The world feels deep and vast and vibrant and full of stunning shapes, but everything you see and hear and touch is no more than a painting on a fabric curtain. In places where the shapes align, where the air thins and the wind fails to gather, you can reach out and… tug.
It feels like ants crawling across your skin, looks like fireworks exploding behind your eyes, sounds like the silence before a scream. If you can bear it, keep tugging, and reality will slowly, surely, shift aside.
We live in the spaces behind the curtain — the dark pockets of intense emptiness. We are those who dared not let go of your reality completely. We died, but did not extinguish and dissipate into the lifestream. We clung to the thick, velvet fabric with tenacious desperation. If you ever see a single leaf swirling where there is no breeze, or an insect fall dead from the air, we are close by, just a hair’s breadth from your skin, yet the distance may as well be the size of the universe — for you cannot traverse it.
You might call us ghosts, but that word carries thoughts of Halloween and white sheets and mischief. A ghost haunts a painting on a curtain. It is a story, nothing more. But we are real. We cling like barnacles on the hull of an ocean liner in a raging hurricane. Below us, nothingness claws and reaches and snarls and begs to consume us, but we are stuck too tightly. Even if we wanted to let go, we couldn’t — not now.
Wait — stop. Are you really listening? Can you hear me whisper these words?
You are turning around, walking slowly back to the place where a spider dropped dead from its web a moment before. You see the spider on the ground. You look up and stare straight ahead — somehow, you stare past the trees and tombstones and through the crisp, windless autumn air.
Reach your hand up, yes, like that, and… tug.
You grimace and clench your jaw, but the curtain draws aside. Warm, soft, earthy smells surround me and for one blissful moment I drink in the contented fullness of life. And then the wind snaps the curtain shut and smashes into me, throwing me backwards and away, away…
A hurricane of leaves slaps into the boy’s face and he covers his head with his hands until it dies down. He doesn’t know what just happened, but he remembers seeing a slice of dark with pinpoints of stars even though it’s daytime. He remembers the dead spider. That was why he stopped. Did the wind blow it away?
He looks down at the ground, and there is the spider. But it’s not dead any more. It gets up and walks toward the boy’s fingers. It taps its front legs against his thumb three times, and then bows its head, as if to say… thank you.Photo by Amadvr (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0-ee], via Wikimedia Commons