I put down my pencil and look back towards the half-open door, but no sound comes, not the barest echo. I wonder at first if I had imagined it, but then it comes again – not a sound as such, more a feeling, a painful longing that tugs at something deep inside my chest. And I know what I must do.
I am not quite sure how to go about this, but the first thing is to change into the clothes he last saw me in, so that he recognises me. In the three months since I have been here, I have changed, I I know that, and I don’t want him to see me and not know me. That would make me feel more profoundly dead than anything.
There are other ways, dark ways, that you can make yourself seen to loved ones from up here. There are those who have projected themselves, so that they appear to walk again, can even move things around, can hurt people (they are the ones with the unfinished business, out for revenge). Then there are others who do not look for people but are creatures of great habit who cannot break the pattern of the walks they used to take, their nightly routines to the kitchen for water, to the bathroom, looping back down the stairs to check they have turned the gas off, even though walls have since been built to block their paths, on they walk, unimpeded.
“The dead appear to us in dreams because that’s the only way they can make us see them; what we see is only a projection, beamed from a great distance, light shining at us from a dead star…”
This is how I hope to reach him. To show myself, to reassure him that somewhere, somehow, I am living on. And he is not to be sad anymore. I know that silent wail that is louder than anything I ever heard, came from him and his grief. I am just not quite sure how to do it that’s all. Perhaps it is like meditation, or perhaps I need to dream myself, though I haven’t slept since I came here.
I lie on my narrow bed and hug my legs to my chest, eyes tight shut, breathing deeply, thinking of him. A subtle movement wakes me and I open my eyes to see Dana perched at the very edge of my bed, looking down at me kindly.
Dana is one of the longer-term presences here with the bearing and stillness of a monk. He has a sharp nose and a disconcerting way of making me feel he can read my mind. When you arrive at this place, you get a room to yourself in the main complex, a cell really, and it’s already decorated to your taste. Mine has wood panelling, a fancy rug in the floor and wall-to-wall books; Dana’s is an exact replica of Tutankhamen’s tomb.
“Not now, not this way,” he says gently. I start to protest, the urge to comfort is so great, but he puts out his hand and helps me to my feet, pulling me towards to the door.
“He is young and will heal more quickly than you think,” Dana says as he guides me out into the corridor. We come to a halt with our elbows resting on the wrought-iron bannister that overlooks the great hall below.
“He will move on. And so,” he looks at me appraisingly, “will you. There is all this to contend with.” And he sweeps his hand over the railing to the hall below where a million souls are bustling and laughing, poring over great maps and windbagging about their past lives.