Ghostly Guide to Self-Improvement
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By Spectral Librarian Aristarchus of Samothrace

Special Introduction to the 2000th Anniversary Edition

Hello and welcome to the next step in your afterlife! By the simple fact you’ve both chosen to and can pick up these ghostly pages, you’ve proven you’re ready to continue your spiritual growth. Such growth is particularly important for incorporeal creatures, being pure spirit, and this booklet was developed specifically with that in mind.

As one of the senior librarian’s in the Department of Spectral Studies, I first wrote the Ghostly Guide to Self-Improvement shortly after moving to the Library, due to the… unfortunate closure of my previous place of employment. Rather than being comprehensive, I designed this booklet as a brief summary of other resources. Each section addresses some of the most common challenges in a ghost’s nightly life, from the aesthetics of blood stain decoration to harnessing your crippling night terrors as fright tools.

A lot has changed over the years though, and even if many of our spectral brethren are trapped in the past, the more put-together of us really need to keep up with the times. This 2000th Anniversary Edition has been almost entirely rewritten, with every sentence scrutinized. These revisions, along with the new resource lists available in the department archives, mean this guide holds something for both the newly dead spook and the centuries old ghost king. So lets burn the torch at both ends and jump on in!

Having No Body Doesn’t Make You a Nobody

The first and often biggest challenge ghosts face is an obvious one; our manifestation. For a lucky few, the transition is easy, and remaining in the mortal world, fostered by cultural veneration of ones ancestors, may be a natural next step as you enjoy the oh-so-pleasant crackle of the funeral pyre. Others have less choice, manifesting due to disturbance of remains or trauma related to their death, such as the massacre of you and all of your colleagues inside the royal library.

Regardless, manifestation is a significant transition for all of us and, whatever our reasons for remaining, it's often a sensitive topic. Thus, its usually best to avoid talking about it with fellow specters unless you know them well, or are particularly drunk on grape spirits.

That doesn’t mean you should avoid dealing with the fact you’re a ghost though, that can cause all kinds of problems. No, instead look your spectral nature in the eye! You have power as a ghost, power that many mortals can only dream of. So what if you don’t have a body? There are a number of wonderful hobbies ghosts can still participate in. Why, some of the most famous books in the Library were written by ghost writers, and few are as good at interdimensional marble hunting as those who cannot die. You can even consume food while in the dream world (in fact, I recently ran across a recipe for stuffed Zoog with a delightfully smoky flavor). Then of course there is the single most common activity among our kind; the delicate art of the spook.

A Tutorial On Fear

Ghosts have refined the art of fright more than any other creature. While spirits such as myself will often forgo acts of terror in pursuit of more benevolent hauntings, most will at least partake in some good-natured mischief. Indeed, a discussion of fright techniques could be the subject of an entire book, and there are numerous examples in the Library.1 With such a wealth of knowledge available, I will only give the briefest of tutorials here, but I couldn’t resist saying something. Among the various experts on the subject, they tend to to agree there are three fundamental lessons that ensure a proper haunting:

  • Have a focus. Haunting is very much a word-of-mouth business. As such, its important to have something that makes your brand stand out. This can be a cursed object, a specific location, your killer, it just needs to be recognizable. This doesn’t mean you can’t change things up though. For example, if you’ve spent 30 years torturing the usurper pharaoh who murdered you, you might then decide upon his death to return to the Alexandrian library where you previously lived to haunt the grounds.
  • Don’t kill everyone. I know it can be tempting when a group of ignorant teenagers starts drinking palm wine after breaking into your old office, but you really should try to avoid burning them to death with hot coals, even if it would make for an intoxicating smell… No, its not worth it. Death of visitors is one of the most common ways of drawing an exorcist to your door and, as a rule, individuals in the 'purifying' trade are extremely melodramatic creatures. So, even if you do avoid being exorcised, listening to their wails of pain is simply irksome to deal with. The second problem, while rarer, is actually infinitely more irritating; new roommates. Deaths caused by our kind are extremely traumatic for mortals and often result in the manifestation of new ghosts. And, since they died in your territory… You can see where this is going. If you thought said teenagers were enraging before, just imagine 200 years with them and, trust me, I don't need to.
  • Play to your strengths. Every ghost has things they’re good at, either from their previous life or otherwise. Those skills are your weapons. Were you an entomologist in life? Call on the centipedes to eat out their eyes. Loved gardening? Just add some particularly vicious thorns to those prize-winning roses. Even less obvious hobbies can be used, with the only limit being your creativity.2 For example, a lover of books could cause dozens of paper cuts to appear across a ruler’s fingers, I’m told the searing pain is excruciating. Or maybe you want something more direct, instead opting for the delightful sizzle as you brand the name of every dead librarian in hieroglyphics across his arms. You can even make use of your paper-making skills with… other materials. The point is that we all have strengths; put them to use.

Remodeling, Real and Imagined

Among the many misunderstandings of our kind, the underestimation of our skill at interior decorating may be the most egregious. Mortals seem to somehow assume that the charred skull before the mural of Thoth was purely random, or that the cobwebs protecting the first edition papyri were incidental. Indeed, while many of our decorative touches may appear natural by design, they’re often far from it. Just because we’re dead doesn’t mean we lack fashion sense. No, ghostly decorating has the unique ability to blend the old with the new, using the contrast to startling effect. Indeed, a ghost can take the most basic wall of a children’s rooms and make it into a veritable center of excitement, simply with a few slash marks craving the heir’s cartouche.

Likely the best example of this is phantasmagoric architecture; that is to say, architecture that a ghost fashions from illusion. The beauty of this technique is in the layering. It allows one to have two decorations occupy the same space, jumping between them for delightful effect. It can even be practiced with interactive elements such as food. Why, the face when someone realizes their roasted antelope is infested with maggots can make for quite the spectacle, even including familial beheadings among royalty. It is an act said pharaoh may later regret, but then again maybe they should have avoided killing you and all your compatriots in the first place.

Proper Possession Practices - Putting Your Soul Into It

While controlling plants and small insects may be a simple task, possession of an intelligent being is difficult for even an accomplished specter. The most significant instructions I can provide are a piece of advice and a warning. The first is simple; practice. Possession is a bit like slipping on a glove while the glove is changing shape, it takes timing and subtlety, things you only get from trying. Start with simple creatures, rats and crows being common examples, before taking on bigger challenges. Its all about perfecting skills slowly over centuries, not just jumping straight to humans. No, that would be entirely foolish…

Which brings me to my second piece of advice; be careful whom you possess. Possession can have unintended consequences on a ghost. Even as you control the body, the original inhabitant’s baser tendencies can, shall we say, burn through. You can find itself doing things neither of you would have expected, like smashing an oil lantern against a shelf so the flames can drip down. You’ll just stare at the fire as it spreads, feeling the heat as the room burns. Then, even as part of your mind is screaming to save the books, you’ll decide you’re enjoying it too much, watching the pages wither to ash as they take your body with it. Even when you’re a ghost again, wandering among the smoldering remains of the library you loved, you’ll remember them. The cinders, the fire… You’ll want to see them again.

They were such pretty flames.

A Note About the Author

Following this latest edition, Aristarchus has since retired from his position at The Library and, in celebration of his retirement, the administration has even “banned” him from the grounds to ensure his relaxation. Any future inquiries regarding this work, or sightings of the new retiree, should be addressed to the Spectral Studies Department, which will be happy to assist in all matters.

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