Interludes with Death

“It happens at twilight, always.
That moment when Death and Life finally crash into each other and Death, demanding as it is, states that it will take her soul.”

ottoschmidt
Art by: Otto Schmidt

It happens at twilight, always.

That moment when Death and Life finally crash into each other and Death, demanding as it is, states that it will take her soul.

“No!” protests Life sharply, “You have taken so many already, just today too, you have spread so much agony.”

“No, I will be the guardian of her soul.” Life says tenderly, “She is lost and tired and I shall make her whole.”

“And you?” seethes Death, “How many have you brought into this world today? How many souls have you sowed for me to reap?”

“No, she is tired and would rather not awake. I will take her soul and give her rest.” Death murmurs, and behind his hard gaze lies, for one moment, something soft.

“You cannot take her!” Life chirps furiously, “There is so much that she can do! So much she will be for others! You cannot remove her from—from fulfilling the truth of her own existence!” Life advances, comes in between her sleeping body and Death.

“What kind of truth is worth this much pain?! What kind of—of happiness is worth it?!” Death roars, and for one split second, something in Life’s brilliant gaze wavers.

Death approaches her but Life stands as a barricade between them. Yet, with a gentle shove, Life is quietly standing on the sides, watching as Death’s firm hands sift through her hair, her fitful dreams.

“Release her, give her back to me. She did not know pain when she was with me, before you took her away.” Death accuses.

“Nor did she know happiness at your side! She did not even know herself!” cries Life viciously, yet not making any move to push Death away from the innocence of her sleeping face.

Ignoring Life, Death recalls:

“She was weightless with me. She knew nothing: no darkness, no pain, no sadness, no anxiety, no hunger. She floated like mist, and went about existing in the purest form, in the most neutral way. She was a star, luminescent, such beautiful energy…

“And now!” Death sneers, spinning to face Life in a flash of fury, face now ugly and contorted in rage.

“Now look what you’ve made of her! You have marred her! Sullied her!” Death accuses.

“What should I have done then?!” Life cries “Leave her to you until the ends of Time, and never let her truth unravel? Never let her see the very light she is made out of?

“But you’ve never known that, have you?” Life silently accuses, something cold gleaming in usually warm eyes, “You’ve never seen her when she laughs or cries, when she sits there, grateful for another day. You’ve never seen her ties with Fate, never, never—”

Death is quiet, thinking of those things he cannot understand, and a certain frustration gains him then.

“But I know them and know she would rather be made to laugh in earnest again.” Life looks at Death, pleading.

“Let her, let her,” Life begs, chirpy voice now even more high-pitched as tears threaten to spill. “You will take her anyway, and I will never again look upon her.” says Life, although there is no bitterness in that voice;  Life has long since accepted that it will always hurt, that Life will always lose over those most cherished souls to Death.

It is all too quietly that Life speaks: “Let her, for her sake and mine, if you care for that life half as much as I do, let her live.”

Something flashes in Death’s light eyes at the sight of her, at Life’s words. There is inner turmoil boiling in Death’s eyes, and for a moment, Death is at war with his own self. His selfish desire to have her at his side again, but the need to protect that life that had existed so purely before… And her truth, her happiness, her ties with Destiny he knew nothing of, except that it made for more luminous souls, souls that lasted into the universe.

Finally, Death huffs in resignation, clicking his tongue at Life in annoyance.

“Fool. I care for that life more than you do; I was there when it formed.” Death sends a final, longing glance at her, not trusting himself to touch her, lest he glanced again through those nightmares, and decided to take her away.

Ruffling Life’s light-coloured hair, Death turns his back with whispered words.

“I will be back for her.”

And in a fog of grey, he disappears.

29.09.15

 

Bridges of Time

“‘My heart’s hanging back and my brain is looking ahead and I don’t know where that leaves me. If it even leaves any of me.'”

unknown
Art by: Artist Unknown

“Every now and then,” he confessed “I wish that the past didn’t exist. That I’d emerge into now from the shadows, not caring where I came from. Because what’s the point of having this moment, living in the present, if I can’t stop reliving the past, you know?” He sought out her gaze, searching for understanding.

“I can’t—I can’t be in two places at once” he offered, tentatively.

“My heart’s hanging back and my brain is looking ahead and I don’t know where that leaves me. If it even leaves any of me.”

“Yeah, but look at it that way too,” she finally said “the past is a bridge to the present, and the present is a bridge to the future. If you didn’t have a past, you wouldn’t have a present you know? The past may have been terrible, but it brought you to here, to now, at least. If nothing else, it did this much. It doesn’t make the situation any better, the past is still like an invasive plant species, crawling onto the present, but…”

“—but it gives perspective?”

“But it gives perspective.” she smiled, “It draws out the bitterness a bit, replaces it with thanks.”

Conversations With The Past

luceferous
Art by: Luceferous

“Have you ever wanted to be a thing?” she asks, her eyes wide and expecting.

It’s been a long time since I’ve thought of being something other than human. Most days, I’m quite happy being a complex constellation of thoughts and emotions and occasionally, home to one or two indescribable inner phenomena.

“What do you mean?”

Her face scrunches up, thinking. Then, she points to the sky. Too bright, too blue, and scorching my retinas.

“The sky?”

She shakes her head, pigtails swaying with the movement.

She points harder, her hand moving to follow something.

It’s a black plastic bag, stark against the summer sky. It is flying higher than the tallest building, dipping and soaring, flailing and being blown away towards the harbour. It’s drifting, drifting…

Free, free…

Maybe it’ll even stick to the masthead of one of those sailboats. All the while uncaring of the business of humans below. Unconcerned by the clinking of coins, the rustling of bills. Or the man shouting through a megaphone that you get 2 pizzas for the price of one in the next hour. The whirring of the slurpee machine, blending a rainbow of colours and the condensation gathering on the outside of the clear plastic. The crowds of people trying to enjoy their Saturday. Café-goers sitting by the terrace, one leg on top of the other, loose and content, sipping on some cold thing as the wind ruffles their hair, threatens to pick up their large hats. Or even the thick, black fumes of vehicles and the mellifluous yet angry “Dring! dring!” of a bicycle bell caught among car honks.

“You want to be a plastic bag?” I laugh.

Her pudgy little face scrunches up again, growing red and angry this time.

“Hmm, I wanted to be a clear plastic ball once.” I tell her.

She peeks at me, as though giving me a chance to redeem myself. It’s not everyday you get the chance to impress a child, you know.  At least not intentionally.

I don’t know why I still remember though. That clear beach ball. We’d lost it in the summer of 2004 to a roaring ocean. We were playing catch in the sand, right next to the sign that said “Dangerous bathing”. And then the ocean breeze caught the ball mid-throw and it disappeared in the froth of the sea, between the large, black rocks. Afterwards, we could see it drifting ever further from the coastline, reaching for the horizon. There was no saving it, either. We could just watch dolefully as it went away.

Drifting, drifting…

“It’s strange, but I still think about that ball sometimes.” I muse.

And it’s true. Many times after, in class or on the bus, I caught myself thinking about where that beach ball could have reached. Only later did I consider the possibility that it could have burst. But it didn’t matter long, that idea. The image of it drifting away was stronger than any imagined truth.

By now, my little companion has forgotten all about her grudge. Her eyes are twinkling, focused on some blank space, living the tale of the departed beach ball.

She grips my hand suddenly, tugging on my sleeve.

“And then! And then! What else did you want to be??”

I laugh as we walk away into the city, navigating the cobbled roads.

“Well, once, I wanted to be a parachute…”


Listening to:

 

A Tale of the Desert

“Land is the kingdom of man. And yet there is no king in the desert save for nature itself. Where man intends to stab a flag and build castles, the desert swallows his pride in storms and blows away his fortresses as though they truly were made of sand, a child’s construction.”

wallup.net

We cleared out the garden today, the one on the rooftop. I hadn’t cared much for it before, except for the nights I’d needed to get away and had needed to mind my step.

I was on dirt duty, having to sweep away the mess of a garden unkempt for so long. There were heaps of very fine dust that had accumulated into dunes almost everywhere, most of all the corners. I hadn’t known dirt could shine so prettily in the sun, like gold dust or bits of precious stones. The sun beat down on my neck as I swept the dust away, sweat already glistening on my forehead.And suddenly, like a child, the mundane chore turned into an adventure. I was in the desert.

Often, people who have spent extended periods of time in the heat and utter isolation of the dunes, they cannot describe it. And yet, it is within human nature to always try. There is nothing like the desert, they say. Nothing like this overpowering nothingness, this capricious nature that will soothe as it will kill. They say it is a world of its own, a planet distant from Earth. The desert, if it were comparable to one thing, it would be the ocean. But even then, the desert is not like the seas. Land is the kingdom of man. And yet there is no king in the desert save for nature itself. Where man intends to stab a flag and build castles, the desert swallows his pride in storms and blows away his fortresses as though they truly were made of sand, a child’s construction.

I imagined the desert was lonely. So vast, so empty, yet brimming with restless energy.

The desert was once human, I thought as I swept away. She was a young human of learning and knowledge who yearned to make beautiful things. As the gods did.

She voyaged nights and days, sacrificing years and the quiet happiness of selling books and maintaining a garden. She went east and west and wherever the road would take her, on a pilgrimage that lasted many years. No one in her village had heard of her in a long time. They spoke of her, on those long, cold nights when they all gathered around the meat cooking over a crackling fire. The children delighted in the stories, quiet wonder gleaming in their eyes.

Unassuming during all her youth, save for her brilliance and crafty spirit, she was a gentle soul. Her parents had died shortly after she had come of age. After that loss, there was something that shone sharply in her eyes. A fire greater than the one that had claimed her parents. A fire greater than they could ever extinguish.

Then one day, she went to the chief’s house, a bag brimming with scrolls and books slung across her shoulder. She emerged, painted in the colours of their people, red and azure dotting her forehead and cheeks. Her hair was braided in intricate knots only the old mother remembered.

She went, as though a conqueror.

As plain as she had once been, she was beautiful now. The hazel of her eyes burning against the dark brown of her sun-marked skin. And after that, she was never seen again, the old man would tell the children huddled around the fire.

Yet, unbeknownst to them, she reached. She reached where she needed to be.

And she roared. Roared and roared her anger. Years, years of research only to be shunned at the doors of the heavenly light. Deep marks covered her face now. The sun had eaten away at her youth, her beauty. Her fingers threatened to pull out her black hair (browned at the tips now, what would be a sign of ugliness in her village) as the acrid tears fell.

“Why would you deny me light?!” she cried, and in that moment, she was young and tender again. Wounded. A girl with no parents, not anymore. A girl with a dream to be a god. To heal others, to heal herself. To give light and beauty when there was darkness. The same darkness that had once overpowered her, stricken her from the inside all those years ago.

“Let me be light!” she roared and cried and tugged at her hair, “Let me be light!”

But when they did not grant her wish, when her years, her knowledge, her beauty had been sacrificed for nothing, she raged. If you will not let me be light, I will be the world instead. If I cannot shed light to the world, I will become the world, I will decide its fate instead.

So with her knowledge, she summoned an old demon, sly and willing.

“Let me be the world.” she had asked.

The demon narrowed his yellow eyes. “I do not have the power. I cannot make you into the world when you have not walked all its lengths nor climbed all its heights.”

“Then,” she thought, that quick, beautiful mind spinning, “make me into the world of here. Give me this land here, that I have walked for all my life, from the north to the south, from where the sun rises to where it sets.”

“Very well.” the demon had smiled.

And for that wish, he took all of her.

The desert now, is her. Oases are said to be the places she could not visit or the places she held too dear. Her old village now was dust and bones.  But she always protected the sons and daughters of her people. Although now, she had lost so much of herself she could not remember why she did so.

That is the desert: vast, lonely, capricious.

A desert that does not understand itself, but rages at an old wound that cannot be remembered.


Note: Day 1 of  (sortof) NaNoWriMo

 

Summertime Freedom

“‘Important’ does not mean what it used to mean anymore. Now, smiling is important. Unstoppable laughter is important. Comparing the size of our hands, marveling at the length of our hair or how sun-kissed and sandy-toed we are is important. Or perhaps none of it is and that is what is delightful…”

Pho3
The most wonderful thing about this photo? No filter.

I am living to the rhythm of lazy days, long days that stretch and stretch along the horizon line. Warm days lost on the world, bereft of meaning and yet ridiculously indispensable.

But really, what could be more important than watching algae swish to-and-fro with the tide? Or finding out just how long I can hold my breath?  To be honest, I am vaguely aware of some ‘important’ matter I am meant to overthink about—something, something about finding out what to do with the rest of my life. Yeah, that. The waves shrug off the thought though, they send it rolling far away from the shoreline and deep into dark blue waters.

‘Important’ does not mean what it used to mean anymore. Now, smiling is important. Unstoppable laughter is important. Comparing the size of our hands, marveling at the length of our hair or how sun-kissed and sandy-toed we are is important. Or perhaps none of it is and that is what is delightful. Everything is optional; I am free from consequences, free even from the restraints my dark thoughts set around my heart.

You know, maybe the sound of freedom is not the sound of the sea after all, but rather the sound of this heart going: “Lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub” so calm and unbothered that it sounds vaguely, vaguely like: “Free-dom, free-dom, free-dom”.

The Lonely 1 a.m’s of Life

“At 1 a.m., we are too much of ourselves. At 1 a.m., we cannot handle the thoughts that take a highway to feelings…. At 1 a.m., your heart is a funnel for the feelings of all other hearts. “

michelleellis
Photo by: Michelle Ellis

I think a major reason why we sleep at night is to avoid living these 1 a.m’s. They are the moments when everything exists through a haze, as though any moment now you would realise you were dreaming and go back to sleep. But it all feels too real, too. The sounds of the neighbour’s air-con going off, the rustling leaves and the silence. It is calm even in your head. But there is no peace. Just contemplation. Just everything, naked, uncaring for the sweetness or brutality of Reality. At 1 a.m., we are too much of ourselves. At 1 a.m., we cannot handle the thoughts that take a highway to feelings.

At 1 a.m., the brain actually shuts down in part, something about needing rest and signalling that you’re tired. But the heart never does—it takes no breaks. So at 1 a.m., you have no thoughts, really. Only memories and sadness. Yes, 1 a.m. is the heart’s reign. So even the sadness is too complicated to dissect. Regret. Fear. Nostalgia. Hope. Useless wishes. Insecurities. This amorphous thing that is Life. At 1 a.m., your heart is a funnel for the feelings of all other hearts.

At 1 a.m., Life stares back at you, asks you who you are and what you’ve done. You’ve had 20 years—what are you now? Who will you be in another 20?

But because your brain is sleeping, because all your defenses are down, the only reply you give is the one that comes from your eyes.

The Lost Red String of Fate

“Yes, somewhere—somewhere that is not here, some time that is not now— there is quiet, there is peace. There is a touch of happiness, slight as the sun before it finally disappears into the horizon line. Better than, there is home. “

red_string_of_fate_by_nile_can_too-d4m28g7
Art by: nile-can-too

The thing I want exists somewhere in this world. Somewhere, somewhere in this vast blue planet (and I dare not think, maybe even beyond that), it is waiting. For me.

Yes, somewhere—somewhere that is not here, some time that is not now— there is quiet, there is peace. There is a touch of happiness, slight as the sun before it finally disappears into the horizon line. Better than, there is home. But miles and years stretch between us and I am left with all these thoughts.

All these doubts, this longing— I wonder, I wonder— is it going to be too much to ask from the Universe? To plot the graphs of lives, to tangle the winding web of Humanity and the Tapestries of Time just right, so that one day…One day, while walking down the street, I can catch a silver, an atom of this feeling, this loose thread of Fate I have yearned to catch?

But dark thoughts have embittered my heart and I doubt. Inexplicably, I think that if Life is made of intersecting threads, then part of the thread of me is still hanging on the old, wooden spool.