What Weighs Us Down by K.S. Trenten
The clock kept ticking away the hours. The woman, no longer old, looked down at the roll of coins she carried.
“Every one of them represents a precious memory,” she said. “I’m not sure if I want to give them up.”
“You must, if you want to join the feast,” her host said.
Ah, how she longed to join the souls sitting at the table! How every thread of her being sang with the soft sound of their laughter! She thought she’d never thought she’d see her grandmother, who’d died when she was a teenager. There was the girl she’d kissed in college, whom she’d later heard slashed her wrists, smiling in a way she’d never smiled when she was alive. There were her parents, holding hands like she hadn’t seen them in so long, even before they’d grown too aged to care about anything.
Every candle in the room burned with kindness, even though it was vast. The hall stretched down so far down she couldn’t see the end.
Not that it mattered. Everyone she’d ever known or loved was sitting at this end. Except for a few.
“What about the ones I left behind?” she asked. She rattled the change in her hand. Someone had been holding it, a withered wreck of flesh. She was no longer flesh and blood. She’d left that behind.
However, her flesh wasn’t the only thing she’d left behind.
“What about everyone who isn’t here?” she asked. “I’ll forget them, won’t I? My daughter, my grandchildren. If I sit down and feast, I’ll become part of all this.”
It was denial. She was already part of this. She was just holding onto something, keeping her light from joining the table. Not rejoining the greater whole, which this table, this feast was only a symbol, a shape which she continued to hang onto, trying to define by lost concepts. Tables, feasts, they’d been part of whom she’d been. Trying to experience things through the senses, why did she continue to do so?
It had been a long time since she’d used them, even before she’d…she’d….
She stared at her host, whom she couldn’t quite see, but a light shone through the human illusion, which was neither male nor female. It was something greater than both. It was all the stars, the earth, and the sun in my sky. It was every time she’d laughed, wept, and picked something up off the ground, and asked what its name was.
“Before you died,” her host said gently. “There’s no shame in admitting it. Everyone here has gone through what you have.”
“You,” she whispered. Tears filled her eyes, although she no longer had eyes. “This is something like phantom limb syndrome, isn’t it?”
“Something like that,” her host said. “One day, you’ll see your loved ones again. Just as everyone at the table sees you now.”
She could see the figures sitting at the table, people she’d once loved. Her own grandmother. Her parents. Her former beloved. Even her dog sat up at the table with an alert black nose.
She started to cry. She clutched the coins to her chest, holding onto the human emotion, the love, everything which had been her.
“That’s right,” her host said gently. “Let it all out. Let it all go.”
“I can’t!” she cried. “This is me! This is my life! This is everything I ever was, everything I ever loved!” She tightened her hands around the coins. “You can’t just expect me to let go of it! You can’t!”
“You can keep holding onto them,” her host said with merciless gentleness. “However, their weight will bring you down, down to a place which you no longer belong in.” Sorrow, compassion, and a quiet resignation to this fact filled her host’s voice.
These emotions resonated in every soul seated at the table. Each one trembled, as it remembered temptation. The temptation she felt now.
“Those who loved you will never be able to let go of you, nor you of them,” her host said. “You’ll watch them from the outside, unable to speak or communicate with them. You’ll never be reunited with them.”
Her grandmother looked up, with shining white hair, and a weathered apple face. Just as she remembered her as a child. A tear gleamed in the corner of a dark brown eye, which her grandmother fixed with such steady compassion upon her.
Once, her grandmother had faced this temptation. She’d held onto a roll of coins, one of which had been her granddaughter. A coin she hadn’t wanted to give up.
Her grandmother smiled at her. She nodded, every so slightly. Memories of a new tricycle out in a long ago back yard came back. She’d been a little afraid of her new tricycle, so her grandmother had gotten on it. Started peddling to show the little girl there was nothing to fear.
“If I give these up, there’s a chance I will,” she said, slowly. “I just have to be wait and be patient.”
Her grandmother nodded, again. A proud smile touched her wrinkled lips. It was the same expression she’d worn when her granddaughter bravely mounted the tricycle.
However, this form at the table was only a memory. As was every shape, including her dog. An illusion her former self clung to, to try to keep from moving on.
“The coins you hold are everything you were, when you were alive,” her host said.
“They’re only a fraction of what you are.”
Silently, her host stretched out a shining hand.
Silently, she dropped the coins into them. The clock stopped and chimed its last.
Once she let go, she felt lighter, unfettered. The feast, the souls, everything blurred into the bright light, as she went up and up, released from her material bonds.