Arrival in Pale (A Day of Life under the Invisible Sun #5)
"Only the dead have seen an end to war."
She came through darkness into pallid corpse-light. They told her she had died, and their words did stir some recollection of that long dream she'd had in Shadow. She wasn't so sure she could trust them, though, as the dark had been a blanket of warm water - everything you'd imagine a womb to be.
And then there were the treasures. Lost art, discarded fashions, gutted histories all dead to the memories of the "living". Even memories themselves found there way to live under the Pale - one afternoon she'd foraged & feasted on the languages twins forge and forget before the age of 9. On an especially cold night she'd warmed herself by sleeping by the blaze of a passionate infatuation outgrown and sloughed off for the calmer waters of a more enduring kind of love.
The very soil fairly choked with the "afterlife" of grains lost to blight, of orchards' harvests lost to frost. The wind carried lullabies, mother's favorite songs, all sorts of oral heirlooms that sputtered out due to thinning bloodlines and youthful dismissal of tradition. The seas were made of spirits of tears lost when the no longer despondent wiped their eyes, their collective ocean depths peopled by reptilian and ichthyic horrors - things that "died" yet dreamed all the same.
So many treasures, and thus it was not surprising to her in the least that there would be wars over claims, that violence would be committed to deny another even the Mountain of Discontinued Toy Lines. (In the same way one finds crabs holed up in seashells, delicious forgotten memories of playtimes past seek out such toys to sever as shelter.)
Even the "living" come here, seeking secrets or perhaps just trying to hunt down the companion of the love you still play host to in your chest though your former paramour long ago left such feelings to die on the vine. Even the "living" will kill the "dead" for such unique artifacts as The Time I Was Her Whole World or When I Thought He Could Fix Me. They tell her these are true corpses, the others artistic rendering corpses and the solid phantasms sometimes left by those of the Pale who re-corporate rather than die. Then they whisper that some of the corpses might be "twice dead" who've passed on into a Mystery called The Stillness.
Fields of the dead, the "false dead", and even the supposed "twice dead", millions (billions?) who lie atop the treasures they died ("died", died?) for, becoming treasure themselves. At least for her, as she'd come here from Shadow with a small black mushroom in her pocket. She could have eaten it - oddly enough "dying" made one ravenous once they passed through the Warm Dark - but instead she'd invested it in the hollowed out stomach of a now dead (twice dead?) warrior. The mushroom - damned if she could remember its name in Grey - had taken quite a liking to the light of Pale. Within what she gathered by tracking the Path of the Pallid Sun was between a day and 10,000 days, acres of corpses showed signs of bloom. Under the dirt and the blood the mycelia of the mushrroms interwove, a living Shadow-thing endlessly multiplying on the corpses of Actuality.
And if It could live and thrive in the supposed Lands of the Dead, why couldn't she do the same?
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