The Leader has guided our community, once just a small city now a thriving empire, for hundreds of thousands of years. They came to us from far away and taught us how to work metals and build with stone and how to split the atom. They have lived so long by transferring their memories from one body to another. As a boon, they grant immortality to the hosts by joining their memories. The body dies but the Leader and all the previous hosts live on.
I have known since I was a child that I would be Leader’s next host. When the Leader enters me, our minds will blend until they are the same. And when my body is old the Leader will move to a new chosen and my memories will go with them thus I will not die. Not really.
However, now in my twenty-fourth year, as my physical and mental maturation are at their end, as the day of the joining comes, I fear my death. Will I truly live forever as part of the Leader? They speak of their previous host’s lives like they lived them. Is being remembered the same as living forever?
On the day, I am dressed in white robes and taken down, down, down flights of stairs of metal that turn to concrete then to carved stone and finally to rock. The room at the bottom is plain, carved out of the rock, a single chair in the center. The Leader sits half slumped, eyes closed, shaking with each labored breath. Their attendants guide me to kneel before the Leader. Garlands of metal and stone are draped around both of us. After several minutes, the chief attendant motions and I am separated from the Leader.
The attendants guide me to stand. The transfer has been completed. Slowly I begin to feel the Leader in my mind but I can not hear their thoughts. Their memories are locked away. This is not how -***- said it would be. Who said? Teacher -***- Teacher -***- I can not remember her? His? Their? The memory is gone. Have I forgotten anything else?
I’m scared … I … I am reborn once again. My heart beats rapidly as I draw deep breaths. I am standing for the first time in years. Everything looks, smells, and sounds so much more. Before me, my previous host slumps further in its chair. I step forward and brush my hand against its cheek for the last time. Soon it will expire without my will to sustain it. I motion for my servants to remove it.
I find a slip of paper my hand. I unfold it and read its short message: “Remember your name is Amrita”. I read the name again. There is a flicker of … nothing. I sneer at this pitiful attempt by my host at clinging to some memory.
The name means nothing to me. Why would it? The host is a vessel for my essential self. A vessel is best filled when it is first emptied, after all. I drop the paper and leave for my chambers.