From Samriel’s Mental Journal:
28-09-54 (September 28th, 2054)
Have you (the hypothetical You, of course, since this is all inside my head… unless it’s not?) ever made a bargain with a free spirit? Most of them are relatively uninterested in money or material gain in general. Makes sense if you think about it, since they’re essentially beings of thought and emotion, not of physical reality. So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that when you bargain with a free spirit, they don’t want money or material goods, generally speaking. What they want, is something they cannot attain for themselves: the human experience.
Free spirit are intelligent, self-aware entities. They seem neither to be angels nor demons. Perhaps they’re related to the demi-beings spoken of in Genesis, when angels knew men and women. Perhaps it still happens on occasion. In any case, they’re sentient, even if it’s not precisely a human intelligence. They’re not stupid for the most part, it’s just they are different than us, and have different priorities and thought processes. Despite being sentient, however, even free spirits, with their own will and desires, are mostly static entities. They are birthed (as it were) full-grown, knowing more or less everything they’ll ever know. They don’t change, don’t grow, don’t learn the same way we humans do. If it’s important to them, they’ll remember you, certainly. But they won’t spontaneously learn to throw a fireball if they weren’t birthed with that knowledge. Bound spirits never change. But despite being primarily static, free spirits have the /potential/ to do so. It’s just hard.
The exception to this rule of stasis are those free spirits who make bargains with humanity. Spirits have many things they can do, as well as thoughts, experiences, and knowledge that humans simply don’t. Understanding spirits, even free ones, is like trying to imagine what a creature from the bottom of the sea thinks. It’s foreign; alien even. But regardless, they have or can do various things that humans desire. And in exchange, the free spirit takes pieces of their experience.
I spent this evening with Sunflower. Not today, of course, since like many elves and many shadowrunners I prefer to sleep much of the day. So I spent the evening with Sunflower. I snuck into a neighboring cornfield near the farm, and we played hide and seek for some hours, and some light gymnastics, and a few other things. She even likes word games. I’d never seen a spirit that so strongly resembled a child. She’s playful, mischevious, full of wonder and excitement. She likes to play pranks on people, which may result in the occasional bump or scrape, but she’s not malevolent about it in the slightest. We played until well after midnight, as I was starting to tire rather badly. While playing, though, between bouts of losing myself in her childlike enthusiasm, I couldn’t help but think about this.
When you give a free spirit bits of your experience, it’s both the emotional and personal impact of the memory granted, as well as its personal significance, that you give up. Lord knows I must be an expert on it by now, I’ve given enough bits and pieces to Glitter over the last year. You still retain the memory, but it’s… it’s like it’s greyed out somehow. You remember the factual information about it. You remember what happened, and can see in your mind’s eye from your perspective. You don’t lose the memory. But it’s… disconnected somehow, if you give it up to a free spirit. It no longer has any emotional impact. You could give up the most terrifying memory you have, and thinking about it wouldn’t scare you anymore. The soul of the memory is gone, as if it happened to another person or you read about it in a book. It’s still there, but something vital is gone from it. It loses its power. It loses its impact.
Honestly, it sort of makes me wonder if free spirits are the source of lore regarding the fae. For all the Tir na nOg elves enjoy playing at seelie and unseelie courts, a being of inhuman morality and conscience doing things the way its nature dictates reminds me too much of certain stories of the fae. And some fae are grave and honorable, while others are shameless if innocent tricksters, while others are malevolent entities interested in violence and suffering. And many of them were interested in what humanity could give them. A soul. A child. Things the fae lacked.
Back on topic, perhaps it would be good for me, to give up some of the more painful memories I’ve accumulated over the last couple of years. God certainly knows the horrors I’ve seen would have driven many people off the deep end by now. Sometimes I can’t help but doubt my own sanity. If I could get rid of the sting of some of these memories, of the horrors, of the Things Which Should Not Be, I bet I’d feel a lot better.
These are some of the things I thought about as I played with Sunflower. I’ve always been prone to thinking too much. It makes me excellent in study and academic studies and a number of other things, but too much thinking certainly doesn’t lead to happiness. Perhaps that’s why I value my time with Sunflower quite highly. It’s not perfect, but in fits and starts I’m able to stop thinking for a while.
Greg’s been teaching me more about psychology, and the workings of the mind. I… am not entirely certain he’s all there, the more time I spend with him. As a result, I’m hesitant to open up to him too much. He seems to have good intentions, and despite being a professional criminal I can honestly say I think he’s a good person, aside from his penchant for brutally forcing his will upon others. I haven’t yet figured out if it’s worse to harm someone physically, or to take away their freedom of thought, their capacity for self-determination. Anyway, he’s offered to listen. He seems very sympathetic. But the fact that he doesn’t seem to be quite all there makes it hard to confide in him very much.
It might be better for me to give up some of these more painful memories. The ones that scar me too badly. A certain amount of pain is a natural thing. It helps us grow stronger, it builds our will and determination. But maybe some of these memories aren’t so much just pain, but some sort of psychic leaking wound. Taking the pain too far could be crippling.
The thing that really bothers me about this whole train of thought is: if free spirits gain power, knowledge, experience, through this trade, then mightn’t the content of the experiences given up matter? If I gave to Sunflower my terror, my nausea, my revoltion, the sheer unholiness of my memory of Madame Ulisha’s true self… what would that do to Sunflower, the bright and innocent and exhuberant girl? Would it be like taking a child and beating her, terrorising her, giving her horrors nobody should ever have to experience? If our memories, our experiences, are what grant a level of dynamism to free spirits, then perhaps just as we are shaped by our experiences, free spirits are also shaped by the experiences they inherit.
Intellectually I’m curious, but it would be beyond immoral to experiment on the topic. Just the thought of risking something like that with a spirit like Sunflower, or – God forgive me – Glitter makes me want to wretch. However intellectually curious I might be, the thought of either of them gaining such experiences is terrifying.
So where does that leave me? It may be possible to get rid of some of these psychic scars. They hurt. But I’d never wish such horrors upon my worst enemy, much less someone I love, or someone as kind and innocent as Sunflower. God is good, and so he would never give me trials I could not get through. The question is, is finding a way out of the situation the trial I’ve been given, or is learning to cope with it the trial He’s given me? Greg could probably alter or remove some of those memories. But would that be just taking the easy way out?
In either case, I couldn’t risk giving either of the free spirits those sorts of memories, just in case it should have an effect on them. Instead I’ll give them bits of my joy, my pleasure, my happiness. It dampens my life but a little, but should they ever gain truly bad experiences, it may give them strength, and seeing either of them laugh or smile or dance or sing fills me with joy anew. And I thank you, Lord, for that.
Now, perhaps I’ll go get a bottle of taengele, and pay Scarpy a visit before the sun comes up. Glitter’s away and I’ve no desire to go home alone, and I should stop ruminating.