Final Words

Haunted HouseI signed my will at the weekend. They still call it a Last Will and Testament, conjuring up images of grieving relatives weeping at your bedside as you sigh your final breath and let go of this mortal coil to meet your maker.

But as I signed the document, my first thought was not of my grieving family but of a movie called the Cat and the Canary, starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard. I saw that movie on TV when I was a small boy and, although it is a comedy, it scared the living daylights out of me.

In the movie, the will is read at midnight and the entire estate goes to the beautiful, young Paulette Goddard. But there’s a catch for the heiress: because of a concern about a streak of insanity in the family’s blood, she must stay sane for thirty days or lose the fortune to another family member.

Everyone has to stay the night in the spooky mansion, haunted by many spirits. It’s an open invitation for greedy relatives to drive her, overnight, into a state of total insanity.

I doubt there will be such drama when my will is read, even if there is a streak of insanity in my family’s blood. But signing your will does make you think about death. We’re all going to die, but thankfully, most of us don’t know when the end will be. So maybe we should start living as if this is our last day.

Well, if I was living each day as if it were my last, I can tell you that it would be one heck of a lot different from what it is. For a start, I would be eating a bacon, egg and cheese roll for breakfast. With a beer. And not organic muesli with skimmed milk.

And another thing, I would be spending all my money on a beach holiday with my friends and loved ones, partying till I drop. And not getting on the New York subway at 7 am to spend twelve hours in the grasping clutches of corporate America.

What’s more, I would get a sleeve tattoo and always speak my mind, whether people liked what I said or not. So no. Living each day like it is your last does not work at all. Unless you’ve inherited someone’s fortune.

Maybe living like we know that life won’t last forever is a better way to think about it. Just stop worrying about all the meaningless trivia and enjoy it while we still can. Before we’re all declared insane for eating organic muesli and getting on the subway at 7 am.

But I do like the thought of my will being read at midnight in a haunted mansion.

Bedtime Stories

Orange SkyNot all of our thoughts are our own. Sometimes we think something that someone else has said. And then there are those thoughts that are too horrible, too vile to have come from inside of us, even though they did. They are thoughts that intrude rudely on our consciousness, saying things we would never say ourselves.

My sister heard voices in her head. But unlike you and me, she thought they were real. She couldn’t put a face, a name, to those thoughts. One of them was just like a color, another was the water streaming perfectly from an open tap. That’s all she could say.

But when she described what one of those voices told her, that’s when I was afraid. That’s when I was terrified.

The voice told her of the future. It was my future. And she told me that story in the quiet darkness of bedtime.

Lost to the trials of urban ruin, sunken souls will traipse the vapid streets like living corpses, sensing only their silent but urgent desperation. They will not sleep, they will not eat, they will not think. They will not exist, except to the solitary agent who counts their numbers in that city within a city. That agent will not care how many are alive, even if you could call it living. He will only want to know how many have died since he was there the previous night. How many sacks of yellow human skin he must count.

Their children will not beg for money. They will beg for anything that means they can wake again tomorrow. Tomorrow, when the sun will streak the orange sky and fill their eyes with the dread of the day. Slip away. Slip away from it all into the tiny crevices of human filth. And pray to their absent God that he might save them.

It was my bedtime story. As a child I would die like that. I would die in a desolate place, devoid of friends and love. I would die before I had a chance to live.

But I never did. I am alive and a grown man. But those terrible images sit deep inside my psyche, waiting to haunt me with portents of my own death.

I keep telling myself that not all the thoughts we have are our own. I see people everywhere who love me. I see friends. I hold the hand of my own little girl and look into her eyes and read with her The Tiger Who Came To Tea and tuck her up in bed.

I will never let anyone tell her stories of an untimely, loveless death. The stories that will stay forever with her are of fairies that dance in the purple moonlight. Of being a beautiful princess who holds violet-pink roses close to her skin and rides through fields, with the dappled sunlight reflected from the silver dew. Riding with gracious confidence on her white unicorn into a beautiful tomorrow.

And she will never know what bedtime stories I live with.

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