The Day I Almost Died

This is a short story that came to me this morning, and I decided to include it as today’s blog post. It is a bit grim but not so grim. Eventually, I would like to publish a few of my short stories in an anthology. I hope you enjoy this one.

It was a sunny day; I saw it cloudy. The silence was too loud inside my head. The stillness, a cloak for the raging waters of my soul. I glanced outside my window. The trees moved to the gentle breeze as a dance of death began inside my head. I could hear the deaf sound of loneliness; it had become my lullaby. Isolation became the clothes I wore daily. I searched the empty corridors of my heart over and over; I found nothing. It had morphed into an empty shell of despair, a chamber of hollow beats. There, I found nothing that would justify the next heartbeat.

A chilling breeze danced nearby; Death awaited. I could feel her mutable presence begging me to speed up the process. I was ready. How did it get to this moment? Did it matter? I didn’t require an answer. An answer made things complex. I heard the doorbell. I ignored it. It rang a second time, and a third, until it became noise. I placed the gun next to an empty picture frame. Somehow, I never got to place a picture in it. I counted twelve steps to the door. I opened it. I didn’t bother to bolt it anymore. I had no cares. I forced a smile. It almost hurt at the corners of my mouth. No one was at the other side to return my crooked smile. I looked around; no one was there. I stepped out on the front porch. No one was there.

I saw a splash of red fluttering to my left. A cardinal perched on the Forsythia bush surely made a nice contrast to the bright yellow buds. How did I never noticed that before? Something scurried up the old cedar tree. It was a squirrel, then came another, and they chased each other up and down the old cedar.

“That old cedar must have seen so much,” I mumbled.

I sat on the front steps. A crow marched unpretentiously on the horizon. It almost shimmered as the sun hit its feathers. I felt the warmth of the sun on my skin. How long had it been? A busy party of little brown birds scattered throughout the ground looking for food. A reddish wasp rested atop a chair, as if thawing from a frost or waking from a dream, its wings resting downward. The sun’s warmth felt good on my skin. Everywhere I looked I saw signs of life. Life was everywhere; I could see it if I cared to see it. I felt something fuzzy rubbing my leg in a rhythm.

“Where did you come from, lil’ fellow?”

The disheveled black kitten was skin and bones; I could count its ribs. It kept rubbing against my leg, and I could hear a faint purr becoming louder. It was so tiny. I picked it up and it nuzzled against my arm, then it nestled. I sat out there for a while. The kitten fell asleep in my arms, and I observed the rhythm of life around me.

“What am I going to do with you lil’ fellow? It looks like you will be needing me for a while, at least until you fatten and grow up a bit more.”

The crow restled with a worm until it came out of the ground. The squirrels moved on to another tree.

“What should I name you? Hum, let me think. Aha, you shall be called Rigor, but we’ll leave the mortis out; how is that?”

Rigor became my inseparable friend for the next 15 years. To all, he was a black cat; to me, he was life, and a constant reminder. During that time, I never found out who rang the doorbell.

On Death

I am fascinated by Death, as a character. I like Death as a neutral being, for lack of a better fitting word. Death has been misrepresented, or ill-presented. Death is the elephant in the room; no one wants to think or talk about it. When we think of Death, we do it in a negative way. Death is unfair, scary, sad, a punishment, evil … . We try to cheat Death; we want to live as long as we can. We become healthier, exercise, eat well, take vitamins … just to live longer, to avoid meeting with Death. We cling to youth in many ways (creams, Botox, plastic surgery …) because by growing old we think we become closer to Death, and that scares us.

In movies, the hero cheats Death, saves others, and beats Death. We dream of vampires, eternal life, and we rather turn into a werewolf than face Death. It is only when the Vampire or the Werewolf (or any other creature) represents the threat of death that we destroy it, and we cheer – ah, we are safe. We put people on Death row for a long time, as if the wait prolongs the suffering.  Death doesn’t even have a face; it is represented as the ripper covered in a black-gray tunic who appears unexpected, uninvited, carrying its weapon of destruction. Even in suicide, the person does not embrace Death; instead, the person escapes life. However, Death doesn’t destroy at will (but we do); it doesn’t seem to have one. Death doesn’t take lives by choice (we do), and it doesn’t seem to enjoy its duty. Death only is, and it is always on time.

So this morning, as I pondered on this character who is so misunderstood and hated, I wrote Death a poem. Here it is, and I hope you enjoy it or at least that it gives you a different perspective.

Requiem
I do not belong
Nor do I seek.
Nor Heaven nor Hell
I wander the Earth.

Who am I?
Human at best?
Hint of divine?
Of evil a speck?

Of grace and humankind
The Earth is tired.
The ice a blanket throws
Blue hearts, frozen desires.

Divine, Evil, Human, morass.
Tired Earth Dooms Day awakes.
Melting core, frozen bones, at last
The apocalyptic boom, the end.

Nor who, nor what
Serving the times, perpetual task.
No will, no cry
Angel of Death, on time I am.