The International Writers Magazine:
Continuing the mysterious serial adventure beyond the grave...
Picking up Styx...
I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me
The Carriage held but just Ourselves
not your Uncle Jerry. I know him though; nice guy." My host pressed
a glass of spirits into my hand. He pulled a square table with folding
legs out from behind a bookcase. He set it up in front of me, and motioned
to a nearby chair, which glided silently and quickly to his side. He
sat down across from me and produced a pen and a yellow legal pad from
inside his kimono. He looked at me very carefully for a few moments,
then wrote something on the first page.
"You sound a lot like him. Its not just your voice though,
you move around like he did. Your body language is almost the same.
Or maybe not. He died when I was little." The booze was strong,
but it wasnt making me tipsy like it should have. It was relaxing,
but so smooth that if I was getting drunk I wouldnt notice until
long after the fact.
"Your memory is all right. If I look like him at times, its
probably because Im an ancestor to you both. I came many, many
years before either of you, but you both had some of my DNA in your
"Your name isnt exactly German-Irish."
"Within a long existence one assumes many identities and personalities.
In my most recent persona I was born in Nippon and given the name Urimaru
to hide my identity; its a long story. As fascinating as my history
may be, yours is the past we should be focusing on. I usually start
by answering any question you might have."
"Usually start what?"
"Your education." He looked very patient.
"Well, to start with, where are we?"
"My stately pleasure dome. Sorry about the hill and the shoddy
appearance. Those are security measures. Im a man who enjoys his
privacy. You have to be extremely clever to get past my safeguards.
That trick with your shadow was a stroke of genius."
"I didnt think of it." I admitted.
"No? Who did then?"
"Maybe Bootman did it. He said I was supposed to be here, and he
told me that I brought him here, but Ive never seen this place
"Nevertheless, he was quite correct. Hes always been more
of an escort than a guide. Even when people paid him with coins left
on their eyelids to get across Styx."
Bootman. Boat man. Ferryman of the River Styx. Mom was right, I am a
little slow sometimes. "So why am I supposed to be here? I thought
Id go to Elysium for a while. Or maybe Paradise; I always wanted
to find out if its all its cracked up to be."
"And you still can. You are free to leave at any time. As for why
you are here, Ive had my eye on you for a while now. Ever since
you started studying swords. I admire your ability with weapons, as
well as your grasp of their histories. It may prove useful later. It
didnt take much to lead you here after your body died. As for
the bit with the shadow, that was all yours. You noticed that time is
frozen outside, another security measure, and you found a way around
it. Shadows can be useful things. I once knew a man who severed his
shadow and convinced it to put on his clothes and take his place when
death came for him. He was never quite the same, but it was necessary
at the time; it doesnt always pay to have powerful acquaintances."
I became aware of how drunk I was as he continued the story. I was still
thinking clearly, but my whole body was completely relaxed and I had
trouble controlling it. "Do I still have a body, or am I thinking
it up too?"
"Your physical form is real to you, but at this point youre
effectively ethereal. You still use a physical manifestation of your
spirit to absorb and interpret sense-data because thats the only
way you have ever done it; its the only way you know how. You
see, your mortal life was a gestation period for your consciousness.
Just like human childhood is an adjustment period for emotional states.
In your youth you have to adapt slowly to develop the ability to control
your emotions so that you dont burst into tears or blind rage
at the slightest disappointment or frustration when your body is fully
grown. Its the same way with your soul, it undergoes a growth
period during your human life and hopefully matures so that your psyche
can handle the things you encounter afterward. When your body dies its
like youre shedding a skin; quite literally. Now you can grow
to full maturity, or as close as youll ever get to it. Everyone
uses their habitual forms at first, except for young children and some
extremely clever and rare people who catch on before their bodies die.
They usually discorporate when they feel ready. They simply move their
souls out of their bodies and go on to the next phase of their existence.
Like Jesus, they give up the ghost.."
I couldnt move. My mind was working quickly though, gathering
up the words as he spoke them and storing them efficiently in memory
traces. I began seeing things in great detail, and I could hear my heart
beating if I concentrated. "So when do I stop using this body?
After all, Im dead now so I had better start acting like it."
"You arent dead. You just left your body behind. To answer
your question, any moment now. How do you feel?"
"Three sheet to the wind. My heads clear though. What is
"One part Divine Ambrosia, two parts Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster,
one half part Honeysuckle Wine, and a dash of tears collected from the
first dream of the first born son of the first King of Men."
"It tastes like Goldshclager."
"Thats from the distillation process; the pipes are made
of gold. I make it myself, but I cant explain what makes it taste
that way. Do you like it?"
"Very much. I cant feel my body at all, but I can see and
hear much more acutely now. Fascinating." I could see clearly the
most miniscule detail in what appeared to be an original Jackson Pollock,
("Eyes in the Heat" if Im not mistaken), hanging on
the wall behind Urimaru. I could feel the texture from where I sat at
least twenty feet away. I could sense the depth of the layers of paint,
one on top of the other; I got lost in them. He noticed my intense interest
and turned to study it as I did.
"If you like art, I have a gallery that you might find interesting.
There is a life sized "School of Athens" in a room downstairs
reproduced from the original that has such pronounced depth that you
can step into it and mingle with the masters."
I thought about sitting between Heraclitus and Diogenes, or standing
before Plato and Aristotle in the center. The idea appealed to me and
I made a mental note to explore it later. His voice broke into my thoughts.
"You seem to be ready. We can move on to the next step at any time."
"What is the next step?"
"Im going to give you some perspective."
"Well have to do it from here. Im too loaded to drive."
He smiled broadly and chuckled to himself. "Ill carry you
halfway, but you have to get back on your own."
"Fair enough." I said. Then the room disappeared.
Be here next week. Its more fun than licking frozen doorknobs
© Brodie Parker May 17th 2004
Chapters One & Two of our serialised novel - it begins here
Chapter Three here
Chapter Four here
Chapter five here
If you like this , email the writer and tell him so...
also by Brodie
Brodie Parker - Kill the Monster
all rights reserved