On Death

7 Jan

Happy Monday! Mondays need more presents. I think it would make them nicer.

So, here’s a present for you all. It’s a short story I’v written about a very flamboyant alien and a very serious question. Hope you enjoy!

 

 

On Death

It was an odd place, this earth. Shuttles going in and out on a daily basis to keep the population at equilibrium. Missions forged weekly to find new frontiers to settle. Science slowed to a near standstill, only the one regulation-mandated study coming out per year. Art had been all but abandoned. With immortality comes time, was the motto here. There would be time for discovery later. If you lost your creativity, you had forever to find it again. The most important thing, they said, had already been found. The thing on which hinged everything.

Eternal life.

But he was here on a sight-seeing trip, a cultural expedition to become acquainted with this new culture that had reached the prime of its life (though with its infinite extent, who could really judge what phase it was in?). It was an anthropological examination for his human studies class. Those odd, four-limbed creatures were just so endearing, he couldn’t have passed up an opportunity to rub one of his many elbows with them. They were just so curious, such small creatures holding such a large key to the universe. And it was still so unwieldy to them, all these millennia later. Humans were a cute species. So funny.

“Excuse me,” he asked a man rushing by, “what have you done today?”

The man looked at him as if – well, in colloquial terms, as if he were an alien – and just kept hurrying by.

“Hmph,” he harrumphed to himself. Rude.

He kept walking through the terminal, passing up all the busy bodies hustling from place to place dragging their infernal roller luggage behind. You’d think that immortal beings would be more aware of where their supplementary appendages were going, instead of letting them fly all over the place, tripping up poor innocent “aliens” like himself who happened to have more than two appendages for locomotion. Honestly. These people’s fountain of youth certainly hadn’t made them any less crass. You’d think, having all the time in the worlds, they’d slow down at some point…

“Oomph!” he spluttered, nearly falling flatly onto his primary nose. Quickly recovering, he whipped around, expecting to see an offending roller bag hurtling off into the crowed after its master, leaving no hope of an apology.

You can imagine his surprise when he was confronted with a very gangly, very scrawny, very bearded old man sitting squarely on the floor in front of him.

“Oh!” he exclaimed. “My apologies!”

The old man looked up at him with glazed eyes. They locked gazes for a moment, but then the old man merely looked back down at the floor and shrugged.

“No bother.”

Finally! He was thrilled. Someone who would talk to him! He plopped down on the floor next to the aged human.

“Hello!” he said brightly. “May I talk to you?”

Some of the haze cleared from the old man’s eyes and he looked at his visitor curiously. “I suppose.”

“Fantastic!” He rummaged in his backpack (a much more sensible invention, really) for his list of questions. “Here we go!” He pulled out the much-crumpled piece of paper and a pen (tragically, already showing signs of leaking). “Let’s see,” he thumbed down the list, searching for the best question question to open with. “Aha! I know. Tell me, have you truly loved?”

The old man chuckled, but there was pain in the rasp. “Oh, I’ve loved, my boy. I’ve loved and loved again.”

He leaned in closer. “But,” he said in a conspiratorial whisper, “have you ever really loved?”

The old man closed his eyes. His voice fell low. “Her name was Ally.”

“I see,” he said, scribbling the name down on his paper. “Where is she now?”

The man didn’t answer for a moment. He was silent so long that his visitor looked up from his crumpled piece of paper and promptly pretended not to notice the tears streaming down the old man’s face.

“She died.”

“Oh,” he gulped. “But I thought…”

“Yes, yes,” the old man waved a hand at him impatiently. Ire creeped into his voice. “But she didn’t want it.”

He fidgeted with his paper nervously. “Okay, then,” he muttered. “Next question, next question… let’s see… oh!” He looked at the old man quizzically. “If you don’t mind me asking,” he tried, politely as possible, “why, ahem, why did you let yourself grow old? Seems everybody else around here just keeps regenerating themselves. You know, the eternal youth thing.”

“Oh, I’ve had my fair share of re-youthing,” the old man nodded slowly. “I’ve been a strapping young boy more times than I can count. Eventually, the repetition of it all just… got old. Just because I could grow young again did not mean that I could remake myself. Each time I was still left with all my limitations, all my faults. Infinite life does not make for infinite abilities, my son.”

“Oh.” He ran over his sheet of questions again and again, but none of them seemed to fit anymore. Suddenly, he and, foregoing his human studies professor’s instructions about how to properly go about questions, asked one not on his list. “Then why are you still here?”

“I do not know whether I have loved enough, laughed enough, learned enough, lived enough,” the man said frantically. “How can I ever end things before I know that I have completed myself? The decision has been left to me, deigning my life finished. But what if I have missed something? I can’t go out yet. I am plagued by the constant suspicion that there is something more, and that I have not found it yet. I have lived my life over and over again. I am bored of this existence. I am tired. And yet despite this emptiness in me, I have searched this life again and again, and have come to the conclusion that what I feel must be wrong, for there is nothing left. That this must be all there is to life, in the end, this hole. How can I die, if this is all that’s left?” The man fell silent.

He looked at the old man. Strange, this human’s thinking pattern. He was feeling very “alien” right now indeed.

He cleared his throat. “But,” he said in as small, unobtrusive a voice as he could manage, “you haven’t found life’s end.” The old man looked up at him, curiosity returning to his old eyes.

“Yes?”

“Well,” he said, trying not to sound too matter-of-fact, “if you never die, how will you know for sure whether there’s ever anything else?”

The old man was silent for a long while. Finally he looked up and met his visitor’s gaze again.

“I don’t know, my boy. I don’t know.”

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