Friday, July 22, 2011
Which is more scary: Dying Forever, or Living Forever?
An excerpt from my novel The Condo, Or...Life, A Sequel
Jasper visits Pronto, a friendly Jewish Holocaust survivor, who believes that a theory of mathematician Roy Kerr is the explanation of their situation: they have passed through a rotating wormhole to a parallel universe. Jasper is still skeptical, but he has to accept the fact that he is dead. The idea sinks in when he watches his own funeral on his computer. An even harder fact for him to accept that he is to live forever.
When he opened the door of his condo, his living room looked the same as before, but now the comfortable, welcoming furniture seemed to welcome him to a jail cell. He threw himself into his plush recliner, and the cushions seemed to close in around him and hold him as in a trap. He forced his way out of the chair and crept up to his computer. He grasped the mouse and clicked, determined to face reality. It was the only way he knew to have some control over his fate.
The funeral screen appeared as before. He saw the back view of three women in the front pew. If this is my funeral, Marguerite must be one of those women, he thought. He clicked the “zoom” icon and placed the cursor on one of the women. He double-clicked and saw an enlarged view of the back of a woman’s head. He swore in frustration, then noticed the “rotate” icon. He clicked and saw a close-up of a woman’s face with tight skin over prominent cheekbones—Frances [his unwelcome old flame] is attending my funeral! He zoomed in on the woman next to Frances.... He saw Nancy sitting composed without a tear, her supporting arm around the woman next to her. Determined, he went on to zoom in and rotate the third woman. He saw Marguerite’s deep brown eyes, but they were staring into space as if everything around her was happening in someone else’s dream, and she was waiting to wake up.
What is she thinking? Jasper wondered. I’ve got to find out. In the corner of the screen he saw a strange icon that looked like a flame in the shape of a question mark. He clicked on it, and a strange thing happened. He felt as if he had been sucked into the scene on the screen, and he was sitting next to Marguerite listening to her speak, but her lips were not moving. It was like hearing her on a Soul-Phone, except this time he was listening.
“It’s a funny thing,” she said. “I thought I had no love left for Jasper. My feelings for him were deeply buried under six feet of daily frustrations. But his death seems to have caused an earthquake, and my dead love has come out from under the debris.”
Jasper clutched the mouse and leaned forward with a helpless desire to touch her. The picture zoomed back out to the view of a generic funeral. He knew now that there was no way he could let her know how he felt.
“I’ll never see her again.” The words tore loose from his lungs like a hectic cough. There’ll be no more quarrels, no more making up, no more playful wrestling in the bedroom, no more breakfasts together after making love. No more planning for the future together. No more future together. Just an eternity alone. “I’ll never see her again!” he repeated. Then he realized that he would be able to see her on his computer, and he was enraged at the injustice. He would be able to see her as she grieved and conquered her grief, and got on with her life without him, and blossomed in her career, and maybe even married again. But he would have less power to possess her than a plant that grew from his ashes. How far, far better it would be not to see, hear, feel or touch anything any more.
He realized that Pronto was right. Total annihilation he could handle, but eternal life was unbearable. A bitter laugh shook his frame. He thought of the great atheists of history. He wondered what Lenin was doing in his condo somewhere on the Siberian steppes. Has he found out where his people have stored the glass cage with his inefficiently preserved remains? Or Jeremy Bentham. Does he go online to visit the cupboard in University College, London, where his embalmed head is grinning at the feet of his effigy? Are we all condemned to watch in eternal frustration how human beings make plans to save society from evil and see the evil in human nature destroy those plans. Justice for the suffering poor leads to murdering innocents by the guillotine. Freedom for the oppressed workers of the world leads to starving and killing millions in forced labor camps. Freedom from the tyranny of Communism leads back to the tyranny of the rich.