A collection of stories about the metaphysical and the ethereal


1. The Timeless Wanderer

A little boy dropped his ball on the sidewalk which slowly, but surely, rolled towards the middle of the road. The boy, unaware of his surrounding, proceeded to pick it up. His mother, who was too busy barking orders over her phone, possibly to a subordinate where she works, failed to notice that a sedan was speeding towards the little boy. Apparently, she wasn't the only one and it was as if everyone in the urban block was too busy with their daily routine. I hurled myself towards the boy, hoping dearly that I would be able to pull him away from the imminent collision. A few seconds went by before I realized that the entire block had gone silent: the kind of eerie silence that precedes a violent storm. I looked over my shoulder and froze for an instant- the lifeless, mangled body of the boy lay there on the asphalt. His blue eyes were open, revealing the horror that gripped him during the final moment of his life. The mother is beside the body now, crying and clinging on to the ball that led her son towards the face of death. Or was she who was to be blamed? Her negligence did play a big part in what unfolded. Nearby, an elderly man was one his phone: talking hastily to possibly a 911 operator. Seconds turned into minutes and the mother remained unmoved as if she was rooted to that very spot. As the place began to get filled by onlookers and the blaring sirens of an ambulance approached the scene, I discretely slipped away.


It was not until a couple of minutes later that I realized that my presence and my earnest attempt at saving the boy was of no consequence what so ever. I often forget that I do not inhabit this world and moments such as these are accompanied by a feeling of despair, as if my whole form is gripped by a familiar melancholy. I don't remember the last time I did anything- the last time I ate, the last time I slept. I don't even remember the last time I closed my eyes. I only remember wandering the streets. The absence of a physical body might have relieved me of many burdens and painful moments but, in the end, I miss my shell of flesh and blood.


I died many years ago and the memories of my past life are vague to me know. The vestiges, however minuscule they may be, flutter around ceaselessly in my present mind, which seldom materialize bringing with them feelings I no longer am capable of feeling. In my previous life, being a money launderer for a crime syndicate, I got tied to some bad company and skimming off some hundred grands from their stash meant that they would come for me. That night, before I was killed, something peculiar happened and, in a moment of utter amazement, I could see myself lying still on my bed. My wife lay asleep beside me. Even in the solitude of the night she looked enchanting...especially in the solitude of the night. Was I dead already? It was possible since such a unique vantage point can never be physically realizable...or so I though. Right at that moment, two men, garbed in black and wearing balaclavas, entered into my room like ninjas. One of them produced a pistol out of his pocket. Even to this day, I often get the vision of how the silencer caught the moonlight and glimmered ominously before my body which was completely oblivious to what was about to happen. It was a silent harbinger of death. The part of me that was witnessing everything tried in vain to stop the rush of bullets that penetrated my head a multitude of times. It was the first time I realized that I can't interact with the external reality. As if thin air, the stream of bullets effortless went through this body that I possessed.      


Once, when I was alive, I remember watching a documentary on TV which mentioned of a phenomenon called "Astral Projection" which affords people out-of-body experiences and, through such ethereal experiences, people could see their bodies as if they themselves are floating somewhere different. Probably that's what happened before I died- my astral body separated itself from my physical body somehow in a feeble attempt to preserve my consciousness. Feeling unsure, I sometimes ponder whether the apparent astral projection, right before facing the wretched agonies of death, was the handiwork of a sentient and omnipotent entity, a God perhaps. I don't think I was a religious man in my previous life and the question of whether God interferes with peoples' lives seemed moot to me. Now, however, I might have developed a more ambivalent spirituality where one side adheres to the belief that my present circumstances are products of my own volition while the other still clings on to its previous belief.


It often baffles me that, when the memories, which are becoming increasing diminished, come crashing in, flooding my mind, I refer to them as incidents from my previous life as if I'm still alive. It would be wrong to call it life, even worse so to call it death. My astral body lingers on a plane that lies between that of the living and the dead, condemned to wander for seemingly an eternity: a kind of Limbo that Dante refers to as the "edge of Hell". For reasons unknown and bewildering to me, this plane of existence is extremely sparsely population and I often go months without seeing any inhabitants. It would be fair to say that only a handful of people died in such bizarre circumstances as mine. The initial period of existence in this plane was the hardest when I had to come to terms with the fact that in this seemingly concrete, yet abstract, reality there is nothing called hunger or sleep or pain. It even took me a great deal of time to acclimatize to the colour blindness that this reality, this lonely existence brings. The only perceptions of colour come from the other inhabitants of this realm. Colourful they might be, they are infact despondent beings with a sullen demeanour and a shroud of apathy surrounding them. Recollections from my past life would suggest that the way the inhabitants move about are quite akin to zombies- those undead beings which I have seen on numerous occasion in B flick horror movies- the difference lying in the fact that the zombies, if they exist, lie on one of the other sides. The inhabitants don't interact with each. They simply walk with their rigid, emotionless eyes fixed straight ahead. Their eyes, which never seem to move about to gauge their surrounding, appear as black orbs: barren and bleak. Simply put, life in this plane of existence is desolate.


Once this ostensibly timeless continuum became apparent to me, the question of biding my time came to me quite naturally. It might very well be the case that time was no meaning, no intrinsic value here. Unlike my past life, where every aspect of life ran like a well oiled machine, my current existence, also true for the other inhabitants, is sluggish. We have no responsibilities, no train to catch for work, not even a modicum of haste. I can't speak of the other inhabitants, with whom I never managed to speak, but I found all the aimless and desperate wandering tedious. I frequent libraries and, if I manage to spot someone reading something particularly interesting, I peer over his shoulder in an attempt to quell my thirst of keeping myself occupied. Life here comes with the added disadvantage of not being able to touch or feel anything. 


The small house, with the red brick wall and grey tile covered roof, is drawing nearer. This house in a run down neighbourhood, on the edge of the urban sprawl, is a place I visit from time to time. Although I had never been here when I was alive, this is the place where my wife and daughter resides now. I died burying my family on a pile of debt- mortgage, credit card debts- which eventually led to the foreclosure of the comfortable house in which we lived and my daughter was born and growing up in. There were so many memories tied to that place and I doubt I won't even remember most of them. The entrance into the house is, and always has been, an experience of utter dejection as if the gloom and unhappiness here never goes away, rather the depression hovers and diffuses in and out of each room and all the nooks and crannies. I have posthumously watched my daughter grow up in this quagmire to become a strong, independent woman, unlike her mother who could never come out of the gripping sorrow of my death, whose only therapy and sources of comfort were alcohol and sleeping pills. However, I often wonder if they remember me at all. Do they miss me? Does my daughter remember that her dad used to draw animals with her every evening when we came home from? Does she know that, even to this day, her dad misses the sound of her laughter? I might never know the answers to these question.  


In retrospect, the most important question would be- how long will I wander the streets alone? Will there ever be an end to this all? In my day, I read a bit of astronomy to know that in the next five billion years or so our Sun will have used up all of its hydrogen and, in order to keep burning, will start to fuse heavier elements. It will eventually grow in size, finally bloating to 256 times its current radius to the stage called a "Red Giant". This red giant will gobble up Mercury and Venus, and possibly the Earth too. Will I still be a part of this reality? The universe, too, will end at some point in the future: either in the "Big Crunch" or in the "Big Rip". Entropy will be so unimaginably high that chaos will rule over the domain. Surely that has to count as an ending. With all these thoughts and ruminations in mind, I haven't realized that I have walked a few miles towards the bridge. The place looked quite familiar. As a torrent of memories came gushing in, in a moment of profound insight and epiphany, I realized that this is a place my father and I used to visit so often. I remember that I used to eagerly wait for him after school so that we would walk a few miles- chatting and laughing. He would buy me an ice cream cone and joke that I would get fat if I continued like this. After a period of silence, we would both break into a fit of laughter. While reminiscing all the details, savouring all the colours and excitement, I felt something I haven't felt in a very long time. I felt as if something had started to trickle down inexorably from my eye. On rubbing my cheek, I realized that I had shed my tears for the first time in so many years and along with came, quite inexplicably, a feeling of joy that I had yearned for so long. Ever since my death, I had never felt this better, never felt this fresh, never felt this alive. Hit by a second epiphany, I came to a sudden realization that hope has not abandoned me in this plane of existence and that there are a myriad mysteries and memories behind every street and alley. For so long I have wandered aimlessly, carrying a growing burden to despair and agony and, as I have come accept, that I would continue do so for millennia. However, there will always be places where can I tap on their walls and allow memories to flood my mind and bring me peace, however fleeting it might be. 


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