The Inhabitants: An Unremembered Life - Guest post by Michael Sebby

The Inhabitants is a series that rolls together a lot of concepts that intrigue me. Perhaps it can be best described as an art project that builds on my ideas of the unexplained. The first (and currently only) book, An Unremembered Life, is what I'm writing and funding on Inkshares right now. 

At the beginning of the second chapter of the book, there is a character that sings, "It's not a small world, just a world full of strange coincidences."

It may seem like a throwaway line, but it's something that will resonate through this book and beyond in the series. I've always been bothered when people use the phrase "it's a small world" to shrug off an odd coincidence. When you actually think about it, it's really not a small world at all. Those connections that have such a slim chance of existing can be against rather extraordinary odds.

I like to entertain the idea of how there could be a supernatural connection between all of us, particularly through our minds. What better platform to use than our dreams? The basic idea of a novel exploring that concept has been gestating in my mind for at least six years.

Humans are inherently afraid of things they don't understand, because it's hard to imagine there is anything that cannot be explained anymore. From a scientific perspective, dreams are just images that flash through our brains in our sleep. When we wake up, it's over. Sometimes they're hilarious. Sometimes they're scary. Sometimes they make us cry. But more often than not, we dismiss them.


The dreams that stick with us are the ones where we interact with loved ones, especially the deceased. It begs the question as to whether the afterlife is just a never-ending dream, and those that are departed can somehow "jump" into our dreams at their own will. There are endless stories of people who say they have seen the afterlife after a near-death experience, most of which involve floating out of their body and seeing bright lights.

There's a book called Heaven is for Real -- which I've never read -- that is allegedly a real-life account of a three-year-old's experience of the afterlife. There are other books like it, one of which was recently debunked. Obviously you read these accounts with a grain of salt, but this particular one was jarring because a lot of what the boy recounted was meeting dead relatives he had never met and would've otherwise had no point of reference in describing.

Someday, this book and all the others like it could easily fall apart as hoaxes, but the part of these stories that really intrigue me are the skeptics that chime in to say that it is not an accurate depiction of the afterlife. It is the hilarious arrogance of humans to say we know a thing or two about something we seriously know nothing about to the point where we'll argue about it. No one could possibly possess any hard facts about what the afterlife is, or if it even exists.
 

Eight years ago, my grandmother passed away from lymphoma. We didn't know she was ill, but the week before she passed away, she was found confused in the middle of the night at her retirement home, complaining of people in her apartment bothering her and trying to throw a party. When the staff checked, no one else was in her apartment. This was odd to my family because she never had shown any signs of dementia or anything that would impair her thinking. So she was hospitalized, and the doctor connected the hallucinations to a UTI. The science made sense.

Unfortunately, blood tests also revealed the lymphoma, and she was kept in the hospital. I visited her the first night and she seemed like the normal, sweet grandmother I'd always known. She was wide awake and alert with no signs of any confusion. I assumed she'd return home in the next day or two after getting pumped full of fluids, despite her talking quite openly about how she was ready to die and had lived a very fulfilling life in raising her children as a single mother after her husband preceded her in death over 50 years ago. In her mind, she'd been living on borrowed time. She wasn't speaking from a place of pessimism, though. She was a very positive person, and I told her she'd probably be out of the hospital soon since she otherwise seemed to be doing well.

However, over the course of the next week, her health deteriorated. When asked about her hallucinations (which she still treated as real), each time she'd recount what she saw that night at her apartment, she described it less as an intrusion and more of a celebration. The people that had filled her apartment were throwing a beautiful and elaborate party for her with generous gifts. She used more positive adjectives to describe the brilliance of it all. It's like she was slowly accepting this odd dream in parallel with her accepting death as she approached it. At the beginning of the week, she wasn't willing to participate in this party, but by the end of the week, she was ready to celebrate. She then fell into a deep sleep for a couple days and passed away in the middle of the night.

This "vision" of hers always stuck with me. I don't know if maybe she had seen a glimpse of the afterlife and spent the next week making her peace with it, but it definitely seemed poetic. My sister then had a couple dreams about my grandmother after she passed away. One dream caught my grandmother in a rare moment of sadness where she asked my sister why people weren't coming to visit her more often. For a dream, it was heart-breaking to hear, and hard for me to imagine how sad it would've been for me to wake up from that. In the other dream, my sister slow-danced with my grandmother. I consider that a much happier dream, and a wonderful goodbye.

But is it dangerous to put too much stock in what we're projecting in our minds?

It is that internal conflict between skepticism and faith that I wish to convey in this book. Dreams and the afterlife are in a territory so foreign to humans, because the concepts are not tangible. Science can't put them under a microscope, and religion can only theorize what we'll see when we die. It's impossible to draw a direct connection, but it's fun to think about.

A couple years ago, I got caught in a rabbit hole of reading articles and watching YouTube videos regarding the fourth dimension and tesseracts. It blows my mind that we can even be aware of such things via science. The higher dimensions are almost like the afterlife of the science world, though. Human beings can't physically perceive it. They can only theorize based on what hard numbers and logic reveal. Reading about string theory nearly melts my brain every time I try. The fact that civilization has come this far in understanding the universe is astounding when you think about it.

The obsession to learn more about everything and advance technology is great, but there's a hilarious Louis C.K. bit where he talks about how weird humans are and how there's no way we could originally come from Earth, as we're never happy with how the world simply is. He mimicked a hypothetical conversation between God and a human, dissecting why we do all the weird things we do that end up essentially destroying the planet. The argument between God and the human eventually devolves into the conclusion that we just want to eat bacon.

For my book, I single out the dreams of humans because we always want all that extraneous stuff that other creatures don't want. Other species are content with a life of eating only what they need and rolling around in their own feces, and they don't even need to work a job to earn that right.

Despite all that, the mind is an extraordinary thing, and it intrigues me how it can overcome mental and neurological disorders. The book's main character, Jacob, suffers from narcolepsy with cataplexy. The decision to add this aspect to the novel came fairly late, about a year ago.

I don't remember how I came across some viral video that a young woman posted of her suffering from sleep attacks and bouts of cataplexy, but it struck a chord with me. She originally intended it to be an instructional video on how to do a dance, but it turned into something entirely different when she kept collapsing and dozing off in the middle of it. I then found a Reddit AMA where she discussed every aspect of her disorder at great length.

I started reading up on it more, and I decided it would be an interesting layer to the story if Jacob had this to deal with in addition to the problems with his dreaming. It added a layer of unpredictability and created another obstacle while he's trying to fend off these dreams. Simply avoiding sleep to escape his nightmares is not an option for him.

It's tough to introduce a disorder in a novel, though, and I hope I'm paying the proper respect to it. I want to make sure it's represented fairly and accurately, because it is a life-altering disorder that isn't pleasant to deal with and explain to others. It can be downright embarrassing around people who don't know you, and we're already seeing this between Jacob and Ava.

We often have an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality, and so it's hard for us to accept what's not visible on the surface, especially if it makes us uncomfortable.


This is a perfect segue into what seems like an unrelated tangent. A couple years ago, I got into a hobby called Geocaching. Essentially, it's a worldwide treasure hunt that few people know exists. All you need to do is download the Geocaching app on your phone, set up an account, and you'll be amazed to see on a GPS all the geocaches that are hidden in your area. People basically hide containers in public places for others to find using their GPS. When you find the geocache, it usually contains a log sheet that you can sign and then mark the geocache as found on the app. You can build up stats by how many you find in your area. It's like a massive easter egg hunt for grown-ups.

Anyhow, the Geocaching community is interesting, because it reveals a lot of secrets that were under your nose for years. It opens your mind to things that are hidden in plain sight all over the world. It's this huge subculture that surrounds everyone. And I love that.

I also visited a speakeasy in Chicago called The Violet Hour. The place is very well hidden -- only visible to people looking for it. I was absolutely in love with it, despite their insanely-priced drinks. The place was so strange and seemed like it was out of a dream. I decided to use it as inspiration for a location in my novel. Again, this is another example of something beautiful that couldn't be found without looking for it.

So I guess if you want the short version of what The Inhabitants: An Unremembered Life is about, it's about the unknown bleeding out into the real world, and the conflict that creates. We want the truth neatly-wrapped with glitter and a bow for us, but it turns out it's not that simple in my book.

I really hope what I write resonates with readers and that they'll jump on board with this crazy ride.

I've been dormant on writing for several years and am jumping back into this head-first. I just got married and am expecting my first child in May, so this is an exciting time for me right now. I would love to write full-time, but I realize that requires building a fanbase. My Inkshares project is just the beginning for me.

 

To learn more about Michael Sebby and his book 'The Inhabitants: An Unremembered Life' visit Inkshares at:  https://www.inkshares.com/projects/the-inhabitants-an-unremembered-life

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Jamison Stone

Jamison is the Director and Lead Writer of Apotheosis Studios. In addition to his professional career, Jamison is also a Trustee, Committee Chair, and grant writer for the W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation, an organization which provides grantmaking programs in education, youth development and early childhood development.