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Infinite Cycle (2nd Prize, Category 3)

April, 2014
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A man lay spread eagled on the pavement with fragments of glass surrounding his corpse. Up above, the window on the thirty ninth floor was broken. The police cleared a perimeter, as journalists and reporters gathered around the body like a group of vultures ready to feast upon the dead. Snow started falling, and a while after the body was carried away, the blood stains on the pavement was covered by a layer of fine white snow, deleting all signs of the incident ever occurring. The witnesses got on with their daily routine, un-affected by the memory of the man.

He came awake with a deep gasp. It was the uncontrolled gasp of one who had been without breath for too long. The gasp of the dead returning to life, his heart pounding, his eyes opening wide. It was a terrifying, yet exhilarating feeling. He sat up and looked around him. The place is empty. There aren’t any walls, no furniture, no roof, nor sky, there was nothing, except the floor. Just a dream he thought to himself. The floor had termite- sized squares on them, and the texture was …… almost familiar – he know he felt this texture before, but he also knew he hasn’t. The feeling brought back faint glimpses of a life that was unknown to him, a life … underground?

“Hello Peter.” He turned around, and came face to face with a creature from nightmares. It appeared to be a man, a man with a mask for a face, and skin as old and rotten as its breath. It wore a new suit, yet the creature itself looked like it died millennia ago. The mask freaked Peter out the most. The mask is smiling, but the creature made the mask look more devilish and malicious rather than friendly and amusing. He never seen such a ghastly monster, yet the figure seemed familiar. “I can see you have questions, yes?”

The tone was calming, but the environment caused it to sound as if the chance arose, he would be the dessert for the devil’s minions. “Where is this?”

“Some call it the void, others call it hell, I myself like to know this place as the doctor’s waiting room.”

The voice surprised him – It sounded almost human. He looked into the eye slits of the mask, and immediately dropped the idea. The emptiness seemed soul sucking, and the more he stared, the colder he felt.

“Please stop staring, my eyes aren’t that pretty.”

His mind snapped back into the present, and looked away.

“Who are you?”

“Good question.” It chuckled, and spoke “I have been known as  the grim reaper, Satan, Hades, Pluto, and Yama. Some call me the harvester of souls, others call me the harbinger of death. A particularly idiotic girl who was 3 years old and fancied herself as a princess had the nerve to call me an old man. I am the guide for the dead, a leader to the lifeless, the End of All Things. I am Death.” It said with confidence and fluency as he pinned a tag to his robe that said “Hi, I’m …… Death”.

“You seem to have rehearsed it before.”

“That’s mighty observant of you young man.”

“So who are you?”

 

It sighed. Great, as idiotic as the girl.

“You know how all the trash gets taken to this place to get burned into tiny little things? I am like the guy who controls the burning pit. The places are quite alike actually, they’re all full of things, the things are mostly stinky, some sticky, and both places are damn hot.”

“I’m dead?”

“Please ask me a serious question.”

“What am I doing here.”

“To learn and correct your wrongs.”

“I’m dead, there’s nothing else to learn.”

“Everyone learns something new every second. I just learned that you are as idiotic as a male horse.”

Peter remained silent. The tone was definitely humorous, but he had no compulsion to laugh.

“Fine I’ll take off the costume.”

The attire faded into the darkness, and was replaced by a black robe, and a face that looks extraordinarily young. It – or he – had short, dark, untidy hair and strangely blue eyes. He was again surprised by this …… thing. “Great lord that mask is suffocating.”

“So what do I need to know?”

“What is required to live again.”

He walked into the darkness as Death took the lead. The place was empty and the path before them is identical to the one behind them, yet Death walked with a sense of direction and purpose. How could anyone know where they’re going? Peter thought to himself. Just as the thought entered his mind, a faint light shined ahead. “All right, we’re here.” said Death as he sat down on the ground.

“Aren’t we going to the light?”

“No, it’s coming to us.”

Suddenly, the area around them lit up, and the ground shook beneath their feet. Walls rose from the ground and formed around them, and the intensity of the light blinded him for a second. He took a few seconds to adjust, and looked around. The emptiness and darkness of the void was filled with a seemingly never-ending supply of light. The source of the light was nowhere to be seen, then it hit him – the walls are the source. They glowed with calming warmth that gave him a sense of safety. “Follow me.”

They entered a large room. It was significantly darker than the corridor in which they came from. Dim lights along the walls gave the room a faint, lazy glow. They approached the sofa in the middle of the room and sat down, facing a huge screen which lit up. Houses and cars flashed on the screen, the conversations of the men and women could be heard. “This is my home.” Peter said as he turned towards Death. He watched as the people of the neighborhood gathered to his house and offered their condolences to his mother, who was crying on the front porch. “Why are you showing me this?” Peter asked Death.

“To remind you,” Death said, “that you died believing no one would even remember you.”

He could see the sad, pitiful faces of the guests as they discussed his motives for committing suicide. “Pressure. Pressure. Pressure.” Peter asked, “Why do they all say its pressure?”

“They are right.” Death explained with a calm voice. “Loneliness is the feeling that planted the thought in your head, but a seed requires water and nutrients to grow..”

Peter turned his face back towards the screen.

“Then pressure came along,” Death continued, “And it gave the impulse to commit suicide more strength. Pressure pushed your mind to believe the world was against you, that god abandoned you.” 

He sat there, emotionless, thoughtless.

“Follow me.” Death said as he stood up and left the room.

Peter followed him down the corridor and into another room. This one was considerably smaller, and had a desk and a chair in the middle of the room. On the desk were stacks of blank white paper and an assortment of pens “Right then, on you go.” Death gave him a nudge. Peter was confused. What am I supposed to do here? What does he want me to do? Death sensed his confusion, and explained: “Most suicides leave a note, and you forgot to write yours.”

“Why does it matter? I’m dead already.”

“It will matter to your mother. Right now, she’s still in great depression and pain from your loss. A well written letter might change that.”

Peter sat down at the chair and picked up a pen. “Good luck Peter,” Death said as he left the room and shut the door after him.

An hour later, the door opened, and Death collected his letter, and led him out. The corridor was gone, and was again filled by a gloomy dark air. Death led him to a door he never noticed. As they entered, the environment changed again. Once again, the corridor of light appeared again, but this time, there were dozens of upright capsules along the walls. “You may choose a body in which you shall reincarnate in.”

He walked up to the first one. The label on it said “Jesus, the human messiah and winker”. He turned to Death. “Winker?”

“He did wink at me a lot, and he kept winking at me when I came to him after he died.” He went up to the next one which said “Squirrel, starter of many an apocalyptic squirrel cult and belief in an eternal hibernation”. He looked at Death with a “are you kidding me” look. “What?” Death shrugged, “Some people like an exciting life in the woods and fighting squirrels of other colors.” He moved on to the next one. “T-Rex, vegetarian turned carnivore and guardian of many an endangered oak.” “He was a vegetarian?” He turned to Death.

“My father, Satan, spent days trying to convince it to eat the small creeping things, which are creepy things, then it got addicted to meat.” Death sighed, “It started eating other dinosaurs and there you go, a vegetarian turned carnivore.

He kept walking, unable to decide which one to choose. There were tags that read “Hermit, kill me please”, “Abraham, murderer or worshipper?”, “Genghis Khan, recorder record – breaker breaker” and one that said “It didn’t know what it was either”. When he reached the last one, he froze. The label read “Peter, successful man but lonely loner.” “I died before, didn’t I?”

“Yes.” Death’s voice was grim, “We met several times already.”

“Why don’t I remember anything?”

“Your memories are wiped every time you are reborn. But like a fire, it always leaves residue, that’s why sometimes you visit this place in dreams.”

“I wish to be reborn into this body again, but I have a request.”

“Speak.”

“I wish to keep my memories to be a better man.”

“Granted. Follow me.”

The capsule retreated into the wall, and disappeared. Death led him further down the corridor, and into a large room. A body, his body, lay on a table in the center of the room, next to another table. “Lie down, and relax.” A control panel rose from the ground, and Death walked towards it. “Close your eyes.” Peter took one last look at his body on the other table, and closed his eyes. Death stood there, deep in thought for a minute, then pressed a button. A dark shadow rose from Peter’s body and floated into the new one. It took a second to merge, then Death, sure that the process is complete, pressed another button. The words on top of the button read “memory wipe”. Death left the room just as the new body is levitated into a compartment, ready to be born. The old body floated in the air, went into a door, and dropped to the ground as it joined the rest of the Peters.

47 years later, a man laid spread eagled on the pavement with fragments of glass surrounding his corpse. 

 

By Daniel Du,

14 years, Yew Chung International School of Shanghai

 

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