PYROPHOBIA by Jack Lance
I am your dead girlfriend…
“Hey, it’s me again. I was dead for a while…”
What would go through your mind if a complete stranger greeted you with an introduction like that?
Not a hard guess, I think.
But I once met an elderly woman who spoke these exact words.
She prefers her real name not to be known. In my novel Pyrophobia I called her Anya. Here’s an excerpt from the novel:
Anya had been experiencing the same nightmare for years. In her dreams she ran past houses and across rooftops, fleeing from enemies dressed in Nazi-style uniforms. Sometimes she heard strange screams. They were unbearable, demon-like. When Anya heard these screams, she would clap her hands over her ears to block out the horrible sound.
One day, during a yoga class, she had a horrifying vision. A mass grave had appeared in her mind’s eye and she heard people screaming. When those sudden, terrifying images disappeared, she started to believe in reincarnation. “It felt so intimate. As if a fountain of sorrow had sprouted from inside me. The vision was related to my own past,” Anya said.
She went into regression and returned to a past life. She ended up inside one of Joseph Stalin’s prison camps, a starving and haggard woman in her late twenties. Anya remembered incidents of torture and sexual abuse, and ultimately her death. During her regression she had seen how sickness and exhaustion had finally killed her inside a small, dark room void of any light. When she relived the horror of that life, she understood why in her present life she sometimes suffered panic attacks in the dark.
Dying inside Stalin’s camp had ended the pain. After that, everything had been bright and white and peaceful. She had the feeling she had ‘been asleep for a little while,’ and she had been reborn, as Anya, only a few weeks after her demise in the death camp.
After her regression therapy Anya became aware of her previous life, and also of the people who had been her friends and relatives in her other existence. She had looked them up, but of course these people from ‘before’ hadn’t recognized her. “I wanted to shout at them that it was me. I’d been dead for a little while, but now I was back,” Anya said. Finally, however, she had come to the realization that she had to let go of ‘before’ and find her own way in life ‘now’.
All this is in fact what the real ‘Anya’ told me. In my novel, I just changed the setting of her previous life. The real Anya, in her previous life born in 1914 as a Jew, died in 1944 in the gas chamber of the concentration camp Auschwitz – not in one of Stalin’s prison camps. Just a few weeks later she was reborn, or so she claims. And when this life ends, it will for her be as if it has been one life that started in 1914, not thirty years later.
She says she remembers many details about her previous life as a Jew, including the man she fell in love with. In her current life she visited him and was astounded that he didn’t recognize her.
“At one moment he looked at me sharply and I wondered: is it finally going to dawn on him that I was his girlfriend? But when his eyes turned away, I knew I had lost him forever. That hurt because I felt I was still the same person.”
Anya remembered many more people, events and details of her much too short life as a Jew. It’s easy to brush all this aside as nonsense. And it’s impossible to prove it true.
So, what to make of this tale of Anya?
Personally I think that if it were only Anya claiming she has had a previous life, you might have a solid point to call it nonsense. Except worldwide there are millions of people, if not more, who will tell you similar stories. This gives credit to Anya.
Compare it to the billions of stars and planets out there and ask yourself if we really are alone in the universe.
I want my fiction to be true. This is why I don’t write about vampires and zombies (well, I do sometimes, but only in short stories) and do write about things which just might be real, however strange they seem. The trueness being that I experienced them myself, or perhaps other people did. That probably doesn’t count for a whole lot in the eyes of scientists or sceptics, but still, at least I have heard stories about phenomena like, for instance, reincarnation. Never, however, have I heard of someone meeting the real Count Dracula.
I like to believe readers appreciate these mysterious, intriguing flavours in my novels, otherwise Pyrophobia wouldn’t have been a success in thirteen languages and many more countries all over the world.
Jack Lance is a bestselling author of mystery and suspense. His thrillers, Pyrophobia and Zone, are inspired by his previous career, in which he reported for newspapers and magazines about people’s strange yet true experiences.
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