The golden sunlight beamed across the terrace, illuminating the hard planes of her face, her quiet smile. She stood alone on top of the steps, the palace looming behind her, watching the games happening below. Today was the last day of civilization.
Killing the king had been easy enough, she supposed. As was killing everyone else in the palace. When she’d declared this to the people, the fools had transferred their allegiance to her. No whisper of rebellion. Amusing, but idiotic. She wanted nothing from them. She wanted them to be nothing.
And this… bloodsport. Some pompous patrician had organized them to gain her favour. She snorted softly. Just seemed like a way to get rid of all your strong, young men. There were only two of them remaining in the arena, by now. Dead bodies littered the ground, the blood turning brown in the evening sun.
The sound of clashing swords suddenly stopped, letting her hear the wind as it whispered over manicured lawns and stone floors. One of the young men collapsed on the ground and did not get back up. The crowd rose to applause. The politician, red-faced from wine and having had to get up from his plush seat, announced the winner in a loud, unnecessarily enthusiastic voice.
The lone survivor started up the steps. The crowd hushed; this was unusual. He had not bowed, he had not sheathed his sword, and the quickness of his tread certainly did not seem deferential. She watched him come closer, hands behind her back, smile growing.
Oh how adorable, he’s a hero! He’s coming to avenge the king! Here I’d thought everyone in this miserable place was worthless.
By now he’d almost reached the woman. The patrician watched him reach the last flight of stairs. Sweat coated his back, his heart thundered in his ears as he gripped the railing and saw the young man raise his sword. Sunlight glinted on steel, and then – the boy fell on his knees, his body twitching in an unnatural way. His head lay about 6 feet to the side. The woman was already sheathing a sword.
“My lord, we did- we did discuss that any scenario today would be to our advantage.” His wife said reassuringly, patting his damp shirt.
“Yes, yes we did discuss this. But my dear, from where did the sword appear?”
“And where is it now?”, murmured his lady.
Blood had sprayed on her face and her clothes, and she tasted rust and salt in her mouth. Carefully, she took out a cloth that she kept with her and dabbed it away, aware that the silent crowd was watching her every movement. When she was satisfied, she slowly started to pick her way down the steps. She was older than she’d have liked to be, though she felt young enough. The blood gushing from the headless neck had made a sticky pool through which descended, a hundred thousand eyes on the bloody footprints that she left in her wake.
She could smell the fear in the air. She cut through the arena and kept on walking, hands behind her back, like she was strolling in a garden.
I wonder how long it will take the crowd to get out of shock.
She’d almost reached them, the front lines quickly parting to let her through. It was as if they were too afraid to come within ten feet of her. To her amusement, she also noted that the people at the back were pushing ahead and lining the streets, trying to get a glimpse of her.
Fifty thousand people in this city, and you could have heard a pin drop. Her silent feet marched onwards as she walked away from the palace and down the main street, patiently waiting for some fool to participate in the show. She’d waited to turn this world into rubble for twenty years; she could wait a few minutes more.
About three miles in, a young lady stepped forward from the crowd with an eager face and bowed, low.
“My queen, allow me-“
“Oh, but I’m not your queen.” The woman turned her large, surprised eyes to the crowd. “Didn’t you hear? The king and queen are dead. The courtiers are dead. The guards are dead. The army is dead. All the ministers and all the judges and all the priests and all the nuns are dead.”
The woman faced the crowd fully now.
“There is no law. There are no rules. There are no lords and ladies and no servants. There are no rich and there are no poor. Money is dead. There is no ownership.”, she smiled.
“Anyone is welcome to go to the palace and take whatever they want. I warn you, it will be difficult. However, if the palace is too hard, you can always go to some other house or establishment.”
A few heads started turning towards the palace.
“Hey, you!” she addressed a drunkard standing nearby, “Would you like to have all the rum in that pub?”
“Yes, absolutely I would!”
“Go ahead and take it! No one can stop you!”
That generated considerable interest.
Her quiet voice cut through the buzzing crowd, “You there! Do you want to steal someone else’s husband?”
The girl, unsure, slowly nodded her head.
“Go ahead and have him!”
She could hear the foundations of the city crack amidst the yelling horde. Five fights had broken out in a manner of seconds. Knives out, a group of young lads had already entered the sweaty nobleman’s house nearby. She wondered where the couple was. Whether they were still alive.
She grinned wide, proclaiming, “This city is for you, and you alone. Every man is for himself. There is no code, no justice. No one will impose anything upon you. You may choose to barter services, or give them away, or steal. It is your choice. It will always be your choice.” She knew what the choice would be. It was always the same.
Up above, the clouds were tinged red with the last of the sun’s rays. As she walked away, her thoughts remained on the cacophony behind her. This had been easy. Too easy.
The sun dipped below the horizon, lengthening her shadow behind her, towards the city. Then there was nothing. The wind whispered over wild meadows and shallow graves.
It’s raining so beautifully here. Cool, breezy mornings turn into afternoons that sing with the pitter-patter of rain drops on leaves, branches, windows and all manner of things. When I look out the window while I write this, all I can see is green and silver. Every evening is a baroque opera of thunder and lightning.
I’m so grateful for the rain. I’m also grateful to be away from the waterlogging that is the entire city of Mumbai. Monsoon is my favourite season.
It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.
And that’s when you met me.
“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”
“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.
“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”
“Yup,” I said.
“I… I died?”
“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.
You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”
“More or less,” I said.
“Are you god?” You asked.
“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”
“My kids… my wife,” you said.
“What about them?”
“Will they be all right?”
“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”
You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”
“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”
“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”
“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”
“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”
You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”
“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”
“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”
“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”
I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.
“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”
“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”
“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”
“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”
“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”
“Where you come from?” You said.
“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”
“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”
“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”
“So what’s the point of it all?”
“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”
“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.
I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”
“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”
“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”
“Just me? What about everyone else?”
“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”
You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”
“All you. Different incarnations of you.”
“Wait. I’m everyone!?”
“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.
“I’m every human being who ever lived?”
“Or who will ever live, yes.”
“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”
“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.
“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.
“And you’re the millions he killed.”
“And you’re everyone who followed him.”
You fell silent.
“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”
You thought for a long time.
“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”
“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”
“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”
“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”
“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”
“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”
These woods are where Silence comes
To lick its wounds.
It creeps along the vine-shroud boughs
In loamy soil
It finds its scent, and my feet carry it with me
After I pass through.
It wears a crown of new, green leaves
It coats my tongue with a numbing sting
After I pass through.
I can hear leaves fall on the silent ground
And roots grow
They fill my head and fill my soul
After I pass through.
I have seen Silence heal in this forest.
And I am anew
It holds my hand and walks with me.
After I pass through.