Coming Back

Humans.

Always so concerned about the state of your souls. Where they’re going, what happens when they get there, do they ever come back, how long will they be there. Yet with all that wondering, you’re no closer now to really understanding it than you were six thousand years ago. Maybe even further away.

There was a doctor among you, not too long ago. Thought he was onto something; claimed the soul had weight, that you could tell when it left the body. That guy, he was going places. Too bad nobody wanted to listen to him. Pretty soon he was drowned out, swept under the rug and left to rot. Now people only trot it out when they’re going full Mel Gibson mode, and 99% of you ignore it or laugh it off.

It’s a pity, really. Means things aren’t going well for you. Because if he’d taken the next logical step, he might have noticed when bodies suddenly gain an extra couple of ounces.

Oh, we’re still here, you know. Some of us, anyway. But when you spend a long time – say, fifty, sixty years… or centuries… out here, your opinions on things start to change. Little things at first – like whether you really loved that hag you married, or if it’s really so wrong to filch somebody’s last soda or cigarette when they’re not looking – but sooner or later you realize just how pointless it all is. How everything is just a thin little screen covering up a whole lot of nothing.

Oz isn’t behind the curtain, making green smoke and booming voices. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel, oncoming train or otherwise. There’s just this. Floating here, with your basic options to watch the living pass by around you or to stare out into the void beyond. Sooner or later, you get too bored, too angry, too depressed, to keep watching people – even the people you used to think you loved – and you look out into the endless night, and think about things.

Those of us who used to study philosophy are pretty sure Nietzsche was right. But it’s not just staring back at you. It’s crawing into you, burrowing a little tunnel down into whatever remains of your heart and making a home there. When it’s time, when it’s nice and comfy, got the feet up on the coffee table and beers in the fridge, it lets you come back.

None of that reincarnation crap, though. You don’t get a nice newborn baby for your new home. Not unless you’re really lucky or can pull a lot of strings that’d make most humans vomit just thinking about it. You’re all so concerned about abortion, but think about the idea of taking a fresh, pure little soul. Totally virgin territory, clean and white and perfect. Then picture tearing that apart. With your teeth. Then shoving yourself into the hole you gnawed in it.

Even for us old timers, that’s some pretty sick shit.

No, usually what you get is some old bastard who’d given up on really living about ten years prior and was just counting days until he died. Depending on how sane they were at the time, you either end up looking like an Alzheimer’s patient or doing a bad Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino impression. Sometimes there’s nothing left at all, just whatever’s left of us and the void we brought back with it, but let’s face it, folks; at seventy, grandpa’s spry murder-and-rape days are pretty much past him. Best we can hope for is a little elder abuse.

Some of us are lucky, and manage to grab somebody young and strong and fresh, because we step over just in that split second between their soul heading out and the meat dropping to the pavement. Watch the news, sometime… then do some background checks. Funny thing, how many “sole survivors” end up turning a little wonky, isn’t it? You might not think it’s so great, but having a bit of fame, renown and pity to go alongside a reasonably intact and vital body can get you a long way in this world. Of course, sometimes it’s too much; memories, you see, aren’t actually in the soul. At least not entirely. Sometimes those memories are still in the body when we take it, and it short-circuits us. Reminds us what it is to be human. Sometimes it even makes us think we are the person we’re living inside, and it’s not happy for those guys when they come back to the fold.

Juice up on hate, rage, despair; head out into the world to spread it around; become a church-going father of two who spends his days shuffling paperwork and his nights reading fairy tales? Ugh. Gag me.

But you humans, always so concerned about souls and evading their eventual release, you’ve come up with the best idea yet. You croak, and assuming none of us finds you at just the right time, what do you do? Put the meat on ice, keep it nice and fresh. Then you go to town trying to figure out ways to make it work again. Maybe that means a whole lot of stitches and adrenaline shots, maybe it means some chemo, maybe it means the newest wonder drug that didn’t kill a pack of monkeys or drive some inmates irrevocably insane.

Then you provide a few thousand volts, and voila! One living body. One empty living body. Oh, sure, sometimes the original soul finds its way back – not often, though – and sometimes they’re even still sane enough to carry on as they were. But more often it’s someone like me.

And nobody checks if that body weighed a little less than usual when they iced it. Or if it weighs a little more when they jumpstart it.

Just think about it. Pretty soon, we’ll outnumber you, you know. Between the ones willing to go for the newborns, the miraculous survivors, the “you were dead for three minutes!” folks and the rich assholes who want to save their bodies until they cure rectal cancer, there’s more of us coming back than you can begin to count. And some of us are smart; we make arrangements for other bodies.

Good thing the bastard I crawled into had a trust fund; made it easy to set up cryogenic appointments for his hundred closest friends. Most of whom are rich, too… we’re talking about buying the freezer company.

It’ll be great. Just don’t look us in the eye.

We might be looking back at you.

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