Death, an eternal being, is often misunderstood. Here’s a new fantasy podcast from Jake Jackson’s These Fantastic Worlds. This week, it’s read by Frances Bodiam.
Echoes | Death
Death has but one, recurring dream. In others it would be considered a nightmare, but for this eternal being, the dream merely sits upon the fact of its existence. It is a constant companion, unchanging and undisturbed, unlike the massive body now grown around the lightness of Death’s true form.
Death has no power or influence. It merely waits for us, and when the moment is right, it leads us off. It is not unkind, not even quite impersonal, but inclined to help us when the time comes. Its smile is gentle, its head inclined slightly to one side; it appears to nod in a sympathetic, agreeable sort of way.
Death is greatly misunderstood. Feared by some who run away but, finding themselves pursued, panic and run faster, only to find that death is still behind them, not exactly grinning, or leering, but smiling quietly as though mocking.
Death is called by the sigh of the dying breath, and is obliged to catch the dying at the moment they fall. If it is not there they would fall into the abyss and sink into the formlessness of pre-eternity. But death has never allowed this to happen. Instead it takes the dead by the hand: the fearful, the lonely, the greedy and ambitious, those who fight to live, those who embrace their departure, and gently escorts them away from the place of everyday time, into the realm of everything, where their energy — some say their soul — becomes a part of the greater whole. Death is the agent, the concierge, the essential catalyst, without which the essence, soul, energy cannot transform.
“It is time.” Death always says. “Your time. Come with me. All will be well.” And so the figures fade.
Death is much misunderstood by those who think there is a deal to be done, perhaps thinking that a Faustian pact is possible, or that it is some mythical Devil, eager to claim a soul for itself. Often it is offered great riches, land, power, the absurd adornments of the living. For such as these Death knows that a rejection might result in a little unpleasantness, as the imminently dead become affronted by its lack of manners. So, Death appears to accept such bribes with a gracious smile. Of course, it has no use for such baubles, and no place to put them, so every time it appears it grows more massive, more weighed down by the burden of the gifts. Its body is encrusted with gold and silver trinkets, keys to safe deposit boxes, security devices with secret pass codes, bullion hangs about its person. It used to be a lithe creature of eternal lightness but now the millennia of bribes has made Death appear so fat that it’s taken to wearing a wide, long, cloak. Its head is now covered by a hood that shrouds the glittering jewels across its temple and eyes, and in its hand it now holds a staff to help it lift itself up at the appropriate moment. Death must be ready to hold the hand of those that drift away unexpectedly, or catch those who fall from the cliffs and buildings. Its former lightness of being was more suited to such tasks.
Death is not a creature of conscious thought. It is a noumen, one who acts in a particular way because that is what it is. It has been given no instruction, no apprenticeship informed its early years, and there was no choice to be made, or rebellion to be endured. Death was, is, manifested as Death and does what must be done. And the accumulation of worldly goods is to be endured as a distraction.
In the millennia that follows it is possible to conceive of Death as a gigantic ball of gifts, over-endowed with earthly riches, penetrating eyes peering from deep within the glittering wealth of a thousand kingdoms, still appearing at the bedside of those about to go, or fall, those whose lives are to be switched off, as if by accident, in some gigantic cosmic experiment. But Death is always there, for the millions of people who die in every moment, for it moves through time as a stack of cards, time event piled upon event, moment upon moment, particle on particle. The linear movement of the everyday is of no consequence because its task takes it from one moment to the next, in an instant. It does not slow time, but is, apparently, able to ignore its effect, and move freely across the restrictions of human spans of life.
One time though Death encounters the stuff of its dream. It enters a small room. Tidy and bare, the walls are whitewashed and the floor is plain, and wooden. It sees the back of a figure on a large comfortable chair holding the hand of a body that lies shrouded on a bed. If Death could be surprised, this would be the moment, for the figure on the bed is already dead, but the soul has not been gathered by Death, indeed Death has not been called to this place at all.
Death drifts across the room, heaving its bulk through the air, its bejewelled and adorned body clinking under the dark cloak and hood. It approaches the body on the bed and reaches out with a ring-clustered finger, teasing at the edge of the shroud, and pulling back, to reveal a slender, ethereal face.
It is Death’s own face, as it appeared before the weight of human wealth had hollowed out its eyes and stretched its face into a rictus of effort.
The figure in the chair leans over, and places a hand over Death’s.
Death looks up, and finds itself, again, looking into its own face.
“It is time. Our time. Come with me. All will be well.”
And so the three figures fade.[Ends]
Text, image, audio © 2014 Jake Jackson, thesefantasticworlds.com. Thanks to Frances Bodiam (who read the podcast this week), Logic Pro, the Twisted Wave Recorder App, Apogee Condenser microphone, Rotring pens and inks, and Alfons Schmidt’s fantastic Notebook for Mac app.
Part of a new series of micro-fiction stories, published on Wattpad, released as These Fantastic Worlds SF & Fantasy Fiction Podcast on iTunes and elsewhere, and on this blog.
More next week…
There are a few more stories in this series:
Here’s a related post, 5 Steps to the SF and Fantasy Podcasts