Furthest Right

Parables (#1)

A man dies — one of those mundane deaths, like a car crash or unventilated generator — and finds himself in a long blue tunnel leading to what he can describe only as “black light,” or a glowing emptiness. He floats to its edge and then steps into it, finding himself in a comfortable space in which light emits from the material itself, so he cannot see walls or other features.

In the distance he sees someone approaching. It is an older man with a white-grey beard, wearing a luminous black robe. As the man comes closer, it becomes apparent he is heading for a chair and table which had not been noticed before, but seem to have always been there, as objects are in dreams. The man sits and takes out a book bound in human skin.

“Ah, yes, you have living a middling life, I see. Not good, not bad, but more on the side of good with a heavy dose of self-centeredness than anything else,” he says. “That is about average. You were of reasonable intelligence, so you and your ancestors did something right in previous incarnations. This means I can offer you a choice:”

  • Door #1. Behind this door lies an easy existence. Your job is to raise butterflies. You will have a large greenhouse, and each day you must collect leaves with eggs on them and place them in incubation chambers. Then, when they hatch into caterpillars, you must feed them leaves that you grow. When each caterpillar forms a chrysalis, you must relocate it to the hatching chamber and wait for the metamorphosis to be complete, then release the butterfly after its wings dry. You will live in a 5,000 square foot luxury house. Your job will take about three hours a day. You will dine at a fine restaurant for two meals plus takeaway for lunch. But, the butterflies you release will fly upward out of the greenhouse and into infinite empty space where they will be destroyed. You will watch the results of your labor vanish into meaningless nothingness before your eyes, every day.
  • Door #2. Welcome to a different lifestyle entirely. You will live in a small stone hut on a medium-sized island with rocky soil. Here, you will labor in clearing the soil and planting it with the only crop that grows on this island, cabbage. You will survive on cabbage and the meat of an occasional goat, if you can catch one of the wild ones that range the island. On this island are deer who love cabbage. They will not take it of their own accord, but whatever you bring to them, they will eat. You will not be able to eat them, either. But you will be able to observe them and the effects of your care upon them. It is a hard and grueling life however.

The man becomes aware of a sensation that through its contrast to what he had been experiencing, reveals the shift in sensations that has occurred after death. He has not felt alive, but upon this decision, he feels more like he did when he was alive: a kind of trepidation mixed with hope, a sensitivity like cold air across his skin coupled with the loveliest, most carefree night. And yet, this choice is hard. The answer is obvious, and yet it is not. He likes fine restaurants and large houses. The void, however, that is the thing. He thinks hard and gets nowhere.

As he gives up on the decision and on himself for being too useless to make the choice, a memory comes back to him. His first daughter, with her first doll, which some years later had become ripped. He had taken it into the little workshop he kept in his garage and re-stuffed it carefully, then mended the rents with rough twine he kept in the third desk drawer from the bottom on the right-hand side. Then he gave it back to her, not having told her what he was going to do, and observed to his surprise a look of ineffable joy on her face.

The man is watching him. “I see that your decision is made,” he says, closing the book. “So it must be. Good luck, and see you again soon.”

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