There's a place I live, apart from this real life illusion that everyone seems to hold so important. It is here that I see the effects of everything that I've done. And right now my death song is playing. Rising in volume for the last 42 years. If I wanted to, I could identify it, but fear holds me fast. Occasionally I gather some courage and turn to face it, my hands shaking. I drop to my knees, head in my hands. I'm not ready.
This place used to be a sanctuary. The restful place in the wood next to my lake. There's a small clearing. Look up. It feels like falling. As it always does now.
A life ago, I shared a smoke and a drink with Death, the man. When you die, he's always going to be there. He doles out what is required and takes his role matter of factly. I loved him. Loved him like a brother. But I mistook him as someone close to ordinary, or perhaps mistook myself as close enough to exceptional to be able to handle what he carries.
What an arrogant fool I was.
An abandoned castle of stone somewhere in Scotland hidden deep in the woods. Everyone of our clan is passed out or asleep. Death and I are on the third floor balcony sipping wine and having a smoke. "I want you to give me my death song," I said.
"You'll hear it, Jack. Same as everyone."
"No. I mean... let me have it. Let me hear it like you do. Like carry it forever."
He puts down his cigarette and looks me up and down. He looks at me seriously, but there's nothing incredulous on his face. His eyes are deep brown with shaggy sand colored hair seemingly always draped in his face. Never looks a day over 30.
He takes a deep breath, puts a hand gently behind my head and with the other brushes my eyelids closed. And I'm there. I'm where you go when you die. It's a diner. Very late at night. The place is crowded and filled with sounds of people talking, glasses and utensils clinking. The air is stagnant, filled with grease and cigarette smoke.
Death is in the kitchen, busy cooking all the meals, sweat beading on his forehead. The kitchen is hot and he plates me eggs, hashbrowns, bacon and toast. I remember when he retold the story later, he said "You didn't much care for the coffee, Jack."
When I came to, he said "No one's ever gone there and come out before."
Coming to is not at all the right way to describe it. My ears were ringing, everything was blurry, I was completely dazed. He left me to myself and I disappeared for about a day and a half, they told me. I don't remember any of it. As he retold it, he said, "They said there was an accident, but I knew."
I held death for 36 hours apparently, and could no longer take it. I went back to the balcony and stood on the stone ledge and took a slow motion plunge onto my head. Snapped my neck.
Less then a year ago I found Him again. My good friend and brother, Death. As he filled me in on the details of what had happened, the memories became clear, unlike most of mine from previous lives. It explains a lot, but my story is only beginning. Death in this form will not leave me. I still carry it, apparently always will.
So the volume rises. The trees hang lower, pulled by the weight of the burden. Rain falls incessantly in a feeble attempt to cleanse this unpardonable sin.
Where forgiveness is unavailable, there can only be acceptance. Identity is the hardest of substances to mold. I must accept mine now and the burden I am justified in carrying.