And then I kind of wimped out. But, hey, what I went with fulfills the theme, too, because what better way to celebrate the end of October than with a few of your best undead friends?
The One That Proves That There Are Two Teenaged Boys on This Earth Using the Internet for Something Other Than Porn and Networked Video Games. Yes, Really. I'm As Shocked As You Are. Going Under, by Aphrael (does anyone know if she's on LJ?). Hikaru no Go, Shindou Hikaru/Touya Akira.
One of the things I just purely love about Hikaru no Go is that the whole premise - sixth-grader haunted by the friendly ghost of the best-ever Go player - is just kind of, I don't know, taken for granted. Hikaru spends his time worrying that someone might find out about his ghost, sure, but it's about the same way he'd worry about doing something that could get him grounded. After the first day or so, there's no real reaction of, "Holy shit, a fucking ghost." (Which is totally understandable; if I'd been haunted at that age, I likely would've taken it with the same relatively blase air. Everything's kind of weird when you're a kid; for all you know, everyone could have ghosts and just not have thought to mention it to you yet.)
But the lack of holy fucking shit, a ghost reactions means the supernatural element of the canon doesn't really get explored. Which is why I love this story, which says, "Hey. Where there's one ghost, might there not also be another?"
Indeed there might. And just because Sai is the cutest, prettiest, smartest, friendliest, and most emotionally labile ghost you could ever hope to meet, that doesn't mean that other ghosts might not have, well, other agendas. We can't all be bought off with games of Go, vending machines, and fake fish, you know. (Although I have to wonder about those of us who can't be. Are we demanding too much? I mean, the universe supplies Go, vending machines, and fake fish, and yet somehow we want more. You realize this is what happened to the Roman Empire, people. Forget what Gibbon told you: the first sign of decline is a been-there, done-that attitude toward vending machines.) So. Hikaru's got a new ghost. And this one, uh, doesn't have much interest in Go.
The One That Gives a Whole New Meaning to the Concepts of Avoidance and Denial. Law of Conservation, by Lucia Zephyr, aka lucia_tanaka. Numb3rs, Charlie Eppes/Larry Fleinhardt.
And we go from the bad kind of ghost to - well, a whole different bad kind of ghost. Because, let's face it, you don't want to be haunted by anyone weird and creepy. But you don't really want to be haunted by anyone you know, either, because then that person has to be - and I don't want to harp on the obvious here, but, well, it's worth considering - dead. (I suppose the worst case scenario would be being haunted by a weird and creepy loved one. Yeah, my brain went to a bad place, too. Or, oh my god - my really and truly worst case scenario would be being haunted by myself, c. age 15. Weird, creepy, and as irritating as all hell: the undead unholy trifecta!)
And, of course, that's what's happening here. The thing I find interesting about this story is that - well, in due South, we take this kind of haunting for granted. Your dead father can come back to visit, and it's nothing more than an ongoing annoyance and about ten points off your yearly psychiatric evaluation. But taken out of its context - I don't know. I found this story sad, sad in a way I would never find Bob Fraser sad. And I'd put that down to a character I love being dead, except - well, I don't really know these characters. I had to look up Larry's last name to post this, even. But still: sad.
I suppose, transplanted into another reality and onto a different character, this kind of haunting looks like stasis, stagnation, and, well, tragedy. In particular, I find the last line very, very sad. But I'm curious if other people interpret this story that way, or if I'm just weirdly sensitive about this one. (Even if you do - it's a short story, and I'm going to be offering the antidote with the next rec, so don't let me saying something is sad scare you away. Anyway - I cry when I throw away frying pans. My sense of the sad is not necessarily anyone else's.)
The One That Proves That Your Really Good Friends Can Keep Embarrassing You Even After They're Dead. Divine Intervention, by Perpetual Motion, aka perpet_fic. Scrubs, J.D./Perry Cox.
But, hey. Haunting by a loved one doesn't have to be sad, you know? Particularly, in Scrubs stories it doesn't have to be sad. I mean, sure, tragic death and all, but if the people on Scrubs let that get to them, they'd have nervous breakdowns every episode instead of twice a season. The key thing is to get J.D. and Cox on appropriate terms, and if that means hanging around being obnoxious, well, I know one dead guy who is more than up to the task.
(No. It's not the Janitor. Are you kidding? If he predeceased J.D., he sure as shit wouldn't come back to help him get laid; he'd steal all his pens and make sure his coffee was always stone cold and that he never got laid again. Those cold, ghostly fingers can deliver quite the coitus interrupting pinch, you know, and oh my god I'm writing a ghost!Janitor story summary inside another story summary. Why didn't someone stop me?)
Just think, though, about how much it would suck to have to fix Dr. Cox before you could go to your eternal reward. That would be - that would be like the booby prize of the entire afterlife. (And, yes, thank you to all the Todds in the audience who just said, "I'd sure like to prize her boobies.") Or maybe that's the special hell we all keep talking about. Hmmm. Yeah. That makes a surprising amount of sense, actually. See y'all there! And fear not - we will prevail. Even Dr. Cox won't be able to hold out against all of fandom working as a concerted team. (Although, god, I don't want to think about wank in the afterlife. You talk about your truly eternal kerfluffles.)
The One That Provides an Inspirational Example of Triumphing and Achieving Success in Life and Love Despite the Setback of Being Basically Dead. Rodney's Bad Day, by boochicken. Stargate: Atlantis, Rodney McKay/John Sheppard.
Given that Rodney's average day in the Pegasus Galaxy involves a near-death experience, it stands to reason that a bad day would involve an actual death experience. Or, in this case, more of your undead-type experience. Fortunately, Rodney's genius is totally up to the task of coping with vampirism. The keys, as demonstrated by Rodney, are to whip up some even higher SPF sunscreen. And, where possible, try to avoid biting your co-workers. (Unless they ask nicely.)
In this story, we get to see Rodney go through the Five Stages of Coping with Your Own Undeath (denial, creeping people out, anger, struggle with unfortunate appetites, and, in the fullness of time, using your powers for good). Being Rodney, he manages this with aplomb, provided you're willing to define "aplomb" as "mostly not eating anyone." After all, this is Pegasus. You can't survive 15 minutes on Atlantis if you let little things like being undead get you down.
(No, really. You can't, because something worse is always just around the corner. You know that Life Events Scale that assigns a numerical value to the stressfulness of various life events, and you check off the things that have happened to you in the last year and add up the points and find out you should be very, very sick, or maybe just crazy? Well, I bet Kate Heightmeyer is currently hard at work on the Pegasus Galaxy version. It starts off:
Destroyed universe: 10000
Committed genocide (own race): 1000
Nearly committed genocide (own race): 900
Committed genocide (other race): 800
Destroyed galaxy: 750
And, much further down, goes through such entries as:
Died (but got better): 73
Nearly died from someone else's incompetence:63
Nearly died saving everyone: 61
Had family or team member turned into hostile creature or entity: 60
Spent more than 48 hours trapped in an enclosed space with Rodney McKay: 59
Held captive (with torture): 57
Quantum mirror encounter: 55
Time travel (with paradox): 43
And so on. Unfortunately, her research is slightly hampered by the fact that, by even the most generous calculations, they should've had their first stress-induced death five weeks into the mission, and that death would set off a chain reaction of stress, stress-related illnesses, and stress-related deaths that would result in everyone being dead in under three months. She continues to work on it, though. It's a nice way to relax between running the Possessions, Mutations, and Violent Personality Changes Support Circle (Motto: "Friends Helping Friends, Even When They Happen Not to Be Quite Themselves Right at the Moment") and her "So It's Friday and You're Not Dead Yet: Coping with the Shock" lectures.)