A Gentle Breeze

This idea is all about spiritual love – specifically, what would happen if a couple of ghosts fell in love? What remains when the body is gone, and how could such love be consummated? How would they even date?

Things change after death. Priorities shift radically. A person’s outlook on the world is usually affected by a near death experience, so after actually dying things are very different. It takes a little time to realise you are, in fact, dead. The mind clings to things, familiar places, memories, relatives known in life. It takes time to let go, and even then, the process is slow. Little deaths of the self as your sense of identity fades. Your physical being has gone, and the sensory freedom that ensues can be quite destabilising. As mentioned, you see the world differently, but without eyes, it’s not really seeing anymore. It’s more like… feeling. There is no more illusion of self given by the fixed scope and vantage point of your eyes and skin.

The ghost in question had a name once, but could not remember it right now. Did it start with a J? Perhaps. Time was less stable as well, and frequently J would find itself slipping back and forwards slightly, revisiting memories which in fact turned out to be current events it had already sensed beforehand. All this instability was a steady, gentle but inexorable breeze, carrying parts of it away into the distance, to the horizon. A mind cannot hold itself together in such a state, and disintegration is, quite simply, a matter of time. But then, what does a ghost care about any more?

J had come to terms with dying some time ago, and had not had any dramatic wrongs to right, or passionate unrequited loves. Or had there been? This was not to say that nothing meant anything anymore. There were still moments and experiences that seemed special to J, and though it was growing harder to tell what that significance meant, these patterns were still attractive. Sitting under a tree, J watched the leaves fall. Even more than that, it was feeling them fall. Without the urgency of flesh, J was in no hurry. It examined each spiral and pirouette, each flash of ruddy gold, each breathless dance finally culminating in a waft across the ground before alighting amongst its fallen brethren. Right now, J held one leaf, framed in the sunlight, tumbling so slowly it seemed the entire universe was contained in that moment. Nothing else mattered. As J reached out to touch this paragon of transience preserved in crystal time, something odd happened.

J felt something else.

It was strange. A tingle? J could almost recollect such incidences before, when there was still a body in the equation. One time was when somebody had… had… kissed the back of its neck? J was puzzled by this. Curious, it concentrated carefully, the leaves forgotten. Seconds drifted by, then hours, then days. J forgot the name of its old pet. J forgot the colour of the first car it had. J forgot about the annoying dinner lady who used to give such miserly helpings of cottage pie. But despite these sacrifices, J realised something. Sitting adjacent to J, barely perceptible except by a slightly raised level of emotion when observed, there was another ghost. J was lost for words. Admittedly, after all this time, a chatup line was so far from its mind and meaningless that speaking was redundant. But there was still something.

A longing. A loneliness perhaps. A feeling that kept J going as time past him by, lost and abandoned. And as that feeling welled up inside, painfully even, J was equally confused to feel that same emotion radiating out from the stranger. Pain itself was novel enough, and when combined with this… yearning… it was quite exquisite. The moment gathered substance, and J was pinned in time and space, drawn together briefly from the aimless wanderings to a place of… meaning. There was obviously no chance of a physical union – that horse had bolted years ago, died of old age and been eaten by worms. Nevertheless, the two of them simply sat, in that shared moment, feeling one another’s pain. It was an old pain, largely forgotten, but something that no creature can ever truly be free of, even after death.

Winter had turned the ground hard and frosty. The tree was quite bare. Snow was falling, but the two ghosts felt nothing of the cold. Nothing of the plight of the birds searching for food. Nothing of the tree’s slow and alien dreams. Together, they both saw the snowflakes, falling gradually. Each beautiful crystalline wonder fell, observed and appreciated. The light transfigured every one into a cathedral of glorious colours and patterns, lost in moments but preserved as long as they both should exist.  J felt something else now. It was a kind of ripple. A fluttering sensation, reminiscent of a time it had held a small animal in the palm and felt its heart beating, light and fast, like tiny kisses. This feeling was delicious. And infectious! J searched for the source, flowing awareness out and following the presence of the companion. It was summer again, and a couple were lying on a picnic blanket, peeling boiled eggs and drinking tea. Then J remembered the fluttering. It was… laughter. The couple were laughing about something, some silly encounter perhaps, or an embarrassing comment taken out of context. But the laughter J felt was not the couple’s.  It was emanating from the other, and a similar unbidden response rose in J.  Together, they laughed.  The two living symbols of life and naivete, and hope and optimism, and love and transience, and passion and…

The whole meaning of human existence was captured in that split second, shared with two faceless beings.  Alive and dead, still they laughed.  At the insanity of it all, as two dead people should share such a secret tryst.  At the futility, of clinging to one another.  At the hopelessness, as time continued to erode their pasts.  At the resolute stubborn persistence of life, as they held on.  At the fragility of it, as each memory taken by the breeze left them fragmented and indistinct.  At the sheer immensity of everything dwarving them into significance, yet unable to eradicate the meaning inherent in this simple shared moment.

For the first time, J knew love, and the universe became beauty.

And then it was gone, caught and tumbling, head over heels on the breeze.  Faint laughter whisked away into the distance, leaving patterns of light and shadow cast by leaves in the sunlight.