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The Weight Of A Soul
She was sitting on a swing when I first saw her. The necklace I wore hung limply underneath my shirt even as I climbed the towering hill in the park towards the playground where she was. Maybe it was tired, just like me.
“Hello there Alice,” I stated quietly. The girl stopped swinging and carefully stood, clenching her jaw while the rest of her remained composed.
“Evening. I’ve never seen you before, but I suppose there’s a reason you’re here. Why don’t we talk on the edge of the hill? Sunsets great over there… it’ll only be a few minutes from now.” Alice smiled, the happiness on her face wavering for but a moment. Even in the face of knowing something was wrong, overwhelmed by the perfume of fear I always wore, this girl was still trying to be happy, still trying to pretend nothing was wrong, as if everything in the world was right and perfect. I envied the rare appearance of people like her.
We had settled on the hill for barely a minute before I decided to continue our conversation. “You are correct. I am here for… a reason, if you choose to call it that. To put it bluntly, you’re dying.”
Alice only laughed at that, brushing her dark brown hair-now turned slightly golden from the setting sun-behind her ear. “Aren’t we all?” She turned to me, still smiling. “It’s not something you can really acknowledge, just got to accept and welcome with open arms.”
“So you don’t fear death? That’s the basis of fear itself, as nobody wants to be killed. It’s what drives humanity into insanity.”
“And why the two words are so similar,” Alice finished with a laugh. “I don’t truly fear, but accept, that you’ve just told me I’m dying. Maybe I’ll die right now, or within the next minute, but that’s ok, because we all do.” Her voice grew quiet, and she averted looking at me, choosing to look at the grass instead. “And the world would be better off without me anyway.”
I gripped Alice’s arm tightly. “No it wouldn’t, it’s merely a coincidence that you’re dying tonight… Is there anything you want to do, want to be told at a eulogy?” I tried to drive along the process, tried not to connect to Ali-this girl, I corrected myself, so that I would stay disconnected from who I took.
“No… Everything people do when told their dying in the next week or month or whenever is because they feel like they don’t have enough time. I’ve already lived like I’m going to get in my car, or go to school, or god knows what else, and then die somehow, because I know I only have a specific amount of time that’s decided at birth. I didn’t waste that time, because I’m not gonna get anymore of it, which is why I tried to make other people happy as much as possible right now, not during a mid-life crisis when I decide to help others because our time on this earth is short… Maybe because I’m dying some other person can go home to their family, see their kids and make them happy.” Alice ended almost abruptly, choosing to rest her head on her knees and stare at the nearly gone sunset.
“Sir, can I ask you something before I die?” The girl asked after a few minutes of silence ticked by.
“As long as it doesn’t deal with others’ personal affairs, then yes.” I waved a calloused hand in the air. “It’s hard to be happy in the afterlife if you realize someone’s suffering, and you didn’t do anything during your time alive.” Alice nodded in understanding.
“Well then, I’m not sure if you can answer this, but did I make anyone happy? I don’t mean change their mind from suicide, or start a chain reaction of positive actions, or anything even major, but maybe make their day a little better.”
“Yes,” I simply responded. “I have a number, if you wish.” Alice peered at me curiously. “Sure, but lemme guess first… I’ll say around ten people, maybe twenty.”
“1,364. You got the first digit right, if that makes you happy.” I jolted as Alice sat up stiffly and cracked her back, leaning in and resting her head on my shoulder.
“I suppose that’s a nice thought…” Alice’s words spiraled off, letting out a sigh at the end. We sat in silence for another eternity before she finally spoke up again, taking my hand in hers; There was such a contrast, my palms cracked and fingers gnarled while hers were soft and gently wrapping around my hand. I didn’t dare breathe as I enjoyed the contact, but I secretly scolded myself for getting worked up over this girl.
The words Alice eventually spoke were barely audible, but I could hear them nonetheless. “I think I’m ready to go now.” Alice squeezed my hand and hugged me tight to herself, and I tentatively stroked her hair as she burrowed her head into my chest.
I sighed then, feeling as her body slowed crumpled into ash, drifting away into the breeze. My eyes burned, and I let tears fall for the first time in decades, delicately taking the last petal of ash and locking into my necklace. I stood and started walking away, but this time the weight of the locket around my neck felt even heavier then before.
maybe that was the true weight of a single soul, and only now I was able to feel it.