The Great Man’s Ghost

He’d died 963 years 2 months and 13 days earlier.

The novel was, thankfully, finished, when he died. It was this that kept his memory alive for so long.

If he were forced to guess while still among the living, he’d have guessed he would have been remembered for his shrewd business skills or his rise to political prominence.

In fact, he’d often imagined, while his heart still beat, that he would be remembered.

And so it was.

Yet he was remembered for the novel, and it shifted the culture significantly for a number of years, and vestiges of his impact ran their course for centuries.

He realized somewhere within the first 150 years following his death that his impact would be finite, and as the years cycled by, he began to notice that there was some sort of equilibrium of the human condition that humanity was always returning to after the turbulence of a momentous event.

He saw that when someone was truly forgotten the impacts and shifts that their lives created in the world became as though they never were. He’d even questioned whether or not they had ever actually been there in the first place.

He’d also often wondered what it was that he was. He still seemed conscious, but not lucid. He could feel his body, but did not have one.

One more peculiarity, especially at first, is the fact that he was summoned wherever the crowd summoned him to, even if it required him to be in multiple places at once.

Every time someone thought specifically of him, or quoted him and talked about him, a piece of his being was summoned to observe and record.

Simultaneity was a strange experience from the beginning, and it never got any less strange.

But then the summoning had begun to dry up, and the stories moved further and further from a well-formed and fully-conceived memory or story and closer and closer to an overwrought collection of his greatest hits being altered to fit a narrative surrounding the primacy of comfort.

He had not experienced simultaneity in over 75 years.

And then one day, the last living person who remembered him no longer did.

This caused a strange shift within him.

He began to be summoned to experience a recounting of the channels his influence had carved following his death.

As he did, the memories and experiences in the recounting disappeared into the nothingness. And the world would shift around him to compensate for the fact that that part of him no longer was.

He finally understood the mechanism behind the equilibrating. He finally understood why humanity constantly acted as though the actions of their ancestors had never happened.

They hadn’t.

Not any more. Once they were completely forgotten in the world of the actual, they ceased to be actual.

He relived every experience he’d had since his death, and he wondered why it felt like reliving rather than a lifeless memory, and as he wondered such things the gravity of the experience and the impact of his life was erased from the course of history.

He wondered what would happen when he returned to the point of his death, if the process would stop, but it did not, it carried on.

There was a difference.

He realized that his life was connected to the lives of the people he had known and loved, his blood and his heart, all were removed from existence, for his memory was all that kept their memory relevant.

He watched the lives of his wife and children become undone. He watched every friendship he’d ever had unmade and the people with whom those friendships had been forged were exposed to the same dissolution.

His siblings went too.

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And then he was in the arms of his mother, he felt the calloused hand of his father laid upon his back, comforting.

And then he was seeing the bright lights of the hospital room, the first lights he’d ever seen that hadn’t been muted by the body of his mother.

He was in the womb, warm and dark and nurturing.

And then his mother was gone, and his father.

And so was he.

Every trace was removed from the world. No more shaping, no more influencing, no more anything.

And then…

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