Death and Other Mysteries [A Short Story]

Death and Other Mysteries
By Joel Nickel

Alex was distractedly loading a bowl as he watched an episode of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit on the computer while Cassie scrolled through her Tumblr dashboard on her laptop.
<<You’ll never die>>
“What?” Cassie stopped scrolling and looked up at the monitor.
<<Nobody can die unless they believe in death>>
<<If we do another forty or fifty seasons of Bullshit, we’ll have the pleasure of proving him wrong>>
Cassie closed her laptop and came to sit closer to Alex who was now sparking up the bowl and pulling in a lungful of smoke. He passed the pipe to Cassie.
<<But he’s not the only person claiming immortality>>
<<I’m Dark Rose>>
<<I’m Donald LaDesque. And we’re vampires>>
<<Yup, LaDesque and Dark Rose. They call themselves vampires. They claim to embrace the death aesthetic>>
Cassie lit the bowl and pulled hard on the pipe. They’d run out of screens for the pipe and the one they were using was thick with resin. She started coughing.
<<I feel to embrace life is to embrace death. If you’re not afraid of death, if you know what’s coming, you can push the boundaries in life>>
<<Any why aren’t they afraid of death? They believe in reincarnation. We’re pretty sure that’s some sort of Buddhist thing but Buddhist clothes and teeth aren’t nearly as sexy cool>>
Cassie passed the pipe back to Alex.
<<There is an energy inside you. It’s the life energy and when the body dies the energy has to go somewhere else or turn into something else>>
<<Energy can’t die. It can only be transformed>>
Cassie reached out and pressed the spacebar to pause the video.
“I had a moment the other day where I was literally trying to find out … ’cause energy … is a force, right? Or so they say,” Cassie said. “Would it still not be made up of matter. Yah, you can destroy like … but you can’t, it’s matter. I don’t know. I would have to go back to Shay and see what the conversation was. ‘Cause I was trying to figure out … ah, I can’t even remember what it was, but it was something about whether or not there were certain forces that you could or could not … do, like manipulate because they’d be made of solid matter and … I don’t know. It was super weird.”
“Sorry, explain one more time,” Alex passed the pipe back to Cassie.
“Yah, I’m trying to remember it and I don’t remember specifically what it was but it was something like that,” Cassie said and paused to take in a deep lung of smoke and slowly force it out her nose. “Energy can’t die. It’s like: woah.”
“Oh yah, ’cause energy equals-”
Cassie continued: “I guess you can cancel out energy but the you can’t really destroy it because it’s made of matter. And you can’t destroy matter. And so it was just really weird. I can’t remember. I’ll have to ask Shay.”
“What if reality is just one big thing,” Alex said. “And within that, the changing is just the inside, going from a unified state to disorder.”
“Entropy!” Alex exclaimed. “There we go! Entropy. Thank you.”
“I had this conversation with Shay,” Cassie said. “What if everything we see … you know everyone says ‘this is molecules’,” Cassie pointed to the couch. “And ‘this is molecules’,” Cassie pointed to the bookshelf. “But the only reason the molecules are different and things like that … what if literally, all our life is just … atoms connecting, colliding, and disassembling in new forms and the only … we feel we have these experiences and we live life and stuff like that but we actually aren’t. And the only reason we kind of feel like we experience this is, like, because generating electricity is connecting certain atoms and we feel like we’re experiencing things, but we’re not real.”
Alex looked off into a space beyond the off-white wall and into the nothingness behind it.
“Like, we’re just more atoms in a tangled mess of shit that’s happening and it’s like, so then when everyone’s like ‘what’s the meaning of life?’, well there is none,” Cassie sparked up the pipe again.
“Existence is the meaning,” Alex said.
“No,” Cassie coughed. “Because then we’re just more molecules. Like, what makes us different than this?” She touched the wooden bookshelf. “It’s just that our molecules are assembled differently. But with the electricity … see when things collide there’s always energy generated and so that energy generated is generating what we believe is a consciousness but it’s not. It’s just energy. It’s just happening. It’s just a force.”
“So consciousness is just another force,” Alex said.
“Like gravity, it’s just another force that exists,” Cassie said. “The only reason we think it is something is because we as humans are built to detect patterns in chaos. That’s why we see constellations. That’s why we see patterns in numbers. We see patterns in things and so we’ve made ourselves believe that this is pattern of molecules and it makes a can. This is a pattern of molecules and it makes a bookshelf. And that’s a pattern of molecules and it makes Alex.”
Alex shivered. Continue reading