Contest #140 winner 🏆

150 comments

Fiction

Can you hear me?


I remember being reborn a thousand times.


In the between-times, and at the very start and end of a life, the memories are strong. I remember the warmth of the sun on my crumpled wings as they unfold for one brilliant bright day of flight. I relive the elation of the chase and the sinking of my teeth into the throat of my prey- what a joy it is to satisfy physical hunger. I recall the agony of being prey, because of course, all things must balance out in the end. My heart has pumped cold blood through sinuous coils and thumped its warm-blooded rhythm from ocean depths.


Like you, I am the sum of a million experiences.


It’s true that the messy, bloody rebirth into the world as a human stuns me every time. The shock of union as soul re-joins body. The violent expulsion through the birth canal. The startling sensation of air on skin, after an age of ethereal floating. The instinctive gasp, that first mortal wail. And so it begins again, and I’m here at the start of a new life.


You and I are not here together by chance. Karma pulls souls with the persistence of a river to the place they belong. For those not yet enriched enough by suffering- well, fate always finds a way to make things fair. I’ve lived my share of troubled lives, and I’ve mostly learned how to transcend them by serving my purpose with patience and compassion. Karma is as undeniable as gravity, and we must exist in harmony with it. This is how the warp and weft of the universe is woven.


When it was time to begin again, I was drawn to my mother over all others. What pattern has been set out for us I can’t yet say. As she grew the miraculous mass of stardust and water that became my body, I surrounded her with my energy until she shone. Then I sunk, as sure as an anchor dropping, into the tiny infant form that will now grow and carry me through this life. I’m only a few days old and I’m waiting to be both teacher and learner. I’m eager to meet the other embodied souls whose lives are entwined with mine.


I sleep a lot. I dream of the coloured currents of bliss in the supernatural soup from which we come. I wake and the ancient sensation of hunger drives my little body into a rage. I'm not yet skilled in exercising the intricate pathways of my brain, and I squirm and grunt with frustration. My body feels cumbersome. These early days are both familiar and vexing, as I remember the restrictions and the pleasures of flesh. My new senses thrill at the smell and sound of my mother as she comforts me, and my immature eyes learn to focus on her face. I wonder at the journey she is taking and the role I will play.


Soon, all the memories from before will fade and I’ll be fully immersed in the point of time and space my body occupies. I’ll only know the world around me through my mortal senses. I’ll forget how sunlight felt on my wings, and will long only for the warmth of my mother’s body. The desire to satisfy hunger will only bring memories of milk, not blood. It will take time to relearn the workings of the natural world. I’ll have a simple, finite sense of self. I’ll no longer know where body becomes soul, and where soul becomes eternity.


Echoes of past lives will emerge, as they always do. Brutal urges to survive at the expense of others, perhaps. Humanity can be as ugly as it is sublime. We’ve all expressed violence and selfishness, especially in early lives. I’ll have no notion of where these forces come from, but I’ll be measured by how I channel them. I wonder if the wisdom I’ve gained will persist strongly enough in my subconsciousness to prevail.


But for now, having just arrived, still settling into this soft seedcase of flesh, I remember everything. I am wiser that my parents could ever comprehend, yet helpless to communicate a word of it to them.


My parents have placed me in your arms, excited to introduce us. They are anxious to check that that the crook of your fragile elbow is supporting my head. Your embrace is stiff and awkward, but it accommodates my weight.


He’s such an easy baby, my mother tells you.


We’re naming him after you, Dad, my father says. Who do you think he takes after?


You peer into my face, pull a doubtful expression. Well, I don’t know, you begin.


We gaze at each other, mutually intrigued, and my parents are struck by how we appear simultaneously serious and serene. They marvel at the beauty of the very old cradling the very young. We are alike, you and I. We have in common the love of my parents, and we hold a symmetry by being at the two opposing ends of life; bookends with a library of experience between us. You lift a sinewed hand and stroke the curve of my cheek.


I see how you are coming to the end of your journey. Your body has become a husk, ready to release you back to the universe. You’re starting to remember the unseen ocean of energy that surrounds us. I can sense your longing to return to it, your desire to be free again. The years went by so quickly, you think, as you almost remember eternity and understand that your brief time is no more than the blink of an eye.


But you’re still so strongly tethered to this life. The jangling currents of pain in your aged nerves serve as kite strings, constantly bringing you back to your body. The unfulfilled wishes and wants of the years weigh heavily in you. You are afraid, because you can’t yet see anything beyond. It makes you bewildered and resistant. You’re stuck.


This will be my first purpose then. To help you remember what happens next, to reassure you that you can let go as soon as you’re ready. I’m here now, and I’ll comfort my mother and father when you’re gone.


Can you hear me?


I don’t know who he takes after, you say. But I see an old soul behind those eyes.

April 03, 2022 14:47

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150 comments

Riel Rosehill
14:52 Apr 12, 2022

Hi L, This was so beautifully written - such a wholesome story to read, and I like the motion that this old soul is not just one with old human lives behind but lives of other creatures. Is it weird that in the back of my mind I think the next time I look at a baby I will be so creeped out thinking they might be thinking of the taste of blood in a past life? Now that could be a horror story! I'm sorry I knw this is not what you intended, my thoughts are weird, your story is beautiful!

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L. Maddison
17:18 Apr 12, 2022

Hey Riel! Thanks so much for your comments- not too traumatised I hope- the flip side of a vivid imagination, right? 😂

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Riel Rosehill
16:42 Apr 15, 2022

Oh wow, a winner!!! Well done!

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Shea West
18:59 Apr 16, 2022

Hello L., I found your story to be incredibly ethereal, with this prose that just made my body feel so safe. It's a testament to the writing when there's a visceral response while I read. I see why this one took the good this week. Welcome to Reedsy, I look forward to reading more of your work😍

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L. Maddison
17:38 Apr 17, 2022

Hi Shea Thanks so much for your thoughts, I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed reading it. I couldn’t believe I’d won to be honest! 😂

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Shea West
17:39 Apr 17, 2022

I think we all have that feeling anytime we get recognition as writers🤦🤦🤦 It was a worthy win❤️

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Lori Brock
22:32 Jun 22, 2022

Wow!

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Laura Eliz
15:38 May 03, 2022

Absolutely beautiful.

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L. Maddison
16:57 May 03, 2022

Thank you Laur!

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Susan Wilkins
18:19 Apr 26, 2022

Very nice. It is comforting to entertain and embrace the ideas you have presented here about life beginning and ending. I have also thought that babies know way more than we think, but can not express the knowing because they can not speak intelligibly yet. What a clever way to keep secrets.

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11:08 Apr 21, 2022

Whilst I disagree with the concept, this story it well-written enough to be engaging nevertheless. And that's high praise I reckon :-)

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L. Maddison
05:51 Apr 24, 2022

Hi Marcus, much appreciated, thank you!

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Felice Noelle
14:06 Apr 10, 2022

Such a flowing, lyrical story. Sometimes when I read, I get a feeling of resonance, like more than just relating to the story. Your tale really is one of those. Such a unique POV from that of a newborn. Scientists are finding new things about babies all the time, and who knows, maybe they have some sort of cognition. If they do, I think your writing aptly describes what a new "old soul" might be thinking. Thanks for a good read, provocative, too. Maureen

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L. Maddison
18:10 Apr 10, 2022

Hello Maureen, I’m so glad you enjoyed reading this. I’ve often been fascinated by how wise and otherworldly newborns appear. So much to wonder about. Many thanks for reading.

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Michał Przywara
19:28 Apr 09, 2022

This is a fascinating story. I like the start/end of life duality between the grandchild and the grandparent. I also thought the line "Then I sunk, as sure as an anchor dropping, into the tiny infant form that will now grow and carry me through this life" was neat. Vivid. The spirit drops as an anchor, but the infant also is an anchor, at least for a time. Thanks for sharing!

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L. Maddison
07:55 Apr 10, 2022

I really appreciate your thoughts- thank you!

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Michał Przywara
17:06 Apr 15, 2022

Congratulations on the win!

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L. Maddison
17:16 Apr 17, 2022

Thanks Michal!

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Aida Muturia
16:41 Apr 17, 2022

I should have said exactly what this commentor has said about that anchor part. Whoosh! I pressed rewind! And then some. I mean, I am forever touched and immersed into this journey because of this story. The end was incredible! Thanks again. I'm bedazzled!

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L. Maddison
17:18 Apr 17, 2022

Hello Aida I’m so glad you enjoyed reading this story. Many thanks for your lovely comment!

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Aida Muturia
21:01 Apr 17, 2022

Ofcourse ❤️

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L.M. Lydon
13:46 Apr 04, 2022

This story verges on poetic. I like your third paragraph in particular and the end, where the baby/consciousness speculates on purpose is also spectacular.

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L. Maddison
20:56 Apr 04, 2022

Hello L.M, thank you for your lovely feedback! I really appreciate it.

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Lily Finch
16:32 Aug 25, 2022

Thank you, L for the story! I thought this story was intriguing. I was interested in the concept of the anchors. The spirit and then the child, albeit for a moment. I always thought about what was behind a child's eyes, and your story made me think differently about how I might look at newborns now. Thanks for the read. Congratulations on your win. Well deserved. LF6

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L. Maddison
18:01 Aug 28, 2022

Hello Lily I'm so glad you enjoyed reading it and honoured that it has made you think differently about something- that's magical to hear.

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Lily Finch
23:49 Aug 28, 2022

Yes, that is the reward of good reading. Thank you again. LF6

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L. E. Scott
00:18 Aug 14, 2022

Very good. I like the flow. It seems to me very poetic.

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B Littleyork
16:36 Jun 24, 2022

Wow. I’m new to Reedsy and this is one of the best stories I’ve ever read about the life cycle and reincarnation. Your concept and words are beautiful.

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L. Maddison
16:11 Jun 27, 2022

Hi B, I’m so glad you enjoyed this. I look forward to reading some of your work. Welcome to Reedsy!

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Dionne Nichols
21:56 Jun 11, 2022

Hello L. Maddison, This story was a pleasure to read. It nails esoteric existentialism to a tee! I certainly see why you won, and I love your writing style.

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20:03 Jun 09, 2022

"But you’re still so strongly tethered to this life. The jangling currents of pain in your aged nerves serve as kite strings, constantly bringing you back to your body." Oh my gosh. I had such a visceral reaction to this and many other places. Bravo!

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L. Maddison
19:41 Jun 11, 2022

Thank you Julia :)

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Avery Mossop
10:49 Jun 07, 2022

Wow! This was so beautiful! I love the concept and your writing is so evocative! Thanks for sharing this. :)

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L. Maddison
22:06 Jun 07, 2022

Thank you Avery :)

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Self Realizer
19:55 Jun 05, 2022

One of my best short story reads. U have done a really amazing job. I felt like i was experiencing everything written in your story due to your beautiful writing. Definitly win worthy

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L. Maddison
06:56 Jun 06, 2022

Thanks very much, your feedback is really appreciated.

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Hope E
04:17 Jun 03, 2022

I think this story is going to stick with me for a very long time, and I hope you never delete it. I wish I could keep it in a small book or something because this was more comforting than anything I’ve learned in a while.

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L. Maddison
08:56 Jun 03, 2022

Hi, Hope, I’m so glad this story has held meaning for you. Thank you for reading.

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Adalynne Peak
18:10 May 26, 2022

i love this story-it is about trying to figure out who he takes after and they seen the old soul behind his eyes

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L. Maddison
19:54 May 26, 2022

Hello Adalynne, I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for your comment :)

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Desiree Haros
00:28 May 19, 2022

I'm sure this sounds like a broken record to you, but your words flowed beautifully throughout this piece. I look forward to reading more of your work.

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L. Maddison
19:23 May 19, 2022

Hi Desiree, If it’s a broken record I’m truly flattered to hear it- thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts.

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Graham Kinross
22:14 May 12, 2022

I see why this won. Great story.

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