Monday, January 2, 2012

For Bill

Last night, a boy I went to school with took his own life. This is for him.
Death was sick of collecting memories. The little bottles collected on the shelf were full of stupid, meaningless moments in the lives of the dead. Worst of all, only the favorites actually got placed on the shelf, the rest went into the river. It seemed that memories began to lose their meaning as eternity coursed on.

And yet, it felt as though this was owed to those recently deceased. Everyone deserved to keep at least one memory. So, when Death came for the souls of the dying, he brought a pen and paper with him. Each person was allowed to record their happiest life memory and throw it into the River Styx.

Unfortunately, memories had begun to get more and more cliché over time. It was as if everyone was beginning to live the same lives, which Death really was not okay with. The River was filling with bottles full of stupid, meaningless moments. Granted, to the person who experienced them, the moments were priceless.

However, to Death, they all were beginning to blur together. Winning the big game, a first kiss, receiving an unexpected gift, the fairytale wedding day, etc. It was all so dull. No one really lived anymore. No one went out and experienced the world. They simply lived the boring little lives that their given societies told them to. And they did without question.

As the boat moored at the edge of the River, Death spotted his newest victim; a young man, not more than twenty with a ghastly bruise around his neck.

A suicide.

Death hated suicides. Death was supposed to take people when Death damn well pleased, not when that person decided they were sick of living. Having never lived himself, Death assumed life must have been really terrible, given the number of suicides he’d been taking across the River as of late.

As always, he removed the pen and paper from his robes and beckoned for the young man to come aboard.

It was the boy’s eyes that struck him first; radiant, topaz blue framed by a navy ring. They were the sweetest eyes Death had ever seen.

“Hop aboard, kiddo,” Death greeted.

“Aren’t you supposed to be scary or something?” the boy snarkily commented, wandering over to the boat.

Death wanted to reply with a snarky comment himself, but his superiors looked down on that sort of behavior.

“Nah,” he shrugged instead. “People just always are afraid of me on principle.”
The boy nodded his understand. It was a passive gesture that made his blonde hair fall into his eyes.

Feeling this was going to be a long ride, Death made quick work of pushing the boat back into the River, where it caught the current and they began to cross the water.

“So,” Death sighed, really not looking forward to this part. “What’s your best memory?”

Looking confused, the boy shrugged silently.

“Come on!” Death urged. “There has to be something that really stands out to you.”

“I’m a fucking suicide,” the boy spat. “I really don’t have too many ‘happy memories’.”

Death gritted his teeth as he looked upon the boy. He was sitting there with this distant look on his face, seeming completely unphased by what was going on. Most people flipped shit about crossing the River Styx. But not this kid, he was calm and content as a cucumber.

For a while they sailed in silence. By the time the boy spoke again, the Other Side was in sight.

“I think I’ve got one,” the boy finally said. “It’s really not all that happy.”

With a silent shrug, Death handed him the pen and paper. As the boy scribbled down the memory, Death’s mind was filled with the memory.

It was his Freshman year of high school at a school dance. There was a girl standing before him; she was asking him to dance. He recognized her from their passings in the hall, though he had never actually spoken to her. From the rumors he had heard around school, she had a verbally abusive boyfriend who had dumped her for a girl who was far less pretty.

With a shrug, he agreed. He didn’t really like to dance and he had told her that. But she had been insistent, so he agreed.

When they got onto the dance floor she blushed a little, apologizing for making him dance.

“You just looked so lonely,” she almost laughed, though it was hard to hear her over the music. “I just figured I had to quit being a wall flower at some point tonight. And you were an easy target.”

He smiled and laughed too.

To his surprise, her somewhat plump hips were actually quite bony feeling through the fabric of her vibrant polka dotted dress.

“I’m sorry you had to dance with me,” she said when the song began to draw to an end. “I know I’m really ugly.”

Her eyes showed that she meant every word of it and it broke his heart a little.

Another slow song started up and he began to sway with her again.

“Really,” she insisted. “You don’t have to dance with me anymore. You can go back to sitting at your table.”

“No,” he smiled. “It’s okay. We can dance some more.”

Blushing, her face lit up in a smile as she agreed.

“And you’re not ugly,” he assured her. “You look really pretty tonight.”

The boy handed the paper to Death, who took it in stunned silence. This moment was nothing like most of the cliché moments he dealt with usually. By the feeling the memory gave him, the boy had no further dealing with the girl, other than occasionally seeing her at parties.

“Who was she?” Death asked as the boy climbed out of the boat.

“I don’t really remember,” the boy admitted. “But she danced really well.”

Nodding, Death waved goodbye to the boy and took the memory bottle from him.

This one was going on the shelf.


  1. I really liked this. It is the sort of writing I like to read, very John Donne.

  2. Well done Ashleigh, well done.