Seasons change but ghosts remain (Part One)

4:54 am. I leave out a soft groan as I place the phone back onto the nightstand. There’s no hope for slumber anew, might as well begin the day. Reaching for the bottle of medication only to stop short of grasping it, no, better to wait until later. There will be plenty of time today to swallow pills, don’t be hasty. Stealing a quiet glance at my wife, blissfully unaware of my awakening, I slowly crawl out from under the covers, being careful not to disturb her. Groping blindly in the dark for my pajamas, I trip over my slippers. Strange; last night I came upstairs without them, I had left them downstairs. Confused,  reaching back to the nightstand to locate the mobile phone, knocking over the pill bottle, not being able to catch it before it hits the hardwood floor, echoing like a gunshot throughout the room, whipping around to face the bed; no movement, still asleep.

Collecting my belongings, I approach the bedroom door, being careful to turn the handle gently, making a soft click behind me as I close it once more. There on the landing the chill of the dawn air reminds me to put the pajamas on that are in my hands. Better, warmer, I tread slowly down the steps, mindful of the creaking of the wood as it bears my weight.  Feet starting to feel numb from the cold, I let out a sigh of relief as I pull the warm, cotton slippers over them. Have to remember to check the bedroom floor after she arises, it couldn’t have been my slippers that I tripped over.

Turning on the light by my favorite (and only) chair, I was greeted by two sleeping felines, arrogantly taking up all the space to sit. Cursing silently but not yet admitting defeat, only prolonging it, I approach the kitchen to lure them away with the sound of fresh food hitting their bowl.  Remembering as soon as I turned the light on, bathing me in a harsh, yellow, too-bright gleam that we no longer had pets; the last of our cats had died just last year.

A question of

Jess stood on the edge of the platform, not sure which direction to take. One step further, the end was clear. There would be no going back from that decision. However, to turn around and face the other way was frightening in its own way. Every path chosen was equal in that it held its own secrets, and the outcome was not set in stone. Jess quickly realized that there was not a path of least resistance, and even if there was, what would there be to gain by choosing such a path? The answer itself was obvious, but its application…would prove to be difficult. It was at that moment clarity took hold: there weren’t just two ways, down or back, there were a multitude of roads, highways, bridges, and grassy footpaths; they were always there, but the fog was usually too thick to see them, and the focus was always on one direction. So, taking a deep breath, Jess stepped off the platform, hoping to beat the fog that was already enveloping.

Crows

He arrived earlier than expected, and as he stood at the gates to the cemetery, he wondered aloud if he should enter. There was no one there to answer his query, even the crows seemed to have left him alone to solve the problem. Taking a deep breath, he put one foot in front of the other and in no time at all found himself standing before an empty patch of grass. He was befuddled; was there not supposed to be a marker of some sort here? Looking around at the vast rows of polished granite and marble, the swatch of green lawn he was standing on seemed woefully out of place. Perhaps he was at the wrong destination. Quickly checking his papers, he realized that he was where he was supposed to be. Not one to enjoy idle time, he fancied himself a walk around the grounds; hopefully by the time he returned everything would be in order for his arrival. Taking a leisurely stroll around the expansive lot, he noticed the artistry that went into the monuments were quite intricate. Delicate carvings and introspective engravings found his eye wherever he turned. He noticed that he was relaxing; the troubles of his youth seemed so trivial now. How could one be anxious amongst all these pillars of devotion and remembrance? When he made his way back to whence he came, he hardly cared at all that he was tossed high with the breeze, floating along the tops of the Maple trees, flying forever with the crows whom so gallantly picked him up and helped him find his way.

 

Story #1 (The Art of Dying – Rough Draft from 2010)

Tyrone Bates jumped off the 10th St. Bridge and slammed into the macadam below. This kind of thing had happened before. The 10th St. Bridge was a favorite for people who didn’t feel like living anymore. However, when the paramedics came to scrape up his body and load it onto the gurney, a funny thing happened: Tyrone whistled through what was left of his lips, “I’m in a pickle now, aren’t I?”

                Things like this happen all the time, do they not? There are miracles every day. Tyrone didn’t think it was a miracle, however; he wanted death, not eternal life. To this day, Tyrone Bates remains at 12th St. Hospital, in a jar by the window; and to this day, not a soul in Evansburg has crossed over to the other side. It was as if everyone’s secret wish for eternal life had been granted. Well, everyone except Tyrone Bates, of course.

I gave you the beginning of the story, but I’m not much of a story teller, so I’m going to fast forward a little bit. Now the story gets a bit more personal. Now we’re going to talk about me.

I was walking home from the book store that I owned and ran by myself late one August night. The air had a crispness to it that was very unusual for that time of year. I remember being a bit on the cold side. The leaves on the trees were starting to change already, and people were talking about a long winter ahead of us. Up ahead of me, I saw what appeared to be a person lying motionless on the sidewalk. I quickened my pace, hoping in vain that it was just some vagrant, sleeping it off.

I reached the crumpled body, and bent down to gently turn it over. I say “it” because the body was so bundled up that I still wasn’t sure that it even was a human being. When my fingers made contact with the fabric of the bundle, I saw a flash of light, and a bolt of white-hot pain seared through my body. Then, everything went black: I had been shot.

To get to the point, I had been mugged. Except, the robber had decided to have some fun as well, because, it’s not like he could kill me. The last thing I remember hearing was the man’s snickering as he rummaged through my pockets, looking for whatever valuables I happened to be carrying. The joke was on him, though, for I had nothing on me. Not a cent; everything was either at my store or at my home. I had learned a long time before to never carry anything with me. That’s when I felt the knife go in: over and over; I lost count after 56.

I woke up later in a dark room. There was no sound, and it was eerily quiet. I tried to call out for someone, anyone, but I couldn’t utter a sound. It took  me awhile to realize just how severe things were with my situation, and I really only figured it out after I felt hands on my body that weren’t my own, gently lifting me and turning me over to my other side. They felt like the hands of a woman; they were too gentle to be the hands of a man. A wave of terror enveloped me, and I am sure that I cried out. What good would that do me anyway? I was now an invalid; I could not see; I could not hear; I could not move on my own power. All I could do was exist. Forever.

I know that they have tried to end my suffering. I also know, obviously, that each attempt has failed. Sometimes I think about the ways that they haven’t tried yet; for instance, why haven’t they tried cremation? Surely a body could not survive that. Then, I remember that Suzie Wilkins did survive that; well, at least she survived a house fire that had burned her beyond recognition. Suzie had been reduced to bare bones, really, and she was seen patrolling the streets years after her ordeal. Have you ever seen a walking, talking skeleton? Well, I shouldn’t say talking, because her vocal chords had been burned away in the fire, so she was never much up for conversation after that.

OK, so burning is out. Maybe they could just flatten me? No, you could jump off a bridge and still survive; that was proven long ago. I tried holding my breath a few times. I was able to last 604,800 seconds before I gave it all up for hopeless.  You couldn’t even count on renal failure anymore; you didn’t even need a heart to be beating. You just kept on keeping on.

Maybe I was in some sort of purgatory. Maybe if I atoned for my sins and accepted Jesus Christ into my life that would be the ticket out of here. Well, I must have prayed for months on end, but there was no reply. There was no great white light, no tunnel to walk through. St. Peter was a fucking fraud, and if I ever saw him he better stay the hell away from me. Do you get the use of your limbs back in the afterlife?

                I am not going to bore you with further details of my life. A long time ago I developed a way to tell time; it is a crude method, mind you, but it gives me something to do. I can safely say that most of my body has rotted away by now, because I lost the sense of any kind of touch long ago. As a matter of fact, for all I know I could be buried in the ground, or scattered among the trees. As of this morning, I believe the year to be 2166. Don’t ask me what month.