Tag Archives: death

I Am so Ready!

I Am so Ready

(thoughts from   ~burning woman~   by Sha’Tara)

No matter the number of years I’ve thought about it and meditated on what it means to me, the idea that I am ‘so ready’ for that final breath is still, well, stunning. I’ve given myself the freedom to speak openly about my ‘impending’ death for some time now even if it causes a frozen lull in most conversations.

Why would someone speak about dying? Some are simply fed up and think, ‘enough is enough’ while some, if rarely, are eager to join up with their chosen loving deity or whatever. That’s not how it is for me.

Am I dissatisfied with the conditions of Earth as imposed upon it by a ruling species unwilling to control its power and take responsibility for its actions? Certainly but that does not drive me to despair, quite to contrary, since I have an impeccable solution to such problems.

Do I think that I’ve done enough and it’s time for a much deserved break from the merry-go-round and the pig pen? No, quite the opposite: I know I haven’t performed to the best of my abilities and there is so much more to be done. I know that my sudden “departure” would currently leave some people in the lurch.

No, my sense of being ready does not come from selfish motives. It comes from an innate knowing. It comes from a bursting of joy having something good and tangible to take with me after a wonderful day at the fair.

The fair is still going full bore; I could stay and play some more but speaking of bore, any fair will get boring if it goes on too long. I don’t want this to go on past the point where I can enjoy it. I don’t want to just sit in the car as the night falls and the lights come on only to fade.

There is a sense of fullness that is driving me, today particularly. I want to enjoy that quiet if passionate, fullness. I want to enjoy one accomplishment in particular: detachment. There is nothing, and no one that has the power to hold me here. I am the one with the power, all of it and that means I have also managed to get a handle on self empowerment.

I choose, I decide, no regrets. I gave myself a purpose for my life henceforth and that purpose is anchored within my own nature now. Like Leto Atreides II choosing to forfeit his humanity in order to become a sand worm, the Fremen deity called Shai’Hulud, I have forfeited my humanity (or perhaps gained it!) by turning myself over to becoming an avatar of compassion.

This is done now. What comes next, is next. I live in the joy of this accomplishment. I was taught even as a child that it is possible to change one’s nature. I had to prove it to myself and the answer is, yes.

The House at the Crossroads of the World

[a short story by    ~burning woman~    as told by Sha’Tara]

As I sat by the River one day and pondered the state of the world I had a thought: I will build myself a home at the crossroads of the world. So I did.

My home had a good roof but it had no walls, just posts holding it up. I planted ivy, honeysuckle, clematis and sweetpeas by each post and they grew swiftly and beautifully. I was very pleased.

First a family of refugees passed by and they came in to rest, drink of the cool, clean water and eat from the garden I had planted. Sated and after a good sleep their children ran out and played in the fields. Their laughter filled the air and more birds sang.

A couple of starving, ragged men came by and asked if they could stay for a while. I smiled and said, ‘Look, no walls, anyone is welcome here.’ They were gays who had been persecuted and escaped with only their lives and the clothes on their backs. Soon they were playing with the children and entertaining them with tales and magic tricks.

A group of migrant workers heading north came by and also partook of this unexpected hospitality. They were earth people and soon they had my garden cleaned and explained about plant symbiosis. I could grow much more food if I did it right. I learned much from them in that too short a time.

Some young girls came running, crying, and stopped at the house. I invited them in and they shyly came, sat down and explained they had escaped from a van filled with sex slaves bound for the black market. They got washed in the creek, ate and slept together in a corner of the house.

The honeysuckle was in full bloom and its sweet smell filled the house. In the dark we sat in the house and sang, each her or his own songs and everyone listened in awe. It was so good to find each other here and not worry about any difference.

It was too good, actually. They had watched the comings and goings to and from the house and in that country the government and its propaganda press declared that it was a terrorist training center. So they sent the drones.

We are all dead now. I am dead too but since I am mind and not matter I am made of memories. This story is a memory, and it is real.

There is no longer a house at the crossroads of the world though there are walls everywhere and for that reason the world is dying.

Earth is a Forced Labour and Death Camp

[thoughts from ~burning woman~ ]

It may well be that prior to the advent of capitalism and prior to the establishment of the patriarchy that formed a global civilization, planet earth was as good a place as any on which to exist. Note that I am not saying “live on” or “survive on” but exist. To live means to have a purpose. To survive means to cling to life in the hope that it will give or provide purpose on the long run.

Only problem with that was, there was no long run and purpose seldom manifested in any meaningful sense. Those who gave themselves purpose without serving the Matrix, that is, the patriarchy and it’s exploitative, brutal methods soon found themselves hounded, hunted down, and when captured, “crucified” for attempting to bring about a change of methods to life on earth, that is, to man’s type of life, if it can be called that.

Based on my observation, I have come to the inevitable conclusion that man’s earth as defined by his capitalistic patriarchy is in essence nothing more nor less than a forced labour and death camp.

Do I really need to elaborate on that observation and conclusion or is this enough of a reminder that all of the greatest manifestations of social evil extant in this civilization can be laid at the feet of its “camp kommandants” who give themselves the titles of CEO’s, presidents, kings, queens, judges, professors emeritus, generals, policemen,emirs, investment bankers, popes, priests and preachers… any one who by some sort of decree holds the power of life and death over a subservient multitude.

Any member of the untitled multitude who decides to treat the elites in the same manner as it treats the multitude is immediately declared enemy of the people and put on a most wanted list to be eliminated. The rulers of the forced labour and death camp can kill any number of ‘the masses’ with impunity but the same does not apply in reverse.

The masses, trapped in this web of deceit and death learned long ago that to challenge and perhaps even dethrone the elitist apparatus was a very painful and bloody process that in the end only replaced one set of “kommandants” with another and surprise, surprise, that new set arose from the very forces that set out to upset and destroy the status quo. In other words, there is no way out of the camp except by dying.

And even then, that is not the end of it…

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #45


This I must share here: my experiences on Old Earth taught me well as regards those we are forced to call ‘They’ in referring to ‘Powers’ we know exist but cannot identify because they are chameleonic in nature and use humans to camouflage their evil works.  We’ve always known ‘They’ exist and have power of life and death over us, never mind how many legal ‘rights’ or safeguards we are given under the law.  Whenever we choose right over wrong in their viewpoint and according to their arbitrary rules we are targeted as the enemy; terrorists, subversives, spies and in many cases we forfeit our lives to them.  So, let me emphasize that ‘They’ are very real to me. 

I must sleep now.

[end blog post #44]


[begin blog post #45]

Chapter 21 – The Inquisition: Warmo’s Dungeon

They come.  It is still dark when the alarms sound and we are ushered out of our cages to stand in the cold pre-dawn air shivering.  What device do they have to warn them of illegal exits without the alarms being set off? Recording heat sensors?  Satellites?  Albaral?  How did they already know Deirdre, or someone, was missing?  Well, I guess it really doesn’t matter now.

They make everybody line up in the training yard.  The kitchens and all other areas are shut tight.  No one moves or makes a sound.  In the back I hear harsh voices shouting commands.  Men in uniforms I’ve never seen come among us and begin to grab individuals.  There are muted gasps of fear.  One woman is hit viciously in the face and stumbles to the stones where she is stabbed to death, her body dragged to the middle of the compound and left.  I am one of those grabbed and chained with a dozen others.  Several guards are stripped naked and chained also.  There is cursing and a guard falls to the ground, also stabbed.  His body is dragged beside the woman’s. 

We are led away to the east of the large open area, down a dark tunnel, damp and reeking of mold and of something else rotting away somewhere among this stone labyrinth.  I walk through what I can only describe as slime, trying to keep my footing while helping the woman behind me by making her lean on me.  We emerge into a place of absolute terror. 

In the weak light from embrasures high in the wet stone walls we see dead and dying bodies hanging by wrists on poles or impaled on rusty steel pikes planted in holes in the floor.  We smell decomposing meat and retch helplessly, continually.  Fortunately our guards just shove us in there and leave, closing the steel grate behind us.  So no one is additionally punished for the time being.  We just stare at the dead and the barely moving dying, most being women and some young children.  Some still moan but most are past trying.  Is this what’s in store for all of us?  We must assume so.  What else are we supposed to think?  The woman behind me begs me to kill her. 

“Please, I die now.  I fight yes, but this not possible to take.  Please you hit me with steel shackle, please or you strangle with chain.  You very strong.  I beg, I beg!”  Her throaty cries bring tears to my eyes.  Yes I could do it.  But what little chance any of us have to escape this would then be forfeit.  So I try to console her using their common language.

“Just frighten, see?  You know nothing, so what they do?  Nothing can do.  Don’t be afraid.  Just bad dream.  Do nothing.  Say nothing.  Know nothing.  Repeat teaching against bad fear – now!

Do I believe my own words?  No, of course not.  On this world, anything and everything is possible.  If they are eager to draw fresh blood and hear fresh voices raised in pure agony, and it’s a safe bet to say they always are, we will all go through the torture and all die here, impaled on these pikes or hanging from the poles.  I ready myself for this inevitable conclusion.

And suddenly I want to laugh.  Such an incredible weight is lifted off my heart.  If they have gone to so much trouble to “investigate” Deirdre’s escape then obviously they don’t have her!  She’s truly gone and free from their grasp.  Yes!  I know this now.  So go ahead and do your worst.  I don’t care now.  I’ve done what I set out to do and it cannot be reversed.  She is safe from you, monsters.  Now you have to deal with me, just me.  I am truly alone again.  I conveniently forget the doctor and his “underground” at this moment.  I forget these others, these innocents chained with me.  I cannot handle any new responsibility.  There is only me here, now, in this horror.  And if I’m to beat the odds now I can only do it alone.

After what seems an eternity the steel grate is opened and we are dragged out, walked down a taller, drier corridor and into another room from which screams, howls and heart rending cries emerge.  Ah yes, this is where they do their real work.  We are unchained individually and each of about twelve of us is assigned a handler.  I’m walked to a vertical black metal pole and pulled tight against it.  Four arms extend from it with shackles on the ends.  My wrists and ankles are put inside the shackles and the arms are extended mechanically until my arms are stretched as on a cross and my legs gradually pulled open and stretched also until I’m ready to scream from the tension on my bones and muscles.  But they know just when to stop. 

So it begins.  Slowly the “pole” begins to tilt back taking me with it until I’m lying horizontally with my head hanging down without any support.  I feel hands over my skin, feeling me everywhere.  A man rapes me, then several take their turn.  I can’t see anything, just feel.  I scream when something sharp or hot cuts or enters my left thigh.  The pole arms begin to pull at me again.  I scream more.  Something is attached to my right nipple.  I am electrically shocked, then the same treatment is administered inside my vagina.  I pass out only to be revived with a needle.  I begin to hallucinate.

In my hallucination I hear the doctor.

“If  she knows something, I’ll find out.  Let me administer the rest and ask the questions.  The others are useless to us now.  Return them to their compound.  We can’t afford to lose all that money and compensate their owners.  This is a stupid move.  We want to know where the girl was taken to; who helped her escape.  I tell you, destroying all those fighters is a mistake.  It was a mistake to kill those two in the compound.  This is not how it’s done.  I have the inductor here.  So back away.  Do as I say.”

The pull on my legs and arms eases a bit and the pole returns to an almost upright position.  I am still unfocused and sick from the drug.  I can’t hold my head up and it keeps bobbing.  The image of the doctor floats before my eyes and I don’t know what to think at all.  The other ghosts fade out of my line of vision and the doctor leans closer.  Yes, it’s him alright.  ‘What are you doing here’ I want to ask but cannot.  My voice is frozen in my throat.  I have nothing to say.  I’m brain dead and they are going to realize this soon enough and finish me off.  That’s all.

“Can you hear me?”  It’s definitely the doctor’s voice.

“Yes, I think so.”  The croak I hear cannot be my own.

“I’m trying to save your life.  The inductor I hold is dysfunctional.  After I connect it, you are going to go through excruciating pain, even if you have to pretend doing so, and don’t let up until you make yourself sick and pass out, do you hear me?  Anyone can do that if they want to.  Piss and shit yourself, but do it.  It has to look real or you’re going to be worse off than dead because I won’t be able to help you if my trick is discovered.”

“Argggggggggggh”  is all I manage to answer, still in shock from the torture pangs and woozy from the drug.  He attaches electrodes to my head with a metal band he tightens with a screw so it won’t come off.  Then he stretches my arms and legs again until the same excruciating pain returns, only worse even and I begin to scream.  He twists a dial on his inductor and indeed I feel nothing.  But I continue to scream and writhe in pain, following his advice.  Yes, my body relieves itself from the ordeal and finally I do pass out as he adds more tension to the arms of the device in a desperate attempt to fake the inductor torture.  I don’t think that the use of the neuro-inductor  would have made much difference at that point.  In my warring, twisted thoughts I wonder how much of this he too is enjoying…

When I come to I’m still attached to the pole.  I feel as if I’ve been broken in several separate pieces that will never be put together.  I’m just pieces of a human body, arms and legs disjointed.  Nothing is connected.  I hear something.  An argument going on.  The doctor and another person are discussing the effects of the torture.

“She knows nothing.  She was tricked by somebody to walk out of her cage, a trainer she says.  She never saw him before and it was dark.  What gora refuses an order from a man?  He made her walk to the wall, then back to her cage, leaving it unlocked.  That’s what we know.  It is enough that one gora and one guard are dead.  Let them be the guilty parties.  If you want more evidence, I suggest you send your hunters out into the south desert.  That’s where they always go.” 

“She was her lover.  She’d be the one to help her escape.”  The voice is deep, assured.  There is the sense of the predator in it, one who has a special victim in his claws and wants to gloat every moment his captive remains alive to be toyed with.

That sounds like the doctor’s voice again:  “You are so wrong!  If they had planned to escape, why did she not go with the other, you tell me that.  Is she so happy here that she couldn’t take an opportunity to run away when it would have appeared such a sure thing and her lover was going?  Lovers don’t leave each other that way.  Think.  We’re being made fools of right now and all you can think of is torturing another body.  I warn you Warmo, your inquisition methods are making some nervous.  There is talk in some quarters of doing an investigation of your facilities.  How do you feel about that?”

“Threats, Bal?”

“No, a bargain Warmo.  Just a bargain.  I have a good deal of money invested in this fighter and I’m damned if I’ll let you destroy such a good killing machine.  You’re a fool.  You know the King is her owner.  Unless you can prove beyond any doubt that she is involved in this escape, do you think the King is just going to forget you killed his personal fighter just for some sick satisfaction of yours?”

 I hear his sardonic laughter and can imagine the sneer of contempt in him.  “Help yourself, take her.  She can’t ever fight again so she’s as good as dead – that device has seen to that even if your neuro-inductor hasn’t.  Wrists and ankles crushed, that’s what it does Bal.  Neat machine, one of my favourites.  And I may yet get her back here for additional questioning.  Remember this, I don’t forget those who push me Bal.”

“Threats, Warmo?”

“Fuck you, doctor Echinoza.” 

So much venom that even in my confused state and the excruciating pain shooting through my body I can feel the hate in my guts.  This Warmo does not torture for results but purely for ultimate sadistic pleasure.  He would have been a perfect member of House Harkonnen. (Harkonnen is a reference to characters in the Dune series by Frank Herbert)

Perhaps more to the point, a death camp Kommandant under Hitler’s SS guard, C-20, Old Earth history. 

Funny what you remember when you want to connect the dots of your lives and truly know yourself, especially when your body is under maximum stress.  ‘Oh, the green, green grass of home…’ “aaaahhhhhh…”  Still not my voice.  Some poor girl in a torture dungeon, hurting, and I should feel sorry for her but I can’t: I must pretend to myself that I’m dead.  The dead don’t talk and they don’t feel pain.

My head falls back and I almost choke.  I scream an obscenity as I’m racked by another spasm.  Obscene pain beyond the meaning of the word. 

Another eternity and the doctor comes over and releases the mechanism that holds my wrists and ankles and keeps me from falling as I try to put my weight on my feet.  I cannot walk at all.  So he throws my limp form over his broad shoulders and carries me out through tunnels that seem to go on forever; that in my mind I want to go on forever. 

It feels so good to be dead; to be in a place where no one can ever hurt you; to be carried to your final rest by someone who cares for you.  Death by torture has a way of changing your perspective on life.  I think it has made me soft.

[end blog post # 45]

“La Danseuse”

*You’ve read it in English as “An Unending Story” and now I offer it in the original French. I know that some of you will probably appreciate it more in this format. *

UNE HISTOIRE D’AMOUR À L’INFINI
                  [de Sha’Tara]

Ecoutez-moi bien, je vais vous raconter une histoire à l’infini. Cest une histoire d’amour, bien sûr, mais c’est beacoup plus. C’est une histoire de vie sans fin.

Je l’ai vue un soir dans un cabaret. Elle dansait éperdument, apparament sans aucun souci. Je me suis assis aussi proche que possible du plancher de danse et, comme tous les autres homme dans cet établissement, je me suis laissé ensorceler par ses mouvements.

Comme elle était belle, je vous l’assure. Quand elle passait ses grands yeux bleus-verts sur moi, je voyais une forêt vierge et un grand océan qui s’étandait à l’infini comme le désir de mon coeur. Elle dansait avec une camarade, et finalement, seule. 

C’est alors que je prends mon courage et je m’invite à danser avec elle.

Elle m’accepte, et tout change: nous devenons amoureux. On vit ensemble après seulement un mois, et on ne peut s’imaginer vivre séparément. Tous les weekends, on va danser, elle aime tellement ça, la danse. “Je me sens si libre quand je danse.” Elle continue, naturellement, à attirer les hommes et elle danse librement avec ceux qui lui demande permission.

Suis-je jaloux? Certainement, c’est naturel, mais pas nécessaire. Après tout, elle m’aime. Elle n’a qu’à me le chuchoter dans l’oreille et je n’ai aucune raison de la douter. Elle est si bonne pour moi, et quand on marche tous les deux le soir, sous les lumières de notre ville, on est heureux, complètement.

Et puis le désastre: le cancer au genoux droit. Il faut qu’on lui enlève presque toute la jambe. Pour quelque temps, elle pleure. Puis elle accepte. “Je ne peux plus danser, je vais chanter,” elle me dit. Alors elle chante, dans notre apartement, dans la rue même, et puis elle fait du karaoke dans les cabarets. Et on s’aime, peut-être plus que jamais auparavant. Je l’adore cette fille, cette femme si incroyable.

Mais le cancer ne s’arrête pas. Elle perd un sein. Elle est dévastée pendant quelque temps et il n’y a plus de chansons. Mais un soir, elle me donne un de ses sourires  d’auparavant et demande que je la pousse dans sa chaise roulante dans la rue en      allant à notre restaurant favori. Alors que je pousse elle jase et fait des commentaires sur les couleurs, sur les sons, sur les craquements du trottoire qui font sauter la chaise roulante. Elle rit, et je trouve le courage de rire avec elle et pour ce moment la terreur du cancer nous laisse en paix. Elle mange comme un oiseau en ces jours. Elle maigrit toujours…

Finalement, le coup de grâce: cancer dans la gorge et elle perd sa voix et doit rester à l’hôpital.

Ce sont les derniers jours, j’en suis certain. Elle lève la main faiblement et j’approche mon oreille de sa bouche. Elle soupire et me chuchotte ceci: “Écoute-moi bien, mon cher Paul. Je te quitte mais je ne regrette bien. Je suis désolée, mais c’est seulement pour quelque temps. Pour nous, ce n’est pas finit. Écoute, tu n’e resteras pas seul.” 

Promets-moi que tu retourneras à notre cabaret. Là, attends encore la danseuse. Demande-lui si tu peux danser avec elle et quand elle sourit et te dis ‘oui’ danse, danse avec elle come un fou! Car tu vois, c’est moi qui sera là, dans son corps et dans son coeur. Je reviendrai, ne t’en fais pas, je ne te laisse que pour un moment.’ 

Et comme ça, elle est partie.

Vous voulez savoir comment elle finit, cette histoire? Vous voyez, je la croiyais complètement quand elle m’a dit qu’elle reviendrait. Je suis retourné à notre cabaret. Je me suis assis tout près du plancher de danse. J’ai pris une bière ou deux en attendant, jour après jour. Environ deux semaines d’attente et la danseuse est venue. 

Et tout a recommencé. 

An Unending Story

[short story by Sha’Tara – translated from my original French story]

Listen carefully to what I have to say, I’m going to tell you an infinite story. It’s a love story, of course, but it is much more. It is a story of a life that does not end.

I saw her one night in a cabaret. She was dancing, utterly absorbed in her moves and apparently without any other concern. I sat as close as possible to the dance floor and like all the other men in the place, I allowed myself to be bewitched by her undulating body.

Beautiful she was, I assure you. When she passed her blue-green eyes over me I saw the green of a virgin forest; an open blue ocean that stretched to infinity. Just like the desire in my heart. She danced with a girl friend, then alone.

That’s when I gather up my courage and invite myself to dance with her.

She accepts and everything changes: we become lovers. After only a month, we move in together and we can no longer imagine living apart. Every weekend we go dancing, she loves it so much, the dancing. “I feel totally free when I dance.” Naturally she continues to attract many men and she freely dances with any of them who ask her permission.

Am I jealous? Certainly, that’s natural, but not necessary. After all, she loves me. She only needs to whisper it in my ear and I have no reason to doubt her feelings. She is so good for me, and when we walk together in the street at night, under the city lights, we are happy, utterly.

Then total disaster: cancer strikes her in the right knee. Her leg has to be amputated above the knee. For a while she cries. Then she accepts. “If I can’t dance, I will sing,” she says to me. So she begins to sing, first in our apartment, then even on the street, then she does karaoke in the pubs and cabarets. And we love each other perhaps even more than previously. I adore this incredible girl, this woman sharing her life with me.

But the cancer doesn’t stop. They take away her left breast. She is devastated for some time and there is no more singing. But one night she gives me one of her old smiles and asks that I push her in her wheelchair down the street to our favourite restaurant. As I push her along she talks freely of little things and comments on the colours, the sounds and the shaking of the wheelchair as it bumps over the cracks in the sidewalk. She laughs and I find the courage to laugh with her and for the moment the terror of the cancer leaves us be. Still she eats very little and loses more weight…

Finally, the death blow. The cancer manifests in her throat and she loses her voice. She has to stay in the hospital.

It’s the last day, of that I’m sure. She feebly raises her hand and I bring my ear to her mouth. She gives a sigh and whispers these words: listen to me well, my dear Paul. I am abandoning you and I regret it terribly. I am grieved to cause you so much pain, but it’s only for a short time. For us, this is not the end. Listen, you will not remain single (alone).

Promise me that you will return to our cabaret. There, wait once again for the dancer. Ask her if you may dance with her and when she smiles and says, ‘yes’ dance, dance with her like a fool! For you see, that will be me there, in her body and in her heart. I am returning, do not worry about that. I’m leaving you but for a moment.

Just like that, she was gone.

You want to know how it ends, this story? Well you see, I believed in her implicitly when she told me she would be coming back to me. I went back to our cabaret. I sat as close as possible to the dance floor. I had a beer or two and I waited, day after day. About two weeks of waiting and the dancer came.

It all began again.

Conversation at the Bus Stop

[short story dialogue  by Sha’Tara]

“Wish you’d go weird out on someone else. I’d really like to be left alone now and I think that’s my bus coming.”

“I like to think about things, then I like to talk about things with someone else. You seemed like a proper someone else. That’s not your bus Rita. That bus is going down Main street to the mall, not Hazel down to townhouse row. Two more buses, then yours.”

“I didn’t tell you where I live. I didn’t even tell you my name. What’s going on here?”

“What’s going on is, I’m bored and when I’m bored I start looking around and playing little games. Your name and address are on your iPhone, Rita. If you don’t want all your data mined from your phone, entertain me. Talk to me.”

“My name isn’t Rita, so you got that wrong!”

“Agreed, it’s Margarita, and you positively hate that name. Everybody knows you as Rita.”

“So what are you, some sort of super-spy? Homeland Security detail? What am I supposed to be then, a Mexican spy?”

“Yeah, you’re spying on our Tequila stocks to make sure there are no worms in them.”

“I thought there were supposed to be worms in Tequila?”

“No. That’s Mescal, a cheap, low quality drink made from infested plants. If your Tequila has worms in it, it isn’t Tequila but Mescal. I guess you’re not a Mexican spy.”

“Great deduction, Sherlock.”

“Do you watch people Rita? Observe their antics? Wonder about their lives, what’s with them, what’s not. Dreams? Happiness quotient?”

“Yeah, I observe three people: me, myself and I. I try to make sure we get along most of the time.”

“Where two’s company, three’s a crowd. Are you a crowd, Rita?”

“OK, so you know my name. Now I think I’ve earned the right to know yours.”

“I’m agent 666. I’m from the bureau – you know the one.”

“Oh sure, totally. Aren’t you guys, and I didn’t know there were more than one, supposed to go around in a black robe wearing a hoodie and carrying a sickle or something?”

“I’m disappointed in you, Rita. Scythe, not sickle. The black robe and hoodie, that’s just drama stuff. I like wearing comfortable stuff and not standing out so much. You see, with all the violence in your society these days you’d be seeing us everywhere, all the time. After a while the novelty wears off and nobody cares. Remember the Black Death?”

“Say what?”

“The great plague, or whatever you want to call it. We were everywhere then but it was a time of super, super, superstition, so people thought we were hallucinations, or claimed we were, otherwise the Church would have had them burned at the stake, if you get my meaning.”

“Why should I remember something like that?”

“Well, it’s called past lives remembrances. Also it’s history.”

“Never cared much for that. I mean, who cares, right? People die all the time. Wars, mass shootings, Aids, plagues, what’s that other word for mass murder when your neighbours y’all got along with suddenly show up at your door in the middle of the night with a machete and start hacking at you and your family, that sort of stuff?”

“Genocide?”

“Yeah, I suppose.

“Yeah, that sort of stuff. Well we’re always around then too but not everyone can actually see us. It’s more like they can sense us and it takes the will to live from them. Remember the millions exterminated by the Nazis during the second world war?”

“No, but yeah, heard about that. Shit happens, right?”

“It’s a bit more than that Rita. What I meant to say was, these millions, if they’d realized how many they were they could have fought back and taken over all the camps and work sites. But they didn’t see themselves as a force to be reckoned with because they feared their bully masters, see? They “knew” they were going to die, so they just let it happen. Happens everywhen and everywhere, even today. Less and less will to fight to live, more a desire to run, to escape, to find safety and security but of course there is none, nowhere, if you don’t make it for yourself. But the fight’s gone out of most people. They feel entitled to life and as a result they just die or trust their leaders which is even worse than dying.”

“So, like, you’re trying to take the will to live from me then? And by the way, how come I can see you?”

“You don’t know much, do you Rita? Not much curiosity and not much of an attention span either I see. You can see me because I’m visible, not because you’re any kind of special. I want you to see me, so you see me.”

“Why? Am I dying?”

“Everybody’s dying, Rita, don’t you know that by now? Everything that’s born is born to die and the moment you are born you start dying. We’re the collectors and I daresay you keep us rather busy.”

“Gross!”

“Oh, an opinion! You should be careful with that, it could give you a heart attack, or at least a serious headache. Then you’d blame me and insist that you’re dying. Do you like living, Rita? Do you like your life?

“Why do I sense that’s a trick question?”

“Because it is?”

“I serve meals in a fast food outlet. How exciting is that?”

“So, you don’t like your life, then?”

“No I don’t. I’d do just about anything to get off this treadmill.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, seriously, what do you think?”

“I can make that happen.”

“Oh yeah? How?”

“Come on Rita, you can’t be that dense. How do you think?”

“What? You mean, like, I just die?”

“Well that’s a matter of speaking. You wouldn’t actually die, Rita, you’re already dead. You died some years ago.”

“I did? How so? I feel quite alive right now.”

“Remember that time when a friend was going to Tanzania to work as a volunteer nurse in an orphanage and she asked you to go with her? To be her assistant? Remember toying with the idea, only all you could think about was how it would affect you? Did you even think about those kids you would have been able to help?”

“Well sure but…”

“Whoah, you can’t lie to me Rita; maybe to yourself, but not to me. It was all about you and because of that you didn’t go. That’s when you died Rita. You had been summoned and you did not answer the call. That’s what happens to people. That’s why they die. That’s why we’re so busy all the time.

“Come along now, don’t worry about your body, they’ll get rid of it. I need to extract your soul now.”

“Will that hurt?”

“No, you can’t feel a thing any longer.”

Nothing is more deceptive than an obvious fact” – Arthur Conan Doyle – Sherlock Holmes