(This is part of a science fiction world descript.)
Because, well, why not?
I threw a ghost house party into IBwaD because I needed an inciting incident for a plot point. And because I thought it would be fun. So, why not?
There’s even a secondary character named Serena who is a ghost child. And I’ve set up parameters around their abilities and how they function. It is those parameters that I will be setting out in this post here.
First, how do ghosts exist in this setting?
They look pale or grey-ish, and they carry a chill. It is also possible to almost see through them, mostly by seeing both them and whatever is behind them. Someone with an originally darker skin tone will have the same effect, but their skin will look more grey-ish than pale. For example, here’s an excerpt from Goren’s first interaction with his first ghost in IBwaD:
“The stranger was, roughly, just a little taller than me. This close, he was oddly pale. It was like I could see through him. If I focused my eyes on something behind him (for example, a tree), then I could follow that object with my gaze. It was almost like seeing two things at once – the man in the red top hat and the world behind him. The more intricate the detail, the easier it was to focus my eyes on it. The bird sitting on the branch well behind his left cheek was a red, blue, and white swallow, its red face exceptionally bright. I could barely convince my eyes to read the man’s pale, bland skin over it. I blinked, but that didn’t change anything.”
Here’s an example of the sort of chill they bring with them:
“I put up a hand in front of me like I might when passing through a real crowd. Then, hesitantly, I took a step forward. At first, no one seemed to notice me. Maybe I could peacefully pass through? But then a man danced through me, chilling me with a cold so thorough he might as well have filled my blood with ice. Vaguely, I hoped desperately that no one was in my bathroom.
Stubbornly, against what may be my better judgement, I gathered up my courage. I took in a deep breath and steadied my gaze. The guardsman was again on my right, cracking a crude joke. Then he turned towards me, lifting a hand like he meant to pat me on the back.
I sprinted through my living room. How? I didn’t know. But I’d just done it. Then I was into my hallway. I stumbled into my bathroom door. To my surprise (and horror) I found the door shut. I scrambled for the handle, but my body wasn’t listening to me anymore. Instead, I was freezing on my insides. My heart was banging in an abominable icy cavity. The heat of my core, my natural warmth, was replaced by a glacier. It was suddenly the height of winter inside of me. Even my fingers and toes were tingling.
I inhaled some warmth, but my lungs seemed to fight it. When I exhaled, I could feel the cold of my own breath. I inhaled again, mildly panicking. How many ghosts did I just pass through? I didn’t know. For that matter, I didn’t even know how many were here. My third breath finally brought some warmth. I was able to wiggle my fingers and slightly shift my stance. Another and my left hand was on the handle. I was turning it. In anticipation, I watched myself open my own bathroom door.”
Second, what can they do?
Not much. They’re more like witnesses. They can converse with people who can perceive them. I’m not ruling out humans with the ability to hear ghosts, but so far this setting only has an occasional character who can see and hear them.
They can interact with the physical world, but only in limited amounts. It takes a great deal of focus to do anything aside from not sinking through a floor. Ghosts do phase through walls and furniture, but on occasion one sits in a chair without thinking about it. This happens because of a peculiar way in which their human self expects them to interact with the world (they can sit on chairs and not go through floors unless they lose that human connection). However, they would need intense focus to actively interact with something.
It should be noted that great releases of emotional energy can impact the human world. For example, a ghost can shatter a glass window in a fit of rage. But these occurrences should not be very common. They’re only for the more extreme releases of emotional energy.
But, usually, the only interacts seen will require a great amount of focus. For example, Serena tries to lift an envelope in IBwaD. She does play it up a bit since this is a child character. Here’s an excerpt from the draft:
” “I can get it.” Serena declared, comically scrunching up her face and waving her hands around her temples. I definitely raised an eyebrow at that. Since I didn’t particularly feel like getting up, I just let her be. If there was a letter, then maybe someone living would get it for me. Consciously, I quit scratching at my thumb. I think me itching the same spot was actually making it worse.
Halfheartedly, I did watch as Serena stood up and began a bizarre dance across the room. She raised her knee to her belly button and leaned up on her tip toes. Next, she sank down to the floor, pushing her arms out like she was a bird. Then she repeated the process with her other foot.
Thwack! Her hand dinged the wall. It startled her and she shook her fingers. Fwoosh.
But I think that startled me more than it startled her. Fully attentive now, I leaned forward, practically on the edge. I hadn’t seen a ghost interact that way with a worldly object before. Thinking back, all I could recall was some ghosts walking on floors and sitting on chairs. She did another dance-like step, visibly steadying her breathing. I watched, reminding myself to breathe normally, as she reached her hand out. Slowly, she slid her fingers onto an envelope.
Fwaa. . . She began sliding it on the table. Amazed, I watched it inch towards her. I could see from here that she was grinning like a maniac. Serena was staring right at it. Even her curls seemed poised and focused on the task.
In no time, she was holding the envelope in her hands.”
Third, how many of them exist?
This is an unknown. I want to keep some uncertainty here, but they’re not prolific. Certain locations can attract more of them, such as hospitals and scenes of mass historic tragedy. When Goren in IBwaD first gains the ability to see ghosts, he only sees one for a while. He doesn’t see any more until this one ghost calls the others over.
Fourth, is it just humans? And do they age?
No, it is not just humans. There are also ghost cats and other pets.
And I’m not heartless. They can pass on.
If they don’t, though, they do technically “age”. But it’s at a very gradual rate, and they won’t age physically. Instead, they’ll develop a loss of memory about their human selves. This loss increases as they “age”, to the point that they also, mentally, become much less human. I’ve added this limitation as a check on their powers. Also so that ghosts have what is effectively an incentive to move on.
Now, what about other supernatural beings? If it exists traditionally in folklore, and I don’t feel like I’d be appropriating it, then it can exist here. The general public does not know about supernatural beings like ghosts, but they can certainly exist. As of this writing, I do not intend to include vampires, werewolves, or mermaids. However, I have already included golems and chimera.
Traditionally, a golem is typically a servant (or a being in a servant-like role) who is created from some substance. For example, clay, bugs, or swamp tar. An easy example here is actually Oogie Boogie from the Nightmare Before Christmas.
I did not use the traditional Chimera from Greek mythology, but it is referenced. Instead, I used chimera as a creature that exists as (or is created by) the combination of two or more living beings. For example, when Juliette in the TV show Grimm first finds non-human DNA (from one of the wesen), she thinks it is a Chimera. This is because her one sample contains both human and non-human markers.