~ a short story
Fabian J. Roshchild was dying. Not quite dead, his body splayed out in the wilderness, before a bubbling stream, his arms useless, his legs more so. Under a robust oaken herald, shielding him from the wind but not from his woes, he sat upright in the repose of Thanatos’ best. A constant companion to all Men, rarely seen and then only once. His dark, icy, sickly, baying breaths reached into Fabian’s heart, shuddering his back into a lively wrack. A hint of life burst from these bouts. A defiance against his death? A hope for a rise from this final woody crook? Maybe. On a level deeper than Fabian could consciously admit he was tapping, the small broken man under the tree knew this to be the end. He’d never stand from under this tree. Fabian rested in a seat of finality, thinking and feeling, drinking closing images, chewing reveries of a finale.
But why? Why now? Why here? Why? God? Death? Anyone? Is there anyone out there?
The questions peppered into his fraying mind with velocity borne of desperation. Blood responded in kind, rushing to his heart, spiking its beat into renewed livelihood. He’d never felt so desperate. Why now? At the moment most unable to satisfy any such struggled yearning for change. A desperation destined to remain unfulfilled, fruitless, satisfied only in the cold blackness of his awaiting oblivion. What a shame, to die wishing you didn’t have to. Fabian prided himself on building out a mythology of death long before his time. Thanny, he did not fear. For all his life, death left him untouched and he never once dreaded his careful approach. But he felt it now. The fear. The longing for continuity. It struck him like a bolt, every wrack a reminder of the finality. The waves were becoming more precise, however. The fear was not evermore, just here. And in this state. A truly dreadful way to go. Fabian’s faded view of his body, naked and unconscionably useless to him now. Why did I ever work upon it so? Only for it to end here … Why did I ever let it fall into disrepair? At least, it doesn’t matter now…
“Nothing matters now.”
That isn’t true!
Fabian wished to scream it even as he whispered the proceeding words. But it was too late. He couldn’t speak. Not anymore. But he was still alive. Dying was not dead. So much less to do. But not nothing. Not nothing yet. The most he could do now, at the edge of oblivion, was think and breathe, just barely, and … dream?
Everything matters. A mantra was birthed into his heart. Everything matters. Even this. Every dream Fabian ever had wafted through him now. Every single one. Ones he’d forgotten, ones he was still holding. Ones he wished to show to Thanatos, in the threshold of death’s door. Ones he wanted to plant under this oak, amidst its hearty roots. Let them go! Hold them! Hold them unto the grave. Release them from your person, into the world again. A battle waged between the layers of his person, his dreams suddenly carving and blocking as sword and shield. What could Fabian do with the unborn dreams now? It was a gamble. To keep them donned, or to doff them. The flipping of a coin, the turn of a tarot. Which was the choice? To take those dreams with him into the beyond, whatever might lay beyond. Might he need such hopeful lights of his darkest hearts’ desires where he was going? What if there was no ‘going’? Only the void. In the void, the dreams would be dispelled into the nothingness they almost already were. Mayhap if he released them, his precious treasured dreams of a future he’d never managed to inhabit, if he released those possibilities out into the world, into this forest, into the sky above him, for all to see and share… mayhap they’d come to be, elsewhere.
Fabian flashed his eyes up, as far as they could go. His head was paralyzed, neutrally rested against the trunk of the tree. He could crane it no further, but his eyes could still be moved. Fabian could still see, more or less. But he couldn’t tilt his view upward far enough for his sighted view. Fabian failed to see the sky any longer outside of a peripheral reverie, just out of the reach of his hungry, damnable eyes. He longed for the view more than he longed for a moment longer of this life. And to both, he was denied.
Fabian wished there was someone else here. Someone other than Him. Thanatos was company, but not good company. He wished for someone else. Anyone. To be here with him in his final moments. What hubris, to wish for that. But is it so much to ask? No. People die every day in their lover’s arms, before, after, right at their times. A death without such a loving embrace is a waste. No, much too harsh. A tragedy. My life, a tragedy. These thoughts, dreams, yearnings for differences. Tragedies, all. Fabian felt the waves of woe wash over him again. Such a familiar feeling, almost homey. There was warmth in the woe. What a tragedy, what an irony, to feel at home in the pit of despair. To feel all this nostalgia, warming me up and righting me for the long passage of eternity, to feel anything at all that might be comforting, under the crook of my own earthy, ever-growing tomb. The arms of the tree were home, embracing him, holding him up, letting his frail form inhabit its mighty woody biceps for just this moment. Fabian, ever the nomad in the last seasons of his time, found a new home once more.
The song of sparrow rang out among the browned leaves and foliage and rich lushness about the tree. Fabian tried to smile but couldn’t. He kept it inside, where it beamed brighter than any of them he’d ever managed to stretch his tired face to form in good times past. The song ended abruptly as Fabian observed the sparrow’s shadow in flight, away from his sect of the forest. The silence returned, and a newfound peace. Fabian and the forest were better for the sparrow’s fast flight over their purview. Fabian tried to will himself into the reincarnated form of life within that sparrow’s gestating body. He had no way of telling if he’d succeeded. He believed he didn’t, and it was so.
It surprised Fabian to feel delight at knowing he’d become a part of this forest. My contribution to the world. My death contributing to so much vibrant life. My deadened shell of fleshy Man finally playing its cyclical and creative role within the world’s emergence. Under this tree, Fabian hoped to make his death an act of love. His only such act in his life. The washing woe returned, but he was too weak to resist it, so he let it flow through him.
Fabian didn’t know love. To love or be loved, in all his life, was a mystery as profound as the truest content of the ocean’s deepest recesses, or the furthest reach of the stars. The emotion, eventually even the yearning for it, over his years of responsible, reasoned, shambling continuity, was simply an impossibility. Fabian had given up on love, long, long ago.
And so, in his final moments, to give himself over was a joy. All of him — all his dreams, all his unspent time, and yes, all his accumulated love never loved — was gifted to this oaken hero, to this forest, to the world he’d taken for granted. Fabian finally felt it was a life worthy of the passage. To die well was the most satisfying performance Fabian had ever given. His final, only, profound gift to the All. A struggle to release and end in peace. A struggle resolved with a final breath of that most elusive of sentimental formulations only Man might posit in such stark wilderness: gratitude.
Fabian was gratified to fall into oblivion, here and now, under this tree, hand in hand with Thanatos and all his friends, alongside all of the members of Man with all His past and all His love. At the last, Fabian stood and followed them in a dance. ~