I may as well tell you the rest. It couldn’t hurt. You and I are figments of each other’s imagination, a story passed hand to hand around a fire in a whisper that is older than words.
It won’t hurt to tell you.
At least I hope not.
You were right about the doors.
Every time I go through a door I am dropped into a life that seems to have existed before me, a new individual person with no memories of, before the change, having been me, somewhere under the sights and smells. I overwrite them, ease their selves like a magnet dragged over the surface of a floppy disc. I know this, and yet I go through the doors anyway.
Is it any wonder that they haunt me?
I am not a person. I’m just good at pretending, since I wear the memories and bodies of people. I don’t know what I am.
I don’t always know, exactly, with the same clarity who I have been and how I got there. Sometimes the doors are just a feeling. Sometimes I enter without premeditation, just curiosity.
That’s no excuse. Especially for the times where I stare down at the mirrored surface of a puddle and realize that I am me and no one else is, the ghost chorus dimmed down to a murmur of experience, all together with the same reptile goal of survival.
Do I commit murder, each time I step through the screaming dark? Should I stand at the top of a tower and seek the void of muscle and slime, to avoid killing again? Or would that be the sin, dragging the chorus of ghosts down with me into the nothing?
It’s not the most comfortable of thoughts, and I go lives upon lives avoiding having it.
I think that when I am in a world where other people exist, they can see it leaking out from under my skin, and they shy away from the corona of teeth. Not all, but most. Unnerving, because I am not what they think they see.
Perhaps – perhaps the problem that I have had, life after life, with describing the doors, is that I have different wires behind my eyes than other humans, cardboard or caramel. When I walk towards a door, I wonder if I am the same type of rat as everyone else, or if the self in my skull is a protezoan that tells me to walk towards the night-glow eyes of a cat, sacrifice my body to jumpstart it’s life cycle.
When it comes to creators and observers of pain – I suspect that you’re right. But sometimes I also suspect that there are people, hookworms wearing cardboard skins, who have never been one of the five decent people. Eating the caramel centers of everyone else, nothing but an abstract hunger that feels like sugar coated greed.
Do they choose it? Do they continue on, from shell to shell, like a hermit crab, consuming the husks of real people, because the realness has been torn out of them, or because they don’t care? Because they don’t know how to stop it? Or, when a shell gets just a tiny bit uncomfortable, do they run screaming towards the next, newest, better home?
Do they even think, as I do, or do they simply hook into the soul with their hungry mouthparts and never know that they are vampiric? Or am I a different species of parasite altogether than these human monsters, emotional cannibals?
After all, I take my ghosts with me when I leave.
They aren’t shells. Not cardboard skins or a discarded pair of jeans. I have no right to pick them up and wear them as a paper umbrella for my chorus of ghosts. But I do. A door always comes, and I always go through.
And what happens when the protozoan wakes up inside the rat brain, and realizes that they don’t want to leave, to be torn and consumed and changed?
* * *
As always, Anya’s letters should be read in conjunction with Seth and Kiana’s letters, and all three are part of the Pen Pal Project, which you can join! For ease of reading, there is a handy masterpost.
Special shout out to Medleymisty and Xantheanmar, who write Seth and Kiana respectively, for waiting while I wrestled my schedule into the ground to produce the last few letters.