Here’s the unedited continuation of my story so far. I’m not as far along as I would like to be, I’m afraid. I’m currently at 26,000ish words. I’m hoping to pick up steam now that my story has passed from pre-history into recorded history after these two new chapters have elapsed.
I have a couple of observations about this update. I am disappointed in the tone and tenor of Chapter Three, as I now need to build forward several other encounters between my narrator and the backpacker off of this rather flat beginning. I had hoped to ‘get it in editing’ without really editing, but a couple of cursory passes have convinced me I’m not going to get it right without taking the whole thing apart and starting over, and my quest for 50,000 words in 30 days has been hampered enough by recent events at work and within my personal life. I cannot justify scrapping a couple of thousand right now for the sake of tone.
Happy reading, and good luck to all my fellow writers!
Life Loves Death
by Geoffrey Micks
[Editor’s note: The following section of tape now records two voices. Thomas Black is prefaced as TB. Jennifer White is prefaced as JW.]
TB: Good morning…
JW: Sa ba je dosa jana jana cresh buda.
TB: Would you mind speaking in English?
TB: Well, I have a tape recorder running, and nobody listening to it later will know what you just said.
JW: You have a tape recorder running?
JW: Strictly speaking, that’s against my rules.
TB: Strictly speaking, I don’t care. You climbed up here as an uninvited guest to my home. If I want to record what we talk about, that’s my decision. If you don’t like it, you’re welcome to go back to where you came from.
JW: Sa ba ne creja—
TB: I’m going to have to insist you speak English, or this conversation is over, and so is my hospitality.
JW: Why? You understand what I’m saying. I came here to speak with you, not your tape recorder.
TB: Well, let’s put to one side my desire to leave an understandable record of what you have to say. How about the practical consideration that the language you’re speaking doesn’t have enough words? I can’t ask you anything about yourself that you couldn’t have told me ten thousand years ago. Languages evolve or they die, and you’re speaking a language that died before there was such a thing as a farmer, or a wheel, or a calendar, or a backpacker. There just aren’t enough words to ask you everything I want to ask.
JW: What do you want to ask me?
TB: Well, to start I want you to repeat for the tape recorder what you just said to me, but in English.
JW: I said I have waited a very, very long time to meet you.
TB: And in what language were you speaking?
JW: It has no name. The people who spoke it didn’t know there was any tongue other than the one they used, so they never gave it a name.
TB: And do you have a name?
JW: Of course, how rude of me. I know who everyone is, so sometimes I forget people don’t know who I am. My name is Jennifer.
TB: You know who everyone is?
JW: Just by looking at them, yes.
TB: That’s quite a gift.
JW: So is living for thousands of years, but I would imagine you view that as just something that you do. Knowing everyone’s name is just something that I do. I’ve always been able to do it, so it doesn’t really strike me as remarkable.
TB: And what is your surname, Jennifer?
TB: Are you making fun of me?
JW: I beg your pardon?
TB: My name is Thomas Black. You say your name is Jennifer White. Are you mocking me, somehow?
JW: No. That’s my name. I didn’t pick it, as you did for yourself. My parents named me Jennifer, and my family name is White. It was LeBlanc, originally, but my great-grandfather was practicing his English at Ellis Island, and so my ancestors were renamed. It’s just a coincidence. I can show you my passport if you like.
TB: That won’t be necessary. Forgive me. I’m a little on edge. I think you know why?
JW: I do, and I understand, but I’m not here to upset you, Thomas Black. Or should I call you something else?
TB: I suppose you can call me whatever you like.
JW: What would you prefer? Thomas Black? Keer? Kanmi? You’ve had so many names.
TB: How could you possibly know that?
JW: Because you and I have a lot in common.
TB: Are you like me, then?
JW: In a way.
TB: How long have you been alive?
JW: Twenty-four years.
TB: [Laughter.] Then you and I are nothing alike, young woman. You’re little more than a child!
JW: This time I am, yes.
TB: I beg your pardon?
JW: That’s part of a larger conversation.
TB: I suppose I look forward to it. Would you like some tea?
JW: Yes, please.
<Long period of silence>
JW: Thank you.
TB: You’re welcome. Shall we start again?
JW: If you’re ready.
TB: As ready as I will ever be, I suppose. Shall I begin with how are you anything like me, if you’re only twenty-four years old?
JW: I have gifts that set me apart, just as you do. Mine are different from yours, but they bind us together. They make you and I two of a very small and special group of people.
TB: Alright, so what are your gifts?
JW: I’ll get there, but first I should say that we haven’t really gotten off on the right foot, have we?
JW: You were expecting me?
TB: Oh, yes.
JW: Because you can see the future?
TB: In a way, yes.
JW: I can see things too, things that normal people can’t see. It’s one of my gifts.
TB: What can you see?
JW: I can tell how everyone has died, is dying, or will die.
TB: I beg your pardon?
JW: I think you heard me just fine. Or do you want me to repeat that for your tape recorder?
TB: That won’t be necessary, but can you give me an example?
JW: Do you want to know how you will die?
TB: I will die, then?
JW: Oh, yes. That’s why I’m here.
TB: Are you going to kill me, then?
JW: No. I’m not a murderer. You have my word, Thomas, I will not harm you.
TB: Well, that’s good to hear. You’ll forgive me if I don’t let you get too close to me, though. Perhaps you could give me another example of your ability, then?
JW: Your paper boy is going to move to New Delhi in five years’ time. He’s going to take a job at a call centre, and seven days into his job he’ll be struck by a cab crossing the street. He’ll be dead before he hits the pavement.
TB: That’s terrible!
JW: It’s neither good nor bad. It’s just what is going to happen.
TB: But he’s just a boy!
JW: Fate doesn’t care about that.
TB: I don’t like that.
JW: Fate doesn’t care about that either.
TB: He hasn’t even lived yet!
JW: Do you have a point? He was born in the village below you. Today he delivers your newspapers, and five years from now he’s going to be hit by a cab. That’s all there is to it. It’s neither good nor bad. It just is.
TB: I don’t want to hear about people’s lives being reduced to nothing but an unremarkable beginning, an unmemorable middle, and a quick and worthless end.
JW: What do you want to hear about, then?
TB: I don’t even know where to start.
JW: Ask the first question that comes into your mind.
TB: Where are you from, Jennifer?
TB: And how does a twenty-four-year-old from Minnesota know the language of the Jazuz?
JW: Have you ever heard that Jesus could speak to any man in that man’s native tongue?
TB: No, I can’t say that I have. Are you saying you’re Jesus?
JW: [Laughter.] No. Far from it, actually.
TB: But you can speak like that?
JW: I can. It’s another one of my gifts.
TB: You know everyone’s name, speak their language, and know how they’ll die?
JW: In a nutshell, yes.
TB: Those are some pretty amazing gifts. You were born like that?
JW: Many times over.
TB: Many times over?
JW: Oh, yes, but I suppose that’s a little misleading: I haven’t been born many times, but there has always been someone like me, and I can remember all the others who were as I am. We form a long line of people with a purpose, for the world always has a need for someone like me.
TB: Someone who can do what you do?
TB: And what do you do, exactly?
JW: I find people like you, Thomas. I find people like you, and I fix you.
TB: Fix me?
JW: You’re not supposed to be. Somehow you’ve cheated the natural order of things, and that can only go on so long before it needs to be corrected.
TB: And you correct that?
JW: In a nutshell, yes?
TB: Why? Why can’t I go on forever?
JW: Because fate made a mistake with you, and I am supposed to remedy that mistake.
TB: Fate made you?
JW: Absolutely. Fate makes us all, but fate made me for a special purpose.
TB: What purpose?
JW: I’ve just told you.
TB: Say it plainly. Who are you? What are you?
JW: Switch off your tape recorder.
TB: Not on your life!
JW: Switch off your tape recorder, and I’ll tell you anything you want to know.
TB: This tape recorder will keep running, or you will leave my home.
JW: If I answer your question, bluntly and honestly, will you switch off your tape recorder so we can talk at greater length in private?
JW: I will say who I am and what I am, and if you want to hear more, you will switch off that machine. Agreed?
TB: It will be my decision to switch off the recorder?
JW: If you want to hear more, you will turn it off.
TB: Alright then. Say it.
JW: My name is Jennifer White. I’m twenty-four. I was born in Minnesota, and I am my generation’s physical incarnation of Death. There have been many men and women like me stretching backwards into the past, and we have waited a very, very long time to meet you.
[At this point the tape recorder stopped.]