Chapter 1:

(Short Story) Death and All Its Glory

Stray Stories and Purposeless Poetry

There was once a young boy who wished upon the stars for a world where there was still life beyond death. Because death frightened him. It made him worry about the inevitable end that was to come decades into his future. He didn’t want that. He didn’t want to die just so his life could… disappear. Like dust being wiped away, his existence would be superfluous. His name soon etched onto the stones near his loved ones would inevitably be forgotten, erased by an unstoppable time.

Every night, he would wonder about death. He would visit his best friend to confide in his worries, but she didn’t understand. She didn’t care. Nobody did. All they cared about was the past and the present. Perhaps a little into the future but never too far. Only enough to feel busy about life and its potential hardships. All they worried about were of worldly interactions.

The boy then went to church thinking that religion might help with his thoughts. He eventually became Christian and learned of eternity. His pastor had told him that he’d live forever with God if he so pleased—an eternity with someone so mighty… But eternity? That was far too long, he thought. What would he do for eternity with God in the first place? Play video games? Watch superhero movies? Did those things even exist in heaven?

It frightened him even more—death, and now, eternity. So he wished. Wished upon the stars to exist in a world that didn’t have death. He didn’t want to die only to live in an unchanging world with a god he didn’t even know. But he didn’t want to experience nothingness either. A feeling of nonexistence. He assured himself that he wouldn’t realize the difference since he wouldn’t exist after death, but it still frightened him so.

Then, as he was sulking in the darkness, something interesting happened—

Gods answered. Multiple gods. They answered his wish in the oddest of ways. And in a bright, thunderous roar, the boy exploded into lightning, burning up into a seeming nothingness from the sudden electrical strike.

Then he woke up. Halfway through transit between life and death. He was transparent and floating just inches above the ground. A ghost. That’s what he was now.

He thought to himself, Is this what the stars meant as living life beyond death? To wander the world in this ethereal form? But then he was vacuumed up into space. And in another blink of an eye, he was reborn.

He wriggled around for ages until he wasn’t. Then he was flying, flapping his wings hard to escape the turbulent winds of… an air conditioner? He peered down at his body with his numerous eyes. A fly. That’s what he was. Then he saw his best friend, so he flew through the air to approach her. He would tell her of all that had happened. He would tell her—

She squashed him with a fly swatter.

He woke up again in the same room as before. It still looked enormous compared to his body. He looked down. Eight legs and a large bottom torso. A spider.

Lovely, he thought. This was better than a fly. He knew his friend best, and she had told him once that she never killed spiders. She said that they were helpful creatures that got rid of other pests. So the boy started his little journey, crawling across the carpeted floor of his best friend’s living room. His plan was to find her and potentially write a message with something… A pencil maybe? But his thoughts were cut short by a newly emerging roadblock—

Mr. Parka. Or more specifically, his best friend’s large parrot.

Mr. Parka looked him down. To the parrot, he was looking like a fine dinner. And with a single peck, the boy was pierced in the stomach. With another peck and a bite, every orifice of the boy’s body was oozing out this substance.

It was most likely his guts, the boy thought. He was in pain and dying. He had thought that he was poisonous, was he not? How was Mr. Parka chewing on him so blissfully? Did he really taste that delicious? But halfway through being eaten alive, Mr. Parka stopped and gagged. Then the bird stopped moving altogether.

The boy wasn’t relieved one bit. Mr. Parka was dead and he was slowly bleeding out. Nothing had worked out. And now, his best friend would have to deal with a dead pet. What an unlucky turn of events. And as slowly as he was dying, he wished once more—please, for the love of god, if the stars are listening, do not bring me back as anything smaller than a hamster.

The gods listened. And when the boy opened his eyes once more, he was finally not any kind of creepy crawler. He was a hamster. Slightly larger than the average one.

The boy wasn’t quite excited per se, but he thought that this was better than before. Yet these emotions were short-lived when he realized that he wasn’t at his best friend’s home. No, he was in a pet store, caged within a glass container full of other hamsters.

If he was still human and sane, he would have probably enjoyed being surrounded by these furry critters. But he wasn’t human anymore. He was lost and alone, and he wondered if his wish was truly worth it all.

Well, at least he couldn’t die.

And in a couple days’ time, a small child picked him up and out of that wretched glass cage. He was now a pet of a young child who he didn’t even know had existed.

Over the next few years, the boy got used to his life as a hamster. He was coddled and poked at, but none of it hurt. It was a surprisingly wholesome event. Of course, he had no idea that his family and friends were out searching for him. After all, the boy had disappeared one night and never returned. Nobody knew of his wishes before.

Eventually, however, he started to feel lethargic. Almost as if he were aging. And before he could even wave a goodbye to the young child, he passed on to another life. His motionless body was flushed down a dirty toilet filled with childish tears. And being half alive in between transit, the ghostly boy wondered why they would flush a dead hamster down a toilet as opposed to a burial?

Nevertheless, the boy wished for more before his supposed next life—he wished for a longer life, a larger body. Nothing like those bodies from before. What was the point of living another life if all he could do was be killed or be caged? So the gods listened once more and made him a tree—a small bald cypress sapling right beside his best friend’s home.

As he grew taller and taller, he could see his friend more. She’d pass him by every day to get to school. And taller he grew, eventually large enough to overlook her house like a guardian of sorts. But that was it. He couldn’t talk. He couldn’t wave. He couldn’t tell her of all that had happened. And slowly, time ticked away…

The boy saw her grow up. High school, college, then she got a job. He saw her life flashing by his own. He yelled for it to stop. He screamed for time to wait. But she had already forgotten him. Everyone did. And eventually, he couldn’t help but stop caring.

Over the decades, his friend aged and wrinkled. She looked decrepit unlike his new self. Her dark brown locks were now snow white, and she walked with a cane and limp. The only thing that didn’t change were her hazel eyes. Almost too wise for her own good.

As she aged, so did her mind. Others called her insane as she made a habit of conversing with the bald cypress outside.

The boy pitied his old friend. He never thought she’d become senseless and deranged, but eventually, he just brushed it aside as something that might come with age. He was overjoyed after all. It felt like his friend had finally noticed him. After all those years, they were finally together. She’d talk about life and all her adventures, and he’d listen intently. She’d go on about life and death being such a simple thing. After having lived so long, being six feet under didn’t seem so bad to her.

Eventually, she told him that she was nearing her end. She could feel it in her bones. She rested her legs up next to the tree and hugged as wide as she could. Because she wanted to thank him for being there for her. When all her friends and family had already passed, the tree was the only one that had stayed long enough to bid her farewell.

The boy yearned for this moment to last. Forever. Eternally. He wished to the stars for that to happen, but nothing seemed to change. The sun kept falling and the wind continued to blow. And as the last bit of light started to head under the horizon, he could feel his best friend’s warmth finally leave her.

As she held onto the tall, bald cypress, she peacefully passed with a smile on her face, leaving the boy on his own… yet again.

The boy cried. Tears in the form of sap seeped down into the earth where her body was soon laid to rest.

He had wished for a life with no death so that he wouldn’t be forgotten by the ones he did love. He had wished to live without fear taking over his mind. But this? What truly was the point in this afterlife wish? He was forgotten much faster than before. All he had wanted was a fearless death, but now he feared living much more.

He decided to beg. To the stars that had granted his wish, he wailed for them to explain—why were they doing this? It was as if they enjoyed the torture. Why not a new life as a human? Why insects? Why animals? Why trees?

And then the gods answered. With flames. A sudden downpour of rain followed by a thunderous clap of jolting pain. The bald cypress was set aflame. And the boy burned away to ash.

Several more lives, the boy lived. As an orangutan, a tiger, and even a whale. But most ended prematurely as he had lost the will to live. He started to question the stars as to why he was granted such wishes when he could no longer be with anyone he had once loved. But they didn’t answer. They never did. And the people he once knew were already all dead.

Then one fateful day, he woke up as a human. A baby at first, but he had finally regained his once lost form. And with this, he had wisdom. From the numerous lives he had lived thus far. His entire existence was history. The world had changed and technology had flourished, but the boy had knowledge that others did not.

So he used it—information, wisdom, and an abundance of memories. He used everything at his disposal so that he could make up for the forgotten lives. He studied and excelled. While others called him a child prodigy, he continued to climb the invisible ladder of society. He would finally make up for his lost time. But then, when he graduated from college at the young age of sixteen, he realized that nothing was the same as before.

Since life and death had lost significance, relationships and friendships didn’t seem to matter. He tried to make friends like he did before, but everyone stared in scorn and disdain. They didn’t want to be friends with the boy—a child prodigy who spurred nothing but jealousy. To them, he wasn’t on their list of those to befriend.

The boy once more tried to love and find passion for this life. He made friends, made family. Enjoyed it until he was sixty. And finally, he realized it was just fleeting, this moment that he always craved. And in another twenty, he’d be dead once more. In a new body of course but still alone with himself.

At seventy, he tried again so hard to care, but he couldn’t find reason to try any harder. He was going to die again—into another life, in another time, slowly forgetting about his previous selves. His memories would be jumbled with all these brief relations; the ones he did love would all but turn to dust. And all the while, he’d survive, defying the very concept of life and death.

His wishes were now granted, but the boy had had enough. He didn’t want this anymore. He didn’t want another life to live. There was nobody to love, nothing to achieve, and no amount of satisfaction that would suffice. There was nothing left in this cyclical world that made him wish to live once more. He wondered again what the point of this was if life beyond death was just a nightmare.

The boy was now eighty, but he was still a boy at heart. He lived life on the outskirts, fleeing from friends and family. He didn’t want to experience loss again. He walked with a cane and a slight limp in his leg just like his old friend who he left in the wind.

An old memory, he thought. He was glad he still remembered that one. After all those years in multiple lives, he had forgotten most if not all of his mind. Alone and bitter, he waited for death, fearing that someday, he would forget. About his parents, about his hazel-eyed friend, about everything he once had before. That first life was his favorite after all.

And one last time, he hollered at the stars, I wish to be with my once beloved friend. The one with the brown hair and the wise, hazel eyes. He wished and wished, hoping that the stars would finally grant him the death he had always feared. And then he closed his eyes…

The sky crackled with electricity. A deafening boom sounded near. The boy finally smiled at the scent of burnt air. Finally… he thought. Finally, he’d be free.

And just like that, he died. Once more. And just like that, he eyed the stars above as he floated in the air. A ghost… He was going to be reborn again.

Seeing this, the boy cried out in pain—if you’re there, great stars of the mighty skies, please heed my final wish beyond life and death. I wish to be set free from all this suffering. Away from all these terrible memories. I would rather fear death than live like this. I can’t even remember her face. Those hazel eyes and brown hair… I don’t want this wish anymore…

The boy woke up at the sound of his alarm. He got out of bed and looked at the clock. Panic set in quickly. He was late for school! He ran out to see his friend waiting outside his house. A friend who loved spiders and parrots. It suddenly sparked a memory… An old memory of a girl who had once embraced a young bald cypress.

A tear rolled down his cheek, but he quickly wiped his sappy mood away. It was just a dream after all. A dream like all the others he had of flies and hamsters and swimming with whales.

He had shared these dreams with his favorite best friend once. He spoke of stars who granted him wishes and even being a child prodigy! But she didn’t seem to care, and the boy was fine with that. Because with all these thoughts, his mind was never empty. He had no time to think of more.

Death was of no concern.