No Wedding's, Just A Funeral
The Year 2017
My funeral took place on a drizzly Sunday afternoon, in the company of cream orchids and fine wine. Bloody funeral services. I never liked wine, red or otherwise, never mind the orchids. Funerals are supposed to symbolise who you once were, the essence of what people saw in you. If you hadn’t met me, you’d think I was a grey-haired librarian with a penchant for drinking copious amounts of alcohol. Which I’m not. Just to clarify. Still, not many people can say they’ve attended their own funeral. This was funeral number four, I believe. Ah yes, the 21st century. Home of wonderful things like Climate Change and emojis. Oh, the sophistication. All the same, here we are. A stone’s throw from my original place of creation. Birth? No, that’s not the right word. Accidental existence? Yes, let’s go with that.
A modest group of mourners assembled before my coffin (not an open casket you’ll note, for obvious reasons), solemnly placing angel-white bouquets into my waiting grave. I tried not to laugh. Not to emerge like a messiah from the barren oak tree where I was perched.
At least, apart from the black clothes, my funeral was doused in white. White like my hair, like my abnormally pale skin. You know how they always associate white with purity? Yeah well, I have a feeling I’m about to ruin that colour imagery for you.
I sat picking my nails through the eulogy as a plethora of individuals paid their not so flattering respects to my absent corpse. The service couldn’t even splurge for a body double for the coffin, never mind a cake stand or sandwich platter. I mean honestly. Not even a single carrot cake. Cheapskates. It’s not as if I’d just saved the world or anything. Or had I damned it? I can’t quite remember.
It’s wrong what they say, you know. About immortals. Our lives may be long, our bodies may be impenetrable, but our minds are not. Most creatures with an affinity for extended living are driven insane within their first century or become carriers of supernatural dementia. I’m still unsure if I’m one or the other. What was I talking about? Oh yes, I was at my funeral wasn’t I? You forget a little thing like that.
Thanks to my wandering mind, I’d missed the last few sentences of the service. Brief ones, spoken by a savage tongue. Like my life, the funeral wasn’t holy. A sinner whistled the last words, ringed hands fumbling against her makeshift dog collar. The woman nearest to my grave – a girl, really – knelt down, pressed a sobbing kiss onto my coffin. Her lace veil tumbled around her shoulders, the trim of the dress collecting a cadre of browned holly leaves. Her tears, like her clothes, were inkblots. A family trait, I assure you.
From the tree, I balked. I mean, did she even know where that moth-eaten box had been? Tetanus alert. The man next to her put his hand on her shoulder, lowered his head. Bit back the tears as they clawed free of his eyes. I should hope so. This was a very, very sad day. Completely sad. Totally heart-breaking. As you may have guessed, I wasn’t exactly inclined to sadness myself. I wasn’t even that bothered to be honest, despite watching my life being put into a box and shovelled into the ground. Talk about an existential crisis.
Several veiled men and women stood at the helm of my headstone, bowing their heads silently.
Then my eye – just the one – caught a young girl, maybe seven or eight, in ripped jeans, running towards my coffin as it faded into the soil. Her mother, hot on her heels, pulled her back before she could fall in. Her chestnut hair, crowned in white, bounced in a loose bun. Parenting 101, am I right?
The woman looked up, scanned the treeline. Lucky for me, I was resting on the oak furthest from the ceremony, almost outside the gates. Due to my condition shall we say, I could see perfectly. In fact, I could see an accountant in her office trying to stave off gambling a mile away as well as Mr. Brackenwood down the road dressing for an outing. I smiled. He was finally taking the next step of conquering his agoraphobia; he was off on a date. Good on you, matey.
You’re probably wondering, ‘What the hell have I just walked into?’ and you’d be right. What have you just walked into? Well, I guess you’ll have to wait. Punctuality was never my forte. Except, I suppose, in death.
The funeral ended on time, with the not so priestly priest making her excuses and exiting stage left to the navy jaguar parked next to a mossy statue of Mary Magdalen. By the time the woman at my grave had calmed her crying, the priest had seemingly disappeared around the corner.
Several people continued to gather around my headstone, placing flowers, candles and, finally, one of my favourite weapons – a charcoal dagger crafted of the strongest metal in the world. Not that it is of this world, mind you. From the tree, I almost whined. My favourite weapon and I couldn’t retrieve it until all those wailing ninnies had vanished into their grieving caves.
A man – brown-haired, well-muscled, also my nephew so back-off – began to whisper to the woman who’d placed the dagger at the base of my headstone. I should have listened to what they were saying, but it felt like too much of an intrusion. Even for me. The woman sharply pushed herself away, hand over her face. She must have been still crying.
You might think I would have felt guilty, yes? That my insides were churning at having caused this much suffering. Well, you’d be wrong. As it goes, by 2017 I was struggling to carve up the energy to be my typically anti-hero self let alone slip on a costume of tears. By now… I barely feel anything at all. Which is why I decided to write this, I suppose. My last-chance-saloon, my final attempt to feel something more than the sensation of blood running down my hands. The emptiness carving a hollow overhang in what’s left of my soul. So, this, I shall write. My memoirs, so to speak. I warn you, though, you might not like what you hear. Hopefully, you’re not the type to try to peel back the layers of insecurity to reveal a sliver of goodness beneath my façade. Because there isn’t any. Trust me. Or don’t. That would probably serve you better.
Looking back, I’m almost shocked at what I’ve done. Then again, I can’t really muster enough energy to be even the slightest bit surprised. This is me, after all. Believe me, soon enough you’ll realise that you shouldn’t be surprised.
Sorry, I’ve swerved onto the wrong road of this narrative, haven’t I? I think I’m one of those unreliable narrators, y ’know, the ones they warn you about in those English Literature classes. The ones where you’re all gathered like bookish disciples around a table of imaginary gossip. Speaking of, we’re still at the funeral.
The crowd – a measly but meaningful one – began to dissipate as the sun burnt low. A few people scanned the trees, as if expecting to see my ghost hovering up to Heaven with a suitcase packed. Well, I’ve been to Heaven and it’s about as exciting as a game of scrabble without the words, let me tell you. Or was that Hell? Sorry, my memory bank is being emptied. Stolen from me by my many years alive. Alive? I suppose. In one way or another. I still remotely feel pain, on a superficial level, though my emotions – or lack thereof – leave much to be desired. Pain, emotions; it’s all the same to me at this stage. At my funeral for example, I didn’t shed a tear. Didn’t feel an ounce of guilt for what I had inflicted upon my family – for lack of a better word – because I couldn’t. I couldn’t. That’s why I left, if theatrically. I was just so tired. Tired of pretending to care. Or maybe I was experiencing some supernatural menopause. You can understand that, can’t you? Perhaps not. But you have these mood swings, as if your heart lies balanced on a pendulum until you’ve had enough of feeling anything at all. Until you want to have some time to yourself, to be alone. It’s what I deserve after all. I am the bad guy. I hope that’s the technical term. Scoundrel? Scumbag? I’m still not caught up on the terminology.
Despite living through so many years of change, I remain resistant. If I’m honest, I still don’t have a phone. What can I say? My brain hates change unless I’m the one controlling it. That’s why I’m alive. A little ironic, I know, since I’m currently relaying my funeral.
Above, the heavens opened, the azure receding into grey, giving way to an avalanche of acid-nurtured tears. Being who I am – what I am – I could sense the concentration of the acid in the raindrops as they pattered onto my face. More evidence of why the world needed me to cleanse it. I mean, look at what we’ve done to it. Treating the ground beneath our feet, the air hovering around us, as if it is a house we can burn down for insurance.
All those in attendance hardly noticed the rain. Only the charming lad in charge of the soundtrack gave pause, cutting the dulcet sounds of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart from the atmosphere like a surgeon severing flesh. I frowned from my perch. Rain pelted against my back. Seriously? No music just because the clouds decided to have a spitting contest? Killjoys. Ah, well. Perhaps retirement might have been the best course of action. Maybe I could have escaped to a seaside town, spent my days languishing in a pallor of briny haze framed by sandy cobblestones. That might have been the best thing I could have done. For everyone. But I didn’t.
As the rain intensified its already rapid descent, I lifted my hands from the tree branches, remaining in a crouch. The wind whipped at my face, drove a smile through my lips. If I leaned forward, just an inch, or backward, I would fall. Fizzle to the ground like the last drop of ice from the winter season. Split my head open on the edge of a cross. Not that the fall would have killed me, of course. It would have been a bugger on the spine for a few minutes, but otherwise, happy days.
Sometimes, I wonder if my heart is made of coloured glass, perfectly constructed but ultimately transparent.
As I remained atop the tree, I watched in gleeful silence as the mourners hurried for their cars, their bus stops, their bikes. Many of them proceeded to walk, coats flapping like wings against the rain. They didn’t care for the weather. They’d endured too much.
Anyway, telling you all this is making me reconsider my decision to be difficult. This memoirs shall be one of truth. I promise. Once the last of the cars – a black BMW – pulled away from the pavement, I leapt from the tree, my bare feet landing with an audible squelch in the grass. Half the cemetery had already been submerged in water. Letting the miniature ocean swallow my toes, I chuckled. Shoes seemed so constricting. Besides, they would have alerted my mourners to my presence, making my gait heavier and more noticeable, and I imagine it would have been rather awkward explaining why I wasn’t in a box bound for the city of soil. Not as awkward as the family dinners I had endured prior, but difficult none the less.
My clothes by this time, were drenched. Not that I cared. The leather jacket had softened around my bones, while my jeans had absorbed most of the rainfall. I’d never liked jeans. The edges were frayed, as well the cuffs of my shirt. A 19th century edition, with string serving as the collar. A white flag billowing around my skin. I should have burned that shirt years ago.
Time. Such a strange concept. For me, the funeral might have lasted a century, but some of you might have experienced it in the blinking of an eye. Time passes to me as it does to you; yet it does not. Yes, I realise that’s fabulously vague, but I see no other way to explain it. Time can be arduous, a sprawling desert with no horizon. Time can be the snap of a bone being reset. Time can be a thousand songs, a million words in a never-ending story. Time can be an absolute pain in the arse. Trying to fill it, trying to make the most of every day. To make every second meaningful so when you squint back at the past, it is a chamber of vitality rather than regret. I should buy a calendar. I should have bought one back then for my post-mortem retirement plan. I could just imagine myself, lounging in a retirement village while the locals tried to evict me due to my oddly youthful appearance. (And no, I don’t moisturize. I just have the inordinate pleasure of looking eighteen forever.)
Striding over the bodily bumps in the grass, my feet soaked up the mud. My headstone was cast in pale marble, choked by smoky black sigils indicating my name. My name. Just the concept makes my head spin. No doubt it’ll make yours spin too. A mindless carousel.
No dates. Our people do not place dates on headstones. Not the best idea if the authorities come knocking. A single line lay beneath my legacy. Just one. From a poem or a novel? I could not seem to recall. Am I going to tell you? No.
The dagger was curled around a vase of cream flowers, inviting me to retrieve it. It wasn’t as if anyone in the cemetery intended on using it. I wasn’t sure how long I stood over my grave, pondering the blade. The rain had almost receded by the time I reached a decision. I turned from the headstone with a grin on my face, but no dagger lay within my hand. And as I turned, I saw her. My oh so honest priest. Rings removed, dog-collar ripped. A tight-lipped expression encasing her features. I took the indication to mean she hadn’t enjoyed a live audience listening to her service. Shame.
“You were right. They did not notice who I was,” said the figure leaning on the gates. Her black hair was cropped short, shaved down one side.
“Too overcome with grief I suspect,” I replied. The woman laughed, the foundation masking her natural tattoo crinkling at the edges. Neither of us were very skilled with makeup.
“Overcome with joy, I should think,” she chuckled.
“I missed you too while I was in limbo. It’s so nice to be missed, I’m sure you’ll agree”. The woman picked at the zipper on her parka. Nothing suited her. Nothing on this Earth anyway. She indicated the gravestone with a simple nod.
“How will you explain all this to your betters once you tire of me?” I had the audacity to feign shock. Ignoring the part about my ‘betters’ (no matter how true it was), I held my hand over my blackened heart.
“Tire of you? How can you say such a thing?” Since she wasn’t as well-versed in sarcasm, she scowled.
“You have a history of boredom”.
“Since when did you know my history?” She bared her teeth, but only incisors and molars greeted me. From the triplets of the First Circle, she was the least imposing. Since all of them are homicidal maniacs (not that I’m one to talk) that’s saying something.
I stepped toward her, baring a smile of my own. I heard I have a very disarming smile. Or perhaps they told me it was alarming. Either way, my priest bit her tongue. Held her ground.
“Fine. If this is the only way to release myself from your bargain, I will do as you ask. Everything you ask, as I have done so today. We should leave as soon as possible. I heard the boy – that young Jake of yours – speculating about exhuming your body for an autopsy. Not that he said anything to Miss Jacoa. I could hear his intention clear as day. He wants to find out how you died. How did you die, White Chaos?” She aimed a quizzical brow in my direction. My nickname, stage-name. Whatever. It hadn’t been used in over a decade, so I snarled. Followed it up with a giggle. My darling nephew, Jake Jacoa. I know. The alliteration makes me laugh too. Jakey Boy wanted to exhume my body. Wonderful. As if I hadn’t already suffered enough. Oh, but I hadn’t. Perhaps I should have lifted myself into the coffin and awaited the cold kiss of a scalpel. But I didn’t. I just stood there, beneath the chin of an opaque cloud.
“I have a plan. Don’t you worry, love,” I told her. She narrowed her eyes. In the echoes of the sunset, they flashed charcoal. Another loving trait from her particular brand of genetics.
“Yes, I am aware. Your plans however, are what worry me”. I should bloody well hope so. I am who I am after all.
“You could always turn yourself in to the Crown I suppose, for nearly destroying the world and all that a month ago. I hear the new Prime Minister is very agreeable. Or hostile. I always get those two mixed up. Or you could risk your chances with Jakey boy. Just think, if he was willing to take a scalpel to me, just think of what he would do to you,” I said. Relished was the more accurate term. After all she’d done, she had expected me to take her on board like a darling stray.
My priest did not quibble or shuffle or even bat an eyelid. Threats were no foreign concept to her, nor was the glint in my eye. Again, I only have one.
“My actions were governed by circumstance. I had no choice,” she faltered. As if she’d caught herself in the lie.
“Choice. That’s an interesting notion, isn’t it? You should know, you had one”. She’d had more than enough choices throughout her lifetime. Unlike some of us. Some of us, I know, are destined to be the wrongdoers, to be sociopaths and sycophants. Villains and weapons. We make the choices which suit our hearts, our DNA, not our minds.
Deep down, I knew I was wrong. I knew I should never have existed. Yet there I was. Standing poised in the fallout of thunderclouds in a cemetery, power thrumming in my veins.
Behind us, the crunch of gravel split the air. My priest immediately shunted into the cracks in the atmosphere (seriously, that’s not poetic licence), forcing me to find my own hideout to squat in. There was one place I could have vanished to, but the woman stumbling over the pavement would have noticed. The last thing I wanted to do was let her know I was alive. Besides, in those days, I barely knew her. A heroine from a romantic tragedy, all opal hair and skin like starlight. Alexa Jacoa. The world’s most permanent Emo.
She clutched a phone in her right hand. Slammed it to the ground. She only made it two more steps before she turned around and stamped on the device. Repeatedly. Someone wasn’t having the best day.
Alexa, tear-streaked from the cheeks down, flung open the gate. I vaulted over a headstone, used it as cover. Praying the her senses had dwindled due to her apparent grief, I risked watching her as she stalked towards my grave. Why she’d returned, I didn’t have a clue. But I had the distinct feeling I was about to find out.
“You’re so selfish!” she screamed at my resting place. Well, tell me something I don’t know. At least that explained why she’d charged back after the service. One final lecture on her way out.
“You’ve turned Jake into some barbaric monster, hell bent on cutting you to ribbons. Part of me fails to be surprised. You always infected everything you touched. Now look. You selfish liar!” She seemed to launch herself upon my headstone but stopped. Shook for a moment. Sank to the ground, scorching claw-marks into the wet soil.
“Why did you leave me?” Oh. I wasn’t sure what her problem was, she barely knew me. It wasn’t as if I could have called a taxi out of death just for her. My big toe caught on a twig. Fabulous. She could probably hear the crackling of my cold, partially beating heart from a mile away, let alone a few metres.
“I remember you told me everything was going to be okay. For once, just once, I had the stupidity to believe you. Had the audacity to think you could be something more than a self-seeking liar,” she carried on. I fought a laugh of hysteria. Whatever she’d seen in me was smoke in the water now. Or a coffin in the ground should I say. Alexa knelt, frowning slightly. She stroked the empty space around one of the vases, then crushed the orchids her grip.
“Do you realise I have nothing left to give? Not without you? You are – were - the worst and best thing in my life. You were too much, and now you’re gone, and I can’t decide how I feel. You were wrong, so wrong for this world yet it feels empty now you’re not in it. How the hell am I supposed to feel about that?” I wondered, was she going to be here long? At the time, I was on a tight schedule. I had not the opportunity to give silent therapy sessions to an unstable member of the not-so-human race. Surely, you can sympathise. Awkward family member, gets hammered at a wedding, ends up pouring their heart in out in salty buckets all over your freshly pressed outfit. Still, I supposed my life on Earth had left a bittersweet aftertaste. More bitter than sweet, I can assure you.
If I’m honest, I remain uncertain if you can accept the fundamental truth of what I am, what we are. The world changes around us and yet at the core of it all, we remain exactly the same. Primal, innately blessed with the potential to squander our gifts of compassion. Unless you’ve been born – or made – without a shred of empathy to speak of.
Alexa slammed a feeble hand against my headstone. She’s a lot stronger than she looks, than she’ll ever know, I imagine. My foot slipped onto a stray leaf, but I clutched it between my toes to avoid the crackle. Even in her state of semi-permanent depression, she would have noticed the noise. Investigated. Then I would have had a lot of explaining to do. Possibly a lot of grovelling, though I never kneel for anyone. It’s kind of a life choice. She lowered her head, sobbing quietly. I could hear the excruciating grind of her teeth, one of the few things that made me shiver. That and nails on a blackboard. Absolutely cringe-inducing I’m sure you’ll agree.
“I hate you,” she whispered. Long and hard, she stared at my potential final resting place. I understood, crouched behind the soil of the dead. A person like me, I deserved her hatred. I had a feeling I deserved everything I was going to get. After all, I had technically died for my freedom. It was only a matter of time before things went tits-up again. Alexa raised her head.
“Do you hear that? I hate you!” Yep, loud and clear dearie. Despite the sudden cramp in my leg, I managed to stay put. By the time the tears subsided, the sun had doffed its hat, retiring for the night.
I sighed. I didn’t know why people tended to write that or why they described the sun disappearing for the night in order for the moon to take over. The sun was still bloody there.
The sky was now pitch black, though brighter, more vibrant for the likes of me, winning this side of the world. The cemetery suddenly burst its banks of colour, the grey headstones blooming in burgundy. The bare tree branches leeched into a beautiful charcoal, dripping smoky oxygen that only I could see.
Alexa looked up from where she remained crouched at the foot of my grave. As if realising the time, she threw herself away. Just think, if she had turned just another few degrees to her right, she would have caught wind of my scent. Seen me. Ah, well. More fool her, I suppose.
Oh, don’t look at me like that. I had a plan, I’m sure I did. Contrary to popular belief, I actually had lid on my insanity.
Again, I ran the risk of watching her storm out of the cemetery, pausing once to look back at my scarred grave. She didn’t apologise to my dead body, though I hadn’t expected her to. She was the good guy after all. Good guys don’t apologise to bad guys. That’s just not how it’s done.
Her eye, burnt umber like the sky had been a few minutes ago, almost caught mine. Almost. Instead, it locked onto the horizon, as if she yearned to find some hope lingering in-between the oncoming stars.
At last, she turned away, carving her steps into the pavement until she vanished onto a dirt track coveted by gorse bushes. Hell knew where she was going. Last I heard, her precious family home was toast. What was she going to do, get a flat share or something? That would have been hilarious. She’d probably end up being gullible enough to buy all the food, pay all the rent and make her flatmates consecutive cups of tea. As you can see, I mustn’t like this Alexa. But why, you ask? It is kind of in the job description, being a self-diagnosed psychopath and all that. It’d be a tad worrying if I strolled around making friends. Which was why, when the one great love of my life had vanished, I reached my nails around a discrepancy in the air. Squeezed. A satisfying choking sound followed as the silhouette of my darling priest flashed into the atmosphere.
“Leaving so soon dearie?” Gripping her throat, I debated on whether or not to snap her neck, watch the darkness dribble out of her eyes until she dissipated into the earth. Like a whoopie cushion. If whoopie cushions were manufactured by oil rigs. Besides, she could never leave. Not until she’d fulfilled her part of the bargain.
My priest’s eyes widened fractionally, caught between those delicious expressions of relief and betrayal. One or the other. All the same, I could tell she was as excited about travelling to the world which I’d claimed I’d entered when I died as I was. But I had to know. Why there? Why did I see…? Well, that’s another story now isn’t it? I know, despite the material item you’re reading, I myself am not an open book.
“Oh please, get over yourself. I’m not going to kill you. I’d need to do more than snap your neck. Frankly, I’m not in the mood to pull my finger out for a good spot of violence,” I said, though I didn’t release her. Besides, I’m always up for a good spot of violence. Instead, I waited for her fire, her flame. Her response which would dredge me to embers. But it never came.
Frowning, I let my hands drop from around her throat. She made a pathetic attempt at a cough and jumped away.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” I asked. She raised an eyebrow.
“Are you truly the person who should be asking that question?” I probably didn’t realise the irony of the situation. Honestly, what was she expecting? She was one of the Polluted Souls of the Thirteen Worlds, she was basically the supernatural Madonna; yet she’d stood there, put up with me as if I were some petulant child. Boring. Boring. Boring.
“Have you mellowed, my darling priest?” I smirked. My priest in question shot me a glare, though it wasn’t as pronounced as her previous expressions.
“I am simply trying to keep myself alive”.
“As you always do”. Humans were no better. She threw her arms up, an alarmingly mundane gesture.
“I did what I had to do. You would have done the same,” she added. I shrugged. Truth be told, I didn’t know what I would have done in her situation. I didn’t care about my life, but I also loved it. Loved? Not the right word. I relished in using mine to destroy other people’s. Yeah, that’s right. Sorry. Emotions are not a hot topic in my brain.
Above, the heavens echoed in thunderclouds, while the stars glittered with laugh lines. The perfect time for a vacation. I didn’t exactly fancy staying in England with its dreary Met Office Reputation. A vacation was imminent. I supposed that’s what I was calling it. A holiday. All-inclusive? Probably not.
My priest met my smile with her typically grim stare. Oh, joy of bloody joys. The last person you wanted on an interdimensional road trip. She leaned as close to me as she dared. Which wasn’t very close, just to clarify.
“Do you have it? We cannot maintain a direct link with this world if you have failed to procure it,” she said, as if I didn’t know. I sighed and produced the dagger which had been placed at my headstone from my pocket.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. ‘You told us that you never held it’. ‘You said you wouldn’t lie’. Well I can, and I did. So there. Look, I said I didn’t have the blade in my hand. I never said anything about placing it inside my jacket. So now know you me better. Which, I suppose, means you know me worse. Perhaps I played with my narrative a little. Whoops. I know I’m not supposed to, but I can’t help it. Innately, I am not the best person this side of Story-Ville.
The unholy priest raised her hand, dark skin writhing like ripples on a lake.
“You are ready, then?” For my retirement plan.
So, how did I get here you may wonder. How did I spend three-hundred or so years avoiding death, avoiding slipping out of the spotlight just to step out of it myself? That’s a good question. I’ll let you know when I find the answer. What do you say? Are you willing to give me a chance? To listen to an impression of the human race, curtesy of yours truly. And being human, as you know, is being destructive. Having the potential for goodness, for peace, and throwing it all away. Launching it like a cricket ball into the dustbin of time and moving on like it never happened. Like you were always good, or that you were always meant to destroy the world. I digress. More on that later.
And no, just before you ask, I’m not a Conservative or anything like that. Unless you count that time where I killed those members of cabinet. (These, days, with Biscuit or Brexit or whatever it’s called, it sounds like I’m doing the world a bloody favour).
No, my wonderfully pessimistic (I call them accurate) views of humanity stem from experience. A lot of experience. If anyone’s qualified to diagnose the human race, it’s me.
Anyway, hold onto your hats. I believe that’s what they say. Here we go. Though I have the distinct feeling I’ve just made a terrible mistake. More grievous than the one which brought me surging into existence on the frozen cobbles of a bridge in 18th century England.