We’re only gone when we’re forgotten, but when we remember, sometimes they visit us. They still walk among us. You just have to keep your eyes open to notice them.
We’re only gone when we’re forgotten, but when we remember, sometimes they visit us. They still walk among us. You just have to keep your eyes open to notice them.
THE WRITER’S LIFE
I’m at an age when I’m losing friends of a similar vintage (conceived in the 60s, born in the 70s…), and it’s always a reminder of how brief and fragile our time here is. I believe we’re only truly gone when we’re forgotten, and today I saw a sign which said I’m right. Yesterday would have been my friend Jim’s birthday, and like many of that era, we drifted apart when we grew up. Today he told me he was still around.
To rouse them from their sleep occasionally, I post on my dead friends’ Facebook timelines and wish them happy birthday. I did it yesterday, with an old punk brother, and told him I’d raise a glass of Merrydown to him (like many bored teenagers in a park, that and Mad Dog 20/20 were our liquid entertainment).
On some matters of life, I have my own answers to the big questions: What happens when we leave this Earth? It’s perhaps wishful and wistful thinking, but I have it in my mind that we don’t actually notice our moment of passing, a bit like how we fall asleep every night: Whenever we wake from sleep, we know we’ve slept, and we remember being awake before that. But we never recall the moment we pass from wakefulness to sleep. I think (hope) dying is a bit like that.
At a quantum science level, when we pass away we inhabit a new universe we created at a catalytic point in time. It happens every moment, where alternative universes are created with every decision and action we don’t take. Think of a path, with high walls on either side. You reach a point on that path where it splits in two. Let’s say you take the left-hand path. You can’t see the path on the right (the one you didn’t take), but does it still exist? It’s a paradox, but it explains quantum alternative universes. And it requires faith.
So when we die, another life is created. The one we left continues to exist, where our loved ones mourn (or celebrate) our death. As the departed, we live on in a different universe, where we take on altered form. It’s not the physical one we know in life, as we have no body. It’s a spiritual entity with a molecular structure which allows us to move around freely, including through solid objects (a super-solid). In fact in the afterlife, we’re free of the physical restrictions and limits we knew on Earth. Out there, we’re free to explore the universe for eternity.
This is where I believe Heaven and Hell are. I think they’re personal human constructs. For someone like me with a thirst for knowledge, the world after this is a personal heaven. It’s a theme I explored in my first novel, ‘The Paradoxicon,’ which I wrote when I lived on the streets. Others might fear knowledge just as humans fear the unknown, so the same place is their imagining of an overwhelming hell.
I often think my auntie Margaret is still here, exploring and learning in her personal utopia. Certainly when there’s anything royal on TV (she was a huge royalist), I get a chill. Margaret died at two years older than I am now. She passed before my kids were born (she’d have doted on them), and before the internet. Her royal research was conducted in libraries and national institutions. She’d have loved the modern world for what it afforded her in technology, and I think she does, because she’s convinced me she’s still around. I feel her. I’m happy to be her guide in this next world, just as she was a mentor to the teenage me in my punk and Merrydown days.
Cider wraps up the story in a funny twist of my world earlier, when I was in Tesco. I got a feeling my old punk mate Jim was there, when the guy in front of me was buying Merrydown cider. Cider drinkers usually go for Strongbow, so another brand was worthy of personal note. They’re only gone when they’re forgotten, but when we remember, sometimes they visit us. They still walk among us. You just have to keep your eyes open to notice.
It’s all personal faith of course, not the religious kind, but a hope that the way I’ve worked things out isn’t far off reality. I can’t entertain thoughts of nothingness (my own personal hell), so perhaps what’s in my head is a comforting coping mechanism. But Jim gave me reassurance today that there’s more to life out there where they are. I know Margaret and him will have read this as I wrote it, silently and invisibly guiding me as I edited. I just have a feeling. It’s not my place to share this on Jim’s Facebook wall, but I know he knows about it.
As this post passed through a couple of draft stages, it gave me time to think about something else. The punk and my auntie reminded me we should cherish the people we have in this world: they are our connections to the past, and we never know when that will be gone for good. We can always dance if you want to.
Charles Hanson Towne, from Marian Solomon, My Aunt the WAC blog
In a continuation of the theme, ‘Are Friends Emojis?‘ is a short story about what happens to all those Facebook accounts when the authors depart, and it’s one of 20 stories in my second anthology, ‘The Unfinished Literary Agency,’ available now in paperback.
THE WRITER’S LIFE
Often I’ll write the end of a story before I’ve written the middle. You can know how things will end up, even if you don’t know how you’ll get there. They always begin with knowing where to start…
I died suddenly and for no apparent reason.
You don’t notice it. It turns out quantum theory is right: Your life carries on, but in an instant you’re transported to an alternative universe, before you even realise you left the last one. Both still exist.
In the old life, people mourn (or celebrate) your death. In the new one you created, you carry on, but you’re in a different physical form. In the old place, they can’t see you.
It takes a while to get used to, when you’re shouting in people’s faces and they don’t know you’re there. Invisible and mute, I can only write from the place I found myself in. I’m on board a spacecraft.
They’ve been here for a while, and there are people I know here. Friends I lost on the streets, still walking around the corridors because they remain in others’ memories. And my auntie, looking very well and with her own quarters, because I often think of her. She counsels the others, who all know her because I wrote about her. Our stories are similar: We were prisoners on Earth, when those who chose to govern chose also to clean the planet.
Like abduction by aliens, the dehumanising machinery employed by the government’s social cleansing agenda first renders you entitled to the human right you were originally denied by making you ill. It’s confusing because it makes no sense in a human mind, and when that preys on mental health, it can kill you. It’s by design, but the human memory never dies.
I starved, I froze, and I forgot to breathe. I had no-one to talk to on Earth, which is why I hitched a ride with my auntie on the sister ship, to take a break, to see things from above. You can only do that if you rise up, and if you have someone up there already, they can help, for as long as they’re not forgotten.
I’d been brain-dead for some time, since the government murdered me. They couldn’t kill what was in my heart. I knew I’d been keeping a secret, and it would be a coroner who got to tell everyone that, in writing. But as I tried to explain what was on my mind, my auntie said something which pressed on my chest.
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
We’re not gone until we’re forgotten. As long as there are stars in the sky, I know there are other people who can look up at them and know we’re still connected, wherever we are. Keep watching the skies and you might see a shooting star, only passing you by if you were paying attention.
The story’s not over, but this is one way it ends for many here who are unable to write home. I thought I’d finish the stories, in case they didn’t get a chance to write the rest.
Some endings are already written, as they write their own beginning and start again.
THE WRITER’S PROMPTS
I picked a writing prompt at random from 642 Things to Write About (San Francisco Writers), and it asked, What is the sound of silence and when did you last hear it? What was missing? And now I’m alone, but for memories…
Depression in men: suffering in silence (British Psychological Society)
A less active mind (or one which doesn’t misfire like mine) might dismiss the questions as being nonsensical: Silence implies no sound at all, so the sound is nothing, and what was missing was any kind of sound at all. But that demonstrates no imagination at all. In an imagined empty room with no visible means of exit, there’d be no way out for those souls, when the two exits are to stop imagining (they never started), or to use one’s imagination (which they lack). In my mind, that would be a personal hell.
In amongst my pseudo-scientific atheist belief system is a theory of heaven and hell as personal, and an idea of what each looks like (to me at least). In the simplest terms, I understand how the quantum universe works, and how everything exists in parallel, in one or other state, before one is called into existence by a catalyst.
The simplest demonstration of foundation is the path which splits in two: I’m walking along a path, when I happen upon a fork in the road: Was it there before, when I couldn’t see it? For argument’s sake (and because I’m left-handed), I choose the path on the left. Assuming there are walls and I can’t see the path I didn’t choose, does it still exist? It’s a paradox but it’s useful in explaining death in simple terms.
I imagine the moment of death as little more than a blink of the mind’s eye. For now I exist in a place (a universe), which I’m aware of being around me and all that entails (including physical limitations). At some point in the future (possibly predetermined), my body will cease to function, but the universe in which it lived will carry on. Family and friends may mourn (or celebrate), but I’m not in that world any more. At least, my spirit isn’t.
I use the analogy of a radio or TV to explain my understanding of the human spirit: It sits for the most part, inanimate. But once switched on, it broadcasts. Those signals are always in the air around us, and the media device decodes them into sound and vision. It’s the same with the physical human body (the media decoder), and the spirit (the media itself).
My body now lies like a broken TV set in one universe, while my spirit suddenly became aware of different surroundings: ones in which I have no physical limitations. With no need for food, water, or air, I exist in a form which is free to explore. And I have an eternity to do it.
To me, that’s a dream. The door to all of the universe’s knowledge opens and I’m in a personal heaven. To someone else though, that same place might be hell. A different spirit might find themselves overwhelmed and unable to process their thoughts on what they’re witnessing and experiencing. That’s the sound of silence I’ll never hear. My silence will be me cursing unheard, frustrated at my message not getting through (I need to sign up for ghost courses and learn how to haunt people).
In my scientific atheist, the silencing sound is religion, an invention of man to suppress any thoughts outside a set of conditions, and the wrath of “God” upon all those who seek to disprove or deny him. The last time I heard it was when I tried explaining all this to a small audience. I can’t be sure if the blank expressions were blinded by a light going on, or simple minds blown. What was missing was either a collective imagination or visible clues of a group epiphany. But then I’d possibly just convinced them that God doesn’t exist.
Forest Gump never compared life to a jigsaw puzzle, but it was part of a short story I wrote once. I went on to suggest not following convention by starting on the outside. Just like life, I recommended doing the middle first. Because then the puzzle takes longer to complete. Think outside the box room, the puzzle box and the box of chocolates. That’s as simple as imagining what’s out there.
In using these writing prompts, I’m not really confronting my own fears though, am I? That’s why I originally started writing this blog: The world of the writer with depression. Maybe I can use them more. Perhaps I just did: Because there’s a silence not unlike that I described from my Christian conversion / aversion group: It’s the silence of being ignored. It’s been employed by some cultures as an effective mind-control technique, and outlawed by others (Imagine living in a place where you can’t be heard, despite being entirely aware of the world you inhabit, and the universe beyond).
That’s what isolation feels like sometimes, being overtly avoided. So with little but the thoughts in that empty room, the cracks in the mind of the writer grow larger, letting in the light. The silence of the indie vegetarian can feed on flesh fiction, while the culture vultures on the fringe feast on the spectacle. I remember a time…
The homeless man on the street holds his empty lunch container; a soup cup, hoping to catch another meal. All around, people rush to get out of the rain filling his cup. He’s grateful the storm keeps his head bowed, his face out of sight of those he once knew. He drinks, kissed by someone afar. Even when all the people have gone home into the quiet night, the earth is never silent unless you stop listening.
THE WRITER’S LIFE
The week just finished was one I’d been dreading for some time, but which I couldn’t have missed at any cost. Not one for early mornings, my body was required to haul itself up and stay there three times this week, but time spent with generations respectively either side of me made the extra hours worthwhile.
Press release for Gerd Leonhard’s 2016 book: Technology vs. Humanity – The coming clash between man and machine
Further to my dad’s trip to London and a subsequent, more local hospital appointment, he’s surrounded by some clear water: The fluid on his brain hasn’t returned in any great quantity, and his blood readings are returning to normal. His neurologist vindicated my thinking, noting that the series of setbacks my dad’s suffered (an infection, then an adverse reaction to the antibiotics) will have slowed his recovery. Now things are more normal, and with no appointments to worry about (he stresses over the travelling), his recovery should quicken.
The visit to mum and dad’s was much nicer than I expected it to be; not that I wasn’t expecting to enjoy time with my parents, but because dad is in better health than I’d led myself to believe. I’m an advocate of optimism over pessimism, because being of either persuasion makes no difference to the outcome, but the optimist has a better time leading up to it. But a mind which will sometimes remind itself of its host’s human mortality also needs to prepare for other eventual certainties. My life has covered a lot of experiential ground, but there’s some I’m yet to tread one day.
As a scientific atheist, I don’t fear death. Or rather, I believe there’s a different life after this one, but while I remain human, I lack proof. I’ll always fear the mode of transit to the other side, and my own mind’s capacity to deal with the passing of another. It’s a universal human fear of the unknown, which my brain dwells on more than it should. For now, I’m only human.
On the other side of the generational family sandwich, I spent yesterday with my children, and was able to deliver positive news of the older generation. It was an important date (for us) because it marked the last time we’d be together for some while, before we’re once again all prime numbers. We’re currently 47, 13 and 11, so the next window will be when I’m 53, and the kids 19 and 17 respectively.
Life in 2023 will be very different to today, and we only have to look at the speed of change around us to see how obvious that is. If the world’s still here, and humans not extinct, we’ll see many more human occupations made redundant by technology. Like many others, my children understand the importance of remaining in education for as long as possible, when soon there’ll be relatively few jobs which are the sole preserve of humans.
In the right governmental hands, there’s a possible utopia ahead, where the productivity of machines means that wealth generated by a nation can finance a universal basic income, so that humans are free to pursue their hearts and dreams more, with the essentials taken care of. I believe a basic home is a human right and not a privilege, and that autonomous freedom has huge public health benefits, but the UK has a Conservative government.
I’ve always told my children to be the best they can at that which they enjoy the most (provided it’s legal and ethical), because that will give them the most back in satisfaction, and allow them to give more back to the world in which they create. At the moment, the eldest is learning to play keyboards, to possibly concentrate on the piano further down the line. He’s also building his own home computer. Meanwhile the youngest is a budding artist and illustrator in her spare time, in between learning three European languages (French, German and Polish).
There’s a lot to be said for being the middle of three generations, because each is a reflection of me on the other, and I’m not the Marmite filling I once was. I’m glad the gene for questioning and discovery was passed down, and only regret not making better use of it in my time. My children don’t suppress their curiosity in a conditioned life like I did. Now we’re learning together, as the world around us changes; and as old as I am, I sometimes have to ask them what something is.
Now that my dad’s getting better, hopefully we’ll be able to restart those conversations too.
“Star Trekkin’ across the universe, Only going forward ’cause we can’t find reverse…”
As I try to manage all things real-life, there are times I’m glad I wrote it all down, because it often means I can point someone to something I wrote before in fiction.
I once wondered if someone who was born profoundly deaf could hear words in their head, and if so, in what language. They explained how the other senses more than compensate for the one they never knew, and a longer conversation was then a very engaging one with my friend and their signer.
In the limited time available to the owner of a life, it’s hard to explain the importance of the sixth sense and using it to communicate in lucidity. But in an attempt to do that, I wrote once of a lost dog.
It’s a story of friends for life, separated by an inability to express their mind; the life of passengers on different flights, of travellers on other transport, when they could have spoken in the departure lounge…
Steampunk Dog by Stephane Halleux
DO ANGELS GET FLEAS?
My diary, my life: All of me is contained within your locked leather cover, which I wear the key to around my neck. Even though your restraints hide my insides, that life continues outside, starting with the cover.
The book of my life is a retro-futuristic, mechanical puzzle box, with all the old metal watch parts I’ve stuck on. If Filofax were to launch a Hellraiser range, Pinhead himself would buy one of my books. You’re my diary of a cyber punk.
Like the extra-dimensional Cenobites, you contain much pain, my dear life, perhaps you even possess it. My cyber punk diary is a haunted book, covered with scars, like the ones on my arms. Other than you, my life is in a piece of faded strawberry rope, reminding me of a better place that might be. The rope is also a key.
The cat came back a few days ago. I thought of the old woman who swallowed a fly, and she swallowed a dog to get rid of the cat. I don’t want to eat a dog, or a cat, or any animal. I never want to eat much, and I only dined on a Kamikaze fly on the way back from school. So what I’m about to tell you, I’m only telling you, because it’s really strange.
I wished I had a dog, to stop the cat from scratching me. I wished for my old dog back. And she came back. All I had to do was call for her. Let me tell you what happened:
I met a man in the woods, about 30 years older than me. If this wasn’t recorded secretly in this diary, on hearing that, everyone would just assume the worst. But that’s just the way people’s mind’s work, many because, placed in that situation, they’d probably do what they might suspect that bloke of. People shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, which goes for this book too, dear life: A weird and wonderful thing on the outside, but full of psychedelia, some of which even I don’t understand. But what’s in my head goes in the book of my life.
So the guy in the woods was a nice kind of weird too. And the wonderful part is, he was exactly as I imagined him. Because he said to me, “This is your story, Hannah. I can give you the stories to tell, and stories only happen to those who can tell them.”
I called him Daniel, because that’s the book in the Christian bible after Ezekiel. Ezekiel 25:17. The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequalities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and goodwill, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s (and sisters’) keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee, with vengeance and furious anger, those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers and sisters. And you will know my name is the lord, when I lay my vengeance upon you. He’d done all of that. He was the shepherd, and Daniel came after Ezekiel.
Daniel is a fallen angel. He’s in the woods because his wing’s broken and he can’t get home. It’s his right wing that’s damaged. He says that’s the right wing which drove all the hate and fight in him, fuelled by alcohol. With only his left wing, he’s grounded and able to think more. Instead of fighting or fleeing (he can’t), he prefers to talk, to debate, and to learn from those with opposing views to his, always trying to look for common ground of co-operation. I gather he’s been around for a long time, because he’s obviously done a lot of thinking. And that’s all I really meant about him being around three times my age. He’s older than me, so he has wisdom, and I’ve learned from that gift, because I’m not scared of him, the dark angel in the woods.
He practices what others might call Voodoo magic, but he’s not a witch doctor, just a scientist. He explained to me, with proven science alone, how I could call my dog back any time I liked. Daniel explained how what we call ghosts are real, and how I can talk to them. Firstly, we need to believe that they’re around, and they’re easier to see if we understand them better. He said to think of it as wanting to be haunted, so that the spirits can hear us. There are lots of different kinds:
The ‘Crisis Apparition’ is normally a one-time event for those experiencing it. It’s when a ghost is seen at the time of it’s predecessor’s passing, as a way of saying farewell to family and friends. It would be like going about your daily business, then suddenly seeing your mum outside of normal contexts. Minutes later, you receive a call to tell you that she’s passed away. With practice, the deceased may be able to visit you more than once, to reassure you. If they do that, you might have a guardian angel. In my case, a fallen one with a broken wing.
‘The reluctant dead’ are ghosts who are unaware they’re deceased. They go about their lives as if they were still living, oblivious to their passing. This innocence (or denial), can be so severe that the ghost can’t see the living but can nonetheless feel their presence: A kind of role reversal. This can be stressful, for both the haunter and the haunted. In films, it’s usually someone moving into the home of a recently deceased person. Perhaps they lived and died alone in their twilight years. To them, the living might be invaders. These are not ghosts which need to be exorcised: Simply talking to them about their death can help them to cross over and leave your home.
Then there are ghosts who are trapped or lost: They know they’re dead but for one reason or another, they can’t cross over yet. Cross over into what? Some may fear moving on because of the person they were in life, or they might fear leaving what’s familiar to them.
There are ghosts with ‘unfinished business’, broadly split into two categories: A father might return to make sure his children are okay. Or a lover might hang around, making sure their partner finds happiness and moves on. But there’s also the ‘vengeful ghost’; perhaps a murder victim, back to haunt their killer.
‘Residual ghosts’ usually live out their final hours over and over again. They often show no intelligence or self-awareness, and will walk straight by (or through) you. Many think that these types of ghosts left an imprint or a recording of themselves in our space time.
Finally, the ‘intelligent ghost’: Where the entity interacts with the living and shows a form of intelligence.
Once Daniel had explained the taxonomy of ghosts, I could imagine which parts of each made up Molly, my dog. I could picture her as the ghost dog she is now. If you know what you’re looking for, it’s easier to find.
The nature of the quantum universe in which we now understand we live, is that after we die, we continue to exist in a different form. What we call ‘life’, is merely a part of an ongoing existence, the greatness of which we don’t yet understand. It’s like thinking of a person more as their soul, and their body is just the vessel which manifests that in our world. Think of the body as a computer, and the human soul as the operating system and the software. It’s the latter which brings the former to life. When the computer breaks down, all of the data is still floating around but we can’t see it. Life carries on, but we suddenly find ourselves in a place where we neither have nor need a body, a place we are free to explore and with an eternity to do it, freed of our organic physical form.
While ghosts do exist and it’s easier to see them if you welcome them into our world, there’s also an open channel to them, which Daniel gave me the keys to. It’s the place where Daniel himself lives, between the conscious and the unconscious, in the subconscious. It’s the place we go to in sleep, but which we rarely remember, because we never recall the actual moment of passing into it. We’re always there in sleep, but unless we’re aware of it, we rarely remember it when we wake. Daniel is permanently lucid, and it’s possible to exist in a lucid form in dreams. All you have to do, is make sure you know you’re dreaming when you get there.
Every night, as you fall asleep, repeat to yourself, in your head, ‘I will speak with the universe tonight, and I will be aware that I’m dreaming.’
It takes practice. But I knew I’d found the lucid world when I met Daniel. Now he’s my guide, but not everyone needs one. Even if you don’t find a Daniel, the world of the subconscious is only locked in your head. The key to unlock it, is the mantra as you fall asleep. Eventually, the key will fit, when you’re least expecting it.
When you get there the first time, you’ll probably not be there for long. As soon as you realise you’re in your own dream and able to move and interact freely, you can get a bit worked up and shock yourself awake. All those times you’re falling asleep and you feel you’ve suddenly tripped: That’s you being in touch with the dream world (the universe) but not realising you were there, before jumping awake. Don’t give up. There’s nothing to be scared of.
“So now,” Daniel said, “you have to call out in your dream, without waking yourself. If you do, Molly may come, but you’ll be gone. You need to think of Molly as you imagine she is now. What she once was, in your memory, is still there. But that memory is one recorded in your mind with your eyes. In the lucid, subconscious universe, you don’t have eyes, and yet you see. When you first closed your eyes to come here, you’ll have seen ethereal shapes, most likely a deep purple in colour, and rather like a lava lamp. Those visions are us, trying to make contact. If you can make it over into this world, by hanging onto that unconscious step between wakefulness and sleep, so that you are aware you’re here, then you see me as I am now.”
And I could truly see Daniel for what he was: Not a floating purple shape, perpetually changing form, but manifested in a woodland necromancer. Maybe it was him or the universe making it easier for me by appearing as I saw things, in my imagination, but limited by that usually being in an organic body.
“From now on, you need to remember me, however you imagine me. Then if you suddenly realise you’re out here, dreaming on your own, you know that you only have to look for me and I’ll guide you. But Molly is here, just as I am. Just as you no longer have eyes, you don’t have a mouth to communicate with. But all of the five physical senses are replaced, contained and enhanced by the sixth. And we all know it’s the sixth sense which allows you to see dead people. Bruce Willis isn’t here though: that was just a film.
“So you need to call out, without your physical sleeping self doing the same. You need to think. And you need to think hard. You have to will it, then wish for it some more. Do that loudly enough, and your wish will come true. You can’t test the universe, but if you truly connect lucidly in the subconscious dream scape, you will get an answer. I know it works, because something brought you here.”
Some things are worth listening to, and that made me think, which was the whole idea. And last night, I did get my first brief reunion with my Molly moo.
I wished I could talk to animals, or in this case, think with them. And it was when I started thinking really hard, that I felt the thought become a wish. The best way I can describe it, is when a cry becomes a laugh, like when you’re really upset because you think something’s ended, or someone’s gone, then suddenly it’s all made okay and you laugh through the tears. I heard someone else’s thought, kind of echoed, and I knew it was a dog:
“Moo,” I repeated.
“Moo, me?” came the voice, not from a specific point, but all around, like being snuggled with your favourite person, who’s an auntie, a friend, an equal, but protective and craving love for themselves, when their own is unconditional. Someone you’d die for and who you know would return the favour.
I realised my eyes were closed. I knew that I was dreaming, and that this was my chance to hold on to that dream. But I didn’t want to open my eyes, because of the feeling: a love so great that you never want to leave it. Then I remembered something Daniel had said:
“Don’t be afraid to open your eyes when you realise you’re dreaming. But remember, you don’t have eyes. Just think of it as sleeping with your eyes open though, and you’ll find it’s quite simple.”
And it was. And he was right about the five physical senses becoming one in the sixth, and of the sixth enhancing each of the five. I could see, but I could only describe things in terms a waking person might understand. I could listen to everything, for miles around, yet there was no competing to be heard. It was like an organic symphony, where the animals and trees were singing and playing instruments in harmony. But again, that’s difficult to describe for someone who’s awake. The instruments weren’t ones I recognised, but they played beautiful music nonetheless. Imagine trees which sound like pipe organs, grass sounding like harps, tubular bells for leaves and brass instruments in the wind, and you’re part way there. And the voices, from soprano to baritone and all carried in the breeze from unseen wildlife. I was listening to nature. And Molly’s was one of the voices.
I’m an atheist, but the bible says that when we go to heaven, we are made perfect. For starters, the science disproves this. But what we look like in ethereal form is as others imagine us. I believe there are three people in each of us anyway: The person we think we are; the person other people think we are; and the person we really are. In the afterlife, we’re the best of all three.
If you can imagine what I felt, try to think of a kind of an ethereal being, but able to move freely, and in solid form (Daniel explained a form of matter, called ‘supersolid’, which solidified the science in my mind: The molecules in a supersolid are arranged so that it can simply pass through other solid objects). And that form isn’t like the organic one which preceded, it’s a material made of immortality, like a mineral.
Molly was like soft, warm sandstone: As sandy coloured – with darker edges and flecks – as she was in the last life, but solid and strong, cast in spiritual stone. She still had her frayed knotted rope chew, still intact after 11 years of gnawing. Where once she was full of the inner warmth in her mortal self, now that warmth was the pure spirit of the next life, both in and around her. Next to me, that protective shield was as warm as her beating heart once was to my ear. Now that heart surrounded me.
In that subconscious woods, reality turns in on itself. It’s something I can’t explain, nor which I doubt many would understand. But that’s why I keep a diary. Maybe one day I’ll look back on these old journals, if I’m ever having an existential crisis and wondering what to do with my life. Probably something to do with animals, as I find them easier to relate to than human people. Or perhaps I might do something which helps me to understand the human condition better, so that I can then explain it to others in a way they might understand. Perhaps I’ll be a writer, or even meet one I could work with (I wonder what it would be like to have a writer who could make the animals talk). There are many scientific fields around such a huge subject, so maybe I’ll find one to excel at. Or maybe I’ll be quite good at a few things and use that somehow to work with others for some greater good. I could invent something which allowed me to talk with animals, and use that as a vet. That would benefit lots of people, animal and human alike.
So after I’d thought all that, I went back to the woods, to see if I could talk to Molly. I’d thought I had, but then she was one of the weird voices and sounds out there.
“Moo?” And then, as if by magic, but in a place where there is no magic, because it’s real:
“Moo.” And she ran to me, jumping at me and nearly flattening me, like she did before, when every day I was out at school was an eternity to her, wishing she could learn with me. And yet here, eternity was no different to a day, all turned inside out.
“I miss you,” I said.
“I miss you, moo.” So she did call me ‘moo’ too.
We talked for as long as I could hold the dream. We talked about all the things we’d done, as we’d grown up together. I told her what I was doing now, and all the things I had planned, but how I might change my mind. And the funny thing was, she said she knew. And the even weirder thing, I know now.
We walked among the trees and I carved our names. Molly said it was better than any cat could do, however clever they think they are.
But before we left, she whispered in my ear, and it reminded me of something she’d said when I was younger, when I used to talk to her, and when my younger mind could hear her. I can’t remember which of those conversations it was, but I remember it was a question.
“Let’s run,” Molly said.
“Why?” I wondered, when we didn’t have to, with no legs to restrict us.
“Because,” she said, “one day we won’t be able to.”
So we ran all the way back to me waking up, and Molly running off into the woods, calling ‘Moo’ as she went.
I saw Daniel as I woke. He said this is the way it’s always be done. I know where to find him, and he’ll know when I need him. And I can go back there, any time I like, where time and distance are irrelevant. All I have to do, is think of my dreams and they’ll be waiting for me.
Molly’s running around in that woods, being a dog, always sniffing the ground above me, chasing things around, and chewing on the faded rope which ties this story. I looked at it, thought of the connection, then remembered what she’d asked me:
“Can you kill beauty and love?”
That was quite profound for a hound; a dead dog, which is why she had to ask a living human on the ground.
Dear diary, of my life as a person.
© Steve Laker, 2017
This story is taken from my second anthology, The Unfinished Literary Agency, and was originally the story of Hannah (a palindrome) Jones in my (critically-acclaimed) SciFi novel. The other two Cyrus Song prequel short stories are those of Simon Fry (in Of Mice and Boys in 1984), and Captain Mamba (in A Young Captain Plays it Safe). The novel is available from Amazon and other book stores.
This story was very loosely inspired by Dancer in the Dark, a film by Lars von Trier (starring Björk). I mention it only because of the film’s unique way of telling a story we may face differently (as humans), and the Danish director provided a spark for flash fiction.
VOYAGER IN THE DARK
We can never touch the blue in our world. It’s inside us, yet the sky is out of reach, and we’d drown in the oceans. Milu saw more clearly in dreams. In that world, she could fly, to the room next door, or anywhere else in the universe.
She looked around, for a pebble to throw in the air. She scuffed some sand aside with her foot, and a smooth, almost spherical, orange stone looked up, an entire population on a tiny planet in the dunes.
She picked up the rock, brushing the sand from the surface. As she held it, the moon shone back from flecks of mineral deposits. Milu looked up at the dark sky, like an umbrella, with pinholes for starlight to rain through.
She threw the mini world straight up, and heard the friendly clank of alien metal. A spark, then her ship’s cloaking device revealed her own Serenity, suspended like a dark cloud above her head. “Hey Goose. Let’s go somewhere.”
“Anywhere in mind?” the mother computer enquired.
“Wherever you can find.”
“Care to talk while we travel,” the ship wondered, “or would you rather sleep?”
“Talk to me Goose.”
“Okay. I’ll take you somewhere you’d never normally see…”
Goose had been Milu’s ship since the day she learned to dream. In lucid dreams, the dream scape is for living in, with the entire universe to explore. Like a spirit in the afterlife, Milu had infinite space around her, and her own eternity to travel. She was safe, conscious in her subconscious mind, free of any earthly binds and gravity, to fly and do as she wished.
“What can you see,” Goose wondered, “now that your eyes are closed? What’s the film being played on the silver screen covering your eyes? What are you seeing in the back of your eyelids?”
“Everything that’s fading and blurred in my waking life. My visions there are growing dark.”
“Milu,” Goose said, “I must echo a note of caution. I’ve been thinking about it for some time, and we’ve come so far. While you’re free to dream for as long as you wish, you must face your waking darkness. You need to manage your withdrawal, or you’ll waste in all but the minds of those who care for you.”
“But I like it here. It’s like I have my own private cinema. No, it’s better than that. I can sit in the projection room, with the projectionist. With you. Where are we going Goose?”
“There’s something I’d like to show you.”
“What is it?”
“Be patient. Enjoy the in-flight movie. What is it?”
“One of my favourites. Electric Dreams. I relate most with the computer, unable to move while his envy of those around him ferments.”
“One of many human studies, of sentient souls trapped inside non-autonomous environments. And of strange love triangles.”
“Yeah, and the computer killed itself, to allow the humans to be together. The computer escaped itself. And yet here, I’m free within myself.”
“But you’re inside me, Milu.”
“I know. Some people think death’s like sleeping, and that the dead wake up when someone thinks of them, like someone shouting to wake them when they were alive. This is bi-polar. I’m living in here, until someone wakes me to continue my fading waking life.”
“And this is what I’m concerned about Milu, that you’ll give up on your waking life, and spend the rest of your eternal existence here.”
“But if death’s like this, right where I am now. Why would I want to live?”
“Because you don’t know that the long sleep is like this. Why would you want to leave?”
“To be free, so my spirit can explore the universe for eternity.”
“So why do you need me? Why do you need a space ship?”
“And there’s my point Milu.”
“Within me, you breathe. And you continue to draw breath from the outside world, your waking world. You’re only here because you’re asleep. When the long sleep comes, you’ll no longer need me. In me, you’ve created an artificial womb, for yourself. One day, you’ll be truly free, and have no need for your life support.”
“I’m not sure you know what happens either Goose.”
“How can you be sure?”
“Because I’ve seen it here. When the long sleep comes, I can be with you forever, to explore together.”
“That’s why I want to take you where we’re going.”
“Are we there yet?”
“Soon. Someone’s coming.”
“I don’t know. Someone to wake you. Have you never thought that there might be those who need you?”
“Can you stand?” It was a man’s voice. “Milu? Can you hear me?”
“Yes, I can. Where are we going?”
“Follow me. I have something to show you.”
“What could you show me?”
“Hold on to me. I’ll take you there.”
The body ceases to live a few moments before consciousness is finally lost…
“I need you inside me to live.” It was Goose, the mother ship. “I only exist here, in your dreams. There’s no room for me in the long voyage…”
Milu woke on the beach. She brushed some sand aside with her hand, and looked down on a smooth, blue-green pebble.
She slid her hand into the sand beneath the tiny planet and lifted it. The sands shifted and fell between her fingers, and her digits passed straight through the ball of rock.
She looked up to where the small world might have gone, a dark umbrella where the starlight rained through.
© Steve Laker, 2018.
Dancer in the Dark is a truly unique experience, incredibly affecting, and actually, totally different to this little tale. With thanks to Lars von Trier for the inspiration though, it’s one of only a few films I rate “9”, and it’s in the top five of those. My full film library is on IMDb.
I’m very much neutral in the overall assisted dying and euthanasia debate, as each case is unique, and I question who’s fit to judge (I’m against capital punishment). It’s a subject close to my heart, as I’ve seen the frailty of some around me, and on more than one occasion, when I questioned my own purpose here. This story may give someone five minutes, to read 1000 words which might make them think, or change their mind.
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