I had not realized that I was dead. It felt like an eternal slumber, which was quiet and peaceful. I had no dreams, for there was only darkness. It felt like I was surrounded by space. As soon as I opened my eyes, I noticed that I was sleeping on a bed of roses. I thought that I would be scrutinized by thorns striking me, however not a I didn’t feel a single prick. The roses were very kind to me. They let me lie down and enjoy the beautiful scenery. It looked like someone’s garden, and it was the most elegant garden that I have ever witnessed. A variety of flowers wore vibrant colors, showing off their healthy petals as they basked in the warm sun. Butterflies were nestling on top of flowers, sipping on the nectar that was hidden inside of them. I didn’t recall falling asleep in a castle of flowers and butterflies. I rubbed the crust out of my sleepy eyes as I slowly rose from the bed of roses. When I finally gained conciseness, I turned to my left and saw an unfamiliar man. He was looking down on me with patience on his face. I was surprised at his presence, wondering why he was watching me sleep. Was he the owner of this garden and expected me to get out as soon as I awoke, or was he some nuisance of a pervert?
“Ah, so you’re finally awake,” The mysterious man spoke, “I do hope that you enjoyed your life.”
I squinted my eyes to protect them from the sun that was shining on the man. The man offered me his hand to assist in getting me on my feet. I accepted his assistance and held onto his hand tightly to gain balance. His hand was smooth and warm like a comforting blanket.
“Thank you,” I yawned, “Where am I?”
The man gave me a dreadful answer, “You’re dead. Welcome to the land of the dead.”
I felt a drop of sweat pour down my face.
“I’m sorry, what? Is this some sort of foolish joke?”
“I assure you; this is no joke. You’re now in peace from the cruelness of the living world.”
I shook my head. “That is preposterous! Who do you think you are? You’re just making fun of me! If you want me to depart from your garden, then just tell me so without brewing mischief!”
“This is my garden, but I don’t intend to kick you out. This is your home now. I apologize for not introducing myself as soon as you awoke. I am the Grim Reaper: The protector of the dead and keeper of the soul garden.”
I refused to believe in the man’s words, which showed how stubborn I was. I only thought of him as a foolish Imposter. I took a long gaze at his appearance, and I declined to fathom how he could be the grim reaper. THE Grim Reaper. He looked nothing like how he was portrayed in folklore. He was an ordinary man, and a handsome one, I must admit. He had medium-long hair that was pitch black and dark skin. His eyes were pure white, shimmering like a pair of diamonds. He was far too stunning to be the gruesome reaper that takes souls away from the living world.
I took a step towards the claimed reaper and asked, “How can that be so? If you are truly the notorious Grim Reaper, then how could you dare to announce me as deceased when you might not even know how I died?”
“I’ll gladly show you,” he responded, “If you are ready.”
“What do you mean?”
“Are you prepared to see your body? If I show you, perhaps you will believe me and pass on in peace.”
I scoffed at his words. Why would I ever listen to him as if he is my professor giving a lecture? Now, I may be stubborn, but I had a voice in my mind that made me hesitate to behold my fate. I was never keen on the topic of death because I had so many goals in my life. I was at a point where I decided I would avoid passing on until I declared myself as complete. So I decided to play with the reaper’s game by giving him a challenge.
I cleared my throat. “Very well. If you wish to prove to me that you are what you claim to be, I’ll gladly participate in your game. But first, I would like you to take me to my abode to make sure everything there is still in check.”
“With all due respect, Miss, there’s no point in worrying over the condition of your house.”
“My home is very precious and grand, as I am very wealthy. I want to make sure that there were no robbers who stole my riches and projects.”
“Very well.” He finally agreed before snapping his delicate fingers. I quickly concealed my eyes as I felt a gust of wind yelling at my face. Once the wind was gone, I opened my eyes and saw my beautiful mansion standing before us. My lovely palace – Oh how many riches and valuables it holds that are so dear to me! I was once an infamous inventor who was shrouded in fame and fortune. My mansion has many rooms; king-sized bedrooms, a dining room fit for royalty, countless bathrooms, and a library that stored my books and collections of discoveries. I have created so many products that the people adored, yet I still have plenty of ideas to conjure. I refuse to death until I declare myself as satisfied by all my accomplishments.
The self-claimed Reaper and I stepped inside my abode. I tried to breathe deeply in the atmosphere that was my pride and joy, however, it felt like my lungs declined the oxygen. I desired to look at the room that guarded my library, so I went upstairs without asking the Reaper for permission. Once I made it upstairs, I opened the door which revealed my riches of books filled with scientific knowledge and notes I had written. I could tell that the Reaper was impressed by how his head wandered at the scenery.
He asked, “I assume this is the room you fancy most?”
“Absolutely,” I nodded, “There is just nothing in the world that could stop me from achieving something great!”
“Does anyone else live here?”
“No. Just me.”
“Really? Not even family members?”
“I am my own company. No one interferes with my work,” I confirmed as I continued to look around my surroundings. Ever since my parents expected the best from me, I learned to never rely on anyone. They wanted me to be astounding, and I simply decided to do just that. I never looked back on reaching out to my friends – they told me to run towards the field goal, so I kept running. I decided I would be immortal ever since I began my studies.
I took out the first book that caught my eye and skimmed through the silky pages. I analyzed my handwriting – how neat and gentle it looks! My handwriting in my notes was perfectly painted on the pages. It looked very romantic! As I continued to look through my novels, I could hear the man approach me and felt his passive hand lay on my shoulder.
“Are you ready for me to behold your body?”
I turned to him, holding the book close to my chest. “I am already home. Thank you for taking me to where I was. Now you must depart, so that I can continue with my studies.”
“You don’t understand, you simply can’t. This is only a vision of where your body is.”
I scoffed at his lies, “Preposterous! I can still feel my body alive and well! Now leave me be, so I can embrace my mansion’s welcome!”
“You must listen; Your physical body remains in your house, but your soul has passed on. Your soul came to me to let it rest. But you are in denial due to fear of leaving your success. You are in grief, and it is my duty to –”
“Enough!” I shrieked to cut his lies off. “You are trying to persuade my innocent brain with games and dishonesty! I will have no more of this! I command you and your empty words to depart!”
The Reaper stared deeply into my eyes as he said, “I know you are afraid of ending your book in life. I admire your desire to continue, but all good things must cease. I want you to understand for you to pass on. I want you to have a beautiful afterlife in my realm. Take my hand, for I will show you your corpse and hopefully you will awaken to your reality and truth.”
I was tired of fighting, so I gave into his command by holding onto his warm hand and followed him to one of my bathrooms. The bathroom that he guided me to has a beautiful essence and is equipped with a fancy bathtub and toilet, which sparkled as if they were made of diamonds. The tiles were cool and glistened with rhinestones inside of each square. I noticed that one of the squares was stained with a mysterious liquid which smelled strongly of alcohol. My eyes followed the trail of the mysterious liquid, which ended with a broken bottle of gin. I gasped in dismay as I witnessed something that I refused to accept. What I saw was my body lying on the floor. Oh poor, fragile me! As I gazed upon my unmoving self, I felt my heart slowing down until it stopped beating. I could no longer feel my pulse, nor could I feel a shiver tingle down my back and the cold breeze of realization. My blood stopped flowing through my cold veins. My organs stopped working. My brain stopped playing tricks on me, finally making me realize that I was dead. I dropped on my knees, but couldn’t feel the shattered glass piercing my skin. I held onto my lifeless body and tried to sob, but there were no more tears left for me to shed.
“Your fall was caused by alcohol poisoning.” That was the only sentence that the Grim Reaper spoke. I suddenly remember why I was here, standing before my demise and meeting the one whom I refused to accept was guiding me. From my past life, I was stressed and anxious over the burden of working night and day, never seeing my family and loved ones. I couldn’t envision a future of me failing, so the anxiety of performing something great swelled up my soul. I admit, I grew mad over constantly working towards my fame. I thought one, hard drink would calm my nerves.
“I deceived myself all this time,” I choked, “So that I wouldn’t have to remember the end of my life! I was so frightened by death that I tried to shoo it away! How could I come back to my home if I was already there, lying dead like a pitiful fish! Have I gone mad from the loneliness and isolation that I refused to acknowledge the existence of a mortal life? I should never fear the Reaper when he was much more kind than the burden of keeping a hold of my life.”
Like a gentleman that he was, the Reaper lifted my chin up and embraced me with a sympathetic hug. His cloak concealed my body, making me feel as if I was wrapped in a blanket. As he spoke, his words soothed my despair.
“You mustn’t be ashamed of yourself. It is a shame that you’ve parted so young, but this is the fact that you must face. It is important to cherish and acknowledge your existence in life, but you must also embrace the end of your life. You no longer must feel shame for believing that your life is incomplete. What you have done is enough. Everyone must face the eyes of death one day, even if it is too soon. There must be a balance between the world above and the world below.”
I understood his words greatly as I took one look at my body, poor me who spent my whole lifetime trying to create something great. Time and time again, I have proved myself as that, yet I hungered for more. I wanted to keep life forever, but death came to me in open arms in the end. It was nice while it lasted. Now that I accepted my fate, I felt the weight of life lifting off my back, making me feel free for the very first time. I could now rest easy, aware that everything that I have done in my life was perfect enough and must end my once identified never ending story.
I stood up, declaring myself done from praying for peace for my body. The Grim Reaper made the environment vanish and transported us into a new area in his castle of flowers and butterflies. This time, I embraced the welcoming words of the butterflies as their wings kissed my skin. Blossoms bloomed as we walked past them. Finally, we made our way to my grave. The grave that I ignored as soon as I woke up from the land of the dead. I felt a yawn coming on as I knelt to look at my name and date of passing that was marked on the tombstone. The gravel of the tombstone appeared to be young but was coated with growing mold and petite cracks.
The Grim Reaper spoke, “Now, do you wish to continue with your peaceful rest?”
I didn’t say a word that accepted nor denied his question. Instead, I prepared myself to lay down on the comforting ground. The bed of roses hugged me once more. I felt no pain from the thorns that attempted to prick my back. There was no more pain for me to endure in the land of the dead. I closed my eyes as the wind sang a lullaby to me, which was a sweet song that made my hair sway back and forth. The Grim Reaper handed me a bundle of young, vibrant violets that had a touch of black that was painted on the tip of the petals. I held onto the violets and said a thank you to the soul keeper. I held onto the violets close to my chest as I dozed off into my eternal rest.
Feature image of graveyard courtesy of Allen Caraway Pinterest.