Ambrose Bierce, ghosts, and the haunted habitats of the restless dead

On #AnnotatedTuesdays, we will share a quoted passage from some public domain source that has informed some aspect of the vast cosmos that is the Ascension Epoch universe, followed by commentary on how we used it.

“Fear has no brains; it is an idiot.  The dismal witness that it bears and the cowardly counsel that it whispers are unrelated.  We know this well, we who have passed into the Realm of Terror, who skulk in eternal dusk among the scenes of our former lives, invisible even to ourselves and one another, yet hiding forlorn in lonely places; yearning for speech with our loved ones, yet dumb, and as fearful of them as they of us.  Sometimes the disability is removed, the law suspended: by the deathless power of love or hate we break the spell – we are seen by those whom we would warn, console, or punish.  What form we seem to them to bear we know not; we know only that we terrify even those whom we most wish to comfort, and from whom we most crave tenderness and sympathy.

“You ask foolish questions about things unknown and things forbidden.  Much that we know and could impart in our speech is meaningless in yours.  We must communicate with you through a stammering intelligence in that small fraction of our language that you yourselves can speak.  You think that we are of another world.  No, we have knowledge of no world but yours, though for us it holds no sunlight, no warmth, no music, no laughter, no song of birds, nor any companionship.  O God! what a thing it is to be a ghost, cowering and shivering in an altered world, a prey to apprehension and despair!”

Ambrose Bierce, “The Moonlit Road”, collected in Can Such Things Be?

Comments: This is as fine a description as any I have read of the (after)life of ghosts and their immaterial environs. Bierce is excellent in building a mounting sense of desperation and supernatural terror. The minute I read this passage, my understanding of the origins and motivations of the Lemures, a ghostly and malevolent race that I had, at the time, only a vague outline of, instantly crystallized.

In Ascension Epoch, those men who died before the triumphant death and resurrection of Jesus Christ were faced with a grim fate. Due to the Great Interdict, they could not depart the circles of the world. Instead, they were often captured and enslaved by the Charnel Gods named in the pagan pantheons. A few wily and lucky souls managed to escape this fate by fleeing to a dark region of the Empyrean now known as Deep Dendo. In this bleak land of mists and fog they built high bastions and mazes to confound the psychopomps and other soul-hunters sent by the Charnel Gods to collect them. In their fearful mania, their myriads of labyrinths converged and overlapped with one another, until they were many leagues deep and high, and even their builders became trapped and isolated, even from their own kind. Overtime, these forlorn souls were so transformed by fear and isolation that even the best of them became vindictive and evil, or if not evil, at least belligerent toward all others, especially the living. When the deathless Exalted first encountered them, they were unprepared for the malevolence and fear-fueled power of these lost souls, and terrible battles were waged against the astral spheres. The Exalted counted such creatures as one of the five great Adversaries of mankind (along with the Deep Ones, the Dero, the Shonokins, and the Mahars) and named them the Lemures.

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