We are writing the ghosts that haunt us. We write them out onto the page hoping that they might continue long after we have gone. Someday they will haunt the world, but for now they just haunt us when we close our eyes, and we consider ourselves lucky for it.
To haunt is to become attached to a place. This usage predates the ghostly association. When we create, we’re building a home for the ghosts that animate us, spirits of persons who never existed from worlds that were never born. A little creative exercise or exorcism. It’s that or live with them indefinitely. When we finally get them out of our head, though, usually something else moves in soon after, and the process starts all over again.
When we publish them, something changes, solidifies. They become frozen in time instead of constantly shifting with us, anchored in place instead of sailing on our ship, and we find we start to drift away from the spirit that once animated us. When we come back to visit, or when we speak to someone who met the ghosts we left behind, someone who maybe even loved them, it’s easy to be dismayed at how wrong, how grotesquely naive or superficially knowing that which we once dedicated ourselves to now seems. Also, sometimes, it’s easy to be amazed at how good they are, at how this aspect of self which seemed dull and uninteresting at the time gleams with even a light patina of age and distance.
Even after we sink they carry on, if anyone cares to listen. They keep on speaking, advocating for us, or a frozen state of who we were. Audio logs left for future players, trying to catch them up to a plot that moved on without them.
These ghosts are our terror and our consolation. It’s crushing to have any insight into how things might be other than they are because it casts this world’s flaws in a light that shows detail. But it’s also a way to envision worlds that might be better, or worse, or just stranger, and share that. Our ghosts breed, symbiotic with us, trading ideas and visions for sustenance, and it’s a bargain we gladly make because it’s the only hint of immortality we can find. It’s a pathetic vicarious immortality, perhaps, but we settle for the best immortality we can get.