Copyright 2019 Zoe Zuniga Fiction, short story
“Welcome home George!” I can barely perceive that a voice is talking to me, and I just about make out its meaning. I remember that I am George at least. I blank out and wake up screaming.
“George, George.” I hear a voice again in the distance. I begin to wail. I am afraid and disoriented, and everything is blurry as I try to see around me.
“George, it’s me, Marion.” I am held close to a shoulder, then turned over and laid on my back. I get dizzy. Suddenly I am looking up into a gigantic, blurry face. “Shh, shh,” She says. I am gently snuggled to a chest and rocked. “You had a bit of a rough time with the birth process, but everything is fine, and I must say you are looking adorable in this new little body.” I stop crying. The voice is familiar. This voice and face belong to my wife, Marion, I now remember. Her kind face is much bigger than usual. The wrinkles crease even more as she smiles at me.
“Oh good, I see you recognize me, lover. Get some sleep, and then we’ll process the birth. You’re doing just fine.”
Another old face comes into view, bearded. He smiles. “Hey George, old guy, looking good.”
“Hold his head” Marion urges as she hands me over.
“Well, you’ve done it again! This makes four times in the lucid state, eh?” He adjusts my blanket, wrapping my whole body tightly in the soft pastel coverlet. “I bet I look funny at this angle” I remember that this is my good friend Raphael. I recognize the voice, though not the face yet. I try to speak, but only a gurgle comes out. I can’t control the new tongue or lips yet.
“Oops!” He wipes away some dribble from my chin with a cotton diaper. “It’s ok, old friend. He smiles, and giant teeth glisten at me. I begin to fuss. I am dizzy, exhausted. I feel weak as a kitten. My head hurts like it has been squeezed, which of course it has when I came down the birth canal.
Raphael sets me down. “I’m going to help you to feel more comfortable.” He tells me and unwraps the blanket, exposing me to cool air. Raphael touches my shoulder. “Feel my Finger.” He says. I try to assent, but only a gurgle comes out. “Good,” He touches the other shoulder,” Feel my finger.”
“Excellent, George.” He goes over my whole body, front, and back. I start to feel calmer. “Feeling a little better?” He asks gently, “End of assist,” He wraps me back up in the little blue blanket. “All right, George, have some milk now, and we’ll continue later.
I realize my whole body fits in his hand as he slides it under my back to lift me again.
“Hold his head.” Marion reminds him as he hands me back to her. I was always the taller man and now look at me! I try to laugh, and then I am crying again.
“Oh, there, there, George.” Marion walks up and down with me against her shoulder. It is quite soothing, and I calm down. “Here is Laura, your new mommy, she is feeling fine and is ready to feed you; then you should both get some sleep.”
I am awake again, calmer this time. The assist Raphael did really helped but still, I can’t remember anything about the past. I feel perplexed. I try to look around at blurry white bars, but of course, I can’t move my head yet. I am in a crib I guess, beyond that a blue wall and maybe the corner of the window. I can’t turn myself to get a better view. I am lying on my back. Not much peripheral vision yet.
“It’s ok, George; I’m right here. Marion and Laura are both sleeping”. Raphael puts his large hand under me and lifts me close to his beard. “I know you are feeling disoriented, but in a couple of days when you have your strength, we’ll process the birth, and you will be back to your old self! I should say back to your new self!” Raphael gives a little chuckle and pats my back gently. I realize I can kick my legs a little, and I begin to do so. I let out an involuntary howl.
“Oh, you want to get started now?” Raphael asks, “Well, all right then.” He adjusts me in the little pajama sack I am wearing and begins to ask me questions; getting me to remember the birth process. Then we go back through the last nine months to see if I have any prenatal pain images that need cleaning up.
In the middle, I start to nod off. When I wake up, I am crying, and I’m given milk. I remember I am George, but who is George?” Images of places are starting to pour back in. I see a desert scene, people in Middle Eastern robes with the wind whipping around their legs. Then the English countryside, then a young blond man in primitive armor. This is fun, like a movie montage only with smells too, and more vivid. The images are overlapping and coming in fast now. I am crying again — voices in many languages, music, more scenes. Now I am terrified again. I bellow at the top of my lungs.
It’s Marion who picks me up this time. Raphael must be resting. As we pass the window, I see that it is night. My wife begins to ask me questions, and suddenly I am back in the scene from right before this birth. Now I begin to remember how I got to be here in this little infant body.
II. shedding the old skin
Now I remember that final day in the last body I inhabited. I am hurrying to meet with my new family one last time. We will finish all the paperwork, and then I’ll be ready to vacate this old shell. Birth is tough, but I know what to expect because this will be my fourth trip. Someday we might evolve a more elegant way to continue life, but at least I will be in good hands and not out among the “heathen” as I like to call the pre- lucid jokingly.
I remember walking from the parking lot on this final day in the old shell and making my way slowly up the walkway to the castle that holds one of the oldest branches of the Church. I can barely make it. I am an old man getting ready to cast off a body that has no more mileage left on it. The weather is mild, but I am so thin that I am easily chilled. Newcomers are streaming in and out of the building around me, moving much faster than I can. They are coming and going from the beginning classes. They carry bags of books. A couple of the young staff boys stand around smoking cigarettes. A young woman smiles at me as she slogs by with damp braids and a bag with a towel and sandals sticking out the top.
She is coming from the detoxification program. I can tell she is very new, but she seems more alert than some of the newcomers. One of the first things we do for them when we start the processing is to get them to sweat out all the chemicals this society pumps into them. When they start in the lower levels of the organization, they have no idea what wonders The Church can hold for them, these half-awake little pre-lucids.
I’ve had one hundred and fifty good years in this body, the first twenty, ironic as it may seem, as a Church Elder. Yes, this body has served me well. But like the butterfly-to-be, it is time to shed this skin and spend another nine months in the hopper to come out all glistening and wet and new again.
My daughter Nina, or should I say my sister Wendell, was the first to do this successfully. This was over three hundred years ago, and there weren’t many families of high enough caliber to be born into. Most people ended up lost again, born into unenlightened families outside of The Church. These outsider families thought these babies were just stupid, cute, little infants with no history or knowledge. We didn’t know then how to keep the births inside The Church. So, it was an uphill battle recruiting people, getting them sane again, and moving them up the ladder to remembering who they were. Then they would up and die after 80 or 90 years and have to start the whole process all over again. We had theorized in The Church for years about whether someone sufficiently high up in awareness level could pull this off, changing bodies, that is.
Nina was my daughter in this particular life, and like most of the children in our community, she was extremely bright, but I had no idea who she really was.
We always spoke to the children with great respect and treated them gently, knowing they had come out of the last life with lots of losses. Having to start over in a new body every 80 or 90 years is not easy, as you may well know. It takes a few years to get a feel for the thing, and without proper processing out in the world with ignorant parents, it is hell.
But we start processing the kids from birth, so it is easier on those born into a family of The Church. Nowadays, most of the kids are pretty clear and have full memory by the time they are three or four. This was a problem at first since we didn’t have our own schools. It would be “Ok. Joey, don’t read Sanskrit on the school bus because it makes the other kids uncomfortable.”
So when our first lucid rebirth came through I was right there to witness the results. Nina, my little toddler, was sitting on the couch with a pile of books as usual. She was two at the time, little feet just sticking out straight in front of her and pudgy hands laboring over the pages of a giant art book when she spotted one of her own paintings. She gave me a little smile. “I remember when I did this.” She told me.
“You do?” I said. My hair was standing up on the back of my neck already. If this was true, it was just too weird. Even though we had been hoping this would happen and planning for it to happen, I just was not ready.
She smiled at me again. “You probably don’t believe me, but it’s true.” The child explained seriously sounding much older than two as usual with her lisping high baby voice. “I had just finished the big show in San Diego, and this one was not even in the show; it was just a little experiment. At the time, I didn’t even think of it as finished.”
I sat down next to her moving a book in Chinese out of the way a bit as I sat down. “So it is you Wendell? What else do you remember?”
“Well, the last couple of years are pretty vivid, but the in-between place is a little murky. Of course, you processed me through the birth trauma at two months, so I’m ok about that. But we should probably deal with the prenatal cellular memories before they get re-stimulated and get me into trouble. The years as a high advisor in The Church are pretty well intact as well as the 30 or 40 lives I had processed back through at the time I sloughed off the old body.” Her weird sense of humor was still intact too.
I just sat and stared for a minute. “It is you. How did you manage it?” I finally got out.
The child nodded with gravity. “It’s me all right. Let’s call a meeting of the High Advisors so that I can explain this to everybody at once. The sooner we can set up a technique for making sure people get reborn into the right families, the sooner we stop the attrition that comes every time someone dies.”
“Agreed,” I grabbed the child up in my arms. “Gosh, I have always said that you remind me of your aunt Wendell, but I missed the fact that you are my sister Wendell!
She giggled just like a two-year-old and then she said in her high lispy voice. “Get to the phone, George, this is important.”
“Righto, Nina! Wait! Should I keep calling you Nina or Wendell?” I was all shook up, but the child seemed to think the situation was perfectly natural.
III. Lucid Transference
It took quite a while to figure out the best way to draw the spirit back to the right mockup. Once you leave the old body, it can be a little uncanny trying to figure out where you are and what to do next. It was pretty comical at first. We tried banging big gongs while the chosen couple made love in one room, and the old person was dying in the other room. Of course, this was hard on the person who was dying and on the poor couple who got out of the mood for sex pretty fast. We thought maybe the spirit would follow this noise. We weren’t sure when the soul entered the fetus. Was it right at birth, or was it right at conception or somewhere in between? It was hit or miss for a while.
Sometimes we lost a person only to find them joining the church “for the first time” or so they thought, as adults. Suddenly in the middle of processing, they would remember who they were, and we’d have to work out how they had ended up in Taiwan or someplace far from where the old body had died.
Sometimes we would think we had lost a person. A couple that had just had a baby expecting a returning church member would often say; “No this is definitely not so and so, but she’s a good kid anyway and is coming right along up the ladder.” Then the person would show up as a two or three-year-old in some entirely different family within the Church but in some other part of the world. Luckily, we went back to the drawing board using the same engineering principles The Founder had used to bring back unconscious memories in the first place and came up with the solution. Through trial and error, we have come up with a process that works. We can’t really prove why it works, and we are admittedly still a little hazy on the in-between place. I can’t write down the procedure for Lucid-Transference into a new body here because it is only to be used by Church Elders. Don’t try this at home, so to speak! Sorry, but you will have to understand our secrecy. Hey, join the Church if you want to learn all the secrets!
I can tell you that the process includes controlling when one leaves the body and ways to identify the new mockup after you have done this once or twice, it gets easier. The first time you try to control the process, it is a little unnerving, but we prepare well ahead these days to make it as smooth and pain-free as possible. We also try to extend life through other processes, so we don’t have to use up so many bodies while we work to process this whole planet. Adjusting to a new mockup can especially weird at first because All your friends are old and suddenly you have this three-year-old spending time with their 75-year-old spouse or 80-year-old sibling or wanting to be brought to a writers conference to talk with former colleagues and yet still having to be wheeled around in a stroller. Don’t get me wrong; you still get to play and horse around a lot when you’re a kid within The Church. I guess we tend to horse around at pretty much any age.
Back at the beginning with so few pregnant women in the higher levels of The Church people were having to be born as the infant sons and daughters of their own children if no one else was available to carry the mockup.
The kids were more than happy to oblige. But still, I’m glad those days are over. It was awkward when you suddenly have mom or dad in the crib in the next room. Luckily, we have such a large pool of enlightened families within The Church now waiting to have kids, so I had my pick of families for my next life.
We have had to be very careful that these newly reborn people don’t terrify outsiders. The Church was attacked in the late twentieth Century for being too controversial since we were healing all kinds of diseases and mental illnesses. We were a threat to the status quo. And we knew outsiders wouldn’t take to this idea of being able to control one’s choice of family and continue one’s life work in a new body. It just seems to make these pre-enlightened types nervous.
So, we have had to codify things to protect ourselves. In the lower levels of the Church, people don’t have any inkling of what goes on in the Birthing Centers. Legal issues have had to be handled to keep a persons’ property ready for them when they get big enough to drive that Ferrari or finish that work in progress. So usually people put homes into Church trusts to hold for them in the next life or a family member will hold down the fort until the person is ready to take up possession of things again.
My wife and I are getting ready to decide what to do with our house since she is almost ready to transition as well. We don’t know if we will want the house back later. We are thinking of giving it to the kids. We both have enough savings in our Church Funds that we can live anywhere we want.
When you go into a new body, you do get a different perspective on things, so I am not making and set-in-stone decisions this time around. When my wife is reborn to a new family, we both are hoping our relationship will bloom again in our new bodies. We still love each other and found out we had been married in 2 other lives centuries before we even became lucid about such things.
In any case, The Church is flourishing, and people are now able to pick up lives pretty much where they left off with a 9-month vacation every 90 to 150 years. It may not be a perfect solution, but it is a lot better than having to start every new life with no past skills intact.
IV. Full Circle
I can now recall what happened right before I went back into the womb. My wife Marion is settling me down for the journey; a room lit with candles in one of the secret Birthing Alcoves of The Church. “See you on the other side, I tell her.” And give her one last kiss, patting her beautiful snow-white curls with my gnarled old hand.
“I’ll be right here to welcome you home when you wake up,” she promises, and so she is. I have now come full circle to process my first memory in this new body: I see my wife leaning down to pick me up: “Welcome home, George!” I can barely perceive that a voice is talking to me, and I just about make out its meaning. I remember that I am George and that all have been remembered up to the present moment in my wife’s arms.