We saw the lives we had just departed, he and me.
“It wasn’t her,” our Jon voice said. “She didn’t kill me with poison or with needles. It was just a drink to help me sleep. I was so tired but could not sleep. My body ached in every ancient joint and weary bone. My belly burned and rumbled and I had to pee so bad but couldn’t make it come. I was restless, awake in the night and she had work to do and she just wanted to go back to the Hub and sit. It wasn’t her helper, Rosa, either. It was none of them. How did I not know that. I spent all that time in pointless pursuit. For crying out loud, I was stuck in that place with all those old people. Of course they were dying off, they were old, at the end of their time, just like me. How could I have been so stupid, so paranoid to think that some killer was out to prevent me from reaching the Singularity.”
“But there,” our Snorri voice said. “She was a killer. Before she came to your Lodge. She ended the life of many innocent helpless old people. She was sick in her mind; thought she was easing their suffering. The suffering of being old. Perhaps it was the right thing to do, to end that time. Better than to suffer the horror of having your head chopped in two. She was determined to rehabilitate herself from her crimes when she came to your Lodge, trying to escape the inner demons that possessed her so many years. She lived her own hell.”
“She sought solace and escape in liquor and narcotic. Such a sad thing.”
“A lot of the multitudes,” our Snorri voice said. “Why choose such a life to experience.”
We saw her life from its beginning to end. Every moment, every tragedy, every joy, every twist and turn as if her entire life was a play acted out before us, from her emergence from the womb, to her sudden death and the dissolution of her body. We saw the essence of Nurse Shirley become a gaseous cloud, then a halo, then a shimmering lensing, as if drawn by gravity or some other force. It was the same for us. The same for Mr. Z, Peter van der Groot, Greta Lundberg and even John Blount. The same for Sturla, Loftsson, Hallveig and Harriet. The same for those lives that were still living once we were not. They were the hands tapping on us for our attention. They and all the infinite multitude, coming and going into their infinite lives.
I saw our lives, as if I were a bird hovering above and our lives were playing themselves out below. I saw the whole of our lives from birth up to the moments of our physical deaths, in entirety, painted in a continuous living portrait, with every second of our lives in motion. I was confused at first, at the living spectacle, of all moments occurring all at once, continuously, but then, the longer I observed our lives, the more sense it made to me, to us.
‘Of course. It has always been this way; it is always this way. We were returned.’
All the lives between me and him and those lives before and after us were ‘us’.
“You were just old then,” we said. “Confused and suspicious.”
“I know,” our Jon voice said. “I know that now.” His words were my words.
“You know then that it was her, the other one. She couldn’t help it. You have seen her life from beginning to end and she was meant to be the one. She has always been the one, every time this life has lived.”
“Yes, it was her, of course. And she has always left the same way.”
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