There he is again, on the far side of the great hall. I can barely see him in the crepuscular light. No doubt he is about to shout out some inane comment. Yes, there: he yelled something I couldn’t quite make out. Now he’ll slip into a secret passages, or make his way to one of the broad, avenue-like walkways that seem to run everywhere in this vast building. And at any moment I will find myself transported, instantaneously, to wherever he chooses to make his next fatuous declamation.
Why must I, in my present disembodied existence, keep following this person? I obviously have no choice — if I did, I could find something more interesting to do.
I’m about to shift again — I can feel it.
Yes. There he is. This time he’s on top of that structure that looks like half of a step-pyramid that projects out from a wall near the swimming pool. The pool — like everything here — is huge. It’s at least four times as long as an Olympic-size pool, and three times as wide. I am surprised, considering the monumental proportions of this place, that there are so few people. In this vast room, with its gigantic swimming pool and huge half-pyramid, there are only two people swimming. Five more stand bunched together, talking, near the edge of the pool. I find myself near this group.
Just now they all turn their heads as the man on top of the half step-pyramid unleashes his tirade. Somebody in the group I’m near quietly makes an insulting remark about the shouter. Others in the cluster titter approvingly.
And suddenly, I’m on top of the pyramid, observing the shouter at close range.
He seems, all in all, quite normal — aside from his tendency to shout at people from a distance. What is the purpose of his odd behavior? He isn’t exhorting people to action, or preaching, or campaigning. He isn’t selling anything, tangible or otherwise. His shouted comments don’t qualify as social criticism or prophecy: they lack the acuity of the former and the vision of the latter — but most of all, his impromptu speeches lack coherence.
Perhaps he’s a lawyer — or a frustrated, would-be lawyer in this world which seems to have no need of lawyers.
And why am I here? What is the purpose of these non-corporeal peregrinations I’m forced to endure? Perhaps I’m here to see how banal and sterile utopia – or is it paradise? – must be. But what is the point of such a lesson? After all, I’m dead — how else could I have gotten into this disembodied state? I even vaguely remember dying! Is this the city of the dead, the land of the dead, and my present condition part of the process through which I’ll adjust to my new existence? But, if this is the land of the dead, why are there so few people?
I can still see the shouter. I look into his eyes. There is nothing there.
Peter Roberts is a mathematically educated poet who sometimes writes fiction. He has been contributing to various magazines and journals, online & off, for more than 45 years. See his slightly dated personal page, www.god-and-country.info/personal.html, where you can find links to lists of all his published poems & stories, if you look carefully. Some may find the rest of the website interesting as well.