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Death’s Long Journey, a very short story

He woke under twinkling stars somewhat alarmed, but the calming nature of beauty allowed him to gather his wits and contemplate what must have happened. He had left their campsite midafternoon, and had walked with a vigor that had escaped him for years. That he remembered. But here he was in the rocks, the ghostly formations like statues on some alien planet, piercing the night like towering rockets ready for launch.

Marching Men night 2

The sky itself was black velvet, the dots so piercing that even the faintest in magnitude seemed in high definition. Some were flared with rays, and were far brighter than any stars he could ever remember. This wasn’t where he should be. He couldn’t say the sky was totally unfamiliar, although the band of the Milky Way seemed far too variegated and full of glorious color, and as he searched, not a single constellation made its dotted connection. Where was Cassiopeia or the Big Dipper?

Why was he here, and why on his back? Had he fainted? Had he lain down to take a nap and had just forgotten? He could tell the questions were useless. He had no memory.

It was certain he had to get up. It was cold enough to zip up his jacket, and then he fished in his pocket and found the stocking cap his wife had carefully knitted. It felt warm as he pulled it onto his head and over his ears. His wife. Yes, somewhere in his memory he could remember he had a wife, but what did she look like? What was her name? For God’s sake what was his?

It took some effort, but soon he stood and gazed at the blackness that surrounded his feet. The sky seemed amply bright that he should be able to see his feet, but not until he bent half way down was he able to actually make out the ground. Then he realized his feet were in a shadow, but a shadow from what?

He turned further to the right, and then in astonishment stared, for there on the horizon in the midst of the spires was a planet, and not just some ordinary planet but one with rings. My God it was beautiful, but why was it there? Suddenly he was shaken, to his core now that he thought to pay attention. He wasn’t on Earth, so where was he? He was dead he guessed. It was the only explanation that made any sense.

It was easy enough to pinch one hand with the other and he was almost surprised it hurt. It did hurt, and that was good he guessed. He took a deep breath to make sure he was breathing.

He suddenly realized he had prayed for something like this to happen. His life was going nowhere. Yes, that was certain. Nowhere from what? He shook his head. He only knew that he had worked for years on some silly nonsense that had made sense to him. What was it?

“My name. It’s Jacob.”

Jacob looked about. Perhaps there was a place he might sit for at time and try and remember. It was clear that the terrain was anything but flat, and although it seemed like it might be bright enough to get about if he were cautious, what was the point? Besides, the night was truly mesmerizing.

Jacob sat after finding a higher perch not twenty feet from where he had risen. It was a high enough perch to get a better perspective. He could tell the terrain was mostly solid rock, the weather worn rock of sedimentary formations. He could make out the lines created by the various layers, the exposed history of the millennia.

The color was vaguely red, or maybe just brown. There wasn’t enough light to be certain. The reflection of light from the ringed planet was bright enough to cast distinct shadows, much as moonlight had back on Earth. What nonsense. What was he talking about? Jacob closed his eyes. How could he not be on Earth?

He opened them again and studies his surrounding a little more carefully. Was it the type of terrain that he had climbed into on his vigorous walk? Not that he could remember. Okay, it was certain he was somehow transported to a different place, or perhaps a different time. What? Like Earth would somehow move next to Saturn in a billion years. Jacob scoffed.

The shadows appeared to drop into canyons. It was clear that sunlight would give a much better perspective. Right now he couldn’t be sure that this wasn’t endless night, and in that instant he felt a bit of panic. Surely not. Why would he be on a planet with endless night?

“Okay then.”

Saying the words out loud had a calming effect. His concentration went back to the heavens. He was not a stranger to a beautiful sky with an infinite backdrop. He had avoided cities all of his life, and he also knew he had detested light pollution just as he had detested so much of what he had wanted to change in a world with a blind conscience. Ah, yes, little bits were coming back. He was one of those men that had campaigned all his life for common sense.

Jacob suddenly realized this was one of those moments. He was blessed or cursed with a strong imagination and an inner eye that peered into unknown places. The idea of being dead made him sick with happiness. Was this the beginning of deaths long journey, or just a dream from which he’d never wake?

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