Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
 
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The Many Selves in the Phantom World

by Gary William Crawford


“Is your name Paul?”

“No.”

There are many phantoms who think I am some other. I travel to the cities of mystery, and one phantom says to me,

“Joe, is that you?”

“No.”

Then across the river of life and death I come upon another, who asks me,

“Peter?”

“No.” Then after many nightmares,

“Hello, Matthew.”

“You must have me confused with someone else.”

“Mark, I haven’t seen you for ages!”

“I’m not Mark.”

“Phillip, you look great!”

“You’re thinking of someone else.”

All the phantoms think I am someone else. Why can’t they see me for whom I really am? Shadows gather in the phantom world that show images of my fears. I travel fast because in this world the dead travel fast. But I am a ghost, and so is everyone else. I cross the desert with its strangely dense foliation that is ever changing and so out of place for a desert. I travel to get to the university in the castle of Oona and seek the scholars who are also high priests of many names and faces.

One of the priests says to me,

“Many phantoms in this world appear as other phantoms. It is the law of the great gods. We are many things to many people. Who we really are is in death.”

I must accept this death, as much as I don’t want to, and I am many to all, and all are many to me.


© 2006 Gary William Crawford

Gary William Crawford is the author of three books of poetry, Poems of the Divided Self, In Shadow Lands, and The Shadow City, and the short story collection Gothic Fevers. He has published works of literary scholarship and criticism, such as Ramsey Campbell, J. Sheridan Le Fanu: A Bio-Bibliography, and Robert Aickman: An Introduction. He is also the founder and editor of Gothic Press (http://www.gothicpress.com/).

Find more by Gary William Crawford in the Author Index.

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