When I was twelve, my Uncle Bart died. It was a heart attack or something, I think, but no one explained it to me at the time and I have never really worked up the courage to find out for sure. But that detail doesn’t matter. Whatever the cause, his death was the first one I ever had to deal with. Personally, I mean. I knew Uncle Bart. I loved Uncle Bart. He gave great Christmas presents, and his “friend” Petey was a blast at holidays and family birthday parties. So, when he died, I felt it. And I hated that feeling.
I resolved then, at twelve years old, that I would have a talk with Death and tell him to leave me and my family alone. I know. It sounds stupid. Literally the earliest literature the human race ever produced is about how we don’t want to face death. But I didn’t know “Gilgamesh” at age twelve. I only knew that losing Uncle Bart was hard and I didn’t want to have to do it again.
But I did. Unsurprisingly. Inevitably. My dad died. Then my mom. Then my nephew in a freak accident, and then his mom, my sister-in-law, by her own hand less than a year later. Even as I was growing older, enduring the slings and arrows of life, I remembered my resolution, and I realized that thinking a thing did not make it true. One had to ACT.
So I started to look. Not in the Bible, or in philosophy books. In other books. Older books. Books where people claimed to have seen Death, spoken with Him, negotiated with Him, even bound Him. I became an academic and a thief, a researcher and a killer. Whatever it took to learn more, to find a way to succeed at encountering Death. I gave up a lot: years of my life, wealth, important relationships. But by that point I absolutely HAD to know.
I finally succeeded. I discovered the right rituals. I learned the correct sacrifices and mastered the true magic words. I managed, in the end, to summon Death and force him to talk to me. To explain Himself.
I can’t tell you what he said. Or, rather, I won’t. First of all, it wouldn’t do you any good, hearing it from me. To hear Death explain it, it all makes sense. But out of my mouth — no, it would just be more philosophy or religion or madness. I will say this though:
There is a reason why immortality does not exist for humankind. And it isn’t because it is impossible.