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Jill poured herself another cup of coffee and returned to the living room. On a table were stacked half a dozen books she'd pulled from the shelves. To read, obviously—or at least skim through—but not for fun. For research. Which, actually, she very much enjoyed. So, on this dark and stormy night, as she sat curled up in front of the fire, reading about ghosts, instead of being bored to death, Jill was having a wonderful time.

Sort of. Casting a bit of a shadow on the canvas was the fact that, at any moment, the book she was reading might be ripped from her hands by one of the mischievous squatters whose pranks—which included making long-distance phone calls, changing the time on her clocks, and not existing in proper space-time—were approaching intolerable. Which is why she was researching.

Grabbing a book from the pile, she sat down and read:

What The Hell Just Happened: Incidents of No One Doing Something

As the use of electronic gadgets increases, so do the cases of phantom activity. Properly defined as "any occurrence involving sensory inputs which confuse and/or frighten," common examples of phantom activity include telephone calls made by no one, doors closed by no one, television sets turned on by no one, and words spoken by no one.

Last year, the What The Hell Just Happened Hotline received more than 39,999,999 calls from clinically sane people—(my own dear, sweet mother was four of them)—compared with almost 17,999,999 and roughly 9,999,999 calls in 1984 and 1948, respectively.

At least all of these incidents occurred in quiet or rural neighbourhoods, however some believe the proportionately greater number of incidents which occur in metropolitan areas are unreported by people who are either dumb or terrified of looking that way.

"Hm." Jill closed the book. "Uselessly informative," she muttered, setting it aside and reaching for another. "Ah. The Maddening: Plight of the Otherworld. Now this sounds promising."

For millennia, the ghost community was a happy one. With a diverse population including many distinguished souls, the dead enjoyed a primarily cooperative, respectful relationship with the living, one bordering on friendship. In recent years, however, the Otherworld has been thrown into turmoil.

Technological advancements which have served to boost the longevity, apathy and arrogance of a species with an inherent fondness for impossible acrobatics have invariably effected a decline in the ghost population. While the number of dead continues to rise, this growth consists predominantly of senile elders, reckless idiots, gang members, alcoholics, gluttons and the like—a trend which most in the ghost community find worrisome.

Equally troubling is the marked increase of abuse the dead suffer at the hands of their living tormentors. Regularly and callously slandered in horror fiction, stalked relentlessly by photographers hoping to capture a prize-worthy image, hounded by prying strangers with impertinent questions, tracked by mobs on guided tours, and exploited by fraudulent psychics, many a ghost has been driven mad.

"Why, they're treated like red-carpet celebrities!" Jill cried. Suddenly, she couldn't wait to die.


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