Kirsty Logan is a fiction writer, literary magazine editor, and book reviewer. Her fiction and poetry has been published in over 80 anthologies and literary magazines, and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She is currently working on a novel, Rust and Stardust, and a short story collection, The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales. She has a semicolon tattooed on her toe. Say hello at kirstylogan.com
Listen to Kirsty Logan’s story ‘Sleep Pictures’
You do not think of me as a ghost. I know you don’t, because I was looking over your shoulder all those nights you sat up until dawn at your laptop. Googling for spirits and spectres and ghouls. You slammed your laptop shut pretty quick-smart after that nonsense! You knew that couldn’t be me. Some scrap-clad wraith, jangling chains and making noises like ‘whooooo’ through draughty casements. And you’re right: I’m not. Not like that, anyway, though technically speaking I am dead and I can drift through walls and I do rattle your windows sometimes just to remind you to lock them. See? I still look after you.
You searched for me in so many places in those early days. You tried books, booze, the embraces of strangers. But I wasn’t there. I mean, I was, actually, because I was always there with you, but you didn’t know it. And if you didn’t know it, that made it untrue. Things are only real if we can both agree that they are.
After that, I started to drift away. At first I’d hung around our house, but after a few years you moved – and I say years, but for me it was only days. Moments, even. Time passes differently for the dead. We are not restrained by it, though we also can’t use it to structure things any more. Not that we need to. I could have followed you when you moved, but it wasn’t the same. Your new house was on the edges of a city, and I did not like it. No clamour of birds looking for their breakfast of crumbs, no ivy clutching thickly around the windows, no salty breezes fresh from the North Sea. Not even a garden where the dog could run riot. Not even a dog, I soon realised. There was no point staying at the old house, but there was nothing for me in the new house either. What’s a bored, passionate spirit to do?
So I came here, to the hotel. Our hotel. The one where we were married. The one where we returned, every year on our anniversary, to read one another poetry and eat room service breakfast and have spectacular sex. I’m only here for you, but you visit once a year, and I have to amuse myself somehow.
The good thing about hotels is that the faces always change, and no one likes to make a fuss. What’s the point, when they’re going to be gone tomorrow? No guest has ever complained about my presence. So I whisper your name into their ears, trace hearts in the steam on their bathroom mirrors, draw sketches of your face with my pinkie fingernail on their sleeping naked backs.
I don’t know if they see. I don’t know if they hear. But I hope that they do. I want them to remember you so that you’ll never really be gone. Even when you become a ghost yourself and we’ve both drifted into faded photos, into names weathered off tombstones, into salty North Sea breezes, a part of us will still exist. Here, in the walls of the hotel. I whisper you – I whisper us – so that we will never be gone. When everyone has become a ghost, it will still be true that you loved me, and I love you.
Recorded, edited and produced by Laura Cameron-Lewis and Andrew Eaton-Lewis of (g)Host City. www.virtualfestival.org and mastered by Hamish Brown.
The music on ‘Sleep Pictures’ is an instrumental version of The Fakester Resurrection, from the Swimmer One album Dead Orchestras. Copyright Biphonic Records 2010. www.biphonic.co.uk