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I'm not sure what I expected. I came to and pulled the tuppence off my eyelids, to find myself on the shore of a river. I had thought the Thames a river of note, but this was like a sea that happened to be flowing in a single direction. I got to my feet and joined the crowd shuffling down to the dock.

The ferryman was nice enough about it. "You are the only child of William and Elizabeth Rigby?"

"Yes, sir."

"I'm afraid your ancestors are two pence behind on their taxes. I'll just take those in payment. Next!"

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Dearly beloved, we stand here in evening sadness after our morning jubilation. For just as the day must yield to night, so must our life yield to mortality. But do not forget the promise of salvation, that we may have life eternally.

Let us pray.

O Lord, look with pity on this poor child, who has left this vale of tears while seeking sustenance in thy house.
We beseech thee, take her unto thy embrace and suffer not her soul to roam in lonely perpetuity.
Send thy angel to watch over her, and guide her to thy promised rest.

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Eternity is a bit the same, at least so far. I don't interact with anyone, and I just watch the world go by. It's just like my window back home. The years pass without affecting me, and I sleep without feeling sleepy. I'm miles away from everything.

I spend some time thinking about the life I left behind. If I had the chance to live again, I'd take more chances, spend more time out of my house. And I'd wear my own face into the world. But all I can do is just think about it.

At least so far.

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The dimly glowing ball that manifested next to me was the first entity to address me directly since the ferryman.
"Restless spirit formerly known as Eleanor Rigby, I am Emissary #5629383. You may refer to me as Peg. A request was made at your funeral for assistance, and as your assigned guide I am devoted to your cause. You are in danger of contamination with mortals' sins, which would doom you to the world below. I cannot sell you a new life, but I can help you reach your destiny."
"My funeral was decades ago."
"There was some bureaucratic delay."

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I've guided a lot of mortals in my existence, but Eleanor is different. She has such a sense of frustrated possibility, of a life denied. She wants to experience everything, to see all of the world's wonders, from the Marianas Trench to Everest's summit. It's... intoxicating.
Having her in my vicinity makes me feel that I'll never need to have any concerns again.
I want to see my dim radiance in her eyes. I want to manifest hands to touch her hair. I want to ki-
O Lord, help me. I'm in immortal love with the soul of a mortal.

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We first saw them at the Vienna Philharmonic, waiting for the Moonlight Sonata to start. A few other untethered souls, talking of lives they left behind.

"Another spirit! Are you a music lover?"
"We always love to have more in our little group!"
"I used to play the trombone in the Navy, you know."
"I played the harpsichord!"
"I do not like this generation of conductors. Last century's were greatly superior."
"Where are we going next? The Boston Pops?"

I have no wish to spend a cowardly, underwater afterlife like these spiritless spirits.
Peg and I slipped out at intermission.

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"What are you, Peg, a minor angel? You don't understand anything that I say. You don't know what it is to lose something, to change or to learn, to feel sorrow, or to fear death."

"That was true when I was first created. For my first three millennia I was unchanging and certain. Everything I had been told was true, nothing would ever be different, and the correct thing to do was always clear."

"Really? I thought your kind was eternally constant. What changed?"

"I met you. Can we go now? The spray from this waterfall is confusing my perceptions."

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And with the passing of years, the days were accomplished that Eleanor should be assumed into the kingdom of the Lord.

And Peg laughed in the Lord's glory and said to her, "Behold, today is a great day, for the gates of heaven stand open before thee. The light shineth upon thy beautiful face, thy radiance shineth back in the myriad colors of thy soul. Rejoice, for our days of doubt and fear are done. Eternity awaiteth us, where we may forever blaze with a brightness to rival the sun itself, and spend all time together."

And Eleanor said, "No."

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"If I can get to heaven, I can get back to mortality. I can have a new life as a human and do it better."
"But we've done it all! What more do you want?"
"I want to do it as a mortal, Peg! You'll never understand that, you're immortal!"
"But what about our eternity together? Would you turn your back on that?"
"If it's meant to be, it'll happen." Eleanor gently lifted her hand, and fully immersed it in Peg's glow for the first time. "Keep an eye on me, Peg. I'll be about."

She turned and was gone.

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Eleanor is somebody else now. She's a baby boy named Ethan, waving his hands as he wakes up. I look at her, I mean his, eyes and they don't even reflect my glow.
Ethan and Eleanor definitely share a soul. That's as plain as day. But my day is broken. How can I continue to exist without her? How can I watch Ethan grow into an adult who doesn't know me?
She doesn't need me anymore, but I need her. Knowing that our love could have been eternal stabs darkness into the center of my being.
I must do something.

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"Come on in, my friend 5629383. So good to see you. You can call me Doc Bob, and I can get you what you need. You want to be a brand new human, better than you've been before?"
"Yes, I want to be incarnated."
"Perfect, perfect! Just place your mark right here, yes!"
"Can I read it first?"
"It's our standard contract. You exchange your angelic status for a new soul, with a human life. You live a lifetime and make your own choices about your soul's final disposition. You can even choose where to be born!"


"I'll do it."

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"Ethan? It's me, Taylor. I sit behind you in science class, and I was wondering if you'd like to go see a movie together this weekend."

No, no.

"Ethan, it's Taylor. Are you doing anything tomorrow night? Want to grab a bite down the street?"

Definitely not.

"Ethan, it's Taylor. I think you're beautiful, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you."

I wish.

So many things to say to him, and I can't. I keep putting it off.

I know we're meant to be. It's just a matter of time. And of me CALLING HIM!

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The street is nearly deserted. A lone figure is walking dejectedly down the pavement. A car drives up and pulls to a stop.

"Taylor, isn't it? Do you need a ride? My name's Ethan, I'm in your science class."

"Oh! Um, yes! I mean, where are you going?"

"Don't know, actually. I was just driving about. Where are you walking to? Can I take you somewhere?"

"'About' sounds, um, great."

"Hop in, then. Next stop, about!"

Taylor climbs into the car, and Ethan drives off. No mortal eyes can see it, but the street seems a bit less lonely now.

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Did Ethan and Taylor end up together? Was Eleanor and Peg's love truly destined? Can true love survive multiple reincarnations? We can't tell you that. Relax, it's not worth struggling against the stream to learn how things turn out. We can't see the greater purpose inside the story.

But we know that we're all made of love.

We know that your dreams are your guide. Watch their texture, feel their aroma, smell their flavor, taste their melody.

But don't confuse dreaming for living.

And play the game existence to the end of the beginning.
Of the beginning.
Of the beginning.