Guinan, what are you doing here? ...I thought you were on board the Enterprise
I am. I'm also here.... Think of me as an echo of the person you know. A part of herself she left behind.
The flesh is weak compared to the mind, heart and soul, especially when in the throes of passionate emotion
. Some places are especially malleable to psychic phenomena. Combine the two and you have the Living Memory
, an echo of a person who is either still alive or who has definitively
gone on to a final reward (or punishment).
The Living Memory is a very strange "being" and similar to ghosts
in a lot of ways. Physically they're usually intangible
(though Your Mind Makes It Real
can make them dangerous regardless), but some are in physical (though probably non-human) bodies. They may be fully sapient and can be reasoned with, a chunk of memories with a bit of personality, or just vinyl records on an endless loop. What they all have in common is that they are not the real deal, the original, just an eerie simulacrum
... and some
even realize it.
When characters encounter a living memory, it's usually a highly emotional encounter. The Living Memory may distress the character emotionally, try to attack them... or offer encouragement and absolution for past sins. Like we said, Living Memories are strange.
This trope has a few variants.
- The character has a piece of their soul split off and
live haunt a person or location. This is especially common if the character "removed their dark side", in which case their Heartless will torment loved ones.
- The Living memory is inside another character's head due to side effects from a Mental Fusion. A good chunk of the Split Personality tropes may apply, for good and ill.
- There's no soul or anything of the like involved, the place itself is a Genius Loci and is using the psychic/spiritual equivalent of a plaster mold of the Living Memory's original as a marionette, constantly replaying past events.
- Due to Time Travel related shenanigans, a long dead character can still make the Special Guest Star spot without actually coming back to life.
- The Virtual Ghost is an AI construct with the personality and memories of the character, or a (near) exact copy via Brain Uploading. NOTE: If the original it's based on is dead, then it's a Virtual Ghost and the example should go there.
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Anime and Manga
- The colored spirits on every Artifact monsters' art in the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG are said to be memories of the greatest warriors that once wielded them.
- Barry Allen's fondness for time travel made it possible for him to appear several times between his death and resurrection.
- For a while, Rogue, who had wiped out all of Mrs Marvel's memories, had her talking to her in her head, and sometimes trying to take control.
- Still in X-Men, Xavier had a copy of Magneto in his head after mind-wiping him. It later became Onslaught.
- In Empowered, Mindf**k psychically left one to Sistah Spooky, to explain that she wasn't angry about their breakup. It was supposed to activate while she was still alive, though.
- Mal in Inception is literally Cobb's memory of his dead wife which has taken on a life of its own (her own?) in his dreams and any other dreams he enters. Said life generally involves sabotaging whatever Cobb's trying to do, in an attempt to make him commit suicide like she did, thinking that she was still dreaming and unable to wake up. The reason this particular memory is so powerful is the guilt Cobb feels for accidentally driving his wife to suicide.
- In Star Trek: Generations, an echo of Guinan is present in the Nexus, and helps Picard find Kirk so they can stop Soran from destroying an inhabited planet so he can get back to the Nexus.
- Not a character but still effectively this trope, in the Malazan Book of the Fallen the character Osseric is pulled in the a living memory of the Raraku desert by his father. The memory goes so far back into prehistoric times back to when Raraku was a lush swamp.
- In Star Wars Expanded Universe, the Jedi holocrons serve such a purpose, allowing long-dead masters to share their wisdom.
- Not quite; it's unclear what the projections really are, beyond being able to converse with people.
- Ghosts in The Dresden Files are defined as echoes of a person's dying moments — they don't know they're dead because they can't realize they're dead. Harry himself gets an eyeful of this in Blood Rites when a meeting with his unknown half-brother results in a pre-recorded vision of his dead mother.
- The Denarian demons work similarly to this, being trapped inside their coins but able to grant their shape and powers to their bearer even if they don't have the actual coin. More specifically, Lasciel imprints a copy of herself into Dresden's brain when he inadvertently touches her coin. Harry promptly buries her coin inside an insulating magic circle and pours concrete over it, doing his best to protect himself from its corrupting influence. She freely admits that she's not actually Lasciel, just a copy that lives in his brain, but she's still able to grant Harry several useful abilities as much as he permits her to. The copy spends years tempting him to let her out of her prison before she finally dies absorbing a psychic attack..
- A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones has the Time Ghosts, which daily re-enact emotionally-charged moments from the City's history. Due to the timey-wimey involved in the City's construction, this includes the parts of the City's history that haven't actually occurred yet.
- In Eon, by Greg Bear, Hexamon citizens can create "partials", which are (usually shallow) copies of a personality that can act independently, for use in dangerous situations or if a person is simply not available for some reason, and which can be re-integrated into the original person's memory once their task is complete. Partials are usually aware of their nature, but aren't bothered by it (presumably because the personality they come from isn't). It's considered mildly impolite to send one when you were expected to turn up in person. Also, once a citizen has used both of their state-allocated physical incarnations, they're stored as a Virtual Ghost in the City Memory, where they can still communicate with other people by digital means (and be reincarnated again if there's ever a need).
- Robert Bakker is this through his former apprentice inhaling his dying breath.
- Solaris revolves around these, created by an intelligent ocean on an alien planet. Each represents someone that a specific human astronaut felt guilt towards—a child, a lover, and so on. Killing or otherwise disposing of them results in the creation of another one, which has no memory of the first one's fate.
- Neuromancer hints at these being made by the eponymous AI from various characters, including the lead. They're supposedly "perfect", as in the whole deal
- Harry Potter:
- In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the person behind the mysterious attacks at Hogwarts turns out to be a living memory of the Big Bad from when he was at school. At first, he could only communicate via the diary he was preserved in, but once he got Ginny to trust him with enough secrets, he grew steadily more powerful. Four books later, it turns out that the diary was one of several soul-jars Voldemort created, although this was by far the most dangerous.
- The many ghosts that dwell in Hogwarts appear to be this as well: they're described as "imprints" of the once-living person who has since passed on to... whatever comes next.
- It's never explored in any detail, but the animated portraits of deceased persons seem to work this way. They have all of the knowledge and at least some of the personality of the deceased, but it's unclear whether they have free will or the ability to truly act of their own accord.
- Ghosts in Pact are soulless impressions of experiences of great emotion that have been left on the world, who fulfill this trope by forcing the memory of the event that created them onto others or simply playing through it over and over. You don't necessarily have to have died to generate them-at one point, Blake Thorburn, the protagonist, encounters several ghosts that he left in his Dark and Troubled Past.
Live Action TV
- There were a few ghosts on Buffy who were like this - the ones that made Buffy & Riley have lots of sex.
- Doctor Who has had a few of these. In the new series, Steven Moffat absolutely loves this trope, especially with Creepy Child characters.
- "Harvey", the mental clone of Scorpius inside Crichton's head (and Crichton's clone in Scorpius's head) in Farscape.
- In Fringe, the "mind meld" Olivia and John Scott go through left traces of his memories and personality in her mind, which would occasionally surface and offer her useful information.
- From a slightly different genre: the episode "Nothing Good Happens After 2 A.M." of How I Met Your Mother has Ted see and talk with his own subconscious in the form of his long-distance girlfriend.
- Also from Star Trek: The Next Generation, not sure how many of these count.
- In the Star Trek universe Vulcans can store their 'katra', which is a cross between mind, soul, and mystical technobabble, and one can communicate with them, although they do slowly fade.
- The Stone Tape (1972). Paranormal television play whose key idea is that suitably traumatic events will be recorded and repeated by the environment witnessing it.
- An episode of The Sarah Connor Chronicles had Sarah, hallucinating from the trauma of a gunshot wound, imagine that Kyle Reese was with her, giving her advice and helping her to stay rational.
- After Sam's soul is returned in Supernatural, he continues to see and hear Lucifer, who had used him as a vessel.
- Phantoms in Dungeons & Dragons before 3rd Edition are the soulless shells of creatures who died hideous or surprising deaths. They almost always recreate images of their death or what they were thinking most about when they died, like a 3-dimensional movie, at the same place, over and over. Variant phantoms may be sounds or smells. Technically "monsters", but without a rhyme or reason to their existence beyond accidentally scaring or warning a passer-by, and nearly indestructible (dispelled only via remove curse spell).
- Shades in Ironclaw, they're insubstantial beings of living thought and emotion obsessed with something. Green and Purple mages are the only people who can effectively communicate with them. But there are also ghosts and phantoms which actually are spirits of the restless dead.
- Thanks to all the Time Travel and Dimensional contorting, by the end of Chrono Cross Serge and co. run into three ghostly doubles of the main trio from Chrono Trigger.
- ...though for some reason they all appear to be significantly younger than they were in Trigger, which has led some to speculate that they may not actually be related to the cast of Trigger at all beyond their visages.
- Kingdom Hearts:
- Pretty much the entire supporting cast of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories are literal living memories of Sora's who are playing out (and being deleted) via Naminé's powers. Of special interest is the Riku Replica, a creation of Vexen's who is identical to Riku (albeit with more access to dark powers) and survives the end of the story in a gag (manga exclusive) ending.
- In Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, Xion is a clone of Sora made entirely out of memories.
- In Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, the characters native to the Worlds of Sleep are echoes of people who once lived in the Worlds of Sleep, even if they left those worlds before they fell into darkness. This leads to some confusion when Sora meets a Donald, Mickey, and Goofy who don't remember him. The Big Bad uses this to his advantage, confusing Sora and Riku about his true plan which involves making real copies of himself.
- Also of note, everyone from The World Ends with You except for Joshua is this. Joshua explains that after their world fell to the Heartless, he journeyed to Traverse Town and put his friends back together with "piece of their dreams." This revelation helps Riku to figure out the Big Bad's plan before it's too late.
- The above picture is aptly named "Memory of Alessa", a boss in Silent Hill 3. She tries to kill Heather, who is basically her reincarnation, in order to help her avoid the pain and horror of birthing an Eldritch Abomination.
- In the first 4 .Hack games, scenes from the anime series .hack//Sign can be witnessed by visiting the frequent hangout, Hidden Forbidden Holy Ground, at certain points in the storyline. They're described in a similar manner to Living Memory. At the end of the game, AI Subaru, AI Tsukasa, and AI Sora will join the party. They are noticeably out of place chronologically in their behavior, and players familiar with other aspects of the .Hack Universe will know there's no possible way it's the real versions, who are still alive but simply not playing The World.
- It can also be seen in the G.U. series with Azure Kite, Balmung, and Orca, who are recreated versions of heroes from the first series integrated into the system to find bugs and glitches. They lack personality of the originals, however.
- In Final Fantasy X, the pyreflies create this sort of effect on the Farplane.
- It's not entirely clear whether these are the actual ghosts or what exactly. They don't talk and just kind of stand there. Only the dead (but not the Unsent) appear on the Farplane (Tidus is able to see his mom but not his dad when they first visit in the game).
- Also, In Dirge of Cerberus, Lucretia's memories are stored as data inside Shelke.
- Most smart AIs in Halo are created from the brains of dead people (as the process usually destroys the brain), but Cortana is the product of a cloned mind rather than a dead one. She and her creator, Dr. Halsey, often share many of the same attributes and opinions, especially regarding the Master Chief, John-117.
- Forerunner AI 343 Guilty Spark was copied off the mind of a prehistoric human named Chakas.
- In World of Warcraft WOTLK there is an encounter during the 5-man instance Trial of the Champion where you are up against Argent Confessor Paletress, who will summon one of various ghost-like “memories” of previous foes the player characters have (or should have) defeated in the past, who must now be faced once again. These memories include famous antagonists such as, Edwin Van Cleef, Lady Vashj, Onyxia, Hogger, Archimonde, and Illidan Stormrage, among several others who have a chance to spawn. It also may be worth noting that the flavor text of the spell Confess, which Paletress uses to summon them, states that it forces the target to confess their darkest memories, implying that the spell draws from the memories of the PC to summon a Living Memory of one of their toughest foes, so it probably qualifies for this trope. Suffice to say, as a 5-man instance these memories are not nearly as menacing as their living counterparts once were at the time of their original defeat.
- In Solatorobo, Nero and Blanck end up as this in a DLC quest. Though they died in the main story, they appear after the final boss battle as mirages to help Red escape and they are eventually revealed to still be "alive" in Red's mind. Merveille even suggests that she will be able to create bodies for them to live in.
- In Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, Jonathan fights the Whip's Memory which takes the form of Richter Belmont to unlock the Vampire Killer's true power.
- In Dragon Quest VI, the main characters are all Living Memories, dream spirits of their true forms that were defeated by the Dread Fiend Murdaw. Once they realise this, they have to find their true selves, which in one case was turned to stone, and in the case of the Hero, is running around just as amnesiac as his dream-self was at the start. In addition, nearly everyone seem to have dream-world versions of themselves, which can manifest as ideal versions, painful fears, or even dreams of the past, returning to haunt them.
- The Red vs. Blue Recollections trilogy focuses on the Alpha AI, a smart AI created from the brain of the Director of Project Freelancer, in the same vein as those featured in Halo (see above example). Because of the various experiments in torture performed on it, the Alpha was forced to separate its worst memories from itself, creating yet another AI that contains all of the Director's and the Alpha's most anguished memories. Meanwhile, the Alpha (who caused Identity Amnesia through its actions) ended up reliving much of the same life events (read: failures, most notably the frustration generated by pursuing a lost love) that defined the Director's life. The final series in the trilogy, Revelation, reveals that this process is a cycle, wherein the new AI will follow in the Alpha's footsteps and eventually fragment off those memories into yet another AI, which will fragment the memories again into another AI, ad nauseum. The Epsilon AI, the last in the chain thus far, believes it has finally figured out how to break the cycle.
- Not quite. Word of God confirms that all on-screen events, with the exception of the Blood Gulch sequences in season 9, are real. The recursive cycle only occurs within the memory storage unit while Epsilon searches for Tex, who is also trapped somewhere inside it. Also, since the cycle of events begins well after Epsilon fragmented from Alpha, further fragmentation is not part of the process.
- The past avatars in Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra are Living Memories to their future incarnations, and when the current avatar dies they join the ranks of past avatars. Since the avatar is continually Reincarnated, there are hundreds if not thousands of past lives the living avatar can call upon for advice and to draw upon during the Avatar State.