Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Being Dead"

[This is a whip-quick writing exercise triggered by Sunday Scribblings. These are a great way to do some writing without all the pressure of Working On The Novel.]

The first thing is that there's no such thing as "being dead." That's like saying "I'm being born." It's a doorway to ... well, to something else. Not a tall doorway with a brass knob and a breathless sense of excitement. But like those bad dreams where you're crawling on your hands and knees in the dark, and you elbows brush the walls and you realize you're in a cave, and the floor is sandy and hard and your head scrapes the ceiling, and it's getting smaller and smaller, and you stretch out on your belly and grind through the sand, feeling it on your chin as you inch forward on fingertips and toes, the ceiling pressing against you. You exhale to narrow your body and press forward. You can't back up.

Dying's like that. It's not easy, but I suppose neither is birth.

And then you pass through something, and it's different. There's no special powers and it's usually very quiet. Remember that scene in The Odyssey where Odysseus goes down into the darkness and fills a bowl or something with blood, and one by one the ghosts of people he knew come shambling toward him? They smelled the blood.

How did Homer know? That red-rich bowl brimming with the thick salty fluid of life. Oh. Oh, oh, oh. Everything that we left behind, everything that we once were. And we feel its warmth and helplessly drift toward it, knowing we'll never be able to--

But never mind that. We're not evil. Where was I?

The worst part is that most people, living people, don't hear you, even when you scream at them. It's like being underwater. Most people.

Maybe it was the way I screamed, but finally, finally, a little girl sat up in bed and stared at me. She took her thumb out of her mouth for one word.


"You can see me?"

She nodded.

"Why are you still sucking your thumb, how old are you?"

"You're not my mom." And she made a gesture she shouldn't have known.

"Listen," I said. "I need your help. I'm always cold. I can't get warm and I need to get warm."

"Are you a ghost?"

"I think so," I said. "But it's not ... it's not like what you think. I'm not scary." I moved toward her. "I promise," I said.


Jennifer Hicks said...

i loved the pathway you followed that led you to the dialogue. wonderful!

danni said...

that nice long sentence in the first paragraph makes ME! feel like i'm in a cave - very nice piece of work!!!

Granny Smith said...

A scary and ambiguous ending after all that blood! Are there such things as vampire ghosts?

Overeducated Twit said...

I enjoyed the morbid humor and descriptive touches of this piece. I agree with a previous commenter--the cave description sentence is very evocative.

S R Wood said...

Thanks, everyone! Don't tell the old man with long fingernails hiding under my bed, but I think I may be more frightened of claustrophobic caves than spooks in the night.

Laini Taylor said...

Oh that's wonderful! Just my kind of scribble! Isn't it freeing and fun to work on something little and know you don't have to finish it? But then. . . you write something cool and you WANT to finish it. I sometimes think that if I scribbled every week I would have enough story ideas for fifty lifetimes!

(my word verification word is "moldised" -- that sounds like an unpleasant process, doesn't it? To get moldised?)

Laini Taylor said...

P.S. By the way, reading this brought forth a fragment of poetry from the mists of my memory -- it's Rilke, from one of the Duino Elegies:

"And being dead is hard work, and full of retrieval, before one can gradually feel a trace of eternity."

Nice, no?

paisley said...

excellent piece.. and the diologue was scruptious!!!!

i totally agree.. there is no such thing as dead,, only the disability to see past it..

S R Wood said...

Thanks, Laini and Paisley. There's something so freeing in being able to write something short, almost on the spur of the moment. I run a lot, and it's like the difference between a long weekend run (working on the novel) and a quick dash up the stairs to stretch my legs (Sunday Scribblings). It's refreshing.

I posted the wrong link for the November 22 Sunday Scribblings. Here's where it SHOULD have pointed:

Sorry for the confusion! I blame Firefox.

tumblewords said...

Blaming Firefox is a good thing - Being Dead is a wonderful thing. Wild and chilling, yet deadly serious.

Rinkly Rimes said...

What an unusual concept ....suddenly discovering that you're a ghost!

Lilly said...

Wow, what a brilliant piece of writing!

BJ Roan said...

I wanted to keep reading, but the story stopped. I loved it!

*~sis~* said...

wrong link or not, this just led me on and on. the cave at the beginning is perfectly vivid. loved it...