My husband rushed to the kitchen one evening. His face looked strangely excited as he said, “Tom Linden has come back.” I almost dropped the dish I held. These kinds of incidents happened only once or twice a year.

You see, Tom Linden was an upcoming actor who died two months ago due to a drug overdose. He had left two incomplete projects behind. One of his producers almost lost his mind and the other one faced bankruptcy.

“He must have been sent back due to the magnitude of the situation,” I said.

“Maybe he pleaded his case very well to those in charge.” My husband pointed to the sky.

We did not know who was in charge and what happened after Tom Linden died. But we knew that the situation was very dire or he would not have been sent back. The dead were usually allowed a week or less than that to finish their unfinished business. If they were killed, they were not allowed to seek revenge. They were just sent back to finish their professional tasks. I have heard of such “incidents” taking place since my childhood.

“It seems he stared at his unit members and began to cry. They must have felt very embarrassed,” my husband commented. The dead were usually very emotional about the people they had left behind.

“I don’t think the mentally unstable producer would ever recover, but the one facing bankruptcy is ecstatic.”


“Yep. And Officer Maloney is hovering around him, trying to get a statement from him.”

Officer Maloney was over 50. As far as I knew, he had always been in charge of seeking information from the dead. He had never succeeded. Nobody got answers from the dead, just blank stares.

My husband continued, “It seems he has two action sequences and a romantic scene with Ms. Winters, the leading lady.” I shuddered for Ms. Winters.

Tom Linden finished his work within a week. We heard that he walked away after a lingering look at his unit members. Nobody followed him and he was not seen again. The deceased people never made a fuss about going back.

I did not hear of any further “returning” incidents over the next couple of years. I was a mother now. It was a sultry summer evening and my one-year-old was fast asleep in his cradle. I opened my mailbox. Two rejection emails, as usual. I took a look at my Submittable page. It showed a record of 20 rejected works and no acceptances. I sighed and opened Word to complete a poem about unrequited love. The baby squealed. I felt exhausted after rocking him back to sleep. I did not know when I slept, but I woke up feeling very cold. I reached out for my blanket when I saw him. A stranger sat at the foot of my bed, leaning forward and staring at me.

“Who are you?” I tried to raise my voice.

“I was Ezra Atkin,” he said in a shaky voice.

He was a dead man, I realized with shock.

“Why did you come here?”

I had never seen one before. I was scared and intrigued.

“I have got only two days,” he pleaded with urgency. “Please open your laptop, sign out of your Submittable account, and log into mine.”

How long had he been here? Had he seen my number of rejections? I felt ashamed. I entered his username and password as he spelled them for me. My goodness! He had almost 50 rejected works. This was the first time I felt sorry for another writer.

He told me to click “Accepted” in his Submittable account. He had a short fiction acceptance. “This one was accepted by the 22nd Century Journal with a lot of edits,” he told me, dejected. “I had just begun when my house was bombed.”

I turned back to his sad face, but there was a spark of hope in his eyes.

“Will you help me?”

“Of course.”

I opened the document. He was a science fiction writer. It was a story about humans seeking life in Jupiter as Mars was overpopulated. Although the idea seemed improbable, his writing style was convincing and persuasive. We worked on the edits together and sent his document by 4am. My child wailed then.

“May I sit in the corner?” he asked awkwardly.

“We can work again after sunrise if it has more edits. Is that okay with you?” he asked, with a guilty look.

“That works for me, Ezra.” I smiled at him, now completely at ease. However, I could not sleep when I lay down. He turned to look at him. He sat in a corner with downcast eyes.

The next day, I left the child with a neighbourhood nanny and opened his mailbox. The editor had responded. Of course, editors never responded immediately, but we had impressed the urgency of Ezra’s situation on the journal. Thankfully, this editor seemed humane. But that did not prevent him from coming up with more edits. We sent the completed work by noon. He came back to us by late afternoon with more edits. After the fourth round of edits, Ezra’s work was finally accepted in the evening.

“Thank you ever so much,” he said gratefully, tears in his eyes. “I had waited 15 years for acceptance.” I was speechless and felt my cheeks wet with tears.

“You write a lot, but don’t read,” he told me before parting. “Read frequently and don’t scorn other writers’ work. The worst kind of writer will teach you how to be patient.” I looked away. He smiled. “You live in a peaceful country. Make the best use of that. Good luck.” He looked at his accepted work with pride, love, longing, and pain. Then he walked away without turning back.