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The Gentleman in the Tanned Overcoat
Death, wore a long tanned coat. A pair of worn but respectable shoes. And a black trilby. He did not, at this present time, bear a scythe. Neither was his current form skeletal. He was, to the eye of any mortal, human. He was of course, not.
Here, I have made my first mistake. Here, you see, I have mislead you. Because, my friend, the entity I have begun to describe to you, is not, as you may have thought, the end of life.
What is life? Is life physical embodiment? Is it simply conscious thought? Death came for me long ago. Took the form of a friend. He does that, Death. He is not unkind. He has seen many things. And yet, he can make no alterations, he has no power.
As I have mentioned previously, Death – The being - is not the end of life. His job is simply to explain. He arrives, he has taken a form - whether to comfort or command, Death has no cruelty – he explains, your choice, or not. It is not a choice, not really. Some people don’t last long – The very young, the very old, the madmen and those who expected their salvation – they’re gone before he can say a word. It’s too much, you see? I was the opposite, I was curious. At least, I thought, if I am going to die, at least I’ll find out. And I did.
He asked me if I was afraid,
“Of what?” I said,
“Of me” he answered, “Of what is to become of you.”
“What is to become of me?” I replied.
He laughed, short and brittle. And then he told me,
“You exist because that is what you believe”.
Now it was my turn to laugh,
“So now,” I said, “If now…if now I stop believing that I exist,”
“Yes?” He prompted,
“Well… what will happen?”
“You’ll fade away.”
This went on a little while longer. After that was the silence. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that, all in all, I was okay with this death. I was still here. I could think, I could observe. I had only two questions now. The first – was purely technical:
“If I’d stopped believing in myself when I was alive, would I have disappeared?”
“No” Death said simply, “When you were alive, other humans believed in your existence. Now, to them, you are gone. Only you exist now”
“What about you? What about the other dead people?” the other dead people, the words, strange in my mouth,
“A belief in oneself is only strong enough for conscious thought. It is not strong enough to make you apparent to other non-living humans. Other than me, there is only you.”
“What about living humans?”
“You can observe them. They cannot observe us”
“Okay. What are you?”
“That, I’m afraid, I cannot answer.”
I paused, the second question, “What do I do now?”
“Whatever you wish” Death answered, his voice gave no indication as to my options,
“I don’t want to be alone.” I whispered, my voice pathetically small,
“There is very little that can be done about that, child.”
I spent five desolate years roaming the streets of London, slowly watching my family move on. Living the lives they always had, everything the same. Well…nearly everything.