I am the poisoned worm at the bottom of the mescal bottle. I am the air bubble in the bloodstream, the psychopath’s machete, the malfunctioning soviet-era satellite careening from the bright blue skies. I am as beautiful as wolfsbane, as sleek as a bullet or a blade, as crooked as a funnel cloud, as sudden and terrible as a tiger’s claw.
Can you guess who I am?
I am your faithful companion. My bony finger stirred the dangling mobile above your crib, and my breath, icy as the east wind, will sing your lament through the frozen trees above your grave.
I know that you have caught countless quick glimpses of me in the shadows, seen the flash of my reflection upon the surface of mirrors and screens. There are some nights—don’t deny it—you wake in sweat and terror, imagining I am sitting in that comfortably-upholstered chair in the corner of the room, or hovering above your bed, or—worse still—walking on stealthy feet down the hallway toward the rooms where your loved ones are sleeping.
These visions are comparatively rare, though. I find it admirable that, despite my dogging of your every step, you are able to put me from your mind so much of the time. You go about your business, making your fine, industrious plans. Bringing new life into existence, even as you and your world are hurtling towards the end.
I take no offence at this disregard. This is obviously just as it should be. The purpose of life is just to experience the exultant thrill of life, without regard for the end. Every rabbit and hawk, every elephant and rat feels it in their bones.
Who knows this better than myself? After all, I have seen so much of life come and go. As you can imagine, my travels have taken me far and wide. Pompeii to Hiroshima, Bangkok to Manhattan, Nunavut to Évora: I have walked down endless paths. And not just upon this world, but upon countless others as well. Whole civilizations winking in and out of existence, from the dawn of life to the farthest spiralling arms of the last dying galaxy.
So, please spend your days wisely and well. Drink your wine, eat your meat, suck the marrow from the bone. Sing your songs, paint your masterpieces, leave your perfect footprints in the sand, and upon the hearts of everyone you love.
One day, of course, you and I will cataclysmically meet, either by prior engagement or sudden chance. Please don’t curse or disrespect me. I will be the perfect escort, dressed in the finest cloud gray suit of mulberry silk. Perhaps I will bring you flowers – roses red as blood, dipped in extract of hemlock.
How you choose to greet me will be up to you. You can scream and run, pull at your hair and pound at my chest. Or, you can throw back your head and laugh, as we embrace in the dance, whirling faster and faster, ascending into the endless, star-filled skies. Seeing, far below you, the glowing footprints you’ve left, wherever you have been.