The International Writers Magazine:
Dreamscapes Fiction: New Serialised Novel by Brodie Parker
"Because I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me
The Carriage held but just Ourselves
Chapters One & Two
wasnt something I thought a lot about when I was growing up. My
first encounter with it was my Uncle Jerry. I was eight, and he was
in his early forties. He drowned trying to save some kids after their
boat capsized. I remember after his funeral, I asked my mom about it.
She sat me down on my bed, and she said to me "Sloan, we all have
to die sometime. Every one of us. We dont ever know how or when,
but it happens to everyone; even the dog. You will hear people your
whole life tell you their own version of what happens after we die.
Heaven and Hell are popular theories. Sheol and Purgatory and Valhalla
are others. Still more are reincarnation, or the belief that there is
no after; that this is all there is. The Egyptians believed that when
we die, Anubis weighed their heart against a feather of the goddess
of truth and justice to decide where they would go. But the fact is
that it happens to all of us, and none of us really knows for sure."
I asked her "What do you think happens?"
She gave me that patient look of hers and said "I like you Sloan.
Youre a sharp kid, and you ask some good questions, but youre
a little slow sometimes. I just told you, it doesnt matter. Believe
whatever you want to, because youll be as right as anyone else,
and eventually youll get to find out. Theres no point in
being scared, but there is usually one in being sad. So be as sad as
you need to be for as long as you need to, just dont ever be scared;
no matter what anyone tells you. Theyre going to die too, and
they have to deal with the unknown in their own way. So do you."
My mom was a hip lady, but she didnt know everything. When I was
a teenager I got to see several more instances where death took over.
At each one I heard over and over what she was talking about. Everyone
had a handle on where the deceased had gone. Everyone they told between
tearful sobs simply nodded silently in mute agreement; even if they
believed something totally different. I resolved firmly to keep myself
alive as long as I could, and no longer. Then I put it out of my mind
When I was twenty six years old. I was out of school with a bright future
ahead of me. I had a girlfriend and a family. I had a great new job
in acquisitions for a major museum. I had a thing for antique weapons,
and I lined up an exposition of some incredibly rare swords. I was giving
a tour to some of our biggest contributors when it happened.
I had built a large wooden display to secure the swords to and maintenance
was about halfway through the job of setting it up. There were several
swords lined up on a scaffold about ten feet up; one of the maintenance
assholes forgot to secure the casing; I leaned against the scaffold
in the middle of one of my speeches; the whole mother collapsed onto
my unsuspecting head. One of the blades must have severed my spinal
cord, because I lost all feeling immediately. Several of them had passed
cleanly through and buried the first inch of their points into the floor,
effectively pinning me down. I hung there completely cognizant, although
groggy in front of some of the wealthiest people I had ever met, and
my boss, bleeding to death.
I couldnt feel a thing or move a muscle. I remember when they
pulled all the blades out, and placed me on a stretcher but then I passed
out. When I came to, I was in a white room with a lot of people on their
feet around me. There must certainly have been a lot of noise in the
room; I could tell they were talking quickly and moving things around.
I realized they were doctors, and that I must be in an operating room.
I still couldnt feel anything and was starting to believe that
I had gone deaf. There were machines flashing numbers and lines, and
people moving rapidly all around me, but I couldnt hear anything.
Then a sharp sound broke the silence, though it didnt belong with
what I could see. I heard a door swing open with a creak that echoed
through the room as if it were empty. Regular relaxed footfalls gave
sharp reports of boot heels on stone as they came closer and closer.
I was on my back looking up at all the faces when a tall pointed hat
appeared behind the nurses at my feet. It was a conical, wrinkled brown
mass of dense cloth that bent over on itself at the top. I stared in
disbelief as it appeared to pass through their bodies and my feet. It
came to a stop over my chest, appearing to rise out of my torso. Convinced
that I was hallucinating, I watched more calmly as the bottom of the
hat rose steadily upward followed immediately by two bushy gray eyebrows,
a pair of wire rimmed spectacles over a round nose and high cheekbones.
A thick gray beard and mustache covered the remainder of the face, and
down over the chest. The top of the hat seemed to stay where it was,
making itself smaller as the strange man stood looking down at me. He
raised his hand and placed a thick cigar in the corner of the opening
in the tangle of white whiskers.
"You look terrible." His voice was disappointingly ordinary.
He put a hand down near my face, and suddenly I could talk.
"Thats OK. I feel great." My voice was clear and strong.
I still couldnt feel anything, but my mouth was working. "Who
"Im the six fingered man." He moved to the side in front
of the doctor leaning over me. No one paid him any attention as he circled
around behind me. He placed his hands on either side of my head, and
suddenly I could feel again. I sat up and stretched and checked myself
for holes. Finding none, I stood up and walked through the doctor. I
felt great; I didnt even need to pee. When I turned around it
really sunk in. I passed through the people standing around my fresh
corpse and studied the wounds.
"Damn. Would you look at that. My intestines actually stayed inside.
"Thats nothin." said the six fingered man. I did
a quick count as he continued, "The old wars where those weapons
were used left far worse on the battlefield."
"Show some respect." I said.
"Sorry." His body rose up a bit more, and he pulled the hat
off in a fluid motion. Wild gray hair stuck out in all directions. When
he put it back on, it resumed its original size and appearance.
It seemed to stay at a constant height no matter how he moved, and his
body seemed to melt into it at the head. The wide brim came down over
his forehead and touched the tops of his eyebrows. He walked around
beside me, and as he did so, I saw his body shrink down and his hat
lengthen; its bend point always at the same height. It stopped when
there was an equal amount of curious little man and wrinkled hat. He
blew smoke rings and gestured toward a door. "Shall we?"
"You only have ten fingers." I said as we walked toward the
"Fine. Im the Wandering Jew. Lets go."
"Where are we going?"
"Thats up to you." he said.
The Great Beyond - Part Two May 10th
"You dont look Jewish." My strange companion who seemed
to be made of part man, part hat, was leading me through a doorway in
an operating room, where frantic doctors and nurses fretted over my
remains. An unfortunate accident with some magnificent swords had left
me dead and in strange company.
He took the cigar out of his mouth long enough to say, "Call me
Bootman. I dont have all day to stand here talking about meaningless
semantics with you; as tantalizing as it might be. You have places to
be as well, unless youd rather stay here
I looked quickly back at the cold body on the table. "OK. Where
"Like I said, thats all up to you. Im just an escort.
Youre the guide here."
This should have disturbed me, as I didnt even know for sure where
I was. But what the hell, I thought. Im already dead. We stepped
through the heavy wooden door into a picturesque hillside. Rich green
grass and a deep scarlet sky stretched off in every direction. It was
a warm twilight of late summer; the truest witching hour. Witches sleep
at midnight, they roam at dusk. The boundary between day and night is
at its weakest at sunset and sunrise; more so at sunset though. A dirt
path snaked back and forth in switch-backs up the hillside. At the top
there was a cabin with a wooden fence around it.
Bootman was covered from neck to toe in a loose flowing cloak. It ruffled
slightly in the faint breeze as he pointed toward the house. "Top
of the hill boss. This is as far as I go. Best of luck to you; dont
take any wooden nickels." He turned to leave.
"Wait, where am I?"
"How should I know? You brought us here."
"Ive never seen this place before."
"Neither have I. Its a nice place though. Maybe Ill
stop by sometime."
"Seriously, I might not be welcome here. Shouldnt you stick
around to make sure this is the right place?" I looked nervously
at the dim light coming from the windows far above us.
"Nope. I can guarantee that you brought us here. Whatever this
place is, youre supposed to be here. If there are any answers
for you, theyre in the house on top of that hill. See you around
He sauntered off toward the sunset, trailing smoke rings and a tall
shadow. I looked back at the house, when I turned around he was gone.
I started walking along the trail up the hillside. I strolled along
easily for about ten minutes before I looked up toward the house again.
It didnt appear to be any closer.
I started winding my way up the path more quickly, looking steadily
at the house. For fifteen more minutes I walked and watched carefully
but came no closer to the top. Looking back to check my progress, I
noticed that I was in the same place I started from. I sat down and
looked at the sunset, still lighting the sky in the middling ambiguous
tones of dusk. It should have set by now. It should have grown darker
and colder but night never came. While I was thinking about how I was
going to make it to the top of the hill, I got a strange feeling that
I was not alone. I looked all around but didnt see anything. Then
my shadow moved. Not in reflection of my movements, but on its own.
It shrank down to my height, then the upper half rose up out of the
ground and propped itself up on two ebony elbows.
"Hows it going?" Its voice was like mine, but distant
"Not so great. I died this morning, and now I have to get up this
hill, but I cant seem to get any closer. Ive been worse
though; the sunsets nice and it doesnt seem to be going
"What do you mean?" It pulled itself up and sat next to me.
"Its been sunset since I, or we got here. It should have
ended by now."
"So time is frozen here?"
"I guess. Im not even sure there is any time here."
I switched my weight around an my shadow did the same. Its posture exactly
"If it is frozen, then space might be frozen too. Maybe thats
why you cant get any farther."
I considered it for a while. "I guess so, but that doesnt
help me get to the top of the hill."
"Maybe I could help. You could take the shadow road."
"The shadow road. You always carry your shadow around with you.
You just have to have light to see it. When there isnt any light,
shadows move around on the shadow road. You can go back with me the
same way I came up here with you."
"Its worth a shot. What do I do?"
"Leave it to me." My shadow stood up, as I did, and stood
on my feet. We began to walk together into the swath of darkness cast
onto the path by the setting sun. I sunk down gradually into the blackness,
and as abruptly as the light disappeared my next step brought the sunset
into view on the inside of the wooden fence, next to the front door
of the house. I surveyed the landscape and saw the hill stretching downward
all around the shack. I thanked my shadow, who didnt pop back
up or respond in any discernable way.
The house had four walls; each about twenty feet on a side. Twin windows
of poorly made, vaguely transparent glass cast faint light out from
each wall. Many of the boards werent fitted together properly,
and light leaked out from countless cracks. The front door looked as
if it would collapse if I knocked too hard. I decided to tap on the
frame instead, but a loud and surly voice erupted from the inside before
my knuckles connected.
"Who the hell is it?" It fairly shook the building.
I was speechless for too long and it came again. "Whos there?
What do you want?"
The light shining out was blocked out from behind the door. I was being
ogled overtly from the other side. "My names Sloan. Bootman
told me I was supposed to be here."
"And here you are." The door opened with a creak. "I
guess youd better come in."
Light poured out from the opening, framing a tall guy in a trench coat.
He had a five oclock shadow and he smelled like bourbon. He gestured
me in, and as I crossed the threshold I noticed that the inside was
larger than it looked on the outside; considerably so. I was standing
in a well lit anteroom which led into a vast hallway lined symmetrically
on either side with gigantic marble pillars.
"What do they call you kid?" He led the way down the hall.
"Sloan Tucker." I ran to catch up with him. His voice seemed
familiar. I couldnt place where Id heard it before, and
it grated on my nerves every time he spoke.
"Call me Urimaru. How did you find this place?"
I told him about everything as we hurried onward. The swords and Bootman
and the shadow road. The whole time I had an itch in the back of my
mind caused by his voice. He took me up a spiral staircase which stretched
higher than I could see, and into a small library. He offered me a seat
in a high backed chair and took off the trench coat and held it up in
front of him by the collar. It floated smoothly across the space between
him and a coat rack in the corner. It hung itself neatly as he poured
a drink. He was wearing a simple blue kimono that bulged in the middle,
concealing a beer gut.
"Can I get you a drink?"
I nodded my assent when it dawned on me. I suddenly remembered where
I had heard his voice before. "Uncle Jerry?"
Chapters One & Two of our serialised novel - it begins here
Chapter Three here
Chapter Four here
Chapter five here
Twelve here 7.03.05
© Brodie Parker Begun May 10th 2004
If you like this , email the writer and tell him so...
also by Brodie
Brodie Parker - Kill the Monster
More Fiction in DREAMSCAPES
all rights reserved