Monday, 15 December 2008

The Meaning of Life

Last night I had one of those "muse" moments. You know the sort of thing, a story idea comes to you and before you know it you've plotted the whole thing out and drawn the characters and are ready to go.

Except it was the middle of the night and I wasn't going to get up and start typing. So i had to wait until this morning when I was at my desk and could bash out the opening to get things going.

So here it is. The opening to a new story that popped into my head last night. Let me know what you think.

-----

It was like waking from a dream. Not a nice dream, or a bad dream, just a dream. And it was dark. But it would be since she had her eyes closed. She opened them. It wasn’t dark anymore. It was white. Bright white. So bright and so white that her eyes should have hurt. But they didn’t. Nothing hurt. It should have, after what she’d done, but it didn’t. There was no pain at all. There was nothing. She wasn’t hot, or cold, or anything. She just was.

It was about then that she realised she was lying face down on the floor. Or it could have been the floor, she couldn’t tell since it looked no different from anything else around her. She stood up. She stood up and stared into the infinite whiteness.

Nothing. There was nothing. Except for that bench. Where had that come from? It wasn’t there earlier. Or was it? She couldn’t remember. The bench, like everything else, was white. A white, wooden, park bench. She had nothing else to do—there was nothing else to do—so she sat on the bench and again stared into the infinite whiteness.

“Hello, Katherine.” It was man’s voice. She whipped her head around in the direction it had come from. There was a man. Just a man. Ordinary looking. Nothing special about him. Except that he was naked. She realised she was naked too. But then she wasn’t. And neither was he. He wore a white T-shirt and white trousers. As did she.

“It’s Kat,” she said. “Just Kat.”

“My apologies. I only get confirmation of formal names, not nicknames. May I sit with you?”

“Whatever.” Why not, there was no one else to sit with.

“Well,” said the man. “Here we are.”

She looked at him. He looked smug. No, not smug, just... He just looked. “And where is here, exactly?”

“Just here, where we are.”

“Right. That makes sense.”

“Good.”

“And who are you?”

“I’m whoever you want me to be.”

“Right. Good. Glad to know.”

They sat in silence for a short while. Or it might have been a long while, she had no way to tell. Eventually, it may have been after a few seconds, minutes or hours, she said, “What do you mean, whoever I want you to be?”

“I have many names, Kat. Many names given by many people.”

“So you’re God.”

He shrugged.

“So I am dead? It worked then? I am dead.”

“I don’t think so. Not yet.”

“Not yet?” She thought again—she didn’t know how long for. “So this is, like, a half-way house. Between worlds, so to speak?”

“You could say that. Is that what you think?”

“Yes. That’s what I think.”

“Then that’s what this is.”

Another pause of indeterminable length while she thought about this.

“So, what now?”

“What do you think?”

“I think you have to decide if I go to heaven or hell.”

He didn’t answer.

“Well, it’s not much of a choice is it?” She held up her arms to show him her wrists. She expected to find a the wound, or scars, but there was nothing. She put her arms down again. “I took my own life. That’s a sin, right. It’s off to hell with me.”

The man hummed then said, “No. Not just yet. Or maybe never.”

“What then?”

“Kat, let me explain something to you.”

“Go on.”

“I’ve seen many people like you. Many. And I always ask them one thing.”

“What’s that?”

“I ask them my one thing and depending on their answer, I decide if they are ready to continue with their journey, or if they have to go back and finish their other journey.”

“So what’s the question?”

“Are you ready?”

“Yes, I’m ready. Can I go now?”

“No, I mean, are you ready for the question?”

She signed. “Just get on with it.”

“Okay. Here goes. Katherine Sharp, what is the meaning of life?”

She laughed. “Ha! How am I supposed to know? After two thousand years of civilisation, mankind doesn’t have an answer, how do you expect me to know?”

“Would you like a clue?”

“Yes.”

“There is no universal answer. The answer is different for each person.”

“So... You mean, what is the meaning of my life?”

“Well, it is your life we’re discussing.”

After some thought, she said, “Well, my life has been all about pain, suffering and abject loneliness.”

“Is that your final answer?”

“What is this, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Yes, that’s my final answer.”

“Then you’re wrong. That is not the meaning of life. Your life or anyone else's.”

“So I have to go back.”

“Yes. You do. And the next time we meet, maybe you’ll have the right answer. I think you need a long, long time to figure it out.”

“Do I have to go back?”

“Back to a life of pain, suffering and abject loneliness.”

“Oh, I think that’s all about to change. Would you mind closing your eyes for me.”

She did so without thinking. The last thing she saw was his hand reaching out. The last thing she felt was his hand on her forehead. Then everything went black. There was nothing else that could have happened.

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