My eyes are wide open when I enter the chamber. I’ve been coming here every night for a week.

Sometimes I see them right away, the wisps. Other times they take longer to come: seconds, minutes, even hours.

Tonight, I see only darkness, an endless world speared through with inky tendrils of black. Then my eyes adjust and the wisps begin to appear, like elusive traces of white mist against a bleak night sky, tinged silver by the blooming flower of the moon.

I know what they really are, of course.

Snippets of forgotten thought and slivers of ancient memory slipped out of the outermost reaches of a mind; fragments of broken dreams and shards of fractured wishes pulled from the secretive depths of a heart like jagged wooden splinters.

The first wisp brushes my cheek, and I close my eyes and breathe in. For an instant, the long, trembling note of a violin fills my ears. Then the wisp moves on and the note is gone, as if it had never been there at all. Another whisks across my wrist, and for a moment I hear the tinkling sound of bells in the distance, soft and loud and high and low all at once. Then that sound disappears as well, and the wisps swarm around me.

I feel the chill of cold tiles underfoot in the dead of winter, quickly replaced by the squelching of wet mud under a running boot. A child’s ringing laughter and warm, curious, dark-eyed face gives way to the scent of coming spring drifting across the cold winter air. I see the sudden dark russet of drying blood, water dripping from a faucet and pooling on a patterned marble floor. I smell the stench of smoke carried on the breeze, and hear the playful crackling of a lick of golden flame. Fragments of dust drift through a ray of gray-golden sunshine, light filters through a full glass of water, the pavement warms my feet on a scorching day in summer…all of these, and more, fill my mind and senses. Each one stays with me for less than an instant, but I can feel their combined force building up, straining closer and closer to…something. I can’t quite tell what; I never can. I always find myself back in my room at the climax, at the precipice, at the moment before the fall.

What fall? Every morning I find myself wondering, but right now, I couldn’t care less.

I’m immersed, and the wisps are the world. The wisps are me.

The thought is calming, so I think it again.

I am the wisps; the wisps are me. I close my eyes and breathe. A pleasant tingling rushes through me, and I feel my mouth twisting into a smile. I wait for it to fade, for the wisp that carries it to brush past me, but it doesn’t. The feeling only increases, crossing the line from pleasant to painful. Sharp, thin needles jab at my skin, and my eyes flicker open in surprise. This has never happened before; the tingling always subsides, and I always wake just as it does.

I glance down at my hands and find that they’re translucent, fading into the inky black surrounding me. That can’t be right; I shake my head and look again. I try to move my fingers, but I can’t. I watch as they fracture off into the darkness, dissolving and almost melting in the air. My heart jumps into my throat, but there’s nothing I can do. They look like elusive traces of silver-white mist against a night sky.

They look familiar, somehow. They look like wisps. They move like wisps.

No, I realize. They are wisps.

My fingers are wisps. It takes a moment for the thought to register, and when it does, I almost want to laugh.

Instead, I feel my mouth widen in a scream. I can’t move. Hysteria, I think. This is called hysteria. I don’t hear my voice; of course I don’t. The only sound the chamber carries is the sound of the wisps.

I have to leave, now. But how? The chamber decides when you leave; the chamber decides when you come.

I watch, helpless, as my palms and forearms fracture and dissolve. There are too many pieces of me to keep track of, and I lose more than half of them amid the rest of the wisps.

I feel a wisp brush past me, and I brace myself, but nothing happens. Another touches me, and another, but I don’t feel anything, and now my elbows are fading. I can feel the jabs of pain beginning in my toes as well.

One last wisp brushes past me, and again, I feel nothing. It’s then that I realize my own memories are missing as well.

I can’t remember the feeling of ice cream melting on my tongue.

I can’t seem to recall how the afternoon sunlight filters through my pale blue curtains and brushes the wooden floor.

My mind is a puzzle, and with each piece of me that fades, a thousand more pieces are pulled out of place.

The way a freshly baked cookie crumbles in your mouth, the way the surface of a pool laps at the underside of your bare, dangling feet, the feeling that you’re chasing the world after an ocean wave surges around you and pulls away…

I remember that these things exist; I know I’ve done them. I know what they are, but I no longer know how they are. I don’t know how they looked or smelled or sounded or tasted, how they felt. It’s as if the memories have been pulled out of me and replaced by strings of empty words.

But what are words without memories to flesh them out and give them meaning? Just sounds, just scribbles on a blank white sheet.

They are only words, only names, and what’s in a name?

I’ve dissolved up to my chest now. My heart is gone, and I don’t understand how I’m still alive.

I can’t remember the sound of laughter. I know it swells up in your chest and builds up, higher and higher, until it bursts out like a fountain.

I know it makes you happy, but I don’t know how happy feels.

The world is no longer the wisps. The world is the words; the words are the world.

The words are me.

But they are words with no connotation, and without connotation, they are nothing.

If words are nothing, then the world is the same.

If the world is nothing, if the world is the same…then what am I?

I am nothing without my wisps. Not the ones that swarm in the chamber, but the ones that I lost, the ones that come from me.

I close my eyes and try to remember. Ice cream. Sunlight. Cookie. Ocean. Laughter. They’re only words, and before long even their sound is gone, the feeling of forming them with my tongue and teeth. All that remains is a sense of loss.

I wait for it to disappear, wish for it to disappear, but it doesn’t.

That’s all you’ll have in the end, that loss. Best to get used to it.

It isn’t a voice that speaks, more of an essence, like a thought that’s escaped into the physical world. I glance up and lock eyes with a young girl. I can’t explain how, but I know immediately that it was she who spoke.

She hovers before me, and her whole form is faded, like she’s not made up of colors but of their ghosts. Her hair falls in ringlets around her face, and I can tell that it was once the color of cinnamon. She wears a pale white dress that flows around her small frame. It doesn’t quite seem to end; instead, it blends into the nothingness around her, light blending into dark like overlapping strokes of oil paint.

Though her form is ghostlike, her eyes shine like molten silver.

Who are you? I think, and I can feel her pull the thought from my mind into her own.

I am you, she responds. I am what you will be, soon. But not yet.

What am I? I can feel my eyes beginning to dissolve now. It starts with a fuzziness at the edges of my vision, but it spreads outward until the whole world is white. I try to calm myself by breathing deeply, but it doesn’t work, and it’s then that I remember that I don’t have lungs.

What am I? I think again, and suddenly the girl appears before me, clear as day, and somehow brighter than before. Her hair is the color of cinnamon, and her form is no longer ghostlike. She seems almost solid, almost human, but not quite.

I think you know that.

She’s right; I do.

Where am I going? I ask.

Here, she says. When the chamber decides that it likes you, it takes you for itself.

I shudder. No. I don’t belong to the chamber.

She smiles sadly. Yes. You do.


Remember what you are now.

I remember.

Tell me.

I am a wisp.



You are a Keeper.

What’s a Keeper?

We guard the wisps. The wisps are us.

The wisps belong to the Chamber.

We belong to the Chamber.

I am dead, in every way that matters. My subconscious is fractured; my heart is still.

But no, I can’t be dead. Not now. Not yet.

I’m not ready.