Tom had always been a fan of comic books growing up. Not the kind that we so closely associate with super heroes, mutants and battles for the future of the universe, but the kind with ducks walking and talking in a world where you could swim in a giant vault filled with gold coins the same way you could in water.
Comic books to Tom were the kind of thing that filled you with laughter and came out every month in the summer. His favourite was Donald Duck and the Dave adventures he had with his nephews and Uncle Scrooge, but he also loved stories involving Caspar the friendly ghost. As kids do, he imagined how fun it would be to have a friend disassociated with his day to day world of math problems, bullies and mean spirited teachers. He could come home and Caspar would be there waiting for him with an adventure all planned out.
Of course, that wasn’t the case, so he retreated into his comic books and legos and let the early years of his childhood be spent that way. It wasn’t by any means bad, but it wasn’t what he dreamed. Childhood turned to adolescence and then came adulthood came crashing in and that dream disappeared into the ether.
That was until 2020 came around and Tom was out at a bar with some friends from college who were visiting London. Tom had taken a small dab of MDMA and was outside cooling off a bit as it simply was too much for him. He had his hand against the wall, breathing deeply and repeating to himself that everything would be OK. Once he calmed himself down he managed to stand up straight and turned to go back into the bar. There was a man, semi opaque, standing in his way staring at him.
“Excuse me,” Tom said, but the man didn’t move.
“Can I get by please,” Tom said with a tinge of panic. He really wasn’t in the mood for an altercation.
“No,” the man replied.
Tom wasn’t the best in these situations. Confrontation was a pain. He kind of just half stared at the man bewildered.
“I’m your friendly ghost, Kasper,” he said.
Incredulous, with the memory of his childhood dream flooding back from the depths of his mind, Tom said, “Thats impossible.”
“Obviously it’s not numpty. I’m Kasper, I’ve been with you forever, but this is the first time you’ve seen me.”
The night in the bar felt like a long time ago. At the time, Tom thought he was experiencing some hallucinogenic effect of the MDMA. He hadn’t dabbed very much and though a bitter taste remained in his mouth and he had a slightly euphoric feeling rising through his body after his initial panic, he didn’t really think he was hallucinating. As it turned out, from the reams of news that he obsessively read for weeks after the event, there had been a cosmic wave that flowed through the solar system and flooded the earth with a non-lethal radiation that allowed everyone to see ghosts wandering around the world.
There were enough of these ghosts walking around that everyone was sure that they were in fact there and real, but they were limited to about a million or so worldwide. They weren’t rare per se, but not many people knew one intimately.
Tom was deemed a lucky one. His ghost had been with him all his life. Not able to influence anything or protect him, but always watching over him. In some (many) respects, Tom found this all incredibly creepy. It felt like the world of marvel’s comics had collided with his childhood love of funny basic comics. As a child he probably would have loved this event, but now he found that someone had died and then decided to stick around on Earth to watch him. In every moment.
Kasper sat down at the kitchen table, waiting for Tom to finish cooking his breakfast. Tom was relaxed, but had the air of paranoia around a man who believes he is constantly being watched. He wasn’t constantly being watched, of course, as Kasper was busy reading the Financial Times, in awe of how investing had changed since he was involved in it back in the 1970s and early 80s right before Tom had been born. At that moment, he didn’t give a toss what Tom was doing.
“Do you know anything about this Bitcoin stuff Tom?” Kasper asked.
Tom felt slightly relieved that there was confirmation Tom wasn’t watching him and then replied, “I’ve heard of it, but I don’t know much beyond the fact that it’s a crypto currency.”
“We should really invest in some – prices are nice and volatile, but seem to just be going up.”
“Of course, I don’t have any income, so I need to live my afterlife vicariously through you.”
This was a common theme arising in all of their talks since Kasper had been revealed by the cosmic radiation. First Kasper had bemoaned how boring it had been in the early years to see Tom plod along dreaming about ‘Caspar’ and not going out and doing things. Kasper wanted to continue experiencing things much like he did while living life to the max in the 70s and 80s. Tom took offence at first to the moans about his childhood. He loved being holed up with his books and thoughts. Nowadays he was much more social, but he still liked the odd solitary retreat.
Kasper has explained that he wasn’t criticising his childhood. He liked experiencing the calmness after so many hectic years of living that he had done, but he wanted Tom to experience things for the thrill of seeing him enjoying them. It had gotten significantly more interesting in the last decade, Kasper had said, but he wanted to push the boundaries during this next one. This gaveTom some heart palpitations.
Tom resumed the conversation after thinking a bit, “You know I don’t have that much money I assume? With saving for a house I’ll probably never be able to afford and paying more than half of my take home in rent, I don’t see how I can spare anything for Bitcoin trading.”
“You’re missing the point my friend – fuck real estate and invest the saving in something that will give you a real bloody return!”
“I’m sceptical – I’ll probably just lose everything if I follow your advice.”
“Live a little!”
“I’ll think about OK,” Tom said to signal the end of the conversation.
Kasper wasn’t happy with this, so the remainder of the breakfast was conducted in silence.
Tom hadn’t ever figured out why Kasper was attached to him so. They were nothing alike and they were t even a great odd couple. He wasn’t mean, he was just an ass. Things like the Bitcoin conversation happened frequently and always ended the same. With silence and distaste for each other.
The Bitcoin thing changed when Tom lost his job. It sounds ludicrous, but when he lost his job he became a risk taker. He didn’t feel like there was anything to lose, so he took the biggest plunge of his life. Perhaps if Kasper wasn’t around he wouldn’t have gone for Bitcoin, but he still felt like he would have taken some drastically different route from his life up to that point. All his life he had followed the rules and done what he was supposed to do. He thought this meant he would be guaranteed a good adulthood, but this firing, which had nothing to do with his performance, made him snap.
He came home after the firing to see Kasper watching Netflix. Well, he had been watching Arrested Development, until Netflix asked if he was still watching, but he couldn’t press the buttons on the remote. This was frustrating, to say the least.
“Let’s do it Kasper. I still need to eat, but I’m going all in on the rest.”
Silence and bewilderment.
“The Bitcoin, Kasper, let’s do it. Can you show me how?”
“YES!” Kasper shouted, “let’s do this – fire up your laptop.”
Kasper fumbled him through the process, directing Tom based on what he had read. It was a torturous process, but Tom ended up with a few Bitcoins that were worth a promising amount in a couple of months time.
Tom sat back and cracked a beer to celebrate his future success and Kasper had an ear to ear smile on, imagining the future possibilities.
A month passed and things were looking promising. The value of his Bitcoins had increased by 25%. It was a hefty return, but he needed more. He decided to keep a runway of a couple of months, but invested everything else.
“Are you sure about this,” Kasper asked
“Yes, I need to push the boundaries or I’ll be stuck in another job that will just fire me when the going gets tough.”
They didn’t say more on the topic, but the air in the apartment became tense and terse rather than the earlier jubilant feeling.
Two months went by and money ran low. Rent was due, but the Bitcoin would rise even more, so Tom stayed in and defaulted on his rent.
The first pass due notice arrived for bills and then the second. The landlord started eviction proceedings.
Times got worse as the Bitcoin market crashed. Neither Tom nor Kasper understood why, but it didn’t matter.
Tom sat on the toilet with the door open. He pondered his choices and wondered whether Camus was right and the only real philosophical question was that of suicide. He was certainly only contemplating that right now.
Kasper wandered in and looked over him.
“What are you doing Tom?”
“I think you know.”
“That I do, and I know it more intimately than you think.”
“How is that?”
“I didn’t realise it until a couple of months ago, but I think I’m attached to you as I see a lot of me in you. Perhaps I was meant to see my life from a different perspective by following yours through with you. The radiation obviously changed it all.”
“I never asked,” Tom said looking up at Kasper, “how did you die?”
“I dumped all of my eggs in one basket and went I dropped the basket, my life was in ruins. I took the only option that I thought was available to me.”
“I’m sorry I never asked Kasper.”
“It’s OK – we were all caught up in the craziness of the situation.”
“I don’t think I can go on Kasper.”
“I think we can take a step together. Let’s see what we can do. What you’re feeling now is tough. I get that you feel like there isn’t an option. Maybe there isn’t – I don’t want to bullshit you – but why don’t we explore if there is. Put the Camus book down and let’s talk.”
Tom stood up and walked out of the bathroom slowly. He sat down at the kitchen table and Kasper followed.
“Tell me about your life Kasper.”
Kasper smiled and began his story, taking it one step at a time.