DO GHOSTS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SLEEP?

For all of time, a ghost was wandering. He was growing tired, which is not to say that his body was fatiguing, as he had no body to exhaust. Nor was his mind tired, as he didn’t quite have one of those either, though I can forgive you for thinking otherwise as we proceed with our story. In what way he was growing tired is not easy to explain, but suffice it to say, he was desperate to lie down, even knowing this to be an impossibility without a body of any kind. Still, he tried and tried again with increasing frustration as he floated through everything he came in contact with, if he came in contact with anything at all.

”Oh bother,” he cried to himself. “There must be a way to rest. Forever is a long time to be drifting without rest. I simply must find a way.”

His persistence might be admired if anyone took notice. He made countless attempts, which would take over a thousand pages to tell, so I’ll summarize. He tried beds first, ever the optimist, and also lakes, trees, and even large magnets (don’t ask.) The only attempt that might be called a success of any sort, was when he tried lying on a good, strong wind. The wind did, in fact, blow him about, but as for rest, he found none. In fact, he found himself even more exhausted with each effort.

He became distraught as he ran out of options, eventually collapsing in despair. He allowed himself to sink down into the earth, which refused to stop his descent. Deeper and deeper he went, into the cool dark, without any thought beyond his own misery. How long he sank is not clear; when you’ve been alive forever, any finite period of time seems to go by quickly enough. It was dark as dark can be down there. Even darker perhaps. So you can imagine his surprise when he drifted into a great chamber filled with lights and hundreds of busy little people wearing green suits, and red pointed hats. They were a rather small people, no taller than squirrels on their hind legs, and they were working diligently.

The ghost drifted curiously through and was fascinated by the mushroom gardens they were tending to, which seemed to be thriving. The walls were lined with small crevices that looked like little homes. There were tunnels that seemed to indicate that much more than this chamber lay beyond. The ghost floated across the middle of the cavern when he heard—

“Intruder!”

The small people all turned and began pointing excitedly at the ghost.

”You guys can see me?” the ghost said calmly. He was not afraid, but very surprised.

”Of course we can see you!”

”I apologize for intruding on your home. I am simply a lost ghost looking for rest, but it looks like I shall not find it. Not here, not anywhere.”

Shouts of “SPIRIT!” began ringing out across the hall as the little people seemed to transition seamlessly from concern to excitement.

The ghost was amused as many of the small people ran away, and he was surprised to see them return with bellows in their hands, which they immediately directed and pumped toward the ghost. The wind from the bellows blew the ghost towards a corner of the cave and into a tunnel. He might have tried resisting and flying up through the solid ground, but he wasn’t what might be called a ‘fighting spirit.’

When he reached the tunnel he was quickly sucked in. The mysterious tunnel of wind led him down a winding darkness until he entered a small room by passing through the burning fireplace. The woman tending the fire looked up and then went right back to her work, as if this was a perfectly normal occurrence. 

The room was so small that he didn’t think he could possibly fit inside, if he indeed had a size, which of course he did not. There was a spiraling staircase going up, and he saw a little old man sitting at a desk in front of a window which was strangely lit by glowing mushrooms on the opposite side. It was as if they were in a house above ground, not deep within the Earth.

”Are you ready, Spirit?” the little old man said without looking up.

“What is this place?”

“Are you ready?” he repeated.

“Ready for what?”

“You want rest, don’t you?”

“How— How did you know?”

“You’re here, aren’t you?” The little man smiled and looked up at the ghost. ”How did you lose your body?”

”I… didn’t.”

”I mean, how did you die?”

”I didn’t!”

”You never had a body?”

The ghost turned away from the little man and caught the eye of the woman who now gazed intently at him. ”I didn’t want one,” he said, turning back toward the little man. He would have given a doubtful look if he had a face to do so. “Any number of awful things can happen to the body. Pain, death…”

”And how do you feel now?”

”I just want to rest.”

”A good sign! Perhaps you are ready?”

”But, having a body seems even more exhausting.”

”Have you not figured it out yet?” the little old man said with a smile. “With a body comes the gift you seek.”

The ghost’s non-existent face lit up as he thought about this. “Sleep,” he said finally.

“A gift so great I cannot possibly explain it to you, but your heart already desires it. And you can have it.”

“My heart? I don’t have a heart.”

The gnome laughed. “You don’t. But you do.”

”What does that even mean?”

”It’s like the rest of you. Are you really even here?

The ghost was puzzled by this question. He looked down at his hands, which he had to agree, were not there. ”Let’s say I was interested. Isn’t it too late? I already rejected a body.”

”It’s never too late, and it seems fate has delivered you here. That door,” he said with a gesture. “If you want rest, then you must pass through it.”

”Who are you?”

”Just a gnome!” he laughed. “But the nicest thing that has been said about me is that I am a friend of trees.

“Down here? A friend of trees? How is that possible?”

”Their roots go deep.” The old gnome glanced toward the door. “At least the great ones do.”

“What’s through the door?”

”If you want life, body, rest, and purpose, then pass through it, and meet my friend.” The woman walked over, gripped the handle, and pulled the door open, revealing a small pocket of earth, and the tip of what must have been a tree root.

”This is our friend,” the old gnome said, with light in his eyes.

”It’s… glowing…”

”A sign that he will take you now, if you are ready.”

“I don’t understand.”

”And you never will, until you go. Really the choice is yours. To be, or not!”

“But I will lose my freedom.”

”Which freedom is that?”

”The freedom to come and go where I please.”

”Is there freedom in that?”

”I can’t imagine being a prisoner to form.”

“Form is not a prison,” the old gnome said with a chuckle. “It is the beginning of freedom. And it’s clear to me that you have already begun to realize this. But the choice, as always, is yours.”

The ghost paused for a time, maybe a long time, then finally reached out his non-existent hand and touched the root.

What happened next cannot be properly described, so I will do so improperly. The ghost felt immediately drawn in, and trapped. No longer free to drift through walls or drift through anything. He was pulled up through the extensive roots at a pace that would make a snail impatient. The roots carried him up to the trunk, the trunk carried him up to the branches, and the branches brought him out and gave him his new form. He was unable to move, but what the ghost wanted now was not movement, but rest, and he was finally able to sleep. Not just any sleep, but a deep and restful one. And he was adorned with as fine a sleeping cap as you’ll find. Just as all acorns are.

His life as an acorn was more beautiful than you can imagine, but it was not what you and I might call eventful, so we shall move our story quickly past this. One fateful day, our ghost-turned-acorn, fell from his tree, hit the ground, rolled down a gentle slope and— well he slept through all of this, and this time was not brief, but eventually he found himself in the right conditions and began to sprout. This was his first awakening from that strange, deep slumber. He felt the wind moving him and the sky calling him. He outstretched his branches ever towards the enticing sun, and he sunk his roots deeper and deeper, gripping the earth as a child cleaves unto his mother. Every winter he would sleep again, and every spring he would awaken with a renewed vigor. The higher his branches went, the deeper his roots grew, until many summers had passed and he finally felt what he was looking for: a pocket beneath the earth.

“Is that you?” a voice called up through the deepest root.

”Yes,” the ghost-turned-tree whispered to the old gnome. “Thank you for helping me so many years ago.”

”You’re not mad? I have tricked you, trapping you into an immovable form!”

The tree could only smile at his friend’s joke. 

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