I wake up in a graveyard.
A graveyard? But I’m still above ground. Why is it dark? Did I sleep through a whole day, or is this still last night?
But why am I naked? Naked… in a graveyard? Oh, this is familiar. This is the place… the place where the old man told me…
“While I am mask maker, herbalist, metallurgist, and holy man of the centuries-long Toma spirit, able to imbue extraordinary abilities on others, I am extremely cautious in so doing. Every power has its price, often a dear one. The price I pay is that I am called to help the lost, and I have no choice, if I like them or don’t. I meet them here, in the Lost Graveyard.”
That was Bijaksana Lama Satu. Is he here now? I see only graves…
Graves from all centuries, all places, everywhere. From my point of view they’re past and future, a few even from my original present.
And a funeral going on over there.
There’s a man sitting back in a floating chair, smoking a cigar, shielded from the star’s radiation by a giant floating sun glass.
“Sadly, sacrifices must be made to protect what is rightfully ours,” says the man, Yory Chameau, CEO of Chameau Enterprises. I know his name and station despite never meeting him or hearing of him. I now have excellent access control to most of the host brains I inhabit.
Below CEO Chameau, standing on the hill, are a soldier and what I’d guess to be a religious figurehead of an unfamiliar sort. Accessing. The soldier is Captain Jasper Bean and I can “hear” what he’s thinking:
Whatever. I’m paid to do whatever he says.
Now I’ve got the scoop on the fancy-hat man, one Holy Father Territorium Vojaganto. I know what his thoughts are, too:
All souls will meet again beyond the veil. Probably. I hope.
They can’t see me. I’m standing here in the open but none of them notice me? Of course the two at the tombstone wouldn’t. I sense that those are the parents of the deceased. She is Heran Qarax:
“My son…my only son…”
He is Tenthan Alaafia:
“I will train others to avenge him…”
What kind of sacrifice is it when the only guy left standing and untouched is the “fearless” leader?
Is the graveyard itself lost? Are the people buried here lost souls? Give a guy a break! I’m a repeat customer! When is my host going to…?
“You have the chance to visit world after world after world, as few ever can,” Bijak suddenly inserts between my ears. “You have a chance to know the universe unlike most of the people ever born. You can even choose your destinations. If you cease your grappling after normalcy and embrace this opportunity, you can become one of the wisest of all humans who ever lived or ever shall.”
What? Appealing to my ego? Or, well, maybe appealing to my responsibilities?
I think of my family, my old routines. Such a stable reality seems almost like a dream at this point. Do I want to go back to just one world? Can I even live that way any longer? Can I stay trapped in a continuing situation as it develops organically into its next phase over decades? Things have sped up for me. Way, way up -!
I’m fascinated by the varieties of life I’ve lived across a multitude of realities. Some are repulsive. Some frighten me. Some are exquisite. Some are amazing.
“You might be starting to get it,” says the voice of Bijaksana Lama Satu from everywhere.
We have to couch our existence in some kind of story. Without a framework, anarchy rules. People settle for fairy tales because it’s good enough for everyone else and they’re ill-equipped for seeking their own answers, or even inclined – when pressed – to believe that the universe actually makes no sense at all, that it’s probably all an accident.
Humanity and all it knows are a freak occurrence on a random planet. Life never happened before this and will never happen after we’re wiped out by cosmic forces beyond our ken. Even local aliens and intergalactic anomalies that have displayed intelligence are ghostly sideshows produced by Earthly imagination and reality structuring.
We once knew we were at the “center of the universe” in the story of life. We talked ourselves out of it.
I come upon my own grave. When I see my name I instinctively turn away before I can see anything else.
If I see it, whatever is there will become reality. If I don’t look, it won’t become real. But what am I afraid of? Fear seems so silly to me any longer. Even when I feel it. I never figured I’d live forever. Who cares what a tombstone in this surrealistic amusement park says? I turn boldly and take a look.
Engraved on the tombstone is the date of my death. Or at least one of them.
But I can’t make sense of the numbers. I can barely remember the meaning of a month or a year. And after walking the Lost Graveyard for mile after mile I realize the truth.
With graves stretching over mountains, across valleys and out into the sea where buried tombstones shine with bio-luminescent algae, I realize that there’s a grave in this place for everyone who’s ever been born.
And we’re already in them.