Across the ages ~ a story for All Souls’ Day
I waited for you, lurking in the shadows of the agora, hoping to share what I had stolen from listening to philosophers, shawl covering my face and the food in my basket emitting glorious fragrance of ripe fruit and warm bread. They don’t like women, most of them, but they don’t throw things at me to drive me away any more. I have to lie to cover why I am so long but that day you didn’t come to find out what I had learned, so I risked another beating to see where you were. You were drunk, your mother told me and she told me not to ever come back; there was talk about that Socrates being a danger to our gilded youth. She could not have made it plainer that she feared what would happen if you continued to explore these things, even debated second-hand with a slave like me.
Of course they made him drink hemlock for the sake of our gilded youth, and I saw you in the crowd. You would not meet my eyes, and when I sought to speak with you, you shoved me away and called me whore. I think now the whole crowd heard my heart break, though perhaps all they heard was the crack of the flask I carried as it hit the stone. I died inside but it was a few years before a sickness the doctors could not treat carried the rest of me away. I did not fight it. I had become too attached to you to continue my journey without the meaning my task with you had given me.
I floated for many years, between worlds. I passed a few more lifetimes without catching more than a glimpse of you. There are others I dance this millennia old dance with, stepping the measure round through the passage of centuries. Each time I meet a familiar soul, I know that I know them somehow but when I am incarnate I seldom remember what ties me to them and sometimes we pass, without speaking or connecting, with only that electric spark, as eyes meet and for a millisecond, we know each other.
Some lives it takes me years or decades to remember who I am, others, I know from childhood that I have been here before, and I start to seek others as soon as I can be independent.
The Roman Empire in decline was a hard place to live, and I died a few times in ways I prefer not to recall. I saw you there, a soldier “just following orders” and doing things I hope you never remember.
The Dark Ages…well, what can I say? They have the name for a reason. Yet, I lived out one life in peace, a farmer in a remote spot, at one with the land and with God. I cherish that life. I have had so few where everything fell into place and I had peace and inner vision without conflict. I saw you at a distance, when you came to our village with your peddlar’s pack, and your eyes met mine and turned away. I think you knew me and chose not to speak, to renew our acquaintance. We go back tens of thousands of years, you and I, to times when people first tried to make sense of this baffling world we live in. And yet every time, you turn away, deciding it is too hard and that a happy life is one without thought. Believe me, the few happy lives I have lived have been as full of thought as the desperate hopeless pain-filled ones. It is not thought that creates misery, nor is questioning.
I wonder now if there is something lacking in me, in my ancient soul, that means you turn ever away, disappointed that I cannot be what you wish me to be. Perhaps one life we may find out why that is not to be; or whether even after all these centuries you are still not ready to face the truths. Each life I live, I learn more and as I learn, I realise that the intricate patterning of my existence is as much a part of the universe as the long slow march of the stars in the heavens, that my soul grows and changes and becomes yet richer and stronger each time I pass those blink-of-an-eye years wearing my human masks.
I am old now, beyond measure of most and still you seem young and untried to me, like a child who forgets his lessons when the sun goes down and has to relearn them every day for eternity. There’s a Greek myth about something similar, I think I even remember when that was new. A rock being rolled to the top of the hill and rolling back down. And one like us pushing it forever. Of course, so much real history is wound up and woven into myths and fairy tales; that’s why they survive, you see. To remind us, from aeon to aeon, who we truly are.
But I, like so few, remember from life to life, snippets and snatches of memories and some have sunk deep into my bones (so to speak) and I watch out for those who recur from life to life and try to reconnect so that we may understand the better why we are here and do what we are sent to do.
And one day, perhaps, while I float between worlds, waiting to be reborn, I will choose to go on, beyond this world and having served faithfully for so long, I will be allowed to rest and be at peace forever.
Until then, I shall dance the measure round and if you choose to turn away, again, then so be it. We will meet again, you know.
(This story and others of the same ilk are available in a collection called The Moth’s Kiss available here and at all Amazon stores.)