Monday, April 21, 2014

A Tale To Tell

He trudged up the steps,his breath labored and ragged.A long day, a long hike up the stairwell to a house,miles away from home. The plastic bag crinkled in the emptiness as the cold bottle of sugary water rolled along with other such and such.

He fumbled with the keys at the door. How were there so many keys on the ring? The set of keys were a sign of his coming to age,his first real taste of responsibility from a youth that had long since passed him by.Keys truly represent the path a man has traveled,despite the number of times you may replace one key on the ring,there will always be another from your past,locked in the ring,never to be used again. A key to a door that has long since been closed to you and will never be opened again.

As the door opened to a hot,humid apartment,he flung the bag into the dark in the general direction of the couch. The lack of a resounding crash in the silence reassured.

Silent. Not a sound.

An eerie feeling came over him as he turned and flicked at the switch board in a random sequence. Eventually the light flickered and the fan began to play its song,a record of hope followed by misery.As it blew over him,the sweat on his skin gave him a cold moment of respite as it evaporated,stealing a moment of heat from him.But it was hope,followed by misery.

He had caught his breath,but the light hadnt,as it flickered and failed to catch still.

He sank down in to the ground and reached for a joint he had rolled before he left,a pre dinner snack he made in anticipation of a day like this.

It seemed like everyday was a day like this.

Sparks flew in the only relationship he truly enjoyed being in as the first drag of green and tobacco dragged into his lungs like a wave gently caressing the shore. He closed his eyes and savored the taste of earthy smoke before he exhaled and blew out a single circle,tinged in yellow.

The light flickered once more and died out as the fan twirled its final pirouette.


The voice came from a true source,beyond what his eyes could catch in the sudden dark.

"I know you...",he called out into the dark.

A dark figure loomed and made its way towards him. It sat down across from Ishmael and settled itself. Ishmael took another deep drag and a face appeared in the red speckled glow. A face and a smile.

"Hello Cheshire"

Cheshire nodded and looked at him intently. He made no attempt to speak and seemed content to sit with a shadow of a smile playing on the edge of his lips.

Ishmael felt obliged to bring up something that had just occurred to him.

"I heard you were dead,old friend."

Cheshire nodded slowly and spoke.

"Now you know why I haven't been writing to you, but I apologize all the same."

Ishmael smiled.

Silence ensued for a few moments as the air became heavy with smoke.

Suddenly Ishmael looked.

"Where are my manners? Here we are after so long and I haven't even offered you a drag,a piece of hospitality!"

Ishmael extended his hand,the smoke twirled around it,wreathing it in a hazy glove.

Cheshire's smile faltered for a moment,as his eyes captured the grief of his everlasting soul.

"My story has come to an end,Ishmael.My choices had taken me to many places and many people. I have lived a good story,one of humor and adventure,passion and desire and a pinch of foolhardiness. My tale,like yours, was one borne of my choices. But it has come to an end. I cannot make anymore choices,therefore I cannot take my story further forward.For me,it ends tonight. A final choice. To talk to you,my old friend,lost to me in the ever shifting sands of our lives."

"Stop being a dick,Cheshire."

A flash in the dark as Cheshire smiled.

"Alright,Ishmael. I'm here to talk.So lets talk"

Finally,after what seemed an age,Ishmael withdrew his hand and his offer and took a drag as he pondered the words of the one who stood before him.

"How did you get in,Cheshire?"

Cheshire sighed into the darkness.

"Ishmael. I have come across space and time,through portals and dimensions and incurred the wrath of many an ethereal being to be here,in front of you,right now. And the only thing you care to ask me is how I entered your disgusting old house with its one lock and no alarm system?"

If Ishmael could see him,he would've been confused by the look of incredulity on the face of his guest. It was a question borne of innocence and a drug addled mind.

"Why don't you answer the question,Cheshire?"

"You really want me to answer that?Even if I told you that i have the answer to all the questions in the Universe but you can ask me only one,would you still ask me that?"

"Do you?"

"Do I what?"

"Have all the answers and stuff?"

"Ain't nobody got time for that."

"Well then answer away,Cheshire!"

"Alright Ishmael,you left the door unlocked."

"Why do ghosts need doors?"

"It seemed improper to barge in through the wall. And the door was open.So I walked in."

"Fair enough."

The glow had subsided during this exchanged and the embers had fluttered into ash. Cold silence,as Ishmael fumbled for fire.

"Are you here to haunt me,Cheshire?"

A soft chuckle drifted through the dark,spooky and yet reassuring.

"No,Ishmael.I'm here to talk to you about your story."

"I haven't written in years,Cheshire.Not since an age and a half."

"The story of your life,Ishmael.The legacy you leave behind,the tale by which all that love you will remember you by.Every single person in the world,from conception to death is creating a story.The choices we make,the ideas we have contribute to that story.Some are tales of great bravery and self sacrifice,some of business acumen and artistic prowess. But not all stories written are tales to be loved by the masses and adored by millions. Most are the smaller and simpler tales,of the common and everyday. But even these are stories that will be cherished by loved ones and people whose lives have been touched.You see we're all just contributing to this massive diary of our kind. We're each a footnote or a verse or a phrase in it,but we still are a part of its constant evolution.And there is more to your story than you've offered so far."

Ishmael took another deep drag and closed his eyes as floated away. When he spoke, his eyes were still closed and his words were true.

"You sit across and judge me in my own home,Cheshire?Mine is not a story of tragedy and the rise of a man above the chains of adversity,but it my tale to tell.I am a good person.I do no harm to others and live my life by no rigid code.I don't judge people for their color,religion or creed nor do I hate or incite hatred. I journey through this misery as one of billions but I walk with no regrets.Yet you choose to come here and preach?Pray,tell me why I should take advice from a ghost."

"Do you really want to measure your life against such low standards?",said Cheshire."Is that the most you want?Living it to its minimum when greatness could be yours?I see it in you,Ishmael,even as you wither away into the smoky abyss."

Ishmael's eyes flashed open as he is torn from his reverie."Do you know what tempers greatness in a person,Cheshire?",he spoke,his pain bleeding from his voice as he went on,rage and disappointment building in him in equal measure.

"Life.Life tempers greatness.Going through the motions of each day,bound by society,told what to do and what is proper.Life chokes everything out of you.Dreams and aspirations are bled out through a slow drip that gathers pace as you tumble through each day.You settle for less,for the normal and the ordinary.Speak not to me of greatness,Cheshire.It has passed me by."

He slumped forward,his head in his hands as the truth blazed through him. The smoking end dropped from his fingers.

It was a while before Cheshire spoke,his voice kind and caressing.

"It's never too late Ishmael.Fulfill your desires,dream your dreams and reach out once more.Do not settle for mediocrity.I was sent here for this,trust me when I tell you Life still has yet to experience you."

Ishmael raised his head.Cheshire's words were still ringing in the darkness.He smiled as he looked at his old friend and rose from his seat.

"I can only try,Cheshire. But thank you. Thank you for hope."

Ishmael walked away,through the door and into the night,to a destiny that awaited him.Not written,but to be forged by his own hands,one word at a time.

Cheshire wiped the particulates of sweat off his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt.The heat was stifling.He felt encased and trapped in it.Being hot boxed in a stuffy flat had left him feeling light headed.He got up and fumbled for his car keys.

So many keys on a single ring. Each a brick on the path that had been traveled so far.

He had turned towards the door when he stopped himself.He went back and reached down.The end was still smoldering as he raised it to his lips. His lips were bitten by the heat as the cardboard came closer to the ember,but he inhaled deeply anyway.Cheshire held his breath as he stubbed it out for the last time,crushing it beneath his fingers.Finally he exhaled a thick cloud,and a circle at the end.Smoke,tinged yellow.

And Cheshire flashed an Evil Grin,
And Cheshire was off into the Night Again.

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