soul

Dying Breath

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“Time to sleep, little one.”

Jerome’s eyes began to droop.

“Mommy loves you very much.” She bent down to kiss his forehead, then walked back to the doorway, where she paused for a moment before turning off the light and closing the door.

Jerome stared up at the ceiling, watching the shadows change shape. Too young to form cohesive thoughts, all he could do was feel the lingering love of Mommy like a warm blanket as he drifted to sleep.

For a moment, he teetered on the edge of the waking world. Then he plummeted and all was dark.

* * *

Jerome woke on a bed of straw. He was not an infant but a man, elderly and gray, with an off-white beard that stuck out of his face like a clump of weeds. It was here, in the space between time, that he could remember who he was once again.

In a far off realm, in his true body, he lay dying in a hospital bed. But a woman, a young doctor he’d been sure he knew from somewhere but whose face he couldn’t place, had given him a special gift.

“A life for every dream,” she whispered so only he could hear.

He asked her what she meant, but she only shushed him and told him to go back to sleep.

She whispered something else, a baritone rumble that swallowed the world in a primordial language he felt more than understood. He closed his eyes. When he awoke, he found himself here, on this very same bed of straw.

Now, every time he closed his eyes, he woke someplace new. He would be a different age, exist in a different year. Each step on his sojourn through the cosmos was a flicker, a snapshot in time. Yet a billion snapshots later he was still drifting, with only these brief interludes in his bed of hay to remember who he was.

Someday, it would all come to an end, for a dying breath could only be stretched so far and so thin. But for now he would linger, unsure if what he’d been given was a gift or a curse.

Who would he be the next time? Jerome lay down and closed his eyes.

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The Faceless Man

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He wanders the world, the Faceless Man, journeys from city to city, always in search of items to add to his collection. When you answer your door he won’t say a word; indeed he cannot, for he has no mouth with which to speak. Instead he’ll incline his head, ever so slightly, all the while clutching a black leather-bound book to his chest with reverence.

He’ll open to the first page, always blank, and bid you gaze upon its fallow surface. Then dutifully, curiously, you’ll look to see what all the fuss is about, and before you know what’s happened you’ll have been pulled inside, transformed from a creature of flesh and blood to an indeterminate being of pen and ink.

He will take you home and place you atop a dusty shelf. From time to time he’ll pull you back down, sit in his favorite armchair to read and drink your loneliness, your madness, your despair, savoring them like a rare vintage.

You’ll never die, but you’ll spend eternity wishing that you had.

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You Are a Universe

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Have you ever gazed at the stars, pondered a vastness you couldn’t begin to comprehend and asked yourself if you’re really that significant, if you’re anything more than a speck on a grain of sand in a sprawling desert?

If so, take heart. Though you may be small in stature, the world inside your soul is astronomical, a boundless cosmos pregnant with thoughts and dreams, experiences and beliefs, all of which cluster into more complex structures: the humanities, the sciences, an infinite expanse of human endeavors that’s as vast as any material universe.

At the beginning of life, like the beginning of our universe, your mind, though tiny, is a roiling mass seething with enormous quantities of potential energy. In just a few short years, it expands. It acquires language and experience. Synapses form, transforming your brain into a thinking feeling powerhouse. In the process, prototypical thoughts and beliefs collide. Some are annihilated; others emerge from the rubble.

As you age, these units of thought coalesce, condensing into more stable structures. Your experiences, your perceptions, all that you think and feel, everything that defines you and makes you who you are is drawn together. Then, pressurized in the forge of the imagination, it ignites. Books are written. Technologies emerge. Diseases are cured. Outward expressions of the soul burn like stars, saving the world from darkness.

At some point in your life, you’ll likely be pulled into another person by the intense gravitational force of love. There will be a collision, and like the Big Bang, a whole new cosmos will form, a world filled with shared dreams and common experiences. Couples will cluster into families, families into communities, communities into states and nations, worlds stacked upon worlds.

When faced with the enormity of the stars, you might be tempted to conclude that your existence is just so much flotsam adrift in a celestial sea. But though you may be small when compared with the length, width and height of the universe, if you instead measure yourself against a more existential dimension, you’ll discover a whole new universe, waiting to be explored.

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