by Will Mayo


      One fellow, knowing of my interest in the written word, asked me just the other day,
      “So you read any interesting writers?”
      “Oh, yes,” I replied. “Dead Ones.”
      “Dead writers are all the best,” he said.
      “I would agree,” I said.
      And then we turned our heads to other things. Such as what mad thing man had done now—it was but another day in the house of Mayo.


     When I am gone, do not fret, do not worry. I have joined the air in your lungs, the stars in your night time sky, the world around you.
      I am the universe now.


     Some say time is a river, that it flows into the future. Some say that it does the opposite, that if flows into the past. But I say that neither is true.I say that time is like a well woven cloth ball, all bits of it, past, present, and future touching one another and that we are always one with them.


     My first computer was a big old box of a machine that I called Albertus and that my mother gifted me in the 90s. When asked why I had a name for this computer when, after all, most people fail to name anything beyond their firstborn child and their first car, I just replied, “Oh, I name anything.”
And it’s true. I did in those not long ago days. I gave names to angel figurines decorating my mother’s garden. I put names and titles on all the handwritten envelopes I mailed overseas. I even named the vine growing up our back wall. I called that one Sam. “That’s old Sam there,” I’d say to my occasional visitors. “Watch out. He’ll eat you alive!”
      Sadly, after Albertus died of a virus back in 2001 (too many sex scenes on my computer did the poor fellow in) and we brought in all the little angel statues from the garden, I gave up the practice of naming things. I grew up a little. Still, here in my apartment all these years later, there exists one little angel statue left on my table. Depending on my frame of mind, I call her either Emily or Arlene, though mostly I don’t call her anything at all. She sits quietly there reading a book, hardly noticing me at all.
      And you know what? Most days I don’t notice myself either. I just sit and enjoy the time as it passes me by.


     “I think humanity will last another fifty years and hen it’ll be gone,” the man said to me.
      “I think it’ll be around a good bit longer than that,” I said.
      And then between debating humanity’s chances we had another bite and passed the sauce along. The truth was, we couldn’t figure out our own lives, let alone mankind’s, but we were already on the way. We were talking it out. Which is more than could be said for most.
      Then the darkness came on and the man departed and I was left alone with my thoughts. Another strange man trying to figure it all out. Afterwards, we became one with the night as did most others on our side of the globe. We were curious and alive and searching for a reason. A reason that, with time, would be lost to us all. The world was with us and we knew it not and neither did any other. Just taking our chances, that is, before we were done.


     And there was this medieval nobleman with an obsession with death. Every day he thought about the end of his life and he ruminated on it endlessly. Until one day he was riding his horse in a wood when it was suddenly frightened by a hissing snake and reared and threw its rider, the nobleman, who promptly fell and hit his head on a stone. The horse was uninjured by its scare but the man drifted in and out of consciousness in his council chamber where he was brought after his accident, and when at last he awoke he had a new notion of time and of his life, seeing it not as a river with an end but as all one with each second an eternity in an instant. And it was from his writings exploring his newfound consciousness and his new notion of life and time that centuries later the idea of a stream of consciousness would one day arise in art, in literature, and in psychology too. All from one man hitting his head on a rock. Such sudden instants of time to make it all at last worthwhile.


     I think of the pharaohs of long ago Egypt. The fact is, they didn’t go alone to the grave. They took their entire entourage with them. Everything from minor officials to servants to the mangiest cat and dog.  All without exception buried alive within the pharaoh’s chambers. Whether they went willingly to their fate isn’t known but still I can hear their cries across the ages. “..buried alive…buried alive…” And then no more.


     In the East they are much more realistic about death and know that no matter how many lives may follow, this one will eventually come to an end. They spend their days among the bones of the departed and lend their hopes and prayers to an eternal nothing. One silent OM after another.


     It was said that Robert Johnson, bluesman of another era, would pass through the cafes in the towns he visited loudly defying God and the angels. And that when he was not playing, he and his mentor, Ike Zimmerman, would resume practicing the long wail of their guitars in Beauregard Cemetery among the graves, their voices singing together with the night. A good time was had. All came out and danced.


     But amid the confusion and the disappointment of my life I must not forget my good fortune. These are science fiction times, no less, with wayfarers circling the Earth in far off space; now wonders are found in microscope and atom smasher. Giants walk the planet, from Pope Francis to merchants for peace who aid dying migrants out of the deserts and seas. I’m lucky to be alive in the present times.


     “Do not be afraid before the infinite,” she said to me. “It is all there is.”
     “But is it exactly?” I inquired. “Just a vast emptiness?”
     “It is the universe itself,” she said. “Come take my hand.”
     I took it and the next thing I knew I was taken away. It was without compare.


     A child ponders the nighttime sky and asks his father, “What are those lights glimmering up there on high in the dark?”
     “Those are stars, my son,” the father says. “There are billions up there surrounding us all and around those stars orbit a vast number of planets upon which others like us, but totally unlike us, work and play and gaze at our own glimmering lights in the sky and wonder about us the way we have always wondered about them.”
     “Will we meet them some day?” the child asks with wonder in his eye.
     “Some say we already have,” the father says. “Some say we never will. No one really knows. There is a vast unknown out there and people like you and me, Son, have only questions in the dark.”
     “Questions in the dark,” the boy repeats. “Is there any question we dare not ask?”
     “No,” the father says. “Questions are all anyone really has in this life.”
     They stare into the dark a little longer and they go inside, a thousand questions lingering upon their quivering lips.


     We are strange inhabitants of a strange world in a strange universe that gets stranger by the second. Madmen make plots to deceive their governments. Asteroids the size of the Empire State Building creep closer to our earth, while black holes spinning round threaten to devour us all. Only our love keeps us together for this brief instant spinning round on a planet going nowhere quick.


     It’s an interesting time to be alive. Rocket ships paid for by millionaires circle the earth and there’s talk of going to the moon again. While here below on the blue planet, billionaires put their money into mind reading devices hoping to build a new internet where brains across the world are linked directly to one another, as new ideas of crossing genders and species are put forth by academia.  Amid our doubts, torn as we are between yesterday and tomorrow, may we never lose that thrilling sensation that tells us what it is like to be alive in the world today. Yesterday is a memory and tomorrow is a mystery but today is always a wonder. Never forget that.


     Earth and all its civilizations will come and go. No heaven. No hell. No other lives. All will come tumbling down in a chorus of ruins. Then will come in their time other races, different from us, in another time and another place, but they will have no memory of us. And it hardly even matters. They will build their own civilizations, their own memories to know and to delight. And then that will all come tumbling down in ruins of their own, followed by another and then another. All coming to ruin before this universe yields to another. Take heart in the now, I tell you. The present, the quickly yielding present, is all we ever have in this world of ours.


     In an unremembered corner of an otherwise unremarkable land,  I came across a man named Rybbuk Kim who’d gone and seen the machine that made us all. He’d searched in all the known worlds of the known universe for it and at last he’d found it in a corner of a distant hallway in a distant place lit by shadow and light from which all thought energy emerged, all thought and all being, and there Kim stood and pondered. For what do you say to the machine that made us all? All prayers and all questions escaped him as did all words entirely and he was left with only one Not Word that said it all. In it, he found a totality of his existence complete. And when he went away he spoke no more of trivial things. Only life and love and happiness occupied him now. When at last he told me this tale his face filled with awe and he offered to buy me a beer but I turned him down and went my own way. I knew only that the mechanics of the universe were real and with that I walked forward, a quiver in my step, my life too complete.