I was lost in thought as I was walking around the neighborhood well past midnight. I have always taken pleasure in these midnight walks. The solitariness of this nocturnal activity has consistently provided a certain measure of comfort; the relaxed pace of the strolling helping to clear away the sticky cobwebs in my thoughts. This particular occasion was turning out to be no different from what I have done in the past. Or so I thought.
It was a hot and balmy night, and the muted roll of the distant thunder was an ominous sign of an impending thunderstorm. I momentarily stopped to wipe away the glisten of sweat gathering on my brows. Then, from afar, I heard a dog bay mournfully. I looked up with a start, and immediately realized something wasn't right.
I took a wrong turn. I didn't know where I was.
The street was unfamiliar, partially hidden in the recess of dark shadows. A nearby lamp post was dying, its flickering light casting an eerie glow on the surrounding. The slow baying of the dog had stopped. The sudden silence was jarring, almost deafening. I felt the heaviness of the atmosphere suddenly weigh on me, so I decided to walk down the gloomy street in a more hurried pace.
My heart was already starting to pound when I saw it.
It was all but a faint shimmer at first. Gradually, the light coalesced into a diaphanous figure. I couldn't help but gasp in chilling recognition.
"I know you!" I uttered in a quivering voice. "Why do you still come before me? Why are you doing this to me?"
It remained wordless and silent; its pale eyes stared directly at mine. Slowly, it raised its ghostly hand and beckoned to me.
"No! I will not come near you, do you hear me?!" My voice was rising almost to a fevered pitch. "I have already wrestled with you. I have banished you. Why do you come back to haunt me?"
My shirt was drenched, sweat mixed with fear and anger at the phantasm before me. I remained obstinate and defiant in my stance. When it sensed that I absolutely refused to approach, it started to go towards me, plodding in its movement. I saw its translucent lips opening, forming voiceless words I could strangely understand. I shivered uncontrollably at what it said.
I am you, and you are me. We are inevitably linked to each other by your decisions in the past, the actions taken, and the choices not made. You cannot exorcise me. You cannot deny me. But what I offer you is peace, Free yourself from the shackles of what was, and the anxieties of what might have been. Accept me, and you will be granted the gift of peace. Accept me, and I shall be granted the gift of peace.
I closed my eyes, and sighed a deep breath as the phantom drew closer and closer.
My eyes were still closed when I felt the first raindrops on my face. The rain had started to fall, and soon, the full fury of the thunderstorm was unleashed upon me. It was as if the heavens was one with my catharsis. I had taken it all in; now, the rain was washing away all the grimy doubts and apprehensions built over time. When I finally opened my yes, I knew that the ghost would no longer be there, and that I would not find myself lost anymore.
As I made my way towards home in the rain, tranquility nestled within my soul.
Why is it that the ghost of what-might-have-been suddenly haunts us at the most inopportune moment? Will we constantly berate ourselves for indecisions in the past and opportunities lost? Contentment, it seems, is as fleeting as the moment that was let by.