed noisily.
"Well, I do not really now why I have not moved on already. I have been dead for three days, And I cannot move from here, even if I think there is no link for me with the living world. Unles..., of course, it is that!", I said as to myself while I hit my forehead repeatedly.
"What?", both of them said at the same time.
"No, nothing. I can't still explain. When I can, I will disappear. But, well, stop picking on Maribeh, because I will get mad at you. I do not know if skepters feel any pain when another skepter gives them a beating, but there is only one way to find out".
They did not show much interest in finding out, as they slowered down their pace and got further and further back from us, till they finally chose to go. The headed for the end fo the street. They talked between themselves and when they reached the end of the street I saw something surprising: they vanished. I mean, I stopped seeing them.
"Eer!", I heard a familiar voice on my back. "You got rid of them. Thanks, boy". It was Maribeth, who was looking at me in a friendlier way than before.
"You know what I thought, don't you?"
"Yes: you are not moving on because you still like learning new things. You still want to know everything".
"Skepters, apparently, cannot move on while they have something from here. And you have that damned scientific interest, that curiosity for everything".
"Well, then I stay. I do not think it is wrong to have thirst for knowledge".
"Well, please yourself". We walked to her home and after ten minutes she said: "Listen, as an astral lifeguard you are very valuable. I will hire you".
I was not pleased at the witch's joke, but it made me think. I might do something, since my new life was starting to be boring. Learn, learn, learn all the time was not very productdive. No matter how much interested I was. But in spite of it, I decided I wanted to learn everything, understand everything. And if I could help someone with the things I learnt, I could do. Just the opposite those skepters had been doing.
"Where did those two go?"
"They went to the following level".
"Like in a video game".
"Well.., yes. This is more serious, but yes. You convinced them. They stopped feeling that stupid vengenace they had and got cooler. That is why they could go to the next dimension".
"Well, that is like dying again, isn't it?"
"It is possible. You may not be serious about it, but you behaved like a real bodyguard. You took the rabble away from me. They were really making me mad".
"You see not all skepters are a bore".
"Some of you are even nice", she smiled at me.
We were no longer in Snake Street. We were near her home. She lived on the fourth floor. She lived alone, though she had lots of friends.
"Well, I leave you", I said. "You have the right to your own privacy".
"Don't you want a cup of wine?", she laughed at me. "I had never been escorted home by a skepter. Not one who demanded nothing from me".
"Do you have astral whiskey?"
"No, but I can give you a little chat. And you can give it to me".
I had never been in a witch's house. Though the invitation was tempting I was going to decline. But then I saw her mouth open a little, as if somehing surprised her. I turned round and found a twelve years old boy. Even if he was on the shade, as it was night time, I saw him perfectly.
"It will be a pleasure to spend the night with such a beautiful lady", I said bowing at her and signalling the door with my hand. When she was going in, I said to the boy:
"If you come to bother her, I'll hit you as you were never hit in your other life, brat". But then I understood that would not help him at all, so I added: "wait for me to come down and I will give you a hand. But if you come up, I'll throw you of the window".
"Where were you?", Maribeth asked.
"Getting the rubbish out, do not worry. Tell me which floor it is".
"Ok. Go up on the lift".
While she was going up, I asked the boy:
"What do you need, child?"
"I was thrown to the river".
"Who did it?"
"Some thugs from my school".
"What do you want?"
"I want my parents to be informed where I am. I want them to find me".
"They are not going to save your life, you know".
"No, of course, I know".
"I think it is within reason. Wait. I'm coming back to you".
I came to Fourth D when she was opening her door.
"Hello", I greeted.
"That was a stupid whim, not coming with me in the lift. Are skepters claustrophic now? Hell, not the ones who tormented me in lifts, I mean, when I could not go anywhere else..."
"I was working", I answered. "By the way, you have a job, too. Do not undress. You have to come back down there to make a phone call.
"I have a phone at home. Whom shall I call? A lover you did not say good-bye?"
"How old do I look?"
"Around thirty, maybe thirty-five".
Then I was conscious my look was not that of a ninety year old granddad. Skepters surely do not have the looks they had when the body who bore them had when they died. I imagined myself in my sixties, and I repeated the question:
"Well", she said, "where is your hair? It is thinner now, and greyer. Come on, do not play..., by the way, what was your name again?"
"I told you Miss Little Witch Maribeth: my name is Angel".
"Oh, yes the guardian Angel. Stay calm, do not change your looks. You told me already you are ninety, but I prefer you as a thirty years old man".
"I came back to my earlier look. I had regarded myself as such during my whole life, in my thirties, because then I enjoyed good health, I had never undergone any operation, but I was mature enough to think I did not know everything, I did no deserve everything, and the best was yet to come to me, and however I was still naive enough and had the positive attitude to enjoy it whenever it cam. Only that it was coming after death...
"Ok, Maribeth. Sorry: I did not remember I had told you I died at ninety".
"Blessed are your genes, Angel. I do not know if I am reaching the thirties you now look like"
"Why? Do you smoke?"
"No, because of the bad luck I had all over my life".
"Well, look, you have to make a phone call. But you cannot tell the police your information comes from a skepter".
"No, of course". Then her smile was brighter: "You talked to the child".
"Yes, you got me. But it will cost you only two seconds and an euro".
"Listen, Angel: I cannot take care of all the people I meet, dead or alive. I am not an NGO. I have to work. I have to live my life. And I cannot dedicate my time to help the dead. Above all now that I lost my job".
"My god. I did not know that. What do you do?"
"I have a master in Economy. But my last job was a cashier in a supermarked. It was closed this morning. I was looking for another job all the day. When I found you I sat on that bench to rest. Talking to you was a good relax which got me out of my problems, but I have to think about me. I hardened since I discovered this ability to speak with the dead. At first I thought it was a blessing. But it's really a curse. They do not let me alone. They see me from the distance, and then the pigs show off about my help, so there is a long queue to see me. In fact when you scared those two this afternoon, there were more awaiting their turn.
"Why did they go?"
"Because of what you told them. And they saw those two disappear into the next dimension. And after they I saw five or six more who went after them. Yes, you would be a good guardian angel, Angel, but not for the living, but for the dead".
"Well, look, Maribeth: we can reach an agreement: you help me, and I help you".
"Gosh, and what can an dead man do for me?"
"I'll get you a job. If I manage to get you one, will you help me?"
"My, finally it is not you who is working for me, but I will work for you..."
"Give a sign, dear. Go down and make a phone call. You have to say just one sentence".
She turned around. She looked at herself on the hall mirror, corrected her make up a little, touched her hair, and went out again. She came into the phone box a hundred yards away from her building, and still wearing her gloves, asked at me:
"What is the number?"
The boy told her, and as soon as someone answered, she said:
"Look for José Mateo at kilometer 45 in the Cordoba Road, in the river", and she hang up.
She looked at both of as, and added: "I hope you know what I am doing. You will tell me, Angel. Now I am leavin you, as you have things to do". And then she went back home.
"Ok, José Mateo. I did this for you. Now you have to do something for me".
"I want you to concentrate. Think very hard and consider that you are dead. You are no longer alive. You will see your parents never again. Do you understand?"
I was really sorry for the little boy. He looked at me with a pitiful face, as if he could not understand. Then he looked at the ground, sad. And said:
"Yes, of course. But..., can I stay with you?"
"You could, I guess. But I would not know what to do with you. The truth is that I do not know what to do with myself. And dead people never stay here for long. You've got to go to the next dimension.
"So why don't you come with me?"
"Because I was put here to make certain that you all go on. Nobody can stay behind in this no man's land. There are some living people, like Maribeth, who can see you. And that can influence their lives. That is not fair. They have already too many problems without you".
The boy looked up at the black night sky and was silent for a long time. At the end he looked at me, and did not cry because skepters do not cry. But he was really sad:
"So I won't see mom or dad again?"
"Of course you will, Joe. When they die. They will go where you will be waiting for them".
"Do you know where I am going?"
"No. I was never there yet. But I am here a sort of broom, so that nobody stays behind".
The child believed me. Poor little thing.
"So what must I do to go up?"
"Not much: first you must really want to go. Then you must get rid of the remaining feelings you have".
"That interest you have for your parents to find your body is a remainder of the love you felt for them. It happens some times. Spirits are stranded in this dimension till they lose that remainder. Or till they achieve their wish, and thus lose it. But that is worse, believe me. Think of it and ask yourself what is what you want. Do you want to go on to the next dimension, or do you want to stay here, with me, outlanded, fighting other skepters who can harm you?"
"The child looked down again. When he lifted his eyes again at me, he smiled sweetly, as I think cherubs smile, and said with joy:
"I know what I have to do now. I will greet God on your behalf".
And his face got brighter. His aura was full with light, and suddenly, plop!, he disappeared.
"You tore a tear from my sould, demon", my witch told me as soon as I saw her again.
"I am the witches' terror", I said sarcastically.
"Oh, not terror, but you are a shameless manipulator, you sucker. I don't know what you told the child, but you mamaged to get rid of him".
"Yes. And I do not really know if I sent him into nothingness, or to that God I still do not know if he exists or not".
"Waw, the fierce atheist turned agnostic. You are getting on well".
"Well, I do not know. Look, now I have a little job to do as soon as I make certain my coleagues do not bother you. But the way, what time do you get your night visitors?"
"In a couple of hours the parade starts. It looks as if people die more often in the small hours, or else they locate me around those times".
I looked at the clock.
"Ok, there is a couple of hours yet. But before I go, tell me, what can you do, besides economics?"
"That's not funny. I can use computers. I have been with computers since I was small, and I programmed in Cobol and C++, though not very much".
"Ok. Can you type with your ten fingers?"
"Of course. I know not many people do, but I was strict on that from the beginning".
"Ok. Besides your degree, are you good in other branches of knowledge?"
"I love reading. I read a lot, but I never studied seriously anything but Economics".
"Well, that should do, I guess. Well, I'll see what I can do".
"You talk as if you could do something..."
"Well, you can have your whiskey, and then pour another one for me".
She raised her brows:
"So? Can you drink?"
"You pour it. You will see".
She poured them. Then she told me about her childhood, the times when she found the powers she had, how at first she could see only shades, and then little by little she learnt to identify they were people...
"Were you not afraid?"
"No. At first I thought it was funny. As you think now".
"Oh, no. I accept it", I said seriously. "But I cannot see anything funny about it. At all".
"Ok, sorry. At first, talking to people from Hereafter seemed fun. And then they started asking me things. I could do some of them, like phoning someone. Others were more difficult, like going to the police station with information. The times I did so, the policemen looked at me in distrust, and they even questioned me very hard. But when I told them the murdered ones tole me, they released me because they thought I was mad. And they felt they were stupid for giving me so much attention. Along the years I learnt to be very hard with the dead people and not yield, so that in the long run they go away. They try to hit me, though they cannot, of course. They insult me. They say horrible things, but I got used to".
"Well, we all are not the same".
"No, you are so sweet..."
She had already finished her whiskey, and she released her cup and got mine as a matter of fact. I don0t know if I influenced her to do so, or if it was only natural that she did so. Then she got a bit funny and went to bed.
"Well, you are a skepter, so I cannot excite you, I guess, and I think you would never attack me even if you could".
And then she undressed slowly. Very naturally, as if I were not there. The trueth is that her body was small and nice. She took everyting off, and when she was as naked as Eve, she got into bed.
"Is that your pyjamas?"
"Yes. It does not get wrinkled when it is wet. And I needn't iron it. And it does not break", she said with a smile. "Do you mind if I put the light off?"
"Go ahead. Feel at home", I said.
I did not tell her we skepters can see without light, because we can see underred and ultraviolet light, too.
She was talking till she fell asleep. I was listening. That is a habit with people who live alone: they usually have nobody to talk to, but when they find one, they talk for hours. It was only lucky that I was interested in everyting she said, and I undertstand solitary people. I had been so for many years, even if I was always surrounded by people. By many people who would not understand me. By people who wanted to work little and earn a lot of money, and did not understand work in itself can be a pleasurable occupation, so that you can do it better and better, whether they pay you more or less for it: the work you do can be your own award. They call that workaholism or something even worse sounding, but my work kept my mind busy and my body in shape. And that taught me a lot.
I watched her sleep for hours, and at around four in the morning I saw an ill looking guy come to her bed, who froze still when he heard a voice in his ear when he was about to wake my witch:
"If I smack you, I'll kill you, sucker".
He turned to me and asked:
"Who are you?"
"The one who will beat you up if you wake my witch up".
"Yes. Look for another one. I saw her first".
The guy stared at me for a while, and then said, nervously: "I have to settle an account".
"Only one? Fuck, that's lucky. You can't imagine how many I left unsettled. But that is the same now. Look, boy..."
"Well, look, Rudolph: you happen to be dead now. Assume this. Whatever happens in the world of the living is no longer your business. So get lost. You are no longer allowed to mess in the world of the living".
"Who says so?", he said with despise, "you?"
"And how many more?"
"We are really three".
He naively fell in the trap, because when he was looking around to see where the other two were hiding, I came to him, took his elbow and thought of a distant place, the summit of Teide, in the Canary Islands. There was an hour less there, of course.
"Where are the other two? Hey, what's the matter?"
"The three of us are my two balls and I, stupid", I said while I slapped him as strongly as I could. "Does it hurt?"
"No", he said looking at me, in arrogance. "Who the hell are you?"
"Well, if it does not hurt, it is useless I hit you again. But behave yourself".
The poor lad sat on the floor and looked at the horizon, far away. We could see the dim lights of the villages and towns in the other islands, in the distance. We were dealing his complaints and problems for the whole night. He was a thug who worked for mobsters, and he had a couple of pending jobs. He had been killed in a fight, and he wanted to avenge his death and finish the job, in addition to give his boss some information so that someone was killed.
"Rudolph, little boy, that no longer exists. It is the same as when you became a man you no longer played with little boys, now you are dead and cannot deal with living people. Can you not understand that is not decent? It is like hitting a baby".
The man lowered his sight down and said:
"You are right. Why did I not have a guard angel like you when I was alive?". Obviously he lowered my name case, but I did not mind.
"Look, Rudolph, the sooner you stop that nonsense of the living, the sooner you will get to the next dimension".
"Do you think a thug like me can go to Heaven? I killed twenty-seven people", he said in a trembling voice.
"Heaven is the place you build for yourself, Rudolph. While you lived you built the hell where you lived. Now you can have another opportunity to build your paradise. Undress from your hate, your vengeance, all the passions you had. Even the good ones. And then think there is a place. There is a place for you, which is not this one. Because in this place you were already and did not take advantage of it. Now take advantage of the opportunity you are given now".
As I was telling him all this litany, his face was getting brighter with a smile, shy at first, but at the end it covered from ear to ear. When I finished talking to him, I saw a wonderful scenery behind him: the sea, and further down the Grand Canary Island, as it was dawn. I thought the bright condition in his face was due to dawn, but the Sun rays were reddish, while his face was whitier. He muttered Thanks, Angel and, plop!, disappeared. And then I saw myself at the highest point in Spain talking alone like an ass, looking at the natural beauty of the Canary Islands, without moving a muscle.
And then I came back to reality: "Heavens! Maribeth's job!"”
Tuesday, September, 15th 2015 at 20:46.
Last updated on Wednesday, March, 29th 2017 at 19:07.