It’s hard not to dwell, at this unwanted dark hour of wakefulness, on Death’s eternal secret, which makes it no easier to recapture sleep.
The burden of consciousness weighs heavily, and I stare at the viscera of my own thoughts as shapes gambol in the playground of darkness. He’s always there in among them, a playful cowl in the sparks and flashes, notable by the absence of light within and the little death of the lights that move into his influence. I know not the fate of these sparks, is there a judgement for light? Can it be said to have existed well for that brief moment of it’s existence? He will not tell, and I shall the grace not to ask, but my inner thoughts betray me, and he knows where my curiosity lies.
I turn, and the playground shifts, new children of the night join the fray as the others rush away, dancing away as if leaving a stage, and only the central figure in his dark robes remains, a hawk among unsuspecting pigeons, awaiting the moment of revelation.
There is a realisation within, and I know that I am between true consciousness and deep slumber, in some limbo. I am not quite lucid, but not without volition, a delicate balance of kinematic tension in which the smallest perturbation is critical, like balancing a pencil on its point. I feel that I am holding my breath, lest the mere act of breathing disturb this ice-flower of being.
And it is in this delicate state that the attention of the taker of lives notices me, and arrives, full into there is of my conscious self, speaking thus…
“Be at peace, it is not your time.”
I look, gape, into the face that is before me, and it is not one face, but changes, flickering as an old cinematograph might, from one incarnation to another. There is the skull, appalling and friendly in turn, eternal grin etched into his very being. A young woman, dark colour staining her lips and eyes, raven black hair cascading down her shoulders. A young man, clean cut, faint smile, sandy blonde short hair and handsome with a twinkle in his eye. Another man, older with wrinkles, but Hollywood handsome, dark hair, pin-stripe suit and white kerchief poking from his pocket.
The cycle begins again, after the last, the dread horror of the little girl. She has the face of an angel, big blue eyes and pale skin, alabaster, no, dead white, unlike the others who, apart from the skull have been everyone. She is dressed like a child from the Victorian age, and you would fall in love with her, but there is no life in her eyes, none about her at all.
I feel a fear in me that I cannot displace or reason away, I realise that she has maintained her presence for the merest hint of an instance longer than the rest and a sliver of ice pierces my soul.
“No.” The creature says. “It is of my nature that I would find your most heartfelt fear. I have not come for any this night.” The words assemble from echoes of my fears and inner demons, frightening my childhood self, and that portion of me hides behind the settee in terror. The rest of me, not the majority of me, is grown up, I face my fear, and speak.
“Er, how can I help you?” It sounds more timid than I had intended, but I am struck by my situation into query rather than action, though I am surprised by any agency at all.
“I have a simple question.” The flickering continues throughout, and each word is sounded by a different voice. It ends on the little girl, who remains and sticks a lollipop into her mouth where it turns into bugglegum whence she blows a bubble at me impudently, and then the flickering begins again.
“Ask your question please, I implore you, I have no idea how long I may remain here.”
The flickering pauses again, this time on the young man. He notices a scuff on his shiny shoe, and bends down to polishes it out briefly with his handkerchief, and straightens up again.
“If you could,” The creature changes, it is the young woman, and she is blowing another bubble from the same gum the little girl started. It pops. “If you could, I’m not saying you could,” It changes again, to the older, creepily smiling man. “Would you live forever?”
The question hangs there, like an ache, and it become overloaded with others in my mind, crowding in like a flood, but one stands out and it springs forth from my lips, unbidden.
“Will everyone live forever?” I ask, simply.
The creature stops flickering, as if a wall has been thrown up before it in some dimension I cannot see, and the pinprick lights in the eye-sockets, I know where I have seen them, and I realise what the nature of these incarnations must be.
“Nt everyone could live forever.” Each word now was as if struck by a hammer on granite. “Eventually all things would become people, and there would be nothing else left. People reproduce. Taking that away, is not a thing I can do. So it would be only you.”
“Then thanks but no.” I say, instantly and without regret.
“I wasn’t offering.”
“I was just curious.”
“Why wouldn’t you live forever?”
“Because I’d be lonely.”
“Yes. You would.” The creature seemed to consider a moment. “I live forever.” It said.
“Oh.” I thought about this. “I’m sorry.”
“That’s quite alright.” It held its hand, one of many, out towards me. “Thank you for your company.” And we shook. It was a warm and very human handshake, I don’t know what I was expecting.
I was nudged by the other half, and it brought me out of the reverie, but before I fully awoke, Death took me a moment longer…
“Oh yes. I nearly forgot.” He said, looking somehow and for some reason, like a jolly fat man.
“HO HO HO”
Inspired by @Wombat37 who gave the first sentence. With a nod to Neil Gaiman, the movie “Meet joe Black” and of course our beloved and much missed Terry Pratchett.
The little girl is my dreadful and bloody character from Vampire all those years ago, and I raise a glass in memory of both Michael Mitchells who died 25 years apart and shared a common hobby and nothing else apart from a name, and Jon Scholes, who still plays daily in my life though he is gone these two years now. He was a true friend and my brother in all but actuality, and I still miss showing you things my friend.