Those that love us bind us here.
The persistence of their remembering, yearning, regretting, missing loving, lusting, hating, serves to shackle us as surely as the manacles of any prisoner, in any jail, in any land. Chains of memory binding us, keeping us whole, keeping us aware. Preventing us from dissolving into the warm embrace of oblivion.
They will not let us leave.
It matters not the means by which we arrived in this half place, what finally pushed us from the vital into this sorrowful pretence of life. Nor does it matter whether we left behind unresolved affairs. Wrongs to right or, conversely, rights to wrong. The only thing that matters is that we are remembered. It is remembrance which chains us to those who hold us in their minds. That grasp us with their hearts.
For the new ones, those recently deceased, the thought that they are missed is touching. It gives them a joy that, though short lived, lessens the sting of their demise. This half existence outside the world soon sours that joy. The prospect of years, or even decades, living… no, existing, in this milky fog where the real world is naught but a shadow caught out of the corner of the eye. That realisation would cast even the Budai into the cold depths of despair. Would turn even the brightest, most passionate of loves into seething black hatred.
Yet more terrible than the mere fact of this insipid non-life is when the changes begin. When the form of what we once were, the form that is held in the minds of those who remember, begins to alter through the passing of time. For those changes are wrought upon us in our mist clad impotence by the inconsistencies of memory. For some the changes begin quickly. For others the process may take years upon years as their inner life, their core, is slowly stripped away. The private inner world, all those feelings and facets, those impulses and perspectives, those things that we tell ourselves define who we are. Those things that are ‘us’. That are ‘I’. That make us unique, individual, special, distinct. Once those things begin to be stripped away we realise that they were nothing more than a narrative written upon our soul by those around us. Glyphs and pictograms in a hand that is not our own. The very heart of our being is no more our own than the gulps of air we began stealing the moment we were born.
How hard that wrenches at the guts; when we are forced to change with the fading memories of those we left behind. How can one remain sane when the mutability of the persona becomes so clear? How can one not scream with rage and desperation into these cold white mists when one is stripped of the illusion of uniqueness? Forced to accept that we are nothing. Nothing but a construct, a communal endeavour.
The truly blessed are the lonely. Those who walked the real without leaving a mark upon it, who shied away from the attentions of their fellow apes. They are the lucky ones. For they can fade quickly into the welcoming nothingness whilst those of us who are remembered are condemned to be tormented and torn apart by the love of our bereaved. Envy the lonely who will have no one to remember them. To chain them with their love.
If you enjoyed the story and fancy dropping a coin in the hat then that’s most acceptable. If you didn’t or you don’t want to then that’s fine too.