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Synergy and Irony

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Dan’s last thought before he dies is fuck.

His first word when he opens his eyes to see his body splayed out on the crosswalk is “Fuck!”

And lo, the king of ironic appreciation didst succumb to the final irony: Dan Howell, confident supernatural skeptic of twenty-four years, is a fucking ghost.

Fuck.

~

Being a ghost is complicated at first. Dan blinks in and out of existence, and each time he blinks in, he’s somewhere unfamiliar -- the inside of an ambulance, the inside of a morgue, a funeral home. He’s always alone, just him and his body, and he hasn’t been this lonely since he was seventeen years old.

I want to go home, he thinks miserably, and suddenly he’s in his living room.

And suddenly he wants to be very, very far away from home.

Photos litter the floor, some bursting out of brand new envelopes, some framed, most scattered loosely. Phil sits in the middle of them, legs crossed, next to a giant tag board. He has three pictures in his hands, and he’s just staring at them, his eyes red. As Dan watches, he puts all three of them down in what looks like the general idea of a pile. There’s another pile on top of the tag board; it’s much smaller.

Phil rubs his face and draws his knees up, hugging them with his eyes closed. He looks more exhausted than Dan has ever seen him. It’s his fault, Dan thinks guiltily. There’s going to be a funeral, and Phil’s left to pick up the pieces, to decide which parts of Dan Howell go on display one last time before he’s gone forever.

Only, Dan’s not gone. He’s hovering in his living room watching his best friend miss him and unable to tell him that he’s still here.

The doorbell rings. Phil sniffs, wipes his eyes, and stands up to get it. Don’t have me to get the door anymore, Dan smirks, which might be inappropriate given the situation. He follows Phil to the door, and freezes when he sees his parents waiting outside. As soon as Phil opens the door, his mum throws her arms around Phil, sobbing into his shoulder. Phil’s arms tighten around her, and Dan sees tears sliding down his face as well. It’s a bit too much for Dan to handle, and he blinks out again.

He blinks back in at the funeral.

If watching Phil plan his funeral had been weird, it was nothing to seeing all his friends and family gathered inside a church, listening to a priest drone on about life after death (which, fuck his life, turns out to be an actual thing). Everyone he knows from YouTube is there, some friends from uni, some of his teachers; he looks at some of the people he hasn’t seen in five, ten years, and wonders if they have any idea who danisnotonfire is, or that they’re surrounded by people who regularly entertain five million viewers at a time. He wonders if it matters.

The priest stops talking, and then Phil stands up, a piece of paper in his hand, and walks toward the podium. Dan’s heart flips over. He’s not ready to hear this. He’s not ready to listen to Phil say how great he was, or how much everyone’s going to miss him, or how tragic it is that his life was cut so short, or--

“Dan Howell,” Phil says into the microphone, his voice shaking, and before he can get any further, Dan wills himself out of existence.

~

Dan can tell it’s been longer this time. The living room is clean, all the pictures boxed back up, perhaps not to be looked at again for years to come. The air in the house is slightly colder, and though the clock reads 4:30 PM, it’s almost completely dark outside.

Phil’s bedroom door is closed, but Dan can hear the low rumbling of his voice from within. He supposes Phil still closes the door out of habit; he never liked Dan hearing him film. Dan reaches a hand up to the door, testing; sure enough, it goes through. He follows it.

“...So many nice cards and messages from all of you, and I want to thank you so much. I’ve read a lot of them, but I can only get through so much at a time.” Phil’s sitting on his bed like he always does to film, but for once his body is still. “You guys have been so great, and I wanted to make a video for you sooner, but it’s been so hard, and I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with the radio show and then the YouTube thing, and to be honest, I still don’t really know what to do. It’s been a long time since AmazingPhil was just AmazingPhil, you know? And I’ve got so many ideas for videos and I know Dan would yell at me if I didn’t go through with them, but I think I still need time to figure out how to be one person instead of half of two people.”

Dan’s throat closes (which is fucking bullshit, honestly, why can’t he be a vengeful spirit or at least an emotionless specter if he has to be a ghost). He remembers the dozens of times he’s introduced himself as “Dan from Dan and Phil” and how hard it would be to go back to being Dan Howell, full stop. Phil had said it perfectly; they had never been one person, because that was cliche and gross, but they had been halves of two people. They were whole apart, but together they were a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Dan sits next to Phil on the bed, looking into a camera for possibly the last time. “Hello Internet,” he says with a tiny wave.

Phil shifts slightly and puts his elbow through Dan. Phil shivers, then says, “Thanks so much for understanding, guys. I’ll see you soon.” He leans forward to turn off the camera, and then crawls under the blankets on the other side of the bed. Dan remembers the days when he would stay in bed because there seemed to be nothing in the world worth getting up for. He remembers filming “College Dropout,” and how he really has Phil to thank for the fact that he got six years of friendship and fun before he died, instead of six years of dragging himself through dry textbooks, boring internships, and hiding alone in his bedroom.

He hopes Phil can be the person who gets himself out of bed.

~

Phil Lester, better known as AmazingPhil on YouTube, uploaded his first video in the three weeks since best friend, roommate, and fellow vlogger Dan Howell (danisnotonfire) died tragically in a hit and run. Fans of Lester and Howell were of course devastated by the news of Howell’s death, but Lester’s new video, “A Word of Thanks,” has sparked new discussion about Howell’s fate.

Several comments indicate that at 3:41, the space to the right of Lester seems to shimmer, and at 3:43, just seconds before the end of the video, a voice can be heard saying “Hello Internet,” danisnotonfire’s signature greeting.

Is this the collective imagination of fans who are too heartbroken to let their idol go? Or is Dan Howell, cited in several videos as saying he does not believe in the supernatural, suffering his final existential crisis in the astral plane? No word yet from Lester on his thoughts.