There was no sound. No echo. No hint nor mention of the thunder that had brought an end to my life lingered in the air around my bleeding corpse, and yet fewer signs remained that pointed towards the motives of my crime. I brought them with me to the frigid chapel floor that was my eternal grave, the final resting place of that which was once my own. In its bloodied hand lay a steel revolver, so wonderfully precise, its chamber empty. Smoke still rose from this great piece of craftsmanship and ingenuity, marking my final action. An ace of clubs fell lightly to the ground, carried by the gentle winds of autumn, landing before the cross. The virgin mother Mary wept above.
Yet it was not my final action, rather the opposite. It had merely brought an end to an era of being, the first era, the shortest and most filled with shallow vanities, accompanied by the keen sting of hatred and bitterness. There was more to be seen. This was a path of joy for some, and a lonesome road for others. I was among the latter folk, my life turning sour with every step made, bringing nothing but sorrow to a mind troubled by loss of faith and failure. I recall little from this period of my existence, and yet I distinctly remember writing melancholic drivel, which, to a very limited extent, somehow resembled stories. I had become rather decent, as writers are, and I was an extraordinary typist by every definition of the phrase. And, come to think of it, I had often indulged in the art of engineering. Even the gun was of my own making. What made these details remain with me, I do not know. Yet none of it mattered, as my body lay cold, lifeless, without breath, hollow, its black hair caressed by the remnants of the storm that had just passed. We are all so very similar in the dark, together in death, mortality our single greatest common trait.
I was awake, more so than ever, I feel. My world became smaller, more compact, with a mere day lasting lifetimes of men. If ever I felt alone in life, it was nothing when compared to the solitude of death. There was nothing here. Nothing but the cooling white remnants of that which once formed me, memories which began to fade with time. I watched them mourn from above, I watched as their chests rose and calmed, as their hearts beat with the rhythm of life itself, and tears of sorrow pearled down their cheeks. It was every bit as vivid as I imagined, and yet no joy came of it. I could not feel what I had once felt, as even these images ebbed from existence, hollowing my soul bit by bit. Many days passed before the chapel crumbled before me, and my body had long been lying to rot in the Earth. Life went on.
The hands of demons reached out from below as a black abyss tore my world in two. I cowered on the last edge, in the tall bell tower, at its highest peak, the dark expanse hungrily gazing upon me from all sides. I could not bear the torment any longer, the voices of cackling witches and decrepit demons of ages far more ancient than my own resonating throughout the ethereal void, filling emptiness. As the last tile, the last plate of brass broke away beneath my frail feet, and my fall began, I bid my love farewell. I outstayed my welcome, and the time had come to fall upon my knees and beg for the mercy of forces, their meaning far greater than that of any man, living or deceased. I was unbound, like a falcon, soaring through the black, star-filled skies of night, like those I had so often fondly watched.
My journey took me to a land of such bizarre, indescribable nature, that even the greatest writers of mankind would seldom do it justice. Black hills extended for miles, with no horizon in sight, paths of checkered tiles, black and white, leading in utterly nonsensical directions, houses which stood roof on ground, held up by powers unseen by common sight, and many skeletal figures, devoid of flesh and skin, composing on their violins and accordions melodies of inhuman genius. Never before have I heard such complexity. This world now seems to me like a fading dream, details sailing off as I write this final note.
These skeletal figures, musicians of the new world, showered me in glory. I was their guest, or so it would seem. They shared with me the greatest wisdom of the universe, revealing to me the secrets of everything, and I would lie, were I to say that I understood half of what their toungless mouths told.
"There is no conscious power, there is only life and death. That which lives will die, and that which is dead may once yet assemble in the glorious orchestral play that is life. All will fade, as will life and death. So indeed, what I say is untrue. There is not life and death, there is only existence. That, unlike all else, shall never fade. Existence is all that was, is, and ever will be. And that, my dear Lupus, is the key to eternal happiness."
Upon hearing the greatest, wisest skeleton, most proficient in the art of philosophy, I felt regret at my choice to strip myself of the gift of life, to end the performance prematurely, at the oh so young age of sixteen. I could have lived for so much more, and yet I threw away that opportunity. Perhaps I would never have discovered the key to all existence, perhaps that was the point of death - to gain the knowledge we sought to reach, and to ponder one's life for eternity. I cannot understand why I doomed myself to such a state, between life and nothingness. I grew increasingly bitter. Neither the food nor the wine of the dead brought me comfort, and their songs, growing more corrupt and melancholic by the hour, filled me with a desire for nothingness once more. Yet there was no way to take my life beyond the grave, for I had done so already.
Soon, the skeletal men traded instruments for weapons, waging war upon one another, as bone clashed with bone, regrowing when it fell. It was as if I had disappeared completely, as the combatants starved me of attention. I was alone once more, without friend or foe, walking the endless hills, eternally a hermit in the vast plains of nothingness that awaited all those who carelessly meddled with their own mortality. I stopped at a great stone temple, two doors at its face, grimly staring at the spirit which stood before them. I lay there, in the eternal night, my legs too weary to carry on.
Neither door opened, I am afraid. Whatever lies before them, I do not know. I will never know. I was not content with my knowledge in life, nor my knowledge in death, for there is always more to have, and not all may be acquired. I now carve these words into the faces of mountains, so that I may ease my pain, cursed to an eternity of wandering, thinking, and yet more wondering still.
The skeletal men will forever wage war, and my mind and soul shall never lie to rest, never be at ease, forever pondering what might have happened, had I not so foolishly made decisions which were not my own to make, had I played my ace of clubs.
A fate far worse than death.