Desire, Skeletons, and Relatives
From the upcoming book "The Postmortem Adventures of Edward Wild."
Feb 4, 2020
It had been an “amount of time” since Edward had died and had then rescued Molly from her tavern prison. He had not a clue how much time had actually passed, and had gotten used to the idea that an amount of time was good enough. Time didn’t seem to matter very much anymore.
What did matter was one’s purpose, one’s meaning, and one’s desires. He had met individuals in the lower realm where Molly had been who had no purpose beyond their next pang of hunger, or quaff of whiskey, or sexual desire, all of which slid away from their grasp, teasing and mocking them repeatedly.
Edward had asked Rhys about their quandary, for it seemed to him that it was a cruel arrangement to be tortured by unreachable desires. Edward had not been religious during his life on earth, and had arrived in the spirit world with very little idea of what God might be like. He had thought, after being told that he was dead, but still alive in the spirit world, that he would be summarily ushered into hell as an unbeliever. He had seen a film once where prisoners in hell were caught on a trampoline, chased by skeletons, condemned forever to bounce and jump toward a hole in the ceiling which promised escape but always remained out of reach. Would the skeletons be coming after him?
Rhys had looked at him curiously when Edward shared his doubts about his destination, and then had laughed.
“Don’t worry, Edward. You will go to the area of the spirit world that matches your internal state. Who you are inside is all that matters.”
Edward felt little comfort from Rhys’s words. He didn’t really know who he was inside. Yes, he was an actor. Not a bad one either. He hadn’t joined the mafia. That was a plus. But who was he? What makes up the sum of a man? He kept thinking of the poor souls trapped by their unrequited desires and couldn’t help but wonder if that was to be his fate. His life review had shown him with inescapable honesty that he also had been enslaved to desires that were quite embarrassing to admit.
While on earth, he had preferred to describe his failings as unwise hope and perhaps an overly enthusiastic view of his future success. Nothing too nasty. But the stream of images in his life review had revealed them for what they were—an obsessive loss of reality when he picked up a pair of dice or held in his hands the cards that were to make him wealthy. His relationship with truth grew muddier as his money came and went, and when he finally stumbled back to his bed in defeat he was always convinced that he would be successful next time.
He shamefacedly admitted this to Rhy one day, and expressed his worry that he too would be condemned, as those others were so cruelly, to become a victim of his own errant desires. Rhys shook his head and pinched Edward’s cheek.
“Those poor souls are not condemned, and neither shall you be. The Creator does not condemn anyone. That would indeed be cruel. They occupy those realms of unfulfilled desire only because they allowed their desires to overwhelm their minds and feelings to such a degree that they cannot think of anything else.”
Rhys sighed, and sat down next to Edward. Rhys had led Edward on a trek across fields and hills until they had arrived at the top of a hill covered with moss and trees that were huge and gnarly and old, older than any trees that Edward had ever seen. Rhys pointed down the far side of the hill. At the very bottom of the slope, a long way down indeed, Edward saw a village sitting at the edge of the sea.
“We can go there for lunch, if you like,” Rhys said.
He turned and looked at Edward.
“Desire is the mechanistic engine of the spirit world. The key is that the entire fabric of the spirit world has been created to resonate with love for others, a love that is kind and pure and selfless, and a love that produces beauty and freedom. Do you understand what I mean?”
Edward wasn’t sure. “Maybe. Not really.”
Rhys just laughed. “It’s much simpler than you might think. It means that your desires will either free you or enslave you. It’s entirely up to you. You told me that you were frequently overpowered by your desire to win at cards.”
Edward nodded weakly. “Yes, I was. So why am I not doomed as well?”
Rhys stood up and offered Edward his hand. “It’s because those desires did not rule you all the time. They were not all of you. Don’t you remember? You were also a very kind person.”
Edward stood, and shook his head. “I’m rather confused. But if you say so.”
Rhys just smiled, and taking Edward’s hand, leapt into the air, higher than the tree that had been sheltering them. It was hard for Edward to get used to the rapidity of Rhy’s movements, especially when it involved flight down into a valley far, far, far below them. Edward’s fear of heights still clung to him—quite a nuisance when one was hurtling through the air. Edward wanted to panic, again, but Rhys kept squeezing his hand and grinning at him, which made him feel better.
They flew down to the village and circled around to the ocean side of the town. The beach was crowded with people walking and sitting and swimming, just like any beach on earth, except that on this beach, the feeling of the crowd was intimate and welcoming. It felt like a large family gathering of people whom Edward had known all his life. Which of course he had not. At least he didn’t think that he knew them.
He looked at Rhys as they landed on the sand.
“Do I know these people?”
Rhys nodded. “Some of them. But all of them know you. I invited them all here today to meet you, their most recent relative to arrive from earth.”
Edward stared at the people on the beach and couldn’t think of what to say. If they knew him, how well did they know him? Did they know how much he had lost at cards, and dice, and slot machines? Would they lobby God to send him to the skeletons’ trampoline? He shook himself. What an awful thought.
“Hmm?” He turned and looked at Rhys.
Rhys took his arm and started walking toward the nearest group of people.
“Don’t worry, Edward. No one is going to condemn you. Each of them have their own spots and wounds. Don’t worry at all.”
Edward sighed, a thin sigh that betrayed his nervousness, and tried to smile. He really, truly, most assuredly did not want to see any skeletons running across the beach, laughing maniacally as they ripped at his shirt with their claws.
He glanced at Rhys as they walked and was once again surprised that Rhys could read his thoughts. Rhys was grinning at him.
“No skeletons here, Edward.” He handed Edward a glass that had suddenly appeared in his hand. “Here. Drink this. It’s your favorite.”
Edward took the glass and sipped. It was strawberry nectar and with each sip his nervousness and the images of skeletons faded away.
He looked at Rhys and managed a smile.
“I’m ready to meet them,” he said.
Peter Falkenberg Brown is passionate about writing, publishing, public speaking and film. He hopes that someday he can live up to his favorite motto: “Expressing God’s kind and compassionate love in all directions, every second of every day, creates an infinitely expanding sphere of heart.”