I am a scribe who knows not what she serves. If Tanim and Daren are gods in their own right, they are long lost to time or choose to remain unknown to any but myself. If they are gods already established in the world, with followers and historic traditions, then why take these strange forms just for me? Why choose new names and stories? Perhaps they are not gods, then. I thought them once ghosts but if so they enjoy an unbelievable influence over the physical world for mere spirits. They can alter the environment, after all, even to the point of manifesting items or stealing them away. Such powerful abilities, combined with an apparent penchant for fire and a string of literally Hellish dreams on my part, suggest perhaps they are fallen angels or demons. Again, though, they would either have to have chosen new identities for our interactions or have never been recorded before my meager efforts. The first option seems illogical; why keep up the charade for over fifteen years? The second is, unfortunately, more or less impossible to prove to the satisfaction of all doubt. They could of course simply reveal the answer, but they enjoy my confusion too much to do so. I’m left then with vague theories and labels which never quite fit: “sun”, “moon”; “gods”, “angels”; “spirits”, “phantoms”. All I know for sure is that I serve they who call themselves Tanim and Daren, whatever they truly are.
So I’m folding laundry in my bedroom while thinking about how Tanim and Daren, the gods/angels/demons/whatever-the-fuck I serve, have been virtually silent the last year. Sure, they’ve made themselves known every once in a while in trickster-like fashion by stealing lighters and setting off our fire alarms, but that hasn’t happened in months. These days I can barely summon a whisper of their ghosts when I’m listening to their music, let alone channel a whole sentence of prose in their words. Maybe, I’m thinking as I ball up socks, it would be better to just give up, to finally accept they’ve moved on for good. Apparently they don’t require my services anymore. Fine.
Clothes folded, I walk into the kitchen, whereupon I smell something burning. For a moment I think I’ve left the electric kettle on the counter, but no, that’s not the source of the scent. I turn in a confused circle, half convinced my nose is playing tricks on me because I see no flames, no smoke, no sign of danger. Then I see the red glow. Somehow one of the large stove-top burners has been turned to the highest setting, and already it ticks with heat. I’m home alone and haven’t been anywhere near the stove all day; there’s no way I could have unwittingly turned on the burner, nor any way the cats could have somehow done it themselves given the placement of the dial. It’s not just unlikely – it’s downright impossible.
This isn’t the most comforting of signs, but beggars can’t be choosers so I guess I’ll take it. Just please don’t burn the house down, guys.
Are you coming to me?
What urges me to search for you here among the snow and ice? Why do I linger on the side of this dead mountain, straining to catch your voices on the wind, when you could never have been here? This isn’t your story. This isn’t your grave. So why this place, this time, this particular tragedy? Perhaps it is the mystery that draws me, the kinship I feel for those who will forever search in vain for a truth only the dead know. Or perhaps every place touched by death is a link to you, you who are death embodied, you who are ancient beyond comprehension, and those places become an access point or a portal or just another clue on my never ending scavenger hunt. Maybe; perhaps; possibly. At the end of the day all I know for sure is you are one of these mysteries too: a flicker of light at the corner of my eye, a single footstep in the frozen forest, a distant figure in the fog I cannot ever quite reach. Some part of you waits for me here at this bleak crime scene – so I kneel and dig.
Will you find me?
Will you find me?
They say to cross the Bridge of Ghosts you must wear a mask so the specters cannot recognize you and silver bells to disrupt their voices. If you do not wear a mask the spirits will take the form of those you love to lure you over the side. If you do not wear bells they will whisper lies in your ears until you take their words for truth and leap to your death. Even with these protections in place you must walk quickly and never stop until you reach safe earth on the other side. The mask and bells are no guarantee of protection.
No one crosses the Bridge of Ghosts without good reason. It spans a chasm high in the mountains where the wind wails and the cliff faces sharpen the gusts to knives. Nothing grows there. Nothing lives there. Nothing chooses to linger there longer than it must, for to linger is to tempt fate too boldly. Yet it is also said that if you cross the bridge successfully, never succumbing to the ghosts’ illusions or lies, you may at the other end ask them one question which they must answer truthfully. Such a reward has thus lead many, many fools to attempt the pass.
Someone stands now at one end of the bridge and the ghosts swirl hungrily in anticipation, appearing as a white mist which ascends from the valley far below to shroud the bridge and cliffs in wintry half-light. The traveler wears a finely wrought mask of silver with rays like the sun’s with bright little bells tinkling softly from each point. One foot moves to step out onto the bridge; the spirits take up their howling din. They cannot physically touch the man and so they seek to stop him with trickery, yet the mask and bells render the deceptions powerless.
The traveler thus passes through the fog with ease, never faltering, never fearing, and arrives safely at the other side of the bridge. As he removes the mask he speaks to the empty air, “Did you keep your promise?” Behind him a familiar voice answers, “Yes. I have waited long for you.” The traveler turns back to the bridge to find his lover standing upon it with arm extended. “I am here now,” he responds. He steps forward and they join hands; both disappear, leaving behind only the fallen mask.
there’s this scream in my throat i’ve been swallowing for years and i used to be ashamed of it, you know, tried to hide it, to bide it, to bury it deep, but now i’m thinking maybe it’s here for a reason and i ought to embrace it, maybe i’m some sort of modern banshee for a modern world and i’ve come to tell everyone that we’re all gonna die, that the end is and has been extremely fucking nigh, and if so then i have a duty to let everyone know, a destiny to detail the destruction entailed, ’cause if you don’t think we’re there yet then oh man do i have a dirge to sing for you, come listen, friend, there’s no melody but i promise it’s a doozy
I could swear I was there. The distant glittering stars, the glassy black water, the last violin strains of Nearer My God to Thee hovering in the cold air – they are clear as memory. Was I just that weird child, obsessed with death and nature’s might? Am I just that weird adult, expecting the worst in every situation? Or is there something more? I never dream about water so cold it kills; I cannot claim evidence from past life readings or inexplicable historical knowledge. Yet something binds me to that place, to that night, to that terrible disaster so much it feels like a homecoming. Like I belong there. I read the names of those lost and think I know you, I remember you. I want to tell them it wasn’t your fault, you couldn’t have known, no one could have known. Do the Titanic’s wayward ghosts reach beyond their world to those they know will tell their stories or relieve their guilt by solving the nagging unknowns? Perhaps over the years the spirits of fifteen hundred people, at the mercy of trade winds and deep water currents, have scattered across the globe to wash up on far foreign shores. Maybe some small child collecting seashells and beach glass brought something bigger home with them. Or maybe those souls passed on and even in new bodies, even living new lives, that night’s chill remains in their blood and cries out for resolution.
it occurs to me that perhaps my life is just like The Others, you know, and – SPOILER ALERT – it turns out i was the ghost all along, what a fucking plot twist, no wonder all the things i tried to hold onto kept slipping away, no wonder all the times i tried to stop you from leaving you just passed right through me like i wasn’t even there – because i wasn’t there, was i, i wasn’t on your mind or even on your same fucking plane of existence, so yeah, maybe all these years ive been haunting you and not the other way around, wouldn’t that explain some things, and maybe you finally found some priest or medium to exorcise me so you can sleep at night without my chains rattling in the hallway, good job i guess, sweet dreams, but you know ill be back