I often think of the ones the stories left behind. What would it be like standing beside them watching what I’m watching? James and Lilly Potter. John and Mary Winchester. Gilraen. If they could see their children as I have seen their children, would they want to, knowing the trials and troubles they would go through? They’re fictional, of course, just like the stories are fictional. I think about them anyway.
If I were ever tempted to write fan fiction, that is what I would write. Not about the heroes themselves, interesting though they might be, but about the people they left behind. About those people somehow still watching and participating in the lives of the ones they loved so deeply. Maybe this thought is where the idea of heaven comes from? I feel so strongly that those people died with questions unanswered, that they would truly want to know what became of their children.
But the stories always move on. Obi-wan falls and the story moves on, though his voice stays with us. Lilly Potter’s dying grace protected her infant son and destroyed the darkest wizard the world had ever known. John Winchester traded his life and his soul to the demon who killed his wife in order to preserve the life of his son. Wouldn’t they want to know? Not that it was worth it, precisely, but what all parents want to know about their children. Would they cry for them, be proud, scold them?
I also often wonder what figures of the past would think about this world. What would Martin Luther King Jr. have to say about Barrack Obama? Don’t you think he’d want to know? Would Miyamoto Musashi even recognize Japan today? Would he hate it or love it?
I don’t know why I wonder such things. I only know that I always have. Ever since I was a small child, I have imagined a person of the past walking beside me, seeing what I see, reacting in their own unique way. I explained the layout of the solar system and rotation of the moon to Galileo. I discussed atomic physics with Newton. I told Emperor Meiji about the second World War. They say teaching is the best way to learn something, so I taught ghosts in order to understand things myself. Often, the ghost and I wouldn't interact at all, but I would still imagine them there, flaberghasted by automobiles and miniskirts.
And when I watch films, television shows, and read books, I feel their ghosts looking over my shoulder, the unwritten characters who died too soon. I don’t mind. It is an old habit. I often wonder if it comes from a desire for attention myself, but usually I am the one who is fascinated by imagining observing them, watching the watcher. They are less imaginary friends than imaginary bystanders.
When I was very young, I would pretend that everything humans could imagine actually existed somewhere out there in the wider universe. We were all just looking through windows at each other, or, even more fantastic, that the imagination itself had the power to create whole worlds. Of course, my imagination never managed to create a world where I didn’t have to go to school or got to stay up an hour later.
Some stories lend themselves more to pondering the left behind than others. Harry Potter is one of those. The images of James and Lilly come to me forcefully every time a new trailer comes out. As much as I am looking forward to seeing the movie myself, I am fascinated by what they would think of it. We’ll never know, of course, not unless J.K. writes a companion to the novels. I doubt others are as interested in such questions as I.
And I don’t know why, but I’ve never told this to anyone before, at least, not anyone who was real.