My good friend Ben Smithe died in the early 1600s in a roaring house fire. He saved three of his younger siblings, and then collapsed from exhaustion and smoke inhalation in the process of rescuing his remaining sister. They manifested together, burned to death, clinging to each other, the fibres of their clothes embedded in their skin, and the buckle of Ben’s belt seared to his stomach. He was sixteen; she, fourteen.
Now, we ghosts tend to have a dark sense of humour.
We have an entire tumblr dedicated to the ridiculous things people are wearing when they die. We have a soap opera called Days of Our Afterlives. Most tribute bands just throw ‘Dead’ in front of the name of the band they impersonate. And so on.
But it would be a cruel joke indeed if Ben and his sister Samantha were forced to spend eternity wandering around in pain, as the shreds of their former selves.
And that is why ghosts have spent century after century perfecting the art of physical improvement.
There are two aspects to physical improvement: surface and developmental.
Surface improvements are essentially cosmetic, and they happen in two stages. First, a manifestation team swoops in and helps you to remember who you were prior to your death. They aim to help you find your healthiest self–the self you want to be as you step out into the afterlife–and then assist you in coaxing your energy back into that form.
Ben and Samantha, for example, coaxed their energy into the appearance of fresh clothes and unharmed skin.
Most ghosts stay in this initial form for quite a while–learning to manipulate energy without the assistance of manifestation experts is no small task.
The Smithes, though, were rather adept. And so they proceeded into the second stage fairly quickly, using their imaginations to mold their appearances to fit what they had dreamt about experiencing in life. Namely, Ben cut off his hair and Sam coiled hers up, they dressed in the latest out of London, and they popped right off to the continent to see what ghost world had to offer.
Very progressive Puritans, these two. Or, you know, the rebellious children of a man who’s name was literally Abstinence Smithe.
Either way, my point is that not only can you manipulate your age and your appearance, you can also style yourself as you travel, as the eras pass by, and as you try out new traits and tastes. All you have to do is imagine what you want, and, if you’re aiming for the most immersive experience, borrow the memory of a ghost who knows…lets say…what silk feels like.
As to the developmental changes.
Round about 1800, Ben tells me he grew mighty tired of looking sixteen. And his sister Samantha, still his boon companion and partner in crime, was finding it more and more difficult to find ‘fun’ blokes, as she puts it. The concepts of adolescence and childhood were growing in vogue, and new ghosts weren’t taking the Smithes seriously.
They needed to look older, they decided. They needed to better suit their 200 year old minds. They needed to age.
Here’s where it gets a bit tricky. Because while ghosts can change clothes, you cannot ‘age’ in any actual sense. In fact, you have two choices.
You can add energy to your manifestation to gain a few extra inches of height, for instance, or to fill out a gown, but convincing the new energy to stay and permanently amalgamate is very difficult.
Similarly, you can reduce your manifestation to tone the appearance of muscle, define a chin, or lose weight, but only through the redistribution of the energy with which you died. You either have to displace the energy into, say, longer hair or bigger feet, or you have to condense your body as tightly as possible, through exercise, and hope that it stays put.
And all told, the most any ghost has ever managed to really ‘age’ is about four years.
For Ben and Sam, shooting from a soft sixteen and small fourteen to a muscular twenty and fulsome eighteen made all the difference in the world.
For other ghosts, such as my daughter Mira, who wants nothing more than to experience romance or to adopt a child, seven to eleven won’t make much of a difference.
Incredibly frustrating, that, poor thing.
But I suppose, overall, it is rather lovely that ghosts can shift and change their bodies after death, particularly given the sadder manifestations.