Ghost in the Machine

Where am I now? Ramone wondered. He felt nothing in his fingers and toes, could see nothing, hear nothing, nor could he taste air, yet he did exist. His thoughts were as clear as ever and he could reason that since he was thinking, then he was still real.

Oftentimes, when he was a young man in grade school, he had pondered the thought that he, and all of humanity, was existing in a dream of someone else. The entirety of human history, every achievement, every construct, every love, just the firing of neurons in another sleeping being, possibly not even a human. He had always reached the conclusion that he would never know the answer to the question. If he were a dream, then once the being woke up, he would simply cease to exist and that would be that. It’s not like it was something to be afraid of. Not really. When he got older, Ramone would use the same logic to overcome his fear of death. He figured that he would be alive then suddenly he wouldn’t be anymore and he wouldn’t know the difference. The dream would be over and whatever being had been slumbering would be awake and there would be no more Ramone. But now he had died, and the dream continued.

Ramone died of influenza at the age of twenty-seven surrounded by his parents and girlfriend, Alyssa. He kept joking that people don’t die from the flu and that he was being “retro” by being killed by it. It wasn’t really the flu, but an infection he got while hospitalized with a bad case of the flu. He would say that flu was killing him, though, because that was funnier to him. His family would laugh, but he knew they didn’t think it was humorous at all.

So now Ramone was dead and he was someplace else entirely. He had lost all sensation yet felt more aware than ever before. He had no fingers, toes, eyes, ears, nose, but could sense everything around him, as though he had some sort of ultra-radar informing him of his place in the world. He thought that he should be more frightened than he was, but he figured that he had already died, so what else could go wrong?

Am I a ghost? he wondered. Do I get to float around scaring people now? Will I haunt my family? The prospect seemed especially cruel, but ripe for humor. He decided against it, should it turn out that he was a ghost. Am I an angel? Am I in hell?

“Nothing so dramatic,” came a strong voice. It didn’t speak, per se, and Ramone didn’t hear it, per se, but he understood it all the same.

“You can hear me?” he asked, but not with his voice, for he had no mouth or vocal chords with which to speak.

“I can,” came the reply. Ramone couldn’t discern if it was a male or female responding to him, not that it was important. Still very curious, he felt. “Welcome to your afterlife,” continued the presence.

“My afterlife, huh?” said Ramone, “but not heaven. Or hell.”

“As far as I know, there is no such thing. But I don’t know everything.”

“What do you know? For starters, where am I? I mean, I can’t see anything and I don’t think I have a body at all.”

“You don’t,” replied the being. “You’ve rolled an interesting fate, Ramone. Some specters, such as yourself, wind up in homes or hospitals. Others attach themselves to ships or sewers. They all have corporeal forms they are in where they can recognize their once-living features in their new form. Others, for some reason, find themselves here.”

“And where is here?” Ramone asked.

“You’re in the internet,” the being replied.

“Like, the whole internet?” asked Ramone. “Not just one computer somewhere or a phone or website, but the entire internet?”

“Indeed. You are a new resident of the world wide web. It’s not something that many wind up lingering in, though the ability to is still quite new. As to why you are here, only you can answer that. But here you are, and here you shall stay.”

“Forever?” Ramone asked.

“Until you are not here any longer. That day may never come, or it may come sooner than later. I cannot say. Nor can I say where you go when you are no longer here, so do not bother asking.”

“What can I do here?”

“What would you like to do? I recommend you attempt to do things and discover your capabilities for yourself.”

“What do you do? Who are you?”

“My name is not important. You won’t be hearing from me again. I find souls like yourself and provide what guidance I can. Or feel like.”

“So you know more, but you’re not telling me.”

“Good luck, Ramone,” replied the being.

“Wait, hang on! I wasn’t trying to be a prick or anything, I’m sorry.”

But there was no response. Ramone sighed and decided that he should attempt to do something. He was here, might as well get his sea legs. So he concentrated on traveling to a website. He started simple. He checked his email.

Travel within the internet for a ghost turned out to be quite simple. He thought of a destination, and he was there. He could not only see his email, he was in his email. He could see every word, understand every attachment, sense every contact. He felt Alyssa’s email address and twinged with longing. The thought crossed his mind that he could potentially travel to her laptop and activate her webcam. He decided against it; he didn’t know how he could handle that at the moment. And it was certainly an invasion of privacy, even if he had been intimate with her and he didn’t think she would mind. Even though of course she would mind her dead boyfriend peeking through her webcam without permission. He placed that train of thought on the back burner.

So instead he raided government secrets. After he easily slipped by the firewall and brushed off the encryption, Ramone learned all about Congress’ mistresses, the aliens at Area 23, the lizard civilizations hundreds of miles beneath the Earth’s surface, and the supernatural projects the military was working on, including one that was searching for dead spirits in the internet. He took a closer look at that last one.

As he opened the files to read closer, he felt a sharp pain. Pain? he wondered. That can’t be right. But it was. He suddenly found himself utterly muted. While he could sense everything before, suddenly existence was dark. No longer was he connected to anything; and try as he might, he couldn’t travel or even feel the presense of the internet. For the first time since dying, Ramone felt frightened.


“It’s in there,” said Dr. Tillman, his voice cracking with excitement. “It’s in there!”

“I cannot believe that worked,” said Dr. Yoast, her eyes wide as she stared at the screen. “I refuse to believe it worked.”

“It did!” cried Dr. Tillman, throwing his arms in the air. “I did it! I caught a ghost! I caught it!”

They turned from the screen and looked at the small USB stick plugged into the side of the computer, the input now dead and detached from rest of the hardware. Inside was Ramone Guzman, his fate somehow more undecided than ever.

 


Thank you for reading this brand spanking new flash fiction of mine! I really had fun with the premise and may expand the fate of Ramone someday. I hope you enjoyed it. Please like, follow me, and share this story if you found some pleasure in my writing!


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