There are rules that must be obeyed. When you arrive the knowledge is passed on; no written commandments, no posters on the walls, just a quick chat with an old timer living (I feel strange using that words about us) upstairs. The Captain told me. None of us are really sure who sets them but if you break one, punishment ensues. Anyhow, here they are;
Never contact the living through signs i.e. a smile in some frothy coffee to cheer a human up, their favourite song on the radio when all seems to be going badly or finding money on the pavement that pays for a bus fare home on a cold day. A cold breeze on a fevered check to calm an unhappy mind (Emily has done that and got away with it!). No helping. (Obviously most of the people upstairs find this very difficult to obey and do sneak a sign or two, like Em. Most get away with it. I didn’t! I drew Emily a rose in the dirt by her bed when she was dying, to take her mind off things, big mistake…)
Penalty; Fifty years extra watching.
Never contact the living through a human channel (I think they are called psychics or mediums. Very few are true channelers and your average phantom in the wrong hands can be dangerous for all). Extraordinarily hazardous (as its mainly the crazy limbo lovers who have been upstairs and want to stay there, that answer the call of a bad psychic) and could lead to a change in human fate.
Penalty; Seventy extra years.
Never effect the human environment by moving objects or appearing in mirrors, frightening the warm blooded, etc.
Penalty; One hundred years of boredom.
(I have suffered this punishment twice, but feel no regret about the first time. She deserved it, the old witch that sent me up the chimney. The Captain helped me scare the bull out of her over a period of two weeks. Every night, Mrs Baker would shut down the kitchen, mumbling about the horrible jobs she would set for the servants the next day. She genuinely enjoyed seeing other people’s discomfort. So, the Captain and I would follow her around the kitchen, knocking pots together and making the fire spit and suddenly flare with flames and sending clods of soot down the chimney covering everything with a fine layer of black grime. We spilt oil on the floor after she had cleaned it and watched her slip, swearing and dumbfounded, as no one had entered the kitchen but her. We dropped washed linens hanging by the fire into the ashes, and made sure her bread came out burnt. I wanted to make her suffer and a hundred years of extra time seemed a cheap price to pay. The Captain was called away by a relative( and didn’t return for years) and being a novice upstairs all I could do was watch the hag until she left, many moons later.
Penance; One hundred years (How much time I will get for this written interference, I will have to wait and see).
As to what happens when our watch is finished, that we don’t know either. Some believe we return to the earth with hidden knowledge inside us; ideas we must communicate to a make a better world. Some believe we go up to the next level of existence, which is a life free from pain, sorrow and the people downstairs. Newer upstairs inhabitants think that life and death is just a game played by our counterparts higher upstairs and to them we eventually return. I met one old timer who had spent 500 years watching, constantly breaking the rules, as he believed that there was a god and he had been so evil in life that his next stage was burning in hellfire. To some the move upstairs is a complete shock, having believed that death (in life) was the true end of them, never mind yet more levels of existence.
When someone moves on they just get sucked away and never return. I was chatting with a boy up from London once, who had come to see the North and he just disappeared midsentence, accompanied by a slight crackling sound. Bit of a shock it was, I can tell you.
There is one night we are allowed to have some fun with the earth walkers…Halloween, or All Souls (a.k.a. Mischief night). Minimum interaction is allowed so we become things that hide under your bed or in your cupboard. We know you can sense us, so we are gentle; some moaning, slight appearances, candles blow out and light bulbs burst…I think you know what we do. It’s great fun for us, a relief to let go and have a rumble! To give you an idea of what time is like up here, imagine sitting and watching television endlessly, never being able to interact or change the programme for a hundred years. Halloween is our Christmas. The Captain told me in a place called Mexico they actually set out food for people who have moved up. They buy flowers and light incense for the lost, making marigold petal paths to guide their dead relatives home. How very charming, thoughtful and polite. How unlike the living. Sorry, I don’t mean to offend but the truth will out.
We can travel too but I will save that for another correspondence.
Turning my eye back downstairs Madame Brigitte seems to be around at lot at the moment. I think the health of the young cub may be the reason but there is something else on the cards that I can’t quite put my finger on (if I had one)…
Old William seems chipper, his 95th birthday approaching and all trundles along reasonably smooth. He has a gardener/odd job man called Dean, who attacked a tree with an axe this week, disturbing a hive that has existed there for a hundred years. Now that was fun to watch.
Hasta la vista amigos!