Talking to the Dead

by Lorraine Anderson

"I feel a presence here..."

The sentence echoed as the light faded away, and Sam stared at the woman in front of him. "Huh?"

"It's a friendly presence..." He stared at the woman She had her eyes half closed, her head tipped back, and a dozen jewels sparkled in her long blond hair. She shook her head. "It's also confused."

"Who's confused?" Sam said, and he realized his comment was echoed by a voice behind him. He whirled. Another woman was behind him. Her eyes were large and green, and she was pale with huge dark circles under her eyes. She was dressed in an old T-shirt and blue jeans, and even casual, looked disheveled.

She was also looking right at his chest.

Or was she? He turned and faced the gypsy woman... no, not a gypsy, a psychic. She had to be a psychic. He backed off so that he was square with both ladies. The green eyed woman's gazed never faltered. He waved his hand in front of her eyes. She didn't blink as she walked forward, and he withdrew his hand, staring at it. He was invisible?

"He's startled."

"No kidding," Sam yelled. They ignored him. "I've Leapt into a ghost." He narrowed his eyes. "How do you know it's a he?"

"It's male?" the other lady said.

The psychic nodded, then looked around. "I'm getting some strange vibrations here..."

"Yeah," Sam said. "Me!" He jumped around the room, placing himself in front of one woman, then the other. Neither took any notice of him. He finally sat down, panting, and a black cat jumped up beside him, staring at him, then backed away. He laughed, slightly hysterical, then reached his hand out to her. She sniffed at it, thought a second, then rubbed her face against his fingers.

He took a deep breath. "Well, how would you feel if you had Leapt into a ghost?"

"Mew," she said, contentedly, and continued to rub her face against his hand.

Her attention calmed him down, and he started thinking. "I'm a scientist," he told the cat. "Let's put my facts in order. I can't be a ghost." He continued to rub the cat as he talked out loud.

"Fact. There are two women in this room, and neither one can see me.

"Fact. I don't feel any different.

"Fact. You can see me.

"Fact. You can feel me." He cat purred loudly. The two women ignored the cat.

"Conclusion... I can't be dead.

"Corollary: Neither can I be a hologram." He shook his head. "What's going on here?"

He watched the psychic and the other woman. His nerves were still jumping, and he petted the cat absentmindedly.

The psychic closed her eyes and turned in a circle. She opened her eyes and looked through Sam. "He's over there, Angie."

Sam jumped off the couch as Angie gasped. "Is it Peter?"

The psychic continued to look at the couch and Sam sighed with relief. "Yes. He wants you to be well and be happy." She spoke in a sing-song voice, then opened her eyes. "That's all."

Angie's face fell. "Wrong answer," Sam muttered. Was Angie expecting to contact the dead? Or what?

Angie hid her disappointment as the psychic turned toward her. She reached for her purse and put on what Sam was sure must be a false smile. As the two women left the room, settling Angie's account, Sam looked around. First he looked out the window. It looked like New York to him, and they seemed to be fairly high up in a building, which mean they were in an apartment. Knick-knacks everywhere - but high-class knick-knacks, such as Royal Doulton and Lladro. They were displayed on side tables, which meant no children and one well-behaved cat. But a slight coating of dust covered everything, and there were cobwebs in the corners. It fit with Angie's appearance.

He tried the doorknob on the door the women closed. It turned for him. Well, at least he wasn't stuck in the apartment. He started to turn away...

"Sam! Are you all right?"

Sam jerked back, and his heart palpitated. "Al, you're going to give me a heart attack." He peered at Al. "Are you O.K.?"

Al sighed and a little color returned to his face. "Other than there's no-one in the Waiting Room and Ziggy says she's talking to a disembodied person - her term - why, yes, I'm fine." He rubbed his hand over his face. "I think she's finally gone cuckoo. I don't want to ask how Ziggy knew to send me here."

"I... think Ziggy may be telling the truth, Al." Al opened his mouth, then closed it. "I believe I've Leapt into a ghost."

"No. Not possible."

Sam felt more at home as he started playing the Devil's Advocate with Al. "Why not, Al? We've seen ghosts. We seen vampires. Why couldn't I Leap into the life - um - well -. of a ghost?" He ended weakly. He looked away. "I think - my name is Peter. I was married to Angie. Peter's been gone not less than six months. They have no children, and Peter died a sudden death, because Angie is still in deep mourning - and is still searching for reassurance..." He looked at the door. "... if not something else. And Peter needs to tell Angie something specific, or I wouldn't be here."

Al turned pale again. "Right..." he said slowly, "... on all counts. Ziggy says your name is Peter Howard, married to Angie. Peter died in a car accident, a little over six months ago." The handlink bleeped, and Al hit at it, half-heartedly. "And Ziggy's being insufferable about it." He hit it again. "We're in Manhattan, and the date is..." The handlink squealed again. "Ziggy thinks you don't need the date, but I do - September 14, 2001." Al peered at Sam, as if to see if he had any reaction.

Sam felt another shock. "Oh, my God, Al, I'm home."

Al sighed and continued to look oddly at Sam. "No, Sam, I'm still a couple of years in the future."

"But - "

"Ziggy says that having you physically at the Project may actually harm your chanced for return."

"But - "

Al held up his hand. "You're invisible, remember?"

Sam sagged. "Oh, yeah." He brightened. "But Ziggy can see me." He almost pleaded.

Al sighed and looked sad. "The Project is on high alert right now. Not even the President could get in without at least five security checks. Even invisible, I don't think you could get in." He looked thoughtful. "Maybe that's why you Leapt in after September 11."

Sam furrowed his brow. "What's so significant - "

Al shook his head and looked sad. "There's nothing you can do. "Don't worry about it."

"Al - "

"I said there is nothing you can do!" Al flashed, and Sam saw pain and uncertainty on his face.

"Al - can I help you?"

Al looked at him sharply, then smiled sadly and looked out a window. "You already are. Look, here in 2001 we're facing a national crisis. Things are a bit - confused. It didn't help that I had five Senators on my back, hoping we can Leap you in to save - to change events. If you were meant to divert this crisis, you would have been Leapt in to a different time and a different place. If you're meant to know about this, you'll see a newscast or read a newspaper. So let's get back to business." He punched the handlink angrily.

We're getting back to business, Sam thought, but even Al wishes we could do something. He sighed.

"Ziggy says you're here to communicate with Angie. And," he looked disgusted, "you need to communicate verbally. You can't leave a note."

Sam laughed. "Al, she doesn't even see me!"

"Then we have to change that." He looked at Sam and frowned. "I really don't know how." The handlink squawked desperately. "Ziggy says... " Al hit the side of the handlink and it yelped. "I'm not taking you to see that quack."

"What?"

"She says you have to see Edward Luke." He looked disgusted.

Sam spread his hands. "Edward - "

"Oh. Right. After your time. Edward Luke is a psychic on the Fantasy Channel - a good place for him, if you ask me - who claims to talk to the dead." He shook his head. "I think he's a con man. But he's a smooth con man, so he gets people to believe him and he gets the big bucks."

"Oh."

"Yeah. Oh."

Angie came back into the room and plopped onto the couch. She looked as if she had been crying. Angrily, she picked up a magazine. On the cover was a photograph of a man, titled "Edward Luke: The Real Thing or a Fraud?"

She sighed and looked at the cover. "Maybe if I can see him...?" She muttered to herself.

Sam looked at Al. "You have a better idea?"

#

Edward Luke looked up from his desk, startled. "Hello! I didn't see you come in and you weren't announced for some reason. May I help you gentlemen?"

Al gasped. Edward stuck out his hand, and Sam took it with some trepidation. As they shook hands, it was Edward's turn to look startled. He jerked his hand back. "What in the hell - ?"

"What did you see?" Sam asked ruefully, already knowing the answer.

Edward sat back in his chair. "I saw a dark haired man change into a sandy haired man with a white streak at his temple."

"And Sam, he sees me," Al burst out.

"I know, Al." He turned back. "Do I still look the same?"

"Yeah." He narrowed his eyes. "And you both look familiar - Calavicci, the astronaut! That's right." He mused. "I you're Sam Becket, the genius, who's been missing for..."

"Ah," Al interrupted, and Edward looked startled. "The price of fame." Al looked rueful. He turned to Edward. "The fact is - we're here because we need your help." He sounded as if the words were dragged out of him.

Edward sat back and smiled slightly. "I have a scientific genius and a former astronaut in my office and you need my help?"

"You seem to be the paranormal expert here." Edward looked sharply at Al, who looked back at him with ill-disguised disgust.

"We're in an odd situation -"

"To say the least," Al muttered.

"We need to give a woman a message from her deceased husband."

"Oh." Edward's expression grew more bland. "Why can't you give it to her yourself? And why now, for God's sake, when so many others are hurting?" He looked out the window.

"Others?" Sam murmured, and looked at Al.

Al shook his head slightly. "Please don't ask, Sam."

Sam turned away, hoping that someday he would know what happened. "We're not actually here." Sam blushed. "It's part of a classified government project."

Edward snorted. "I'm not sure what to question first, so I'll go for the one where I might get an answer - not actually here?"

"Um... a little demo might be in order, Al."

Al sighed, squared himself with the desk, and walked through it lengthwise.

"You're a hologram?" Al looked at him startled. "I know you're not dead. I see." He turned to Sam. "But you're not a hologram."

"It's hard to explain - " Al cleared his throat. "- and I can't tell you. But no-one besides you can see or hear me."

Edward steepled his hands. "Mind if I test that?"

"Be my guest."

He punched his intercom. "Linda, could you get me - a notebook?"

After a second, a young lady walked in. Al placed himself in front of the woman and she walked through him. Sam waggled his fingers in front of her nose, and she walked forward without acknowledging the interruption. She handed the notebook to Edward, who was glancing from the duo to Linda, non-plussed.

He took the notebook and smiled at her. "Linda, could you clear my calendar for this afternoon and reschedule my appointments? I need to go out."

Linda looked startled. "Go out? But... where?"

He spread his hands. "I'm not sure yet. But I'll know when I get there." He smiled at Sam.

#

"Maybe she's not home," Edward murmured. Al walked through the wall and Edward jumped. "How do you get used to that?"

"I don't," Sam said. "You seem nervous."

"I usually don't make house calls - or at least not house calls like this."

Al walked back out. "She's sleeping in the living room. Knock louder."

Edward knocked, then rang the doorbell again. Al walked back through the wall. "She's getting up," he yelled.

"And I usually don't have a hologram doing a play-by-play," Edward said. Sam grinned.

"Or an invisible man."

The door opened, and Angie gaped up at Edward. Edward smiled sunnily, turning on the charm. "Mrs. Howard, I'm sorry to interrupt you, but..."

"You're Edward Luke," she said, wide-eyed, then shook her head.

Edward nodded his head. "Yes. May I come in a second?"

She furrowed her brow. "Um, yes. Of course. How did you know?" she trailed off.

Edward glanced at Sam. "I have a message from Peter."

"Oh!" She moved out of his way, then led him down a small hall to the living room. "I'm sorry about the way the apartment..."

He grasped her hands. "That's all right." He looked up at Sam, then at Al. "Here's Peter's message." As Al looked at Edward, Edward cleared his throat.

Sam grinned. "That's your cue, Al."

"Oh, yeah." He punched at the hand link. "Here's what Ziggy is passing on..." He rolled his eyes. "Schmaltz from a ghost," he muttered, then went on. "Angie, you are my only love..."

Edward managed not to react. "Peter is here now, and he's giving me a specific message. Clearer than most. He must love you very much." He looked at Al. "I'm quoting now... 'Angie, you are my only love...'"

Al continued, and Edward repeated him, phrase by phrase.

"'I told you that if something would happen to me, I would try to contact you somehow. God saw your suffering, and allowed me to talk through these people...'" Angie looked confused at this, and Edward shook his head. "Mrs. Howard, it's a long story how I'm getting Peter's message, and I can't tell you how or why. Just please be reassured that this is what Peter is saying."

He went on. "'You need to go on without me. I'm so sorry I couldn't avoid that accident, but that blue car came out of nowhere. God called me home, and I am happy, but he still has a purpose for your life. Please live it. I know you've been miserable, and I want you to be happy.'" He finished, then looked at Angie.

Angie was crying, but she was still looking at Edward expectantly. "You know," Sam said, "I think she's been waiting for something more. Maybe a code phrase, or some message as to where something is."

Edward looked at Al. "More is coming through, but I'm having a hard time understanding it." He smiled at her. "This is not an exact science."

Al snorted, then smashed the handlink. "Ziggy says that Peter seems confused. Wait a minute." He screwed up his face. "'Mairzy doats and doesy doats and little lambsee divy?' You've got to be kidding."

Edward shook his head. "Does - 'Mairzy doats and doesy doats' mean anything to you?"

Angie beamed, crying. "That's our code phrase. We've always said that if one of us died before the other, we'd use that song."

"Damn." Al said. "Wait a minute, there's something more. Peter's asking whether she remembered the two hundred bucks between the mattresses. A code phrase and a treasure hunt!" Al shook his head.

"Do you remember the two hundred dollars between the mattresses?"

Angie looked shocked. "No. I forgot!" She tore off, then came back, holding the money. "Here it is, I had forgot."

"He's saying that she should give it to Edward Luke for his time."

Edward looked sharply up at Al. "He's saying to give it to a good cause."

She turned, looked sad, then turned to Edward. "I should give it to you." Edward shook his head. "Then I'll give it to the Survivor's Fund." She looked resolute. "In fact, I think I need to go downtown and do more. I need to share my story to the survivors."

"I agree," Edward said. "I wish I were free to do that. But I'm afraid this soon after the tragedy, I would do more harm than good." He looked sad.

Angie looked at him. She looked happy, but tired. "I'm sorry - is Peter still here?"

Edward looked up, and Al nodded his head.

"Tell him I love him, more than ever."

"He knows." Al and Edward spoke at the same time.

#

"Thank you," Sam said as they rode the elevator down to the ground level. "That seemed to be what she needed to hear."

Edward sighed. "It was. I hear that so often." Al hmmphed. "You think I'm a fraud, don't you?"

"Well..." He cleared his throat. "I have to believe that the only reason you can see us is that your brain waves are similar to Sam's."

Edward grinned ruefully. "I'm afraid I have a message for you, too, Al."

Al rolled his eyes. "What message could you give me?."

"Trudy says that she loves you, and doesn't blame you."

Sam remembered Al's deceased, Down's Syndrome afflicted sister, who died in a mental hospital when Al was very young.

Al looked thunderstruck. "Trudy? How did you know..."

"I'm a psychic, Al," Edward smiled. "I speak to the dead." He walked out the front door of the apartment building.

Sam started laughing, than looked to the South. "Al, what's that smoke..."

He Leapt.