Published: Sick Lit Magazine, 3/16/2017.
The rush of wind forms into words. “If you could know what it is to die, to experience it, to be…one with it, would you?” Slithering shadows coalesce into long strands of a nimble, humanoid shape. Cloaked in a darkness defined by more than the absence of light, a flowing trench coat and black fedora adorn the figure. Lastly, the creature’s face gains enough light to reveal smooth lines, not quite human, that betray not an age or intent. Staring, unblinking, the pit-black eyes seem timeless, devoid of depth or, contrastingly, without end.
Glass set down. Water pools under it. Condensation. The interview has begun. An uttered voice strained at the tip. “Would I feel pain?”
Formality, an ease to the words. “Of course, but it is not about the pain.” A smile. Sharp intake of breath. The embers of a paper-wrapped death stick light up, not unlike a small torch pinched between the teeth. Smoke curls over red lips. “That is just an obstacle, not the destination. You know what this is about.”
“Do I?” A tilted chin, confidence not based in fact. “My life is…barely mine. I’m willing to try.” Eyes raised.
“If it means to live.”
“To die is to live.” The smile cracks wider. “You learn quickly.” The shadows’ robes are black or are they white?
“Will I learn?” Fingertips wet from the glass. Wiped on the black suit pants. Hope they don’t stain. Loose tie, wrapped around the neck, dangles between legs.
“Depends on how long it takes you. But…you would ascertain how not to be concerned with the trivial, how to see what others don’t, how to taste the air before each breath.” Another puff of smoke, another smile, this one tilted in an offset grin.
“OK, I’ll do it.”
“I knew you would. Now…jump.”
The oak table is gone. As well as the glass. Water swirls far below. Wind sweeps long strands of hair across blinking eyes. Darkness plays backdrop to gray clouds illuminated by the city spires at the end of the bridge’s arc.
“Why are you waiting? The death you wish…to experience…is below, waiting to help you transcend.” A thin tongue licks those red lips, they glisten.
“How did I get here?”
“You’re thinking about the trivial again. This is why we are here. You are captive to these ways. This world, its movements, attachments. They bind you as surely as any iron-wrought chains. I can get those, too, if you like. If you think it will help.”
“No, I got this.” Hands curl over a misted railing. The cold seeps through clothes. Air sucked between chapped lips. Tension draws taut to bone. “You promise when I die, I will come back?”
“I promise you will know death, and the rest will not matter. The experience is the revelation.”
“Wait, you promised me I would live.”
“True, I promise many things.” A finger traced over the shoulder, perspective shifts. “For you, I promise when you die, you will finally live.” Teeth bared, not quite in a smile.
“How?” Fingers unclench. A half step back. Cannot not look down.
“Attachments, in death, they are gone. In that way, you will be free from any sorrow.” Warm breath cakes the inside of an ear. Words elongate into a whisper. “You will be freeeee.”
Another intake of air. Muscles, layer upon layer, over tendon and bone, tense, the world teeters. The pressure behind the eyes, inducing a throbbing pain in the temples, crawls into the corners and crevices of the skull. “Will I live after death? Will I continue to live?”
“Oh, these questions. Does it matter? If your life is unlived in its entirety, wouldn’t a moment of freedom, a moment of being truly alive, at the expense of all else, be worth it?” Fingertip traces from behind the ear down the neck, flipping of the shoulder.
Shiver. “Yes, maybe you are right…what was I looking for. To live? Could death provide release, a climax of sorts, a clarity? But if my life is not just about me, wouldn’t I cause others pain, this attachment?”
A grip tightens around the back of the neck, nails digging into skin. “Let me remind you of your promise, let me remind you that your life is what is important. Without it, there’s nothing else. I repeat, nothing else. No one else matters. It’s your connections, the pulse of your being that threads together the fabric of your little…community…little family, friends.” The last words spit like a curse. Grip releases. That shadow-traced face nears. “They will never see, never know, what you can accomplish.”
“You’re right. They will always be linked, attached, to me, won’t they?”
“Of course, they are too weak to dare see the revelations of death.”
“Or strong enough to be willing to live turbulent, attached, dependent, lives. Living can’t only be about awareness.” A cityscape unfolds into the below, far far below, the river stretches out of reach. “We moved. Why here? The water is gone. I would fall into…into the street.”
“Death is death, either by suffocation or by…splatter.” Bend of lips, a smirk. “Why not? It’s too wet on the bridge. Besides, I prefer the throng of an urban landscape, why not bed death from the skies of a tower?”
Words, soft, gentle, slip off the tongue. “No, I’m done with this. I’m done with you. Take me back.”
“To where? You cannot undo a promise.”
“I haven’t committed to it. I’m still here.”
“Yes, yes you are.”
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