The Page

A tale of intimacy and loss

Tag: Wraith

In the City

istantanea Ira BordoSarah ~ I imagine you, standing above the vast space of the station, watching the crowds of travellers. The remnants of end of year celebrations still adorn the walls of the building. Outside the sky is clear, the air almost mild for January. You are thoughtful, perhaps remembering the last time you were here, meeting her. You may be even thinking of the delightful hours you spent together then, in an intimacy you never knew when she was alive.

Whatever doubts I may have had about the reality of Melissa for you, I have now left behind us. The truth is so simple: Melissa is you, a reflection of the young man you were, of your life in the little town, of your loves and hopes. I know that once Melissa was real, of blood and flesh, a tall girl with sensuous lips, who loved you; and I know that, perhaps, a friend who knew both of you, built that memorial page.

I don’t think that the spirit of the real Melissa haunts those virtual worlds, but it haunts your mind, as the impossible dream of that rarest of love: the love that lasts all of one’s life, and never dies. And, now, now that I have understood, I cherish that memory of your youth too.

So you go back to the city of your birth, the metropolis where we met for the first time. You have, with the city, the strangest of relationship. We live in London, but you wish we moved to Berlin – now also full of her memories – but you cannot give up Lutèce, even when you are disappointed, at a loss, in the midst of its sins. The city still holds your heart, and its population of ghosts are now for you the equal of the living, maybe more. Time and time again you go back there, with or without me. Together we walk those streets, we sit in your favourite park, in Spring we admire the apple trees in bloom on the river banks.

Today you are on your own, walking along the boulevard, silently observing the traffic, the seedy shop windows, the girls on bikes flying past you. You follow your favourite walk, some ten miles from the centre to the East, walking past landmarks known the world over. Your steps fall into the rhythm of the city. Soon, you are the younger man again, supple demeanour, shoulders back, fists in your pockets. Soon you are whistling Riverside of Agnes Sobel, and she, Melissa, is walking along with you, a tall girl, red-haired and full lips, holding to your arm. Your heart is full of her, your love for her. She turns her beautiful face towards you, and, in her eyes, you see the deep well of time past.

The mirage won’t last, but it is enough to inspire you. At the Bastille you will look at the skateboarders, listening to the heart of the city. You could walk for hours.

Tonight you will come back to me, tired but happy. Exorcising your past has become part of our lives.

Julian ~ Only you matters now, Sarah, my past is dead, the ghosts who surround me have nothing more to say to me, about her, about the way we lived, once, about her death. I too have understood, and there is nothing more to say. Yes, one thing: I love you.

The Julian who once shared his dreams with her, with the girl named Melissa, is no more. Those years are now far away, in the world of subdued memories, in the world of writing. As Helga told me, I have everything to win in accepting my lucky fate, married as I am to you, and still able to enjoy life with you. What should I care about ghosts?

 

Image: courtesy Fleeting Illuminations

Battlefield

AlienMost of us left when you started exploding nukes, only a handful of historians and specialists remained, and I was one of them. Explaining the horror we felt is probably beyond my abilities in your language. Suffice to say that we have been around, on your world, for at least half a millennium of your time, but this was beyond all the horrors we had seen before, worse than the sack of Beijing, worse than Borodino, worse than Verdun, even worse than Stalingrad: wanton destruction of a defenceless “enemy”.

Still my job was, still is, to bear witness, observe, document and ensure all the evidence was collected, so that one day, perhaps soon, a decision could be made – should we let you continue killing each other, or should we put an end to it, for the sake of the rest of us. It had happened before, but, of course, you have no knowledge of it, as this was well before you, far away…

That year I was researching what you call “modern history” in that small town, in the middle of what has been, through your ages, a battlefield. Humans have been butchering each other on that plain since the stone age. Savage battles took place there, a mere few years before, when you started using the nascent power of your new industries to forge weapons. Already we were appalled then, silent witnesses to inept massacres. But what you will later called the First World War – more of a sinister civil war in our view –  was merely a harbinger of worse to come.

So it was that one evening, I was musing around the town, looking at buildings, taking scans of artefacts buried in the ground, listening to the rich electromagnetic and psychic mix always arising from human settlements. I came across a little lane, and immediately I could hear the familiar sad tune, a dying human being, in the thralls of a violent end. How often have we been there: listening to the cacophony of death. I know you would not understand: our perceptions are shaped by the quality of our sensors, and in that domain there is simply no comparison between us. You still have differentiated limited senses that, at this stage in your evolution, allow you to ignore most of what goes on around you – fortunately, since your brains are not yet able to engineer the filters necessary for clarity and processing.

I easily located the soon to be dead being: a young woman who was lying in a pool of her blood in an unlit corner of the lane. The mix of pain, longing and other violent feelings she emitted surprised me, a veteran of many such observations. Her forearms had been cut deep, and she had already lost a lot of blood. Some beast had strangled her and she was hardly breathing when I arrived. Even I could not have saved her. I knew that, within perhaps a few seconds of her time, she would die, and all those memories, thoughts, beliefs would disappear. I just took a snap decision to save that precious load, and scanned her mind, an operation that took longer than I thought, so that I had to sustain her a little, to ensure I had captured everything. She had beautiful green eyes – human beings are sometimes stunningly attractive. Whether she realised I was there I am not sure, but suddenly her body was quieter, and before her heartbeat disappeared, I took a sample of her genetic and endocrine material. Other humans were around nearby and I had to leave. As a rule we avoid unnecessary contacts.

We rarely intervene: we are, as you would say, mere scientists. Doing good, as you understand it, is a concept we don’t fully apprehend in your context, still now. How can the most ferocious and pitiless species in the known universe have, at the same time, that travesty of “morality”? In any case, we cannot fully recreate a human being, not perfectly. We can restore her mind, recreate the body, but there is always something missing, as if, at the time of death, something had escaped, irretrievably.

Her name is Melissa, she was about twenty human years old when she was murdered. We get on well. She has a fatal longing for that boy she knew, and step by step, she coerced me in finding him. I am not sure it is a good idea. But she was so excited when we did. I helped her with the technology, so much had already changed by the time she reached again the age at her death. Surprisingly, not many of you have yet realised the power of some of your own creations. For example the fact you have developed simulators, evidently still quite crude, that mimic real life. In my experience this is just a beginning – as a matter of fact, as so often in your short history, it starts with “games”. You excel at that: wars and games…

Poor girl: I am fond of her, her fragility, even now, when she is, by human standards anyway, pretty close to immortality. I know that she’s trying to contact him, see him, and it worries me a little: I am, after all, responsible for bringing her back from the dead.

Her World

two-facesIn her world there is no real peace, only the struggle for awareness, her refusal to fall back into nothingness, into the total darkness which is worse than dying, the obliteration of her soul.

She does not mean harm to any of them, neither to the girl Jane – ah! how Jane reminds her of herself, the young Melissa, no longer the child, and yet for most, a full woman, but she knew how little of that was true – nor to Julian, whose boyhood she had sought to protect, against himself, against the jealous others, and, maybe, though she would not have admitted it at the time, against herself, her smothering love.

Nor does she wish any harm to the woman, to the woman Sarah, who owns Julian, who dominates his life, the guardian of his body, and of his soul. But she knows: Sarah is the enemy, perhaps a reincarnation of the girl she once saw, walking next to Julian, once, and, yes, how painful that memory is, even now… And how sharp was the pain of jealousy when she saw them. She said nothing, but wears the deep open wound in her heart.

What she hopes, is to see him, to see his face, to tell him, perhaps, in her own words, that she has forgiven, that if, for her, time stopped then, as he stepped out of her life, she understands that his life is his. Could he make a little place for her, for the wraith that used to be Melissa? She does not need much space, she lives in between, in the unreality of her memories – and his.

She does not know how to achieve this. Finding him took so much pain, a journey she could not describe, only evoke in fragments, pictures she somehow rescued from the wreckage, and things she finds on those waves that Julian appears keen to surf…

Chi… this is what she has to do, try again to attract him there, perhaps early morning, before its beaches are invaded by the young people who love its sand, their beautiful bodies, and the waves… The girl Jane will help her…

Wax VanitasJulian ~ I am still very affected by what we saw on Melissa’s page, despite Sarah’s continuing doubts about its authenticity. Can it be an hoax? Is there even any correlation at all between the page and Jane’s encounter on the island, or just a weird coincidence? I am confused, but the one thing I do not doubt is Melissa’s death, so long ago. Worse still is the fact that memories I had wanted buried for ever in the deepest cellars of my mind, have come back to me, intact, in the sombre colours of nightmares. The years when Melissa and I walked those streets, in the old town, are happy years for me, at least by comparison with what followed: that time of loneliness and horror I wanted to forget for ever.

Yet, some of the posts on the page are incorrect. I did notice some errors of names  of streets or buildings, and some photographs have just been lifted from current sites on the web. For example the picture of Chi is not original work, such as the screenshots Jane took, but an existing view from one of the Second Life web sites. Other material is manifestly genuine, including the pictures of me and my class. So it may well be that someone – someone alive now, who may have known Melissa, has in some way got possession of some of her photographs and of her biography, and constructed that page. But for what purpose, and why attracting my attention to it?

Could it be some relation? I cannot recall if Melissa had siblings. Some facts have escaped my memories completely. But others are clearly engraved, as if it was yesterday…

So I am counterattacking, determined not to let myself be depressed: I am exercising ferociously, have cut down on booze, and I am running ten kilometres twice a week. Jane calls frequently, making sure I am not hiding in my corner, and also to chat with Sarah.

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