Lying on a recliner at the foot of the infinity pool, in the courtyard of the Montecito Ventura Inn, Jacks attention flitted to a frog, having jumped out of the vines and onto the tiles with a wet slap. They shared a one-eyed stare. Silence, except for the soft breeze that crumpled in the California heat, and the single white dot making its way across a blank blue sky. What was the frog thinking, Jack wondered. And before the frog could think the same of Jack, a snake snapped from the vines, swiped the frog up and retracted back into hiding in one, single needle-jab. Stunned Jack didnt move, as he watched what remained of the frogs wet imprint evaporate from the travertine tiles.
Jacks eyes woke. The holiday memory echoing away evaporating into the little sunlight that escaped behind drawn blinds. His small body sunk into the bed, worked down into the mattress by the weight of his laborious breaths. Life comes with deep inhales, with all its persistence and commitment to being, right up until the end; the exhale prevails. Jack heard his exhales. Motionless, except for his rising and falling chest, he looked down. The exhales were gaining. Heavier. The breath left his nostrils, over his lips, dithering the minute bristles in the bedsheet fabric.
We are all so small. We spend a lifetime crawling out of the swamp, booming, complaining, congratulating, fighting, judging, denouncing, building, destroying. Yet, in dying, we all look the same the helpless children we started as.
Jack saw himself in bed. So small. He saw himself looking at himself. The three Jacks all converged on the glass on the bedside table. The mist of glasss residue went out of focus. Silent images flashed from its blur. The California holiday. Playing on the beach, spinning, with his parents and brother; all the random living rooms he had found himself in at 4am; all the sofas hed slept on; jungles, mountains; pine forests; the man who played the flute to animals, the hotel owner, graduation day; all the girlfriends, playing, crashing a car when it wasnt his fault; crashing a car when it was his fault; all his jobs; the Welshman in the library, all the libraries, all the restaurants, all the oddness, all the girls he didnt talk to, wondering, things finished, things unfinished, the wasted time the wasted time, on the computer computers! Arguing with strangers, aimless storylines, dreams; was this it? That was life. There it was. This is it. This is it.
Jacks head moved to face the ceiling. His eyes closed, but he didnt want them to close. So much wasted time he wanted it back. Just one more chance; more time. No more long showers, no more lazing in recliners, no more timidity behind a smartphone, no more boredom behind a computer! His inhales grew to nothing, this was it. All the pain; all the boredom. Let go Jack. Let go. You came, you had your shot. Its ending. You had your shot. You came, you had pain, you had joy, you had it all. Its over. Theres nothing more you can control. Youll get no more approval. Youll get no more control. You will no longer be safe. It is over. All your concerns. All your hopes. All your dreams. Theyve happened now. Now let go. Let go. Surrender.
The gentle suffocating surrender. Falling back into eternity. Jacks being was engulfed by a terminal elevator sensation, into the tunnel of light. White light, but golden, geometric, alive, beyond language.
For all the lights mesmerising pull, this soul wanted another chance. Caught between the draw of the light, and its Earthly memory, the soul writhed and fidgeted. It manoeuvred itself around like an unborn baby working itself into breech position, the light still drawing him up. It didnt want to go. The tunnel and its conveyer-belt tug began to fade, and as the glare dissipated, the soul looked up, and around. No tunnel. Darkness, except the scintillating dust of the galaxy.
The Universe warped into a bow, as the soul honed itself on Arcturus, zooming past the wreckage of one million civilizations.