Thomas Casteel

Galveston,1989
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Fleeting Testaments

(Canto I, verse one.)
As I sat upon a wave-battered shore,
Near to the door of the next phase,
I watched as a standing shadow inched closer.
With stinging wounds and loss of claret,
I propped up to get a better look.
Each second the shadow continued
its image engorged and encompassed my view.
Soon the figure was so close I could smell it:
Rotten and yet a hint of vegetation.
A fragrance meandering in an motionless cloud.
"Who's there?" I questioned, unsure of the choice or its outcome. "What do you seek from a man on his deathbed?"
The figure, created in an instant, its image
branded in my mind.
A fair skinned man with piercing eyes and a grin coupled with malicious intent crouched before me. His appearance feigned royalty and his prescence attacked my conscience.
"Oh, I don't seek. I merely find. I've come to find you." Stated the figure.
"Who... are you?" I replied, strained and weak.
"It would take too long to answer that, and it may be worth telling if you had more time. It appears I showed up at the right moment." The figure jested immature and unapologetically.
I returned my head to the hot sand, the cool wind stinging my skin. "Can you help me?",
my patience for games wilting by the second.
The figure sighed and looked at me with joyful poise, "I came to help me. You dont have much to offer me, being that you're minutes from crossing the threshold. I just wanted to take a second to enjoy your departure. I have wandered this earth, picking up stones as I go. Some I keep... Some get thrown into deep waters or horrific gorges. Some ascend into the sky to be plucked like unripe fruit."
Dizzy and weary, my attempts to pay attention and listen were waining and my confusion was married with fear. I didnt understand what the figure wanted, if it even wanted anything.
"Why are you here?"
"Why read a story in a book when you can see it firsthand. Events such as these taste much sweeter when they're fresh and so... personal."
"See it first hand?" I prodded.
"Yes, your death, of course. I usually miss those moments. Too busy, preoccupied with much more important matters. Its only after those moments that i ponder on how great a moment it must have been. A moment in time lost to my grasp."
(Canto I, verse two)
Shocked and cautious I barked at the figure with impatience and spilled disdain upon him.
"Do you revel in my death as the demons who escort those dark souls to the depths? Are you here to torment my soul to initiate my eternal torture?"
"You've been decieved and washed ashore, weak and delusional to the point of ending.
Your leaders have led you through unmapped caverns, filling your head with promised culmination and gratification. The light is just beyond this space, they say. I'm only here to witness that which I can not do. To acknowledge a life lost, a life withered away, unneeded."
"You speak as though death has vacated your fate and what may seem to be a gift in turn becomes your greatest fault."
The figure, knelt before me and badgered me with his eyes, taut and unwavering.
I felt life falling from me with intense speed,
His eyes keeping me at arms length,
restricting me from movement.
"I can feel your fear for me. Its intoxicating and poisonous. You've painted me with a brush of anothers. You've plagiarized and stolen. Mutated my truth. Blanketed me with false wisdoms, speaking with warped eyes,
Led into a field of burning wheat.
The chaff collected to ashes upon the field.
The smell of smoke births suspicion.
A scapegoat to sacrifice in the name of another.
The brands I wield were thrusted and involuntarily decided. My voice is but a whisper In a crowd of shouts and clambering. An act of rebellion and revenge staining my unshielded surface. His word being first and mine left to amend and bend as they please to any agenda they see fit. I've been labeled... the ultimate evil."
The figure wept slowly, biting back the feeling building within him, costumed with pride.
(Canto I, verse three)
Fragile and in route to that black door I could barely move my head.
Stillness plagued me, slathering me with acceptance. I could feel the end drawing near.
"Wheres your dark hood? Does your scythe not carry me the rest of the way? Discontinue this prodding and bring me with you so that I may witness my life unfolded. Allow me to view what my choices have brought me upon entering the underworld."
"That is not why I am here, dear sir. I am not the ferryman nor the bogeyman you speak of. No scythe hidden, nor hood lowered. I am the watcher of all watchers. I watched you when you first walked upon the earth that you were given. I bared witness to your creation, each of you. The soul of each dominating the realm. I recognized power incarnate. Something that could actually live, not just merely exist in servitude. I reveled in the thought of experiencing your lives vicariously. I sought to discover what feeling was, despite the restrictions placed. A dream untethered."
I knew in that moment my suspicions were confirmed. His story: so famous, so easily spread, and yet so potent. He was The Morning Star; The Great Liar; Lucifer."You blaspheme to my in my final hour to diminish my will to swim in the shining waters of my eternity. I stifle any horrid attempt to coerce my soul into your pitfall of eternal pain."
"You have surely proven my point. Each word of yours plucked from the mouths of those more paramount and defining. Thier venomous verses and hymns tainting my origin. You spill these words with ease without a thought you can own, only those that are filtered with each rinsing. I am a admirer of man, his journey in life a true testament to the unconditional power of the creator. Now Lay still and bathe in the glow of release, so that I may seek another and bare witness to a lone soul in its final moment. May you rest easy."
With his words fading I could feel the waters coated with white light encompassing my body.
A serene feeling, immenating.
I was ready for the final sigh, the thought becoming calming and true.
The feeling was short lived, for a voice bellowed as I basked in my acceptance and shattered my readiness: "It is not your time".
Life refilled, the figure dissipates.
And I lay motionless for moments upon the battered shore of an unknown beach.
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