interlude: a boy
Once upon a time, there was a boy.
There was nothing relatively remarkable about him. He was born to a poor family of five in a tiny fishing village; and there he grew up, there he lived.
And then one day, he died.
His death was as unremarkable as his life. A small fishing accident in the nearby lake led to his drowning. He died alone, his body was never recovered, and his family never learned of what had happened to him.
But the boy existed on.
His last moments were recorded as a living memory, and the memory, unaware of the fact it wasn't the boy, nor that the boy was dead, continued the boy's tasks for the day. It loaded the boat with the fish it had caught in the dark morning before dawn, and as the sun rose it rowed to shore to haul its catch.
In the darkness, it never saw the pale, lifeless figure floating in the lake's depths.
But the memory realised something strange. The closer it got to the lake's shore the harder it became to grasp the oars or to push against the currents. And as the sun rose to light the still waters of the lake with glittering radiance, the memory became aware of something.
It was not grasping the oars at all. Instead its calloused fingers passed right through the wood.
Horrified and alarmed, the memory fumbled desperately to move the boat closer to the shore, but to no avail. Each attempt to push against the oars resulted in it falling through them, again and again, each attempt more rushed and panicked than the previous.
But nothing it did would move the boat. The vessel floated motionlessly in the mirror-like lake; neither rocking nor bobbing on the ripple-less waters. The dawn sun began to radiate its warmth upon the lake, and the memory quietly halted its fruitless struggle. The morning's tender light thawed the old wood beneath its feet, shining through its body carelessly. There was no shadow.
Its hands shook, still freezing, still trapped in the memory of the brisk night before dawn, unable to venture forward in time with the rest of the world. The sun shone upon it and it could feel nothing but cold.
A peripheral concern gripped its thoughts, and the beginnings of hysterical laughter burst from its lips. 'What a waste of fish' it thought, 'with no one to bring it back to his family for them to eat.'
It could not move the boat, it could not take the fish. With a final glum look at its haul, it hesitantly nudged its toe against the boat's bow. The old wood offered no resistance, and the shoeless foot stepped through and out onto the water as easily as if it would pass through air. The memory stilled, its small body shaking, before its hands clenched themselves to stillness, and it continued. Its bare feet strode brusquely across the lake's surface as if it was stone, but the memory felt nothing underneath its soles. No chill, no wetness, only the feeling of nothingness.
When it stepped onto the shore, its toes phased through the pebbles as if they were dust. It hesitated, before wordlessly continuing its trek along the dirt path to the village. The village where its mother was be busy harvesting rice in the morning, where its father was with the other village men, beginning construction on the new town hall, where its younger siblings still slept, dazedly beginning to wake up to begin their chores.
The memory watched them with resignation as they went about their daily routine, not once looking up to acknowledge his presence.
'Look at me!' it whispered at them. 'Tell me, reassure me I am here!'
Its little brother giggled as he played tag with the other village children, screaming delightedly as he ran straight through its torso to chase a nimble girl. The memory stared blankly down at its body, its hands trembling. Finally its eyes began to sting and a broken, quiet sob escaped its throat.
'Look at me…please,' it cried.
But its pleas went unheard to the laughing children.
The memory began to wander the village roads at day and returned to its family home at night. No one acknowledged or noticed its presence. Its mind seemed blank and empty as it watched the same daily routines begin again and again. There was no purpose to its actions, but it did them anyway. Perhaps by having a routine, even as meaningless as it was, made it feel closer to the village inhabitants.
It did not notice the passage of time.
The memory watched dazedly as its youngest sister drew her last breath in her sleep, her old frail body becoming truly silent. Her children and grandchildren wept at her bedside but the memory felt nothing.
'Ah,' the memory though, 'I am alone.'
Years, decades, centuries passed. The inhabitants of the village aged, raised their children, lived, died, again and again. The population increased; buildings were torn down and built up; new roads were tiled. The markets grew busy and crowded with the passing of every year. An outbreak of pestilence killed off a generation of children but the surviving ones grew to have their own and the town grew populated once again.
And then one day, the memory was devoured.
-mama mama where are you I'm scared-it's so cold so cold so cold so cold so tired so tired need to keep awake can't sleep don't sleep-I'm sorry everyone I'm so sorry forgive me forgive please-someone somebody save me please no please stop no-eggs bread milk rice hmm do I have enough money for some candy too-I'm so hungry papa when can we eat there's no rice there's no beans papa I'm so hungry where's mama-stupid bitch I'll show you I'll show everyone I'll kill all of you fucking-I don't want to die I don't want to die why did I come here what did I come here for no no no I don't want to die no-how how long have I been here anyone someone please come find me I don't I don't know how long I can-so thirsty so thirsty no no can't drink this water it's salt water but I'm so thirsty surrounded by water and unable to drink any of it hahaha what a way to go-well you can tell Takeshi to shove it up his ass I ain't accepting this scam of a deal you hear me you piece of shit-
-who are you who are you hahahaha welcome to us welcome to me welcome to you eat eat eat so hungry hungry eat eat tastes like dust tastes like ashes eat eat-
-I don't- I want- help help no air no air let me breathe please god please spirits let me live-
-LoOK At mE-
Once upon a time-
-"Are you an angel?"-
Once upon a time, a ghost met a boy.