Story Beginnings: The Ferryman

In a nearly impeccable display of punctuality, I arrived in front of Mr. Tabor’s office door in exactly one piece. I shook my dusty trench coat, dislodging the larger chunks of rubble and sending them flying to the carpeted floor. Such a pity that trans-dimensional travel had to be underground. I was always in a filthy state these days, rising from the deep with the unholy vengeance I was renowned for. Only it was a literal deep. Such a pity…

Rummaging inside numerous layers of fabric and cloth, I revealed a sickle, glinting malevolently in the artificial light. Budget cuts had forced me to downgrade from the usual scythe, the weapon of choice I was accustomed to. I utterly bemoan the Authority’s attempts to save every nickel and dime. This turbulent economy cannot last forever. Regardless of my discontent, I was prepared to finish the job.

Raising a boy hand to the door, I caught an unprecedented glimpse of my reflection in Mr. Tabor’s brass nameplate. What an ungodly pallor. A frightening and eerily permanent grin stretched out before my hollow eyes. Too many days in the whitewash, I thought regrettably. I could remember the glory says when my position was first created. The Authority had needed a man to do the dirty work, so to speak, and I was the obvious candidate. Although back then, my bones had been a much more prominent tinge of yellow. Everyone now was into flawless cosmetics. I was simply part of the herd…

Resigned to finish the job and grab a coffee before the suspected mass shooting a few blocks over, after which I would surely be needed, I knocked politely on the door. A faint voice bade me to enter, amid a fit of coughing and wheezing. Oh yes, his time was nearly up. And when that time came, it was my job to be the ferryman. Opening the door, I stepped across the threshold, knowing that what lied ahead involved another much unwanted trans-dimensional trek beneath the realm of the living. Damn this job…

Note: Another week and another lost writing to share with my nearly nonexistent audience. This piece is special, as dark humor has always been an attractive vehicle for making a statement in my life. The story fragment is partially inspired by the late Terry Pratchett, who my respect for is undying. I’m happy to have rediscovered this little gem.

Death: A Reality Check

I present a short musing that marks my hopefully triumphant return from the annals of writer’s block and apathy. It’s been too long since I’ve felt proud of a single sentence in anything I’ve written, including this. But how can I better perfect myself without even trying? Anyway, I digress. It’s time to purge this nihilism from my system.

The briefness of life is akin to a single breath of air. An inhale, an exhale, and then it’s over. The effects and memory of our meager existence in the universe are left to disperse and decay. I realize that I will not be upon this earth forever, for in fact my essence is as transitory as weather in the midwest. *chuckle* In this existence, my body is merely a shell that I must maintain in order to continue experiencing the perception of this particular state of reality. But this is a highly metaphysical, somewhat dry perspective.  

The simple, unalterable, absolute truth is that I’m going to die. 

I’m going to be rendered obsolete, wiped clean from the collective body of society, and ultimately eliminated from the engorged pool of humanity. It’s a frightening thought, but one I’m learning to embrace. Because embracing the inevitable is the best reality check. It frames your existence within a new context. It teaches you to see the aspects of life that matter on a true and profound scale. It unveils how many years you’ve wasted on trivial pursuits of material intention. But most importantly, it’s humbling as hell.

To cope with the realization of my looming annihilation, I have searched for a greater purpose. As if in rebellion against the void, I’ve analyzed the patterns of causes and effects underlying every event, looking for some meaning. This has led to a greater awareness of actions and reactions on both a micro (personal) and macro (universal) scale. Perceiving the inherent interconnectedness of everything and everyone, with no exceptions, has not been a forthcoming achievement. I realize that my way of thinking and priorities in life are not in line with convention, which has culminated in a self-centered yearning to be understood that I struggle to overcome. It’s spiritually inhibiting.

Liberation from spiritual death is understanding that the distinction between your individuality and the rest of the universe is not absolute. At best, it’s an illusion crafted by the limited awareness and material grip of this state of reality. The intrinsic and interconnected nature of life proves that we can not exist without sending ripples of effects out into the universe. And we are most certainly not immune to being affected by the ripples around us. It is indeed a metaphysical ocean we live in, and an unstoppable force that binds us all.

I meditate on this realization when the absurdity of existence takes its toll. What lies after death may not be possible to know with certainty. It may not even be within my capabilities, for all the speculating books and Sanskrit translations I’ve slogged through. But it’s my newfound understanding that this knowledge isn’t necessary. Realizing how inherently interwoven I am with the workings of the universe gives me a place and a calling. Spirituality frames the narrow truths of nihilism within a grander, far nobler context of divine purpose.

Death is but one side of the great balancing act of the universe. The story is so much larger than any individual soul. By striving to develop a perception of our interconnectedness, we can be inspired to live in a state of unconditional compassion, liberated understanding, and servitude toward our fellow man.

Transience

Dusk was settling in and the fireflies began illuminating our vista with intermittent rhythm. I grasp tightly to the aged, shriveled hand nestled in mine and project our souls into the surrounding dance of light. Mindless, unconcerned, and only existent in a reverie of love, we dance; my Miriam and I. Hearts colliding and minds twirling, our projected essences mingle into one. Our earthly shackles have fallen away: the world weariness and diminishing life that constitutes old age. I look into my beloved’s eyes and find, in this moment, recognition. Recognition and Love.

The receding light of day is a reminder of life’s transitory nature. Our bodies wither, ambition dulls, and eventually our minds fade, similarly to the waning strength of the sun. Returning to earth and the wooden rocker on my front patio, I glance over at Miriam’s flower bed nestled against an old magnolia. The forget-me-nots have been invaded by weeds and neglected by their normally devout caretaker. They were her children, the product of her love and nurturing. Now they had been forgotten, wilting and choked with crabgrass.

My thoughts linger on death, the unavoidable destination people shy away from. When a loved one exits this reality and begins the great adventure, why do we mourn? Is it love? Attachment? We can reason and say that dying is a process of nature and something we should cherish as a facet of life itself. But why do we feel a heartache and grief that keeps us awake at night? Why do our hands shake with sadness when we lift a pencil to write? My darling Miriam is physically sound. Her bodily strength ebbs just as surely as mine, however the degradation of her memories—her heart— is a painful realization greater than death itself.

Twilight deepens and the fiery insects emerge in abundance. Long shadows adorn the lawn, stretching to the front steps like fingers probing for a thing almost lost. The day was over, and the sun diminished. Knowing it was time to retire for the night, I clamber to my feet. I offer my hand to Miriam, our eyes meeting in the twinkling light of fireflies. In that moment, I realize some part of her has finally passed on. Confusion and bewilderment replace the recognition I searched for earlier. A lone tear trails down my old face as I understand. Even love can die.

Note: Researchers have discovered that emotions outlast memories. Victims of severe Alzheimer’s are still capable of increased happiness when meeting friends or family. If you are loved one of such individuals, please know that you DO have an effect. Your affection WILL make a difference. And most importantly, love CAN transcend impermanence.