|Life and Death
by Michael Bard
© Michael Bard -- all rights reserved
"You can have half an hour, maybe a little more."
I just looked at him.
"I'm sorry. The family was quite insistent -- you shouldn't be here at all. They, well, they say you're not human."
Forcing a smile onto my face, I thanked him and walked through the door and down the corridor between the pews as quietly as my four rubber-soled hoofs would allow. The church was quiet and dim, the only light being a multi-coloured collage that fell through a picture of Christ on the cross. And then soon, too soon, I was there.
In front of her.
In the coffin.
Slowly I forced my head to turn, my human head on my human neck on my human torso. Then I was there staring and...
Somebody had gifted her with some wonderful flowers, I didn't know where they'd gotten them in the snow.
I forced myself to look at her body. Turning my head slowly, forcing my eyes to not look away...
It was like an electric shock, a force of nature that tore through me, pain greater than when I'd leapt off the cliff after we'd argued. Recognition of her mortality, of her death, of her ultimate absence.
A detached part of me started categorizing, one of the few pieces of personality that had survived my last incarnation when I'd been human. The embalmers had done a miraculous job, she looked as young as when she'd gone into the isolation room unprotected over the shouting and orders of the others. I hadn't been alive then, well, my body had, but I hadn't been. Instead I'd only seen videos of her comforting the bawling centaur on the cold bare cement and... In an instant the memory filled my mind, I could feel her hands on my then youthful shoulders, feel my tears flowing freely as she rocked my upper torso back and forth. Feel her...
And then the memory was gone and all that was left was a memory of a memory.
Then I, here, now, started crying. And though I tried I couldn't stop. All around me echoed my cries, the sobs I desperately tried to drag back inside myself. Helpless, my soul tore as memories flooded my mind. Her face was the first I remembered, old, wise, kind. She had rubbed my back as it painfully grew, read me stories that I finished as some memories returned. I remembered... a different face. Old, similar, caring. It wasn't hers, but it looked right, comforting, familiar. Someone from my previous life. Then it was gone. Another fragment, another random image, another random memory of an event that had happened to somebody else who was dead. It didn't matter. I would never forget her. Never! You hear that God! NEVER!
Then He answered.
Suddenly my body was filled with fire, a burning heat that lasted only an instant, a scalding flame that suddenly switched to a burning cold. A burning uncaring cold that lasted just long enough for me to know; to know with absolute certainty. Slowly I forced myself back to look at her body. Her face calm, serene, kind. Her expression a source of memories.
I turned away and looked at the flowers.
"You were right," I whispered. "I am cyclical." Through ingrained habit I checked my watch. "At just before 9:45:41am, Jan 5, 2011, my body inverted itself and instead of being renewed forward from second to second, I am now being renewed backward."
At that thought, that statement of inevitability, I collapsed to the floor with a thud, the rubber glued to my hooves squeaking, banging my head onto the coffin so hard that I pushed it a metre forward. For an instant blood filled my eyes, but then my body renewed itself and the wound was gone as if it never had been. The blood was replaced, and already the memory of the gash was fading, lost in the regeneration of my cells into a younger and younger state. I opened my eyes and saw her face, empty, peaceful, centimetres away. I started to reach out but stopped -- the family hated me. I'd already left a stain of blood on the wood. But then, defiantly, I reached over and gently brushed her hair. Fuck them. Fuck them all. She was my mother...
Before me her face changed, consumed by a memory of another face, old, kind, caring, somebody that the person I had been had cared for deeply. I pushed the image away. I concentrated on my mother's face, on the face in the coffin until finally I could see her again. My body had already gone through one cycle, but that cycle was past. The people within them were gone, the I within them was gone, but the memories remained. She'd told me that that meant that I should be able to eventually recover all my memories, but if I did, then the who I am would vanish. All that would remain of me would be fragments.
Fragments, images, visions, that's all I had until that mythical day. Until that mythical day only fragments.
"And until that day that's all that'll remain of you. I'll forget, forget you, forget this, forget everything!" My voice turned into a ragged sob, "WHY?!" As I screamed my hands were still rubbing her lifeless hair, my tears sliding down and onto her neatly manicured face. "WHY?! YOU'RE DEAD AND I CAN'T EVEN FOLLOW YOU!!"
A detached part of me heard the door open and click shut.
"I'm alive and you're dead!"
Then I felt a hand rubbing the top of my horse chest and I quivered, calmed for a second before the horror of my fate took hold again. "It's all right," the pastor whispered. "Eventually you'll be with her, in the Lord's..."
I spun at my waist and grabbed him and held his face close to mine. All I could see was a blurred image, grayed hair, wrinkled skin. I laughed, a sobbing, insane, laughter. "But I won't."
"He waits for everybody when their time comes, when their time on this earth ends."
My voice squeaked as I laughed. I knew what was going to happen. I had the memories already. The calculations had been made by my mother based on guesswork from a diary. "But my time doesn't!" My voice was giddy, hysterical. "I'm a cyclic chronomorph. Over the next 6 months, 18 days, my body will gradually revert to childhood, babyhood, fetus, and then egg and sperm. And as I revert, all my memories will fade."
I pushed him away and turned back to look at my mother, tears blurring her image. "I will never die. I can't die! I can't drown, I can't cut my wrists... I heal instantly from any injury. I've even survived the centre of a fusion explosion."
He said something but I turned and looked only at my mother, hearing only the fading memories of her voice. Rubbing my eyes, I tried to clear away the tears so that I could try to burn her image in my mind. My memories of her. Of talks, of books, of songs, of comfort, of the one person who had never been afraid.
"I'm not going to die, I'm never going to die. I've already spent 6 years as a sperm and an egg. Six more years and I'll fertilize again and grow again." Helpless before my emotions I turned away, dancing on my hooves, oblivious to the black streaks I was leaving in the floor. "Six months to forget, 6 years to dreamlessly sleep, and then another 6 months to grow into a new life only to completely forget it again!"
My vision blurred as tears filled my eyes at the memories that would fade and be forgotten. Images of her smile, her laughter, her kind voice. Memories of a soul who had risked everything to comfort the being I had once been. Who had raised the being I now was. Who had died not knowing that it was all temporary.
I turned back around, ignoring the pastor's frantic words and tugs on my arm, and stopped facing her body. It was a shock again, not as strong, but still there. "You're in heaven, and I'll never go there. All that'll happen is that I'll forget again and again and again. Forget life after life but never die. I'm immortal, just like you are, but alone. Always alone."
I choked back tears, pushed the pastor away so hard that he fell onto the floor, and turned to look up at the Christ with hate. "Why? WHY?!"
And then I collapsed into a heap drenched in tears and sobs and memories that would gradually vanish and be lost.
Website Copyright 2004,2005 Michael Bard. Please send any comments or questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org