On weekends, I and my best buddy Samir liked to go around visiting the cemetery by the Bagmati river. There’s a burial ceremony every other Saturday with the same ritual. First, the cemetery workers dig a decent-sized hole in a free spot. After an hour or so, hordes of vehicles enter through the intersection towards the cemetery following the white van with the corpse on it. The body is put on display and surrounded by flowers. Everyone tries to have a word with the cold body one last time before it is lowered into the ground beneath. People close to the deceased express their prayers over words trying to reason death, the sweet journey of the afterlife engulfing everyone’s speeches. And there is crying, lots and lots of crying. All in all the whole scenario is quite alluring, at least for Samir and I.
Although having this common odd fascination with death, we each had different views on the subject. His was the generally accepted one- that there was life even after death whereas I took the skeptical side- that death was the end of life and heaven and hell were concepts created by mankind to stray away from the haunting reality of nothingness. Taking different perspectives, our conversation always meaningfully explored new nooks and crannies on the subject of death.
Samir studied Business management during the day and tutored some of his neighbor’s kids in the evening while I had my hands full with 2-3 jobs at a time trying to make ends meet in the country’s capital of capitalism. Our personal lives were different too. He lived lavishly with his whole family in his house while I cramped up in a single rented room with myself. But no matter how different and busy our lives were, every weekend the world always aligned perfectly, freeing us from our obligations to provide a couple of hours of spare time for our weekly ritual.
One of these times, however, he bailed out on me to go on a date with his girlfriend. I wasn’t angry at him, just sad coming to realize that I had no one else except him to talk with. In a world of posers, he was the only one I shared my true colors with and now finding out that I was secondary to the only person I could talk to without a mask made me realize how lonely my life actually was. Knowing my imagination would spiral me down to the depths of my depression if I sat in my room, I headed to the cemetery without him.
As Poe would have said ‘the clouds hung oppressively low’ that chilly winter evening. The place was stranded which was unusual. Normally, there would be at least a couple of grave workers cleaning the grounds and a few people walking around or worse, on a date, but today no one was near the cemetery except a young couple walking through the road at a distance with quick steps. It finally dawned on me that it was October 31st, Halloween and even though people here didn’t celebrate the spooky festival, they wouldn’t come to a cemetery today for reasons both obvious and oblivious.
I took a stroll around and came across a freshly dug grave. With no sign of a burial ceremony anywhere near, the place seemed even more strange now. With no one around, the mischievous within me came alive. I jumped into the pit. It was shallower than the usual 6 ft graves. I looked around for a while reassuring myself I wasn’t being watched. Nothing seemed out of place. I laid my body on the damp soil and closed my eyes. “So this is how it feels to be buried”, I said to myself. It felt surprisingly comfortable lying a fathom deep into the earth, although the constant fear of someone closing up the pit mongered in the back of my head. As I tried to lift my body, my right hand didn’t sink into the damp soil the way the left did. There was something round buried under the ground. I sat up and started to remove the mud that surrounded whatever-that-was cautiously, so that I wouldn’t damage it.
It was a lamp, not too different from the one I saw on Aladdin- the movie. I climbed up from the pit and dusted off the little bits of mud that had stuck on the lamp. It seemed to be made of brass but was quite heavy for its size. Out of sheer curiosity, I rubbed it with my palm for a while. Nothing came out of it. I rubbed it with the sleeves of my shirt to see if it needed extra friction. It didn’t work either. I stifled a big laugh at my own naive stupidity. Judging from the heaviness of the lamp, I anticipated some long-lost treasure inside the lamp and decided to open it. At first, the tarnished brass didn’t budge so I had to pull it with all my might. After some jerks, the lid came off- whoosh.
Out of the opening came black smoke, at first dispersing everywhere, high-fiving the clouds and then accumulating into a bulky figure of a ghastly appearance. The whole place became eerily silent as the demonic angel opened his mouth,“Who is thy mortal that hath summoned me from my sleep?” he asked.
Doubtful, more than afraid, about the contrasting appearance of the genie that I had summoned I replied “Hello”
“Well well, you seem to be thrilled, ask any wish thy want fulfilled.” spoke the beast.
“Any… wish?”, I tried to bargain with the devil.
“From heaven’s trickling elixir fountain to the haunting bells of hell, if you can give the word, I can cast the spell ” stated the genie and laughed with all his might.
“I wish to be immortal” I smirked without any hesitation.
“Are you sure?”, he seemed astonished.
Finding out I had made even the demon worried, I chuckled “Yes, I’m sure”.
He then started chanting some mantras that I couldn’t decipher. The only words I could understand were “pleasure”, “away” and “death”. After he ended his chants, he gave me a sly grin and turned into a silhouette, vanishing into the clouds. I couldn’t understand why he would be smiling and rested on the conclusion that he wanted to seem tough even though he had made a terrible mistake, giving mere mortal godly power.
Over the next few days, I tried to kill myself in controlled conditions to see if what I had witnessed was real and not a hologram prank. At first, I constrained myself from drinking water. When I got thirsty just after an hour, I thought the genie’s wish was fake. But after dragging myself through one whole day without drinking, I wasn’t thirsty anymore. Rather, my body was replenished as if having been hydrated from within. I tried to drown myself but after suffocating for a few minutes, I could breathe underwater like a fish. Every part of my body was immortal. I even tried to cut my veins but no blade proved itself to be sharp enough. I would never wound myself, even the smallest of cuts, ever.
I was elated- everything a man feared just seemed pathetic to me now. Rising over every mere mortal, I was on cloud nine. Jumping out of cliffs and swimming with the sharks became my hobbies. However, the genie’s grin always lingered in my mind- the devious curve of his lips, the sparkle glaring out of his eyes, and his elevated cheeks as he finalized his chant.
Years passed and along with it centuries and millenniums. I tried to lay low for a time thinking that if people knew about my secret, they would try to trap me and they did too for a while after my secret went public. But they soon let go of me as it was no crime to not die. I had lost any empathetic emotions toward any people as the human attachment was only short-lived for me. I never aged as no part of me, even my skin never died. But after a while, in my time scale, nothing would stay the same.
Some thousand years into my existence, scientists had gone way too far performing experiments that people lived in constant fear of the many ways science could kill them. There was a big rumor that someone was playing with the Higgs field and everyone was scared to think about what would happen if it went out of hand. A few months passed and one day the false vacuum got triggered. When it crushed everything out, the feeble human civilization also got wiped out of existence. The sun, the stars, everything got obliterated into sub-atomic entities, everything except the immortal me.
Now, there is no light, no sound, no air, nothing. It doesn’t matter if I close my eyes or open them, for all I see is darkness. No senses are of any use. But I do feel cold, not because of the freezing temperature around me, but due to the loneliness inside my heart. As I drift into oblivion, I finally understand the devil’s chants. He was taking the pleasure of death away from me – because that’s what it was, death, a pleasure. It didn’t matter what there was after death, even if there was anything I would never know. All I now know is that death was an escape route from the burden of reality that had now been stripped away from me. The genie’s sly grin is the only thing that fills my head as I drift forever into nothingness- trapped for eternity.