The Future of God by Deepak Chopra (A Book Review)

A book review of…*

THE FUTURE OF GOD BY DEEPAK CHOPRA**

The concept of God is as varied as there are people to ask of it. Different cultures around the world have articulated the concept of God in ways as varied as polytheistic pantheons, animistic and pantheistic manifestation, and monotheistic dogmas, among many others. To look at the Wikipedia page about God[1], we see all the myriad historical conceptions of this most supreme existence.

We also see, unfortunately, all the contradictions between cultural perception of the God concept and the tragedies that unfold as a result. In our time, the militant atheist movement, often credited to Richard Dawkins, has become another cultural perception of God: the perception that God does not exist.

Science has the advantage of provability; anything that is a scientific fact can be proven. Faith on the other hand offers no proof, and this is the realm that God falls into. Through the first section of The Future of God, Deepak Chopra takes the reader through a rebuttal of militant atheism, laying a solid case against atheism and for the existence of a greater being.

Perhaps the most important concept introduced in the first part of the book is what Chopra calls “God 2.0”. In the second chapter, the author looks at the God who is made in our image–God 1.0. This God is a projection of our mind and has seven qualities, identified by Chopra, which he is expected to embody. This is the old perception of God, which atheism uses liberally to denounce his existence.

But then Chopra introduces a new idea: God 2.0. This version of God is not a projection of the mind expected to fulfill certain purposes; instead, God 2.0 is reality and being. As the author states in his own words, “God 2.0 […] is the interface between you and infinite consciousness.”[2] It is this God, version 2.0, that Chopra begins to bring to light in the second section of the book.

The second section of the book focuses on building faith. It begins by identifying the zero point of faith: that point in which there is no faith because one believes there can be no God. Chopra connects faith to progress and makes the case that faith is required to believe in one’s self, to trust emotion, to achieve insight, and to see beyond surface appearances and trust what you see, among other things.

In this way, even science takes faith. But the author also points out the hallmarks of bad faith: those things that lead us away from God, rather than toward him. Chopra identifies three primary types of bad faith: blind faith, rank prejudice, and pseudoscience. In the course of reading, it became evident to me that bad faith is that which draws our consciousness away from God and toward the ego.

The subject matter then turns to wisdom, miracles, and divine action. Through a remarkable, albeit lengthly, discussion of these three key ideas, Deepak Chopra successfully ties them back to the point originally postulated in the second chapter by identifying God as pure consciousness. This discussion alone makes the text worth its weight in gold.

The whole book has been structured this way to build up to the third section: knowledge. Pure consciousness exists beyond time and space; it is omnipotent and omnipresent, but most importantly, it is something that can be experienced. To experience something grants the one who has the experience a special first-hand knowledge. In the chapters of this section of the book, Chopra outlines practical ways to experience God and explains how to make the most of those experiences.

It’s interesting to note that none of the suggestions the author makes require years of meditation or constant prayer, elaborate rituals, or even pages of mantras. All it takes is a few minutes of quiet time, some present thinking, and awareness. Chopra identifies three worlds: the material world, where we tend to exist most of the time; the subtle world, where thought takes form; and the transcendent world, which exists as a state of quantum unity.

The final section of the book, over several chapters walks readers through the process of bridging the gap from the material world to the subtle world and then into the transcendent world, where the experience of God becomes real.

Finally, no book on God would be complete without a discussion about evil. Chopra takes the perspective approach to evil, indicating it to be the absence of good. The solution, therefore, is to move closer to God, or to become more conscious (since God is pure consciousness). In the fullness of consciousness, we experience being. Chopra sums up, “God is the place where the mind finds an answer beyond thought. When you see this, no one in the world is an enemy, only a fellow traveler. The door to Being is open to everyone, leaving evil behind at the threshold.”[3]

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God

[2] Chopra, Deepak. The Future of God. 2014. Harmony Books. New York. Page 18.

[3] Chopra, Deepak. The Future of God. 2014. Harmony Books. New York. Page 247.

*This post has been written by guest blogger Rob Emslie. The opinions and ideas expressed within it are not necessarily the opinions of this blog owner and should be taken as strictly the opinions of the author of this singular post within the larger blog.

**I received this book through BloggingforBooks.com as a complimentary review copy.

Writer’s Block (A Short Story)

So I had a friend challenge me to write a short story about an idea he came up with that involved a literal scenario of writer’s block. Here’s what happened. This work is complete, but I’m open to suggestions on making it better and editing. Because, unlike this narrator, I believe editors are a God send. 

Thanks for reading!

Writer’s Block

a short story by Erica Tuggle

I began composing stories before I even knew how to read. That’s how we writers are. We’re born with that desire to create; to see some good in this strange world.

I’d hang around my mother as she went room to room on her various doings, and my calf-height self would tell her fantastic tales. She’d nod and smile to placate me, but she had no idea I was creating actual, living and breathing art in those moments at her heels. What I was to become, and subsequently my gifts, was not recognized until much later. As it happened, the first person to “discover” me was an unlikely friend, my poetry professor during my first degree at University.

He knew from the moment I chose to read a Dylan Thomas poem aloud as homage to the author before reading my own creation. He knew I was a novice poet then, and I’d be a great poet further down the road.

I don’t say all this in a vainglorious boast. I’ve got credentials to back my words (ha). Namely, a Pulitzer for my collection of work:“The Window’s View is of The Wall.” I’ve got an MFA from Harding University. At the local community college, I’m a professor of the standard semesterly offering of creative writing and I currently teach a class called “The Poet’s Workshop” three times a week.

What Professor Gary didn’t know as he listened to my reading of “Clown In the Moon” in that university classroom was that I would also become a novelist.

I’ve always considered writing something with length. Something provocative, mysterious, and a little bold. That’s what I’ve set out to do now, and no doubt, once I get rolling on this new project, it’s bound to catapult me into a new realm of authorship.

I’ve never had an issue with what we in the field refer to as “writer’s block.” Sound to me like that’s a cutesy way of excusing you from the work of pushing through your ego and life’s miasma of responsibilities to get to. When a new project comes across my docket, I sit down and I attack it as viciously as anyone would pursue the work they are paid to do. I have drive. Determination. It’s a matter of will. My job may seem a little more glorious than that of a plumber who pushes against a stubborn clog in his daily ventures, but our work is similar. We are not deterred by the obstacle. Because we see the end result, and know that its rewards are worth “unblocking” our work.

This is why my experiment had to happen. Last month, when first I decided to make my transition to the literary slant of things, I took this philosophy with me to my favorite cafe, along with a notebook, and prepared to begin my first novel. Yet, I found myself unable to create; an unpleasant first for me.

I tried writing the novel at home, between classes, in a different cafe, on my Macbook, in the morning, right after lunch: in short, every possible scenario. And still the words were uncooperative; the sentences were meandering; the prose unacceptable. Other people, those with far less experience and dedication than I, had written and published works, and so I was determined that I was just not approaching the work correctly.

The idea came to me when I was reviewing the literature for one of my upcoming lessons on Gothic literature and the evolution of the horror genre from its inception to current day. I turned the pages, in print and electronically, viewing image after image of artist’s renditions of Poe’s short story descriptions brought to visual completion. I explored the imagery of human beings stretched upon wooden tables with their entrails twisted out and above them, contortions of the body meant to inspire fear and disgust, and further sidelong searches to modern horror’s dealings with torturous films like Saw, where there was always a chance to save one’s self if there was a sacrifice made for the RIGHT to live. In particular, these latter cases paid with flesh and blood to keep existing.

That’s when the idea struck me. Sure, I could say that I had put blood, sweat, and tears into my work, but the metaphor was cliché without the teeth that these horror films and images were giving it. I had to be willing to sacrifice my self to bring my work to life. The epiphany heavy on my breast, I took to the place where one could most readily procure a device to prove loyalty to the craft.

The social media analogs of the Internet.

My request was unusual, and so I chose the medium where there would be a great exposure of my message, and to individuals who prized secrecy and a quick buck above the average man. My CraigsList post read as such:

 

“Entrepreneurs! I am an accomplished poet wanting to make my transition into the world of novels. To do this, I need a push most dire. I need an individual willing to craft a machine that will make my writing a necessity hinging upon life and death once I strap myself into the apparatus you construct. Be creative! This needs to be undertaken with care as to leave no out for me to find to shirk my writing deadlines. Only serious inquiries need apply. Compensation will be ample and all work will maintain anonymity.”

 

The replies began a mere ten minutes after I had posted the ad to several large cities. They flooded in over the next three days. Some of these were joke replies, some spam, and one respondent wanted to know if I was lonely. At the end of day three, one reply seemed most promising:

 

Dear Sir,

My name is Dave and I’m a pre-med, engineering double major at a university in the U.S. Because of the nature of this post, that is all I feel comfortable in discussing about myself. I hope you understand. My dad is a carpenter and I’ve apprenticed enough to feel sure I could design the device you are looking for. My fee for building to your specifications is $500 plus allowance to install a small computer to track my own date of what you are utilizing this structure for. Please reply, if acceptable, to…” So on and so forth…

 

I replied with my specifications, instructions so detailed and precise that a read through alone would have scared off anyone with less than steel dedication. Dave agreed to these about a day later and agreed to mail me my device by the month’s end. Then it was just the waiting.

 

And so I waited. My novel in progress (or rather not so in progress) taunted me. The ideas were there but their expression escaped me. Every time I’d get out half a sentence of something, the next half of the sentence made it sound trite and unnecessary. The wadded balls of paper in my office garbage can grew, overflowed, while my word count remained paltry.

Several times a day, I’d gently pull back the curtain from the front window and peer at the space in front of my door; the perimeter of the mailbox. Both of these remained vacant and I would twitch the curtain back into place in agitation. One day, sneaking up on the curtain, I parted its silk fabric and immediately the large cardboard box on the porch greeted me. The big brown truck that had deposited it there was just pulling away from the curb.

I unlocked the front door, snatched at the parcel, and tested the box weight, concerned to find it was light enough to easily pull into the house after me. My anticipation was tinged with nervousness now. What had this boy built me? Was it right? Was it worth the cash, sent a month prior in a vulnerable brown envelope as a trustworthy money order?

I pulled the box to me and ripped at the tape that held it together with my pocket knife. Almost able to pull the box wide open, I nicked my finger on the knife. I didn’t have patience enough to stop and tend the minor wound. Holding the bleeding finger against one of its fellows, I continued to dismantle the box, my blood smearing along its cardboard edges, and I pulled my prize out from within its depths.

Let’s pause dear readers at this moment to consider…what possible thing a writer in publication deadline crunch could resort to? It’s nothing all too complex. In fact, I utilize it right now as I write to you. Even as I shatter this third wall between us, I do so with the device alongside, assisting even. But oh, “the device” sounds altogether too chilly. Let’s call my hardware “The CoWriter,” because, after all, this is what she does.

The CoWriter is silent all around me as we work. Her hinges do not squeak to interrupt my stream of thought as it moves from me to the paper I scrawl upon. If anything, Her wires are a guide, a steady reminder of our journey in creating this great piece together.

Make no mistake, it is I who writes the work. It is my name that will appear on the finished cover page alone. But my CoWriter is to credit for my focus, for the determination.She’s got all the benefits of a strong cup of coffee would produce, but She’s more than that. She removes my error of humanity that may allow me to shirk my sacred duty, my life purpose. The CoWriter is…well, it’s best to get back to our first encounter. Show, don’t tell…it’s the first thing they teach you when they try to teach you writing, after all.

I pulled the CoWriter from the box, pink packing peanuts falling from Her and back into the box and onto the floor as She rose. I admit, at first, I thought Her too simple a thing. I missed your elegance, dear.

The majority of Her bulk was in the form of a sort of collar, placed round the neck. It was wide, spacious even, and well-padded for comfort (on the outside that is). She appeared to me to be a combination of Victorian neck ruff and plastic dog cone: the kind used to prevent an animals incessant need to bite and scratch a fresh wound. The other side of the collar held the long, sharp blade, of course.

I needed the ultimate incentive to not only finish my novels, but to infuse them with raw emotion and true urgency of purpose. I had asked the creator of CoWriter for a sort of guillotine for these purposes of motivation. Here is what he brought me. He too was a master of his trade.

Besides the main body of my CoWriter, there were appendages of a sort. From Her, trailed thin, plastic coated wires that falsely advertised a delicacy on their exterior. These trailed down and connected with light and thin metal sheaths that anticipated my fingers within them.

The sheaths too are simple brilliance like the rest of Her. They work just as the collar does, but on a smaller scale. They fit over each of my fingers except the two necessary for me to keep writing. And should my wordcount stutter or remain frozen too long, should my words devolve into clutter and nonsense to try and fool Her, She will compress as is necessary to guide me back to the path.

Allow me to demonstrate…

Skucbrats ratew coop jintse.

Now see. Just a simple diversion from purpose and goal, and CoWriter has reminded me not to stray. See the blood upon this page? It is my own. She’s just extended a sharp bit from the thumb sheath and pricked me. Just a few drops for the course, but an effective motivator, the pain is.

When I pulled CoWriter from Her box six months ago, I was facing a deadline at the end of the month of a promised manuscript at least 50,000 words in length. My word count of that moment upon undertaking this feat in earnest was 4. Even these words were just placeholder for the story itself. The words at the top of the page when I strapped the collar around my neck those six months ago and pushed my fingers into the sheaths were: “Once upon a time…”

My goal each day was at least 1,500 words. Once I hit 1,500, I would keep going but the collar and sheaths I’d locked in place would unlock at my goal number and remain so until I clicked them back into place…thus committing myself to another 1,500 goal.

With the collar firmly in place, I began my novel. “Once upon a time” became “Once upon a time, in the time before the cell phone became the idol of the masses, there were real gods who had real stories that mortals could subsist upon as though it were lifebread.”

With that success, my pen faltered once again and I tensed, anticipating attack from CoWriter. But no, it was only 8am, there was plenty of day left to meet my goal with already 34 words down now. She had no reason yet to prod me with more than her weight upon me. And so my pen paused for a moment, but then the next line descended and it was put to ink. The words would flow and ebb, but the pace was steady and mid-sentence I found that the collar clicked beneath my chin and the finger cuffs disengaged and slid down my non-writing hand. I finished the sentence I was on, took off CoWriter and shut my notebook. It was late afternoon, and so I made myself lunch and celebrated with it and a listen to the vinyl press of Hard Days Night.

This, more or less, was the smooth routine my writing took on for a week. By this time, I had 10,564 words, the major characters were in play and things were shaping themselves. One small problem persisted. I had no conflict in my story yet. As I approached my writing desk on day eight, I could feel the dread of this, and know CoWriter would soon speak up if the work continued to drawl in a bathtub story fashion.

I slipped my fingers into her sheaths. I clamped the collar down upon my neck. As my window drew to a close that day, I pulled my notes in close to me and I wrote like the devil was on my back.

I wrote hard and fast, grammar errors and half-flushed ideas spilling out into half-intelligible sentences. As I wrote, and the problem that would fuel that first novel was delivered to the world, I felt release like a mother might on birth day. My body tensed and spasmed as I held my idea down and made it reveal its purpose in my plotline. I felt it from the top of my head to the base of my spine. It was a release almost sexual, and yet unencumbered by a head clouded with lust. It was a lengthy moment of pure orgasm.

Once finished with my writing for the day, the collar free, I moved in a daze to my bedroom and collapsed onto my bed in shaking sweat and with a feeling of weightless ease. In the days that followed, the weeks afterward, the writing was swift and even playful as it was delivered. I almost felt guilty that it came so easily. My work hardly seemed like work anymore. After my big release, I didn’t even feel compelled to use CoWriter for the remainder of the book. I laid her gently in the corner of the room, and let her watch me work through.

I’ll admit, reader, I felt even more happiness to see her there away from me while I finished chapter after chapter. I imagined her a jealous lover, writhing with want as I pleasured myself.

And then, too soon almost, the story ended. The novel was complete. The real work done, I sent it off to my editor and she tweaked its little newborn features until it was presentable at the literary table.

As one might be aware, the book, originally begun under duress, became a flower in my breast pocket. I was no longer a one trick pony of the poetry world. I became a novelist.

The book, “Godless,” debuted on the NY Times bestseller list at no. 3, and quickly rose to no. 1. where it stayed for some number of weeks until being dethroned by the Vice President’s (laughable) endeavor into fiction.

My work, for a first-time effort, was satisfying to me. And while I knew the work had been my own, I still felt grateful for the guidance of CoWriter. When Dave called me last week to ask if She was still functional and working well, since no reports of progress had been transmitted to him in over a month, I told him all was well, referred him to my new book on shelves now and cut the conversation short.

But the call got me to thinking. What’s to stop me from writing another work? A work about CoWriter? The wealth she’s given me could benefit others. Sharing her gift with the world would be a new kind of contribution to literature. I began to sketch out a plan for this new work.

Everyday I would produce a chapter: at least five pages of solid writing. It would be a sort of book on writing, a process manual, and a view into the options CoWriter gave me and could give others. But putting these strict confines on my process irked me. There’s a fluidity to writing that must be maintained lest the well dry up.

Word count had worked well for me before and so why not stick to proven methods? 4,000 words a day, I said. That would be a firm, but attainable goal. I programmed it into CoWriter the day before yesterday.

 

Every day has been nerve wracking, the project weighty and unmanageable. The premise still loose and floaty, I thought I could nail it down by sheer will. I’m only on day three, but it’s been a long day.

I strapped myself in early this morning, but my words are being uncooperative. The sun has just set outside my office window. I’ve only hours to hammer out what’s need for today’s goal. There’s cuts on my fingers and grooves where CoWriter has dug into me. It’s because I’ve tried to cheat Her to be sure. She’s mercilus with my flighty fidelity to bare minimum word count standards.

I just tried to work ahead on an anecdotal scene that amused me but would probably not make the final cut of the book. It was just to get the writing process going. She didn’t like it. She sliced me then, and a red ribbon of my blood twined down my fingers. I abandoned this thread of writing. I crossed out the lines three times to try and satisfy Her. With shaky hands, I am trying to return to writing I imagine She will tolerate.

As another hour has dwindled while I remain frozen in reverie. She has cut me again: hard and deep this time. Two of my fingers on the opposite hand ache and drip a steady flow. I’ve only two hours left now, and so She cut these two fingers almost to the bone. The pressure on them is increasing by the minute. I fear that no matter how much I type at this point, those fingers will be compressed so constantly, so violently, that they will need amputation if CoWriter does not do this for me.

I’m not even sure I want to share the story of this damned machine anyway now. I wrote the book myself after all. Not Her.

No, you didn’t. No matter how hard you squeeze my fingers, I won’t write that you are an author. It would mock the art. Without art, we have no truth. You are…

…   …   …

She didn’t like that, readers. Perhaps, She disapproves of this line of diary-esque disclosure. She squeezed all the fingers at once. The two She’d already cut down to bone popped off then. The digits lie slightly out of my reach as I’m strapped against CoWriter’s bulk. I stare at them now. When they were severed, I screamed and screamed. I felt like I’d go into shock seeing that blood spurt. I lost consciousness for some minutes. But here I am, scrawling out words again. The episode took another precious hour though. I’m left with only one now.

Surely, there’s not that many words left in my count today? But maybe She’s not counting these words that digress from the story. Are you? CoWriter…are you counting any of this?

I’m trying not to weep now. The place left on my hand where fingers once were burns and throbs. Each jolt of pain seeks to divert my attention. But, prospective writer, you’ll see that with the CoWriter on your back (or rather round your neck) there’s a focus that comes.

What’s it giving my story you may ask? Well, it’s giving something that pages of paper strung together can’t. It’s making the words real. Searching for what’s real is our job as writers…no, not only that, but as humans as well.

I’m so weary. I can’t think straight anymore. I want to sleep. The CoWriter feels so heavy. She’s tight around my neck. I think she’s tightening every moment now…still trying to urge me to the finish line. I’m down to the last minute now, and so I must type and try to make a message that will be my release.

I think the message is clear. We writer’s are a lonely group, and this isolation can freeze our thoughts. It can “block” us so that we strive so desperately just to communicate what lies beyond the barrier. CoWriter has helped to push the block around, but in the end it comes down to….

 

END OF MANUSCRIPT

WORD COUNT: 3,726

*Special thanks to Bentley Little for the story idea.*

This Is How We Date Now

Originally posted on Thought Catalog:

iStockphotoiStockphoto / MmeEmil

We don’t commit now. We don’t see the point. They’ve always said there are so many fish in the sea, but never before has that sea of fish been right at our fingertips on OkCupid, Tinder, Grindr, Dattch, take your pick. We can order up a human being in the same way we can order up pad thai on Seamless. We think intimacy lies in a perfectly-executed string of emoji. We think effort is a “good morning” text. We say romance is dead, because maybe it is, but maybe we just need to reinvent it. Maybe romance in our modern age is putting the phone down long enough to look in each other’s eyes at dinner. Maybe romance is deleting Tinder off your phone after an incredible first date with someone. Maybe romance is still there, we just don’t know what it looks like now.

When we…

View original 1,024 more words

Big K

Authors Note: Big K is my personal non-fiction essay of growing up alongside the rise and fall of a local department store; remembering its affluence.

Big K

Picture of my Kmart published in local paper.

Picture of my Kmart published in local paper.

It’s a strange thing to have so vivid a place fixed in the space betwixt your ears, and to realize its real-life counterpart is no more. Having seceded to economic reality and a lack of consumer confidence, the department store chain “Kmart” is all but forgotten nowadays in my home town. Oh, but to the children of its time, the Kmart was the place to kill all manner of time for those who lived upon the 58 Hwy stretch.

I, as a 58’er from age 6 to 21, can remember each aisle and the contents they held in. Now, it’s an empty building, the aisles striped bare, and cold save the debris of what was left when the Kmart went out of business two years ago. And Alive, the Kmart held no magic exceptional except what a child’s eyes might preserve.

The Kmart had three long long aisles FULL of toys. These aisles were in the back corner of the store, far into the heart of the Kmart, and here the lights were dimmer. Everything else so bright. There was an aisle for girl toys AND an aisle for boy toys and still a BONUS aisle for miscellaneous toys like coloring books and board games…things parents might consider toys while we children knew better.

The girls toy aisle was superior. Obviously. The boys had to share their shelf space with the baby toys (soft dolls, bright keyed pianos), but we girls, we had an aisle unto ourselves. Who knew they made so many different Barbies before Kmart showed me the possibilities?

Strategy had to be devised to try and rescue these bright faced dolls from their home among the others and to my own home. I would casually show the newest one of the week to my mother, insinuating in the show that I was merely educating her on the doll selection. I’d wait for her side-eye glance of acknowledgement as she tried valiantly to shop with us three young terrors she called progeny taking turns running the length of the store, swinging on her shopping  cart, and presenting our problems of starvation and defecation needs to her every half hour. If her response to my new Barbie 101 presentation was cool and distant, I knew I’d face the long walk from the grocery aisle back to the toy haven, but if she gave me more (a word or even a lapse in judgement to hold the bright plastic doll box herself) I knew my walk of shame would not be for today and the doll had a chance of slipping into the basket. I would hold my breath for the Judge’s decision and if the box tipped into our buggy, still I would follow the cart the rest of the shopping trip, carefully resting my hand along the metal bars and starting and the wide-eyed doll eyes within. In this gaze, I willed Barbie to be silent and remain in the cart until we could insure her freedom beyond the register.

There was more to Kmart than the toys (and the toy vending machines beyond the register); much more. Each aisle had something to entertain. There was always something begging me to stop and consider. There were rows and rows of glistening strands of “diamond” jewelry; bath mats with smiling frogs upon them; sneakers with glitter built into their sides; bags upon bags of novelty candy; a Tetris maze of tennis rackets, baseball bats, and balls; and the very latest selection of Lisa Frank folders with Dalmatians and Polar Bears upon them. The store had everything you wanted.

Kmart was there in every season. There were purchase opportunities at my every growth milestone. Back to school in September and there would be a selection of backpacks in teal, pink, army camo, and more to choose from. We were children of the upper middle class. We did not carry the same backpack for multiple school years. Completing a year of school guaranteed us new school supplies in August. Our parents knew the contract.

Soon after school started, the garden center area vanished overnight and in its place were rows of costumery, rubber spiders and rats, and the candy we waited all year for. We would buy face paint and props from these aisles, but never costumes. We had pride. We would spin our own identity from gold string out of Mother’s sewing kit and aluminium foil shaped into swords and crowns.

We plucked valentine card boxes for classmates from these self same seasonal aisles. We bought at least four backyard pools from these aisles. But there were all just warm-up acts to the show the Kmart put on for Christmas.

The whole store was transformed. Christmas gold and shiny red and green foil covered everything. Trees were for sale, blow-up Snoopy riding his doghouse, and ornaments, of course. The things of fantasy and dreams were all on sale at Kmart. Everyone’s presents came from Kmart. Our Christmas might as well have been sponsored by the Big K.

One year, we shopped on Christmas eve as the store was overrun. I found a plastic squeeze ball with no price and chipped paint. The cashier told me just to take it home. I didn’t understand that frantic look in her eyes until my own retail years.

As we grew up, Kmart shifted its weight. The pizza parlour where my brother tried to swing upon their line bar and lost two baby teeth in the process, disappeared one day and was replaced with plus size wear. The lingerie department where I bought my first bra in the 5th grade (a B cup overnight, thanks genetics) all but ceased to be under the weight of a strong push of pajamas and sleepwear. The toy aisles grew darker and more populated with red-stickered discounted toys as the call of the CD, DVD and electronics department across the way beckoned.

The magic of finding something new, unthought of, and unknown until then, faded as well. One day I looked up and found myself in the deodorant aisle with only time, money and interest enough to ward off BO; no time to explore the mystery I’d found in those aisles once before. The frequency of this occurrence increased until I found myself hitting Kmart only in desperate need. Wal-Mart had more selection, after all, and a string of unrequited high school crushes ate up all my attentions.

I could see the glow of the big “K” from my job at the grocery store across the street. We wasted time after work by tipping grocery carts and throwing hand baskets on the roof of our workplace, and the gentle influence of Kmart watching our actions grew quiet and dim. I had a license now, and the 58 Hwy could no contain me or my purchasing needs.

The Christmas Parade started at the K Mart parking lot and went the length of 58 until breaking up at the former $1 cinema. The parade disappeared one year and no one really noticed until January. K Mart shut its doors only a few years later. They sold everything at 70% off in the last week. The shelves had been cleared in hungry animalistic ways by deal predators. I didn’t remember any of this until this year I gazed into the red, green, orange, blue, pink lights of my lit Christmas tree, and found a quarter of the lights unlit because of one dud bulb.

-Anna RK

Book Review: Furry Logic (10th Anniversary Edition)

This month I requested from Bloggingforbooks.com a copy of Furry Logic “A Guide to Life’s Little Challenges” by Jane Seabrook. I was in need of a light, fluffy read to deal with the holiday madness that is in full swing, and Furry Logic came through on this front. The book is full of bright, cute renderings of birds, cats, reptiles, and other animals of both domestic and exotic claim. Accompanying these are clever, sassy, sometimes inspirational one-liners. (i.e. “I try to take it one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once). It will be a quick read for adults, but is an enjoyable giftbook option for pretty much anyone. It could also be an enjoyable storytime addition for a child. If you are in need of a light, fluffy, fun read, pick this one up.9781607747161

Day 29: This Is It…Thank you everyone so much for reading. <3

It had come to this. Azazal was here to take her. Dee was here to stop him by attempting to take her first. And I was here in the middle of it all, as only a witness to what would be. As if in response to my thoughts, there appeared a golden chord around my mother’s neck now, winking merrily in the suspension of all motion.

Everything was still for the moment. I kept one eye on Azazal, prepared to throw myself at him if he took a single step. I allowed my other eye to find Dee and piece him with a gaze, similarly rooting him with this I hoped as I attempted to buy time.

Dee was looking at Azazal as he directed his words to me: “She dies instantly on impact. No pain at all,” he said.

“The other car is going to pass almost completely through your mother’s car. You are thrown free of the vehicle. It will be the one in a million chance where not wearing a seatbelt actually saves your life…if you could die this way that is. The woman in the car will lose her leg. Her child in the back seat will be safe…this time,” he finished, still standing still on that side of the road.

Another voice spoke, this one from the opposite side of the road: “Your mother had an abortion two cycles prior to this one. I was not able to get her that time and take her out of the rotation, but I can this time.”

Azazal continued: “Unless that is you would like to consider my offer I made before. Still on the table…” he finished in sing song tone.

I looked through the broken glass of the window I had just crawled through at my mother sitting there. She’d never looked so frail as she did now. She could protest that she still felt vital and willing to undergo the fight that was ahead, but I wondered if a quick end of certainty was better than a long struggle that might very well end in the same place after much pain between now and then. But it was not my life, and therefore not my choice to keep her here. Just as Azazal had no right to choose to keep someone from life because of past mistakes or future probabilities.

“As long as I am able to hold you off, and keep you from taking even the most vile of criminals, hardened with not a shred of remorse in their current shell, I will. They deserve the freedom to their journey and the choice to make decisions that validate the entire process of existence. Is there is no choice to any of it, and it’s decided by some smiling god or demon, then what would be the point of existence at all?”

As I said it, it felt like something internally had slid into place. I’m not sure where exactly or what the thing was, but it felt like the outline on the puzzle Dee and I had been trying to solve since the beginning of time and being itself.

Azazal made a raspberry sounding noise.

“Fine answer to a question that no one ever asked,” he said. “Good luck solving existence in this cycle. Although I guess I can’t blame you for sounding like a first year philosophy student when you’ve got a crumbling old professor that’s been giving you lessons.”

He jerked a thumb at Dee, and I slid my eyes from Azazal to fully rest on Dee. Dee was carrying the weight of all the emotions. His look was tragic for my mother’s loss. His look was jubilant because he knew as well as I did that we’d found a clue to solving our puzzle of why the living lived. And he was terrified because he realized, at the same time that I did, that the moment I had allowed my eyes to slide from Azazal, had given him a moment of opportunity to uproot himself from the prison of my gaze and transport himself to my mother’s side of the car.

Before I could fling myself at him, he had already reached through the closed window glass as if it were merely surface tension on a puddle. He hooked a finger in claw-like fashion beneath her necklace and pulled it up so that the knock-off scythe he carried in his other hand could accept its bounty. The blade was through the window and against the chord at her throat.

I knew, more than I’d known anything, feeling it to the very deep center that was what I called “me,” that it was too late for me to save her from Azazal’s blade. But, by George, I could still try and make Azazal regret cutting this chord. I rolled across the hood of the car, and threw myself upon Azazal’s back as he yanked his blade hard against her chord, a move that should have snapped it cleanly by all accounts.

But it didn’t.

Azazal screamed in frustration, and in pain as my hands burned every inch of skin of his that I was clinging and tearing into with my own numb and throbbing palms and fingertips. I would have continued to rip at him until he was burned alive or whatever it was I could do with the fiery pain I inflicted upon him in this way, but Dee said very clearly, in a strange sort of tone I’d never heard before: “No.”

The tone of the single word stopped me in my fury. Azazal was stopped too in his effort to cut and devour the chord around my mother’s neck, but his halt came more from the fact that there was no longer a chord around her neck which to cut.

Nothing else had changed. The cars were still in the process of dismantling one another. My mother’s form was still steeled as she braced herself against the impact. The woman in the other car was still gripping the wheel with knuckles displaying hard white caps upon them. Yet, there was no longer any golden chord here to cut on any of these necks. There was no death here at this scene.

Dee hadn’t moved from the other side of the road. He still stood there, the wind slightly fanning out his trenchcoat from the back of his thighs. Above his head, he held in his clenched fist a gleaming chord of a color so gold, bright and clean of impurities that it made the scene of the car crash dim in its horrible too real colors that had been the competition for all eyes.

It was not the chord I had seen about my Mamma’s neck. The chord he held was not one so easily snapped. It was not merely a single strand, but a layering of chords that created a necklace as thick as the width of my thumb. This was Dee’s life strand. Maybe I’d never noticed it because it never had glowed before like this.

“She wants to stay and fight. She’s not done yet, and I think her fight will help give our work perspective for you. It could even help the conundrum of existence you are starting to tap into,” Dee said, still holding the chord up. “I’m using my final pass for her. She’s earned it. And you have too, Jorge.”

I still had hold of Azazal’s collar, but released it at Dee’s words, and took the weak-kneed steps it took to get to him.

“You’re giving up your final pass to save her life? I’m grateful, Dee. But are you sure? What if we meet someone who needs it more?”

I couldn’t believe I was saying this, but I didn’t want Dee feeling like he had to use his one precious last pass for someone already knocking on his door.

“Not in this lifetime, I won’t,” he said, and pulled his scythe out.

The one he had given me was nice, and served its purpose, but it was nothing compared with the sharp, gleaming specimen that Death’s scythe was. He put the blade against the knot of chords that was his multiple lives; all thousand years of them, but he did not cut them. The scythe and the chord disappeared in his grip and reappeared in mine.

“You’re cycling, already?” I said. “But where is your new form going?”

“Already?” he said with a laugh. “It’s been a thousand years, buddy. I’m due for a break, and I finally feel that you are capable enough to hold down the position until I return. I’ve already taken care of my new form. Sheena’s not going to be exceptionally thrilled that I have disappeared when the takes the pregnancy test later this month, but I’m hoping my tragic death in this car accident that happened while I was picking up your aged mother for you will be enough of a hero’s death to ease her ire. Besides, I’m not leaving her really.”

“This is too much,” I said. “I’m not ready to be you. There’s more I’ve got to learn right? Powers and stuff?”

“I agree,” Azazal broke in. “He’ll never be ready to take over. And also, this scene is too much. Give me the chord, Lord Death. I’ll cut it, and hold your place until you return with a level of dignity that he certainly won’t provide.”

Dee ignored him.

“You’re ready, Jorge. As soon as you cut my chain, all the memories return to you. All the powers will be transferred. You will be, for all intents and purposes, the picture of Death that you imagine me to be. Take care of your mother, Jorge, and I’ll see you in about 30 years.”

Azazal was not one for being ignored. He began to move towards Dee and I, and I knew hesitation was no longer an option. I didn’t break eye contact with Dee’s smiling face as I sliced his chord with the scythe, the blade cutting through it as though it were warmed butter.

Azazal howled with fury in a rage so ferocious that he disappeared on the spot; no longer willing to be party to his own defeat. Dee was as still as marble, with a smile so content that I had no trouble in my second motion to push his hunk of chord into my mouth.

I could feel the individual chains between my tongue as I chewed. They lightly dissolved into a mixture of sweet, sour, bitter, savory, and chalky tastes that were only there briefly before the chord was gone. Dee took the vaporous route, vanishing into a cloud of smoke that blew away his features until only his smile lingered. Then, it too was gone.

There a tiny beat of silence as I looked into the space where he had once stood and saw only dead winter grass on a roadside, and then there was a wall of sound that scraped the very soul as the cars behind me resumed their crash.

There was twisting metal, and screams from both cars. I knew that my mother would survive it. I knew the woman in the other car would only lose a leg and not a child. I knew the driver of my mother’s car would be pronounced DOA once the paramedics and the rest of the emergency workers showed up. But in the midst of life, there was a death, and I felt it inside of me, making me stronger and into the things that had made Dee so strong and worthy of not only respect, but fear.

I turned away, and turned inside myself, and as the world moved on at its own resumed pace, I helped Dee move along to his next place.

I remember…I think I remember as everything swirls around me in colors I have no words for. I remember when there was a different kind of death for me. We laid out on rooftops as the last embers of a dying sun faded below the red-glowing horizon. He was with me to the end. He always is. Angst ridden thoughts dissipate as the amorism of the dark night takes hold in the pits of our hearts. We are neither slaves nor employed servants; we are only free in love, light and laughter. It is love, light and laughter, however that we employ as weapons in the wards of the daytime. By these weapons and creeds, shall we live to fight, resting not before every heart is free and every shackle broken.

Today was beautiful. I had had many beautiful days with my mother since Dee had given her a pass on the car crash, and sent us with a fighting chance into the battle with her invisible cancerous foe. We had been given the chance to fight over lunch options almost everyday. We had been able to tell each other goodnight as we retired to our separate rooms in the house every single night. (Although I didn’t sleep anymore with my full schedule) We had been able to spoil Orpheus together with canned food, a revolving door of toy options, treats and cat nip dustings that we gave him together. We’d been able to cry together when there had been those bad days I’d fantasized about before it all truly began.  Today included none of these yet, but was especially beautiful.

Mamma was tired, thinner, and the thick black onyx hair she had prized her entire life was almost gone (what was left of it hidden beneath a red hat she’d recently taken to wearing). This was true. But she was alive, and on the other side of her last chemotherapy treatment for a long while; perhaps forever if the cancer did not return.

She had a lunch date with her group of friends she had met at the hospital in a class for those fighting cancer. I had taken her to a deli where the back patio overlooked the beach, and she’d waved lightly as she went to join the older ladies already assembled at a table and awaiting her arrival. The laughter from the group started before I could even leave the patio deck.

While she dined, I returned to the hospital to attend to my other joy that today had brought.

Landing, I walked, slowly up to the hospital, enjoying the heat and the light breeze that New Jersey offered today. I was wearing all black, and had adopted a black trenchcoat into my attire that no amount of maternal nagging or summer heat could make me discard. When people saw me, they might have thought my attire odd, but people didn’t see me very often. I was thinner, and had grown somewhat more attractive with my self imposed air of mystery, and I was happy. If anyone from my former life saw me, they wouldn’t recognize me with these changes that had flourished since Dee’s absence.

Dee was right when he said I could have a life, any life I wanted, and still fulfill the role that was required of me as Death’s assistant, and as Death himself when he was away I had come to find out. I was living, and loving every moment of it. I was free of the bonds of what everyone thought was required to survive, and with the ferrying of souls to their new existence I was finally begining to consider what it meant to be alive.

Sometimes I visited Jersey on my rounds, and I saw how the world kept moving without me there in that small sphere of existence those people knew. Sometimes I even had moments of nostalgia for the person I had been in my small apartment, with a normal job, and that life I’d accepted then. But a return to that time was not an option I allowed myself to entertain, and I was not sad about it. I still had coffee every morning in the cafe Dee and I had shared, but my relationship with the barista Sheena was different now that our shared connection was somewhat severed.

But we had a new connection now, and I’d been dubbed godfather to the new addition to both our lives that lay swaddled, pink faced and fragilely sleeping in the bassinet in Sheena’s room in the maternity ward.

I looked at the baby lying there, and took in the small features that my new friend had adopted. Because the baby would take Sheena’s last name, Sheena said she wanted to pay tribute to “the father” as well when naming the baby. She had known Dee as Dennis, and so the small index card on the bassinet read “Dennis Sharron.”

It seemed to fit him already. I could dig it.

“Go on,” Sheena said, adjusting herself in the bed, and gratefully accepting the box of chocolates I’d brought her, and the stuffed giraffe I’d brought Dennis. “I know you want to hold him.”

It was true. I did. I leaned down and scooped my employer and best friend for all eternity into my arms. As I did, I remembered how he had done the same for me multiple times and I for him as we had cycled the many times before.

Dennis woke up with a fussy grunt, but didn’t cry as I held him against my chest and gently rubbed his back that was only the size of a small shoebox. He was warm, and healthy, and so new it was hard not to get excited just that he was real. Sheena smiled at us, as she chewed slowly on a chocolate.

I brought my lips to Dennis’s ear, and said so low that only he could hear, “Enjoy the holiday, buddy. It’ll be no time before you’re back on the clock…and then we’ll really tear up the town.”

Dennis cooed at my voice in his ear. Sheena had caught the lilting musical quality of my words if not the words themselves and laughed as she said: “He already loves your lullabies.”

Day 27 and 28

Reaching the end now. Everything comes in a rush. The careful planning is now falling away and we are left with what there is and always would have been. Maybe it took all the time in the world, and maybe it was just a few moments from a then to now. Either way, it all seems too soon and happens too quickly for the experience to have the appreciation of all the parts meshing together. Live through it and you could look back and analyse all the eccentricities that came together to pull that final chord that makes the complex looking knot fall away to reveal its true nature; a essence of nothingness. But you won’t…live through this, that is. You’re caught up in the dance already, and your feet are carrying you away. You may not know the steps to this one number, but you’re managing just fine and no one would have guessed you hadn’t planned for this your whole life.

Dee and I finished up our coffee and lunch just as Orpheus was getting feisty in his carrier. I told Dee we’d start the day’s work after I dropped Orpheus and Mamma off at the house and got them settled. We’d do a time thing and make up for the lost hours, and we’d still manage to get him to his date tonight as well. The time line progression of our day didn’t make much sense, even in the broad strokes we painted, but it always seemed to work out so there was no reason to question the system.

I gathered myself together and took the whirlwind express back to Florida. As we touched down, Orpheus had decided enough was enough, and the windy trip I’d just given him was the last straw. He positively yowled within his carrier, and nicked my finger with his claws as I attempted to unzip his prison. Once the flap was open, he barrelled out of the carrier onto my mother’s living room carpet, and then froze, sniffed hard, and realized instantly that he wasn’t in Jersey anymore.

I pulled his toys out of my gym bag and scattered them randomly around the room. I borrowed a flower patterned bowl from my mother’s kitchen cabinet and filled it with his kibble, setting down a bowl of water beside this. I poured an amount of kitty litter I’d brought into a washtub I found in the laundry room.

“Voila!” I said, standing back from the tub. “You’re home, Orphie!”

He was hiding under the dining room table, and threw me a look of disgust.

“Well, yeah, I took things this way too when I started the journey,” I said, sympathetically to him.

As I returned to the kitchen to fix myself a glass of water, the phone rang. I caught it on the third ring.

“Hello.”

“Hello, dear. I’m all ready to go. Doctor says you can take me home,” Mamma said on the other end of the line.

“Great. Should I come to your room?”

“No. They will wheel me to the lobby. Just pick me up outside. I’ll see you soon, dear.”

“Love you.”

“Love you too, Angel.”

I hadn’t slept in about 48 hours, but I didn’t feel exhausted or as tired as I ever had in days when I thought sleep was a valuable need to my human functioning. I felt like if Iaid down and closed my eyes, told my consiousness to shut down for a little bit, then I would sleep in the sense of the word I was familiar with from days “pre-Dee.” But it didn’t feel neccessary or brain cleansing in the way that sleep had felt when I thought it was a cure-all to most everything in days that were, again, pre-Dee. Out of habit though, I made myself a cup of coffee in Mamma’s single cup brewer, and poured it into a to-go cup from her cabinet so that I could take it with me for the drive over to the hospital.

I tried reaching for Orpheus under the table to give him a pet before I left, but he hissed and took a swipe at me. That’s all the rejection I needed. I dusted my knees off as I stood again, and picked up my coffee from the table above him. I grabbed my Mamma’s keys off the wooden key holder by the door that I’d made in some summer camp endeavor in my grade school years. The front of it was smeared with a thick layer of dried glue that held a leaf under the coat, trapping this small thing forever in a state of preserved death where it was not allowed to decay and, once cut from the mother tree, could not continue living. Hell of a perspective I’ve gained, I thought. Only a month before, I’d saw the memento of my youth and thought it a cute attempt at art, although perhaps a little kitchy.

My Mamma’s car was a small burgundy Taurus that was suited to her small stature. It was a newer model that she’d purchased only about four years ago when she’d moved down here. I squeezed into the front seat that she’d adjusted as far as it would go forward. It felt as though my heels were pressed into the back of my thighs for a long minute until I found the side lever that allowed the seat to clunk metallically back a few notches. Another quick fiddling with a button that whirred an internal motor within the seat and the seat was lowered so that my head was not scraping along the top of the car’s interior. I adjusted the mirrors, and only then did I crank the car.

I hadn’t driven a car in almost a week, and I realized now that I actually felt a little nervous about it. By any stretch of the imagination, I was not the world’s best driver. And driving a car that was less than ten years old made me anxious that I’d suddenly forget the basics of roadway procedure in the face of updated technology. Driving much like the old lady that actually owned this car, I gave a blinker signal to the empty neighbourhood street, looked both ways, and pulled out onto the roadway.

I had eased up a little on the drive over, and so when I pulled into the hospital parking lot, it was with a smooth turn of the wheel. I manoeuvred through the lots, and past the emergency room entrance to the main doors of the hospital where I had appeared earlier today. Just the short drive over made me appreciate how much I was not going to miss having to drive and dodge to get practically anywhere I wanted to go. Being Death had its perks, I guess.

I had only just put the car into park in the covered drive-thru of the hospital’s pickup and drop off area when the automatic doors opened and Mamma was pushed out through them by a young girl. The girl had a white collared t-shirt on that had the Red Cross logo stitched into its upper left breast pocket area, the words “Junior Volunteer” sewed neatly below it. Both their mouths were moving as Mamma and the girl were talking up a storm as the girl pushed her along. As I opened my car door to help Mamma make the transition from wheelchair to car, Mamma stopped mid sentence and said to the girl:

“This is my son, Jorge. He lives in New Jersey. He’s come all the way here to pick me up and take care of me. Not all sons would do that for a mother, but I’m sure you’d be there for your mother and father in their time of need. You seem like a good girl.”

And then to me: “Jorge, this is Ana. She’s from Springhill, and she’s going to go to school to be a pediatrician.”

I grabbed on to one of Mamma’s arm and looped my other arm around her back to guide her into the passenger’s seat while saying to the girl who steadied the wheelchair, “Ah, well, isn’t that nice?”

Mamma was settled into the seat and putting her seatbelt on, Ana was unlocking the brakes on the wheelchair, and I was getting ready to shut the passenger door when Mamma put her hand out to stop me.

“Jorge…Ana brought me out all this way, and has talked to me the whole time we were waiting. Wasn’t that nice of her?” she said, meaningfully cocking her head at me.

“Um…yeah. Thanks Ana,” I said to the girl, as we both stood awkwardly apart from one another.

“Ana’s got a scholarship to go to the University of Florida, but she’s paying for her books and dorm room all on her own,” Mamma said, and there was another meaningful look to me.

Ah, I thought. I had thought my mother was just making the overexagerated slow small talk of the elderly, but she was trying to give me a hint in her Hispanic way that left no room for subtly. I dug out my wallet, and found that there were no singles, but I did have a $5. Oh well. Money was near useless to me now anyway. I handed over the bill to the young woman.

“Hope this helps,” I said.

“Thank-you,” she said with a smile, folding the bill into a few quick halves and palming it while she clattered back towards the hospital with the wheelchair. At the door, she waved and smiled to Mamma, and it was only then that Mamma would allow me to shut the door on her.

I walked around to the driver’s side, and ducked in.

Mamma laughed and shook her head.

“I did not think you were going to catch on,” she said, smiling at me and pinched my shoulder playfully.

“I didn’t either. I had no idea what you were wanting me to say,” I said with my own chuckle.

I pulled the gear shift into drive, and we pulled slowly out of the carport area.

“Are you hungry?” I asked, as she fiddled with her purse at her feet.

“No, they fed me lunch at noon. I’m just ready to get home, and get into some real clothes,” she said, plucking at the gown she was wearing underneath the coat she had on. “Have you eaten?”

“Yeah, I…”

But I wasn’t allowed to finish that thought. All at once there was a tremendous push, my whole body felt shoved for all it was worth, and all the metal around us in the car became simultaneously very thin and flimsy and alternately very sharp and dangerous.

There must have been sound as the car that had been barreling around the corner struck ours in textbook definition t-bone style and proceeded to keep on going all the way through what I thought was very obvious solid car material. I heard no sound though, not even my own shocked inhalation and noise of distress that I knew I was making. My head was buzzing too loud.

My thoughts stacked upon one another, but all their small sum integers added up to the same conclusion. This could simply not be happening. I had finally worked everything out in my head and reconciled myself to being in Death’s line of work. I had gotten everything lined up in such a way that I felt secure again with the turmolt necessary to turn my life from that of ordinary insurance agent nobody to caretaker of mother and cat nobody status. I had even guiltily indulged in daydreams of bringing Mamma meals in bed when she was losing clumps hair to chemotherapy treatments. I had planned, actually worked it all out in my head, how I would respond on one of Mamma’s “bad days” that I anticipated when pain management was not all too manageable. And now there was this to shatter every single anticipation.

I was still trying to control my life. As futile a process as I had learned that was, I had unconsciously fallen into it again, and so that was the first pain I felt as the vehicle collided with my mother’s car.

Even as an immortal badass that cut people’s life off with a fancy pair of cutters, I was still subject to fate and its whims. We all were.

With everything in a state of suspended motion as my brain looped on a circuit of panic and fascination, I watched as the car door to my left began to cave in. As soon as my brain could process all this, it would be too late, and the car and us inside it would be crumpled up like an empty Coke can. I was waiting for the car that hit us to tear into me, and end the fragile hold I’d attempted to theoretically get on everything before this.

But everything remained frozen, and I found that I could move as I pushed through my paralysis of fear. Had I stopped time like Dee had done for us before? Nothing seemed to be progressing, and so I assumed this was the case whether I was aware of using this power or not.

I reached out and touched my mother’s outstretched hand, held up across my chest as though she was going to keep me in my seat during this crash with just this frail limb of hers. Her eyes were shut against the noise and pain that the wreck was trying to impose. I gently touched her face, but she was still and did not acknowledge my touch.

I tried to unlock her door, intending to shove us both out while the time was stopped, but the lock was stuck fast, and the door handle, and my mother. Nothing was allowed to move in this state except me it seems. I had been touching the steering wheel when the time quit working, and so I could still move this, but it did little good. The car had already been hit and there was no steering away from this whichever way I turned.

The glass had broken in my window, and its fragments were halfway towards the ground, allowing me to push myself up from my seat and squeeze out of this opening of the car. I grabbed the frame of the window as I pulled myself out, and expected myself to be cut by the shards remaining around the window’s rim. They exerted a pressure not unlike Orpheus’s nails on my palm, but they did not pierce me and there was no pain. That was my first clue that I was going to be able to survive things that humans simply didn’t until my cycle time came again.

Falling onto the road beside my mother’s car, and the car that was currently destroying it, I wondered if my inability to feel death would give me any powers of strength as well. I tested this theory with a hearty shove of the vehicle that was intersecting the Taurus, but either I was still as weak as ever or the freezing of time was stronger than anything I could muster. At any rate, all this pushing allowed was for me to break a sweat, staring with a rage building into the face of the woman who was driving the other car.

She was a middle-aged woman, common enough looking, who was going too fast to stop in what I assume was an attempt to get her passenger, a small boy of about three-years of age, to the hospital. He looked a little feverish, but not in the kind of way that I felt justified her speed in careening into us. The mother in the driver’s seat had a panicked face that was frozen in its turn to terror as she realized her error in making too much haste to get her child to supposed safety. I was trying to get angry at all this for happening, but her face showed her as one to be pitied and perhaps forgiven. Who knows what was going to happen to all of us when time started up again?

Oh. He does. I thought, giving up on pushing the car and looking to the grassy side of the road where a figure stood in silent contemplation of me. There stood Dee, and if he was here, then surely one of these occupants of the two cars before me had reached the end of the road. Perhaps they all had. And then I noticed another figure on the opposite side of the road from Dee. There was Azazal.

And then I didn’t have to wonder, because I knew that at least one of the deaths in today’s crash would be my Mamma. The whole of Death Inc. had turned out to see the show.