Friday, February 21, 2014

A Dream Date with Death

Note: This is the straight transcript of a dream I had a few years ago. Just woke up, crawled to the iMac and started typing. Admiral Karen came in to see what I was up to, I gave her the Boris Karloff in Frankenstein voice (uurRHH!) and she left me alone until I got it all down and hit "post".

This is the dream in which Death takes me to lunch.

We meet on the sidewalk outside of a fancy restaurant. We are dressed in black tie, tails and top hats. Death looks and speaks like John Gielgud in the movie "Arthur". He makes a rattley noise as he walks. We bow to each other, the door opens, and Death waves me in ahead of him. "You go first!" he says with a toothy grin - that is a little too wide.

Pol Pot is the doorman. Typhoid Mary is the Hostess. Stalin is our Waiter. Hitler is the chef. Pope Alexander VI says a blessing over our table. We are the only diners, although vague, flickering shadows are constantly appearing and disappearing at all of the tables. 

Sumptuous food immediately appears on our plates (vegetarian of course, because of Adolf) and we dig in.
Death tells all of the ways that he has visited himself to Mankind throughout the centuries. Animals killed us humans first, then the weather, then we got good at killing each other. Death roamed the Earth then, spreading diseases from place to place, person to person. He brought Small Pox to the Americas, and then just to be fair, exported Syphilis to Europe and Asia.

From the Dark Ages to Victoria's Age Dying was a relief. Death was welcome, and had his own Cult. The end of one's life was deliverance; A release into what people believed was going to be a better place. At that thought my lunch companion laughed so hard that he had to use his silk napkin to daub the crimson tears from his sunken eyes.

Death's job was on the decline though after World War I, when we humans discovered
really super-efficient ways to kill each other, and troop transport meant that he never even had to leave his office, while the restless microbes spread all over the globe at speeds and levels of mortality that boggled even HIS mind.

"But Christ, the back-up of paperwork!" And he rolled his eyes, which then kept on rolling for awhile.

"Oh please, Eat. Do not for a second think that I would be so melodramatic as to taint your food or drink here. Indeed you humans are doing a far better job at that than I ever could have wished for."

"The Almighty? Pray to him all you want, but the fact is that He is a distracted, no!
Speaking is so confusing for me: he is a diffracted fellow – checks his voicemail from time to time, but rarely, if ever, does he pick up and answer the line, no matter how loudly it rings."

"Mind if I smoke?"

Me: Is Death, God?

"No, nonononono. I am a natural process. The presence of God is a privilege afforded very few. I, on the other hand, am a necessity that has a chat with everyone, sooner or later."

Me: What is the purpose of this lunch today?

"The fact that Death has been in decline for generations now. People are healthier, happier and more successfully procreative now than they ever have been before. I am….not welcome. Humans now-a-days aren’t only appalled by Death, they are SURPRISED by me. Which seems odd, doesn’t it?" And he laughed so hard that I thought I heard bones rattle.

"Scientists working on retarding aging or stopping Death in its tracks? For a while there was progress made – vitamins were an amazing blow to my business of Mortality – but now, the best minds do not go into such purely scientific studies."

"Today, my good Man, You are taking my chances for fun away. In the interests of profit humans have unified all of the food and drink on the planet. One corn plant, one type of cow. One disease resistant type of everything. Easier to control, to manage, to profit from, to depend upon. For everything. All of your factory eggs are in one handbasket."

But," he said, brandishing a long, beautiful, bony finger at me, "By denying Me the diverse pleasures of taking you one at a time, I see a future in which I will take you all at once. Once those eternally restless microbes crack the armor of that plant, that seed, that well, then catastrophic food failure will rain down upon all of the fields of the world."

"And I," he said, crushing out his cigarette, "I will be simply overwhelmed."

"And then, I fear, there shall be so little work for me that I shall be – how do you say it in this quaint language of yours? – oh yes! I shall be 'laid off.'" And he tossed back the last of his wine and laughed until the table shook.

Me: “But who would – could do that to you? Who is Death’s boss? God?"

No, NO, dear boy, haven’t you been listening? God is a collective abstraction, a collectivization of all of mankind’s hopes and fears. God is a figurehead. Jesus but you people like to Universalize things! No, I am afraid that my Boss, as you say, or more accurately My Supervisor is a destiny far more personal than your quaint notions of
Monotheistic Deity. The three who sign MY paychecks work behind-the-scenes, out of the glare of the spotlights and cameras. And don’t bother praying to them either." He shot me a sideways glance from suddenly pupil less eyes. “They don’t even have a phone.”

"Ah, here’s my ride." And suddenly we were standing out on the sidewalk.

At that moment a gigantic gypsy wagon emerged out of a sudden purplish mist. Two stories tall it stood, swaying back and forth on rusty springs. The outside was covered in animal skins, ancient weapons haphazardly tied in place, hubcaps, and bottles of alcohol tied up with cords. The bottles clanked together as if a million toasts were being saluted.

The wooden walls of the wagon itself were covered by layers of old posters and peeling newspapers advertising the beginnings of wars, the end of research budgets, a chemical spill in India, another Crusade, a circus tent fire in Connecticut.

The purplish mist lingered. It smelled of putrefaction and cinnamon. It emanated from every seam of the vehicle and it only reluctantly settled towards the ground, where little tendrils of it would break away and scurry up the sidewalk, chasing small dogs and causing all of the weeds to brown and curl on contact.

Candlelight flickered in the large side window of the wagon, but the glass was too beveled and crudely made to see clearly what was happening inside. I could make out three figures though, all talking and laughing in a woman’s voice that was simultaneously young, knowing, and ancient. No – three voices, each taking a role.

I saw a wheel, spinning and I heard scissors, snipping. Their reflections were enormous with the candles behind them. They could have been 10 feet tall inside that two story tall wagon, or they could have been tiny. Even microscopic.

I looked away and my gaze rose to the top of the gypsy wagon. Perched there in a wooden seat was my luncheon companion, who was looking at me and smiling the perpetual smile of one with no flesh. His superbly tailored tuxedo now gaped and hung about his shoulders and his bony chest no longer rose and fell with breathing. 

"Thank you for a most enjoyable repast" he said, over the sound of the cackling inside the wagon.

I smiled and removed my top hat. “Who paid the check?” I asked him.

Death laughed, and removed his own top hat. “Why you, of course, dear boy. You all pay in the end. But," he added settling his top hat back on top of his skull and inclining his head to me slightly, “I left you a very large tip.”

He chuckled some more as he took the reins of an enormous dead Mastodon that was
hitched up to this Juggernaut. One snap of the long, leather reins and the ancient beast came back to life and began lurching down the street, dragging the creaking, groaning gypsy wagon behind it.

I called after Death “See you - later!”

Death did not turn, but instead spoke inside my mind. “…..Or sooner…..”

Angus McMahan

(Pics from my collection of images I culled from the 'Net long before I thought of attribution. Except for the two tarot pics: Those are Amber and Amanda, respectively. [VERY respectively.])

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