August Late 1990s
A sudden ball of energy shone a light. This illumination of color and light flowed freely and bounced off unseen surfaces. Could he, as he thought of himself as a "he", speak? No, he couldn't speak. In the limbo that was now his existence, this orb of color and light was forced to adapt to this restricted reality. In his world there was only a sea of letters, numbers and symbols. He flew past a sign and continued on. He often felt smothered by signs from various proprietors and vendors. Those blasted letters and numbers surrounded him like tidal waves - suffocating yet liberating. Every time it happened, he felt as though those same letters and numbers had freed him in his previous life. Yet, he could not remember how. No, he couldn't physically touch or feel, but he could sense pangs of emotion or feeling from those he builds connections with. He was unsure how it is he can do this but he was grateful. It allowed him to know people in a much more insightful way than was afforded to most beings. Despite his lack of senses, he had a powerful way to express himself. He could write. He knew that the most powerful tool at his disposal was not his ability to float, to travel high speeds, or even his one-time power of going back in time, but his literacy. He knew it was his ability to read and write that truly opened doors for him.
The bouncing and flowing orb continued on his way leaving a stream of fading color. He flowed among the crowds of people who were unaware of him. He felt the warmth of their bodies giving off a thermal energy that comforted him. He had traveled to University Plaza - in from the ocean, following the letters of the N-Train. He had learned that this was indeed a train, underground. He felt as if he had a reference to underground railways but did not know where it had originated. He did not know much of anything about his origins. However, even in this state, one thing was certain. When feelings of doubt and uncertainty crept in, he would take solace in the one certainty of his life. There were indeed people who could see him and write to him. They called him Ghostwriter.
He could manipulate those letters, numbers and symbols in the vast sea at will but nobody could see. Well, that wasn't true. Some years ago, Ghostwriter discovered that his being was dependent on those he chose to be his friends – those he revealed himself to. The more people he revealed himself to, the more vulnerable he became to the variability of their emotions and feelings and moods. He had discovered that those he had chosen were budding into their adolescence. Such people to be tied to. And yet, Ghostwriter did not regret this.
Suddenly, upon reflection, a thought struck him and almost made him go into a virtual tailspin. Since his discovery, he had been bothered by the state of his existence. It was not truly existential – a term he had learned in his recent state. He had no real control over it and it frustrated him. In the past, he thought he could be content with this life or afterlife, but he now found himself increasingly bothered. This lack of control without explanation was troubling. He had not thought about ending his…life – if that is what you can call it-, but if he had, he would not know how to begin.
When he himself was discovered, he was told that he was in a place known as Brooklyn. He grew to love this place. There was such an excitement he can sense. It was almost tangible. There was simply a feeling of potential progression and energy just waiting to burst out. Much like the group he had befriended. He loved and yet envied their ability to live in such a vibrant place and see, hear, and feel it for themselves. They did not understand that for him, Brooklyn blurred.
No matter dwelling on that for now. Ghostwriter chose to ignore those familiar feelings of sadness and continued on. He had read a sign that told him he was near a bookstore. In this existence, Ghostwriter's favorite activity became reading books. Not just reading books, but devouring them. A titillating sensation hit him as he soaked up the information within.
Then those awful doubts began creeping in again. No matter how much he tried to ignore these feelings, they always came back to haunt him, the next time worse than the last. It had been building up for years now.
He had never expected to be alive for this long. He could not believe he was still standing here. What was he and where was he from? What was even more uncertain was how he became whatever it was that he became. What did he do to become such a being and how was he ever going to get out of this state? Did he even want to? He didn't know. Why wasn't he in heaven or in some other afterlife; or reincarnated? Maybe this was his reincarnation. A frightening thought that was to Ghostwriter. Why weren't there any others? Maybe he had to find them. Was God punishing him? Forsaking him? This didn't feel like a punishment, at least the punishment he remembered he felt when he was…human. He was sure he knew pain in his past, but he couldn't quite be sure.
"Are the Children Safe?" he would ask time and time again. The first question he had ever asked as Ghostwriter nearly eight years ago. He mulled over that personal and seemingly eternal question in his mind. It was his only link to his former life. One he had forgotten…or maybe the memory was misplaced or it had disintegrated like his physical form. He understood that his physical body was no more despite not knowing for sure.
And what about those people? Though he did not know if he was being damned for a past sin or rewarded at a second, albeit limited, chance at "life", he had been pondering one thing over and over. What was he doing with these children? Having fun, no doubt, and guiding them.
But was that it? Could he always continue to live this way with the children growing into adulthood and having children of their own?
Out of every thing that bothered Ghostwriter, the most frightening question involved the children. By having playing such a substantial role in their lives, was he some how harming them? Dominating them? What would happen to them if they had to live without him? Could they do it? He could not help but feel a massive weight of guilt every time he justified his being with them. What did he have to be guilty about? The children loved him and he loved them. But what was he really doing with them? Forcing them to keep this secret, is what he was doing and again…how long could he expect this game to go on?
He noticed one child, the one named Jamal, becoming increasingly troubled by Ghostwriter's existence. Jamal wanted to know, no not know, but understand this situation. He began to question Ghostwriter's existence and needed answers. This got the other children to do the same. The rate and severity of these questions became unbearable for Ghostwriter, as he simply could not answer them. Ghostwriter also felt something else. It was as if Jamal and the others were accusing him of something; something almost corrupt. As if they had begun to sense a hidden motive in Ghostwriter wanting to involve himself in their lives. As hurtful as the accusatory nature of their questions were, what ached him was their seemingly loss of innocence. They were growing and he knew that they soon would not be the same people they were those years ago, when they were curious and inquisitive children innocently seeking adventure and knowledge.
This had hurt him, but Ghostwriter could not begrudge them. What could he blame them of? They might have had a point. What kind of void was he looking to fill? This brought up another question that Ghostwriter could not answer. Why exactly had he chosen THESE children? At the time it was quite instinctive. Nothing felt more natural in the world than to reveal himself to these children. There was a certain vitality that drove him to these children. However, now that they began to question his very existence and desperately sought to solve his "mystery" he felt as if he was exposed. It was as if they were close to violating him though that had not been their intention. The more questions that were left unanswered, the more confused the situation became. With this dissatisfaction, Ghostwriter increasingly felt the familiar pangs of weariness and fatigue; feelings he did not think he was able to truly have in this state. Those feelings were too human.
Ghostwriter paused at a quote he read through. "Be careful the things you say, children will listen…careful the things you do, children will see and learn." Ghostwriter read that quote from a book titled Into the Woods. It was a libretto, and though Ghostwriter could not hear the music or even be close to imagining it, the words lingered.
Oh, he would have cried if he could have. Right then and there, he had an answer to one question. It was decided. The children needed to get out of the woods. Truly, he was just a ghost to everyone he knew. Ghosts should not continue to agonize the people they cared for. He needed to stop haunting them so that they could grow and move on. He did not know how to simply disappear from their lives; to stop them from seeing him. When he was discovered, he had wished so hard for someone to see him – anyone. Someone to communicate with and care for him. Oh how it came true…and more. He realized that though his wish came true, it never stopped. Just because wishes came true did not mean that they came free.
He knew what he had to do. He zoomed out. He went through the N-Train and kept going into the ocean. And he kept going, knowing for sure he would not come back. He would go some place where he knew he wouldn't be alarmed – a place where no one could see him tonight or any night. He wasn't there yet, but he knew was getting there.
Where was he now? In-between his past mistakes and his new beginning, he was nowhere now. Until he got there, he knew that he would keep going until Brooklyn blurred below. He started feel free. Free. Free at last. But he started to chill. It was cold; so very cold.
I would like to give credit to where it's due. I was so inspired by The Paper Raincoat song "Brooklyn Blurs" that I decided to not use it as a starting point for my fic, but to use it for the title of my prologue.
I also want to give credit to Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine for Into the Woods. As you will see for the rest of my story, their work will influence me in more ways than one.
I also would like to thank my Beta readers; Lunar and Matryeshka for helping me along and telling me exactly what I needed to hear when I desperately sought a critical ear. Also to Pashmina for being my support. I hope you like the rest of this story.