“Like the wind crying endlessly through the universe, Time carries away the names and the deeds of conquerors and commoners alike. And all that we are, all that remains, is in the memories of those who cared we came this way for a brief moment.”
– Harlan Ellison
Hello, my friend. This is my time travel message to you. To my knowledge, no other writer in the history of the world has ever made an effort to speak to his (or her) fans the way I’m speaking to you now. Hard to believe I was ever so young, isn’t it? You know, I was still just a little kid when composed this message for you. Still a new author. Still figuring out how to write. I created this all the way back in December of 2013. When I made this, I did not yet know when my last day of living would be. But I did know, someday, long after my life had ended, you would find my books, and you would love my stories. Believe me, as much you wish you could meet me and talk to me and tell me how much my writing means to you, I wish I was still there to hear you say it. Time is a strange thing. We only have a limited supply, and we never have enough, and it seem the people we love most can often slip out of lifetimes, just when we yearn, harder than ever, to cleave those beloved souls to us.
In all the years I spent writing, there was one thing consistently weaving a common thread through all of my work. One message. One obsession. That was to make sure every man, woman and child who reads my books will come away with a sense of appreciating their tragically limited time. We spend so much of our lives zoned out and nearly catatonic. I’m just as guilty of that as you are. Only in brief flashes do we ever truly feel alive! That summer afternoon when you finally lost your virginity to that gorgeous girl or charming boy. That amazing day at the beach when waves sprayed the breakwall like diamonds in the sunshine. That wonderful book that changed your life. Or maybe it was something even more simple. Something innocuous. That special afternoon with your grandfather when you took a walk together and he told you how he fell in love with your grandma. Those brilliant moments stick with us. Those are the times we feel so aware that we exist! That life matters!
Yet our decades upon this earth are always too brief. When a person dies under the age of 50, people always say, “Oh, they were so young.”
When a person dies at 97 they say, “Well, at least they had a long life.”
The heck with that! When you get to be 97, are you, in the words of Dylan Thomas, going to go gently into that good night? I think not. We should all be so lucky to reach 97 and when we do, that will still be too young. Personally, I’m striving for about 125. Life is far too wondrous and magical to ever want to let it go. No matter what age we are when we awake to our last day on earth, we will always wish we had a little more time. The existential regret encapsulating the lot of humanity.
There are some souls born into this world who leave things behind. We construct architecture like Egyptian pharaohs. We found entire nations like presidents and kings. We bear children who carry on a legacy of business and commerce and invention. We compose music and literary works that endure for centuries like Mozart and Shakespeare. Unquestionably, such artifacts shall endure long after everything I contributed to the world. Yet, for a time, perhaps decades or even centuries after my own death, my work too shall remain. Unlike the most infamous emperors of old, you are not only be able to read my words, you are be able to see me. To hear my voice. And in that way, I have attained a great privilege, for although I was never a mighty leader or messiah among men, even after I departed the earth, evidence of my existence is preserved more vividly than the very kings of antiquity. For the honor of this near immortality, I have an obligation and I owe fans of my work this message.
Thus to you who love my work, to you who did not discover I existed until after I died, I want to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry that we never met. I’m sorry that I passed from the world before you even arrived. I wish I could have lived longer and spent more years upon that beautiful earth.
I know you really connected with my writing. I know it meant something special to you. I know you never read anything else like it. I know you wanted to write me a fan letter, just to have the chance to tell me how much you connected with my stories. You don’t even care if I would have written back or not. You just wanted to let me know how much my writing means to you. You wanted to tell me how it influenced your life. How it made you see things in a new way. How it helped to save you from the dark. Sometimes, you feel like you’re nothing more than a ghost. You feel like no one cares that you are alive. And when you read my stories, you feel like someone gets it. In my stories you find kindred souls. You find your friends. The ones you have never found out there in the real world. People who think the way you think. Who appreciate life the way you appreciate it. And you’ve never met anyone else who cherishes the subtle beauty of living the way those people do in my stories. Until you found my writing, you didn’t think there was ever anyone else in the world who was from your tribe.
You just wanted to thank me. Now you’ll never have the chance.
Believe me, I would that I were still there to hear you say all those wonderful things. I wish I could read your letter and thank you for sending it. I wish I could shake your hand and tell you that you’re welcome, when you thank me for all my writing has given to you.
And to this girl. To you, my lovely. I’m especially sorry that a young and beautiful girl like you ended up being born years after my gravestone was planted. You are the one I wish I could have met most of all. A smart girl like you, who gets bigger crushes on dead authors than on living boys. I know the boys you meet are jackasses. You wonder what I was really like. Was it true I was quite the charmer? All those fantasies you have about meeting me at a book signing and then, well, doing what pretty boys and girls do best? Oh, I would have been very dashing, my dear.
Forgive me. I know that talking directly to you like this almost makes it worse. Almost makes it harder. Your head is spinning. You’re wondering if I’m really saying this to you? Is this an actual conversation? Would I hear you if you spoke back? Is the voice in your head truly your own? Will these only be my words the first time? Will you pray that somehow my words might be different the next time? That I could reach across time and space.
Does it really matter?
In the end, I just wanted you to know you’re not crazy. No matter what the rest of the room tells you or says behind your back. They have never spoken the language of our tribe and therefore they have never comprehended the way the universe truly functions and the way we have always instinctively understood it. You’re not alone. We are the rarest of creatures, you and I. But even if you never find them, rest assured there are others of our blood. As I said earlier, time is a strange thing after all. And although we can never touch, dreams are still very, very real. And it is there that I can always take your hand.
So, to all of you, to all you dear friends who discovered my books long after I died, I apologize for not being there. I’m sorry that all you have left of me are the books and the stories. But know this, all that you dream you might have become, can still be. All the friendships and love affairs and the pen pals that we are, can still happen in your wondrous daydreams. You were right about me. I do get you. I do know you. I do understand you. That’s why I left you this message. How many other writers have ever done this? I did it because I know that you’re real. We are brothers and sisters of the same tribe. Time does not encapsulate us. And for all the inspiration and hope and love you have found in my stories, I now beseech you to remain unyielding in your long quest, for you and you alone are the knights and shieldmaidens of our noble banner. You still have your life. Make something of it. Achieve something splendiferous with the time you have remaining. Because one day, one day far too soon, you will no longer be upon that earth either. One day will be your last. And when you awake on the morning of your final day, you owe it to yourself and to all our tribe represents, to be able to look back and say, “I’m proud of what I achieved. I made the world a better place. I left something beautiful to this good earth.”
I may not be with you in the flesh any longer, but my spirit endures in your magical world. Through my words. Through my stories. In my books, I am still there. As people we are nothing more than stories and thoughts and words and memories. And all of mine are still with you. I remain far more than just dreams and remembrances. Our tribe is mightier than that. Those others out there, the ones who are not of our tribe, don’t understand what in the world I’m talking about. But you do. Unlike them, you know the essence of who you truly are. Hold steadfast to that, remain a beacon of light in all the shadow, and we will meet again. Fare thee well, my friends.
“The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.”
– Carl Sagan