Ω Ω The Astounding Life of Death
A Free Adaptation by Salvador Olguin
Illustrations by Rebeca Olguin
â„Ś The Astounding Life of Death
A Free Adaptation by Salvador Olguin
XXXX Books Collection
Table of Contents Chapter I Birth and Childhood of Lady Death Chapter II Death Takes Possession of her Empire Chapter III Love Chapter IV The Ambassadors of Death Chapter V The Mistress Wears Clothing Chapter VI The Empress and the Lord Chapter VII Quarrels of Death Against Mankind Chapter VIII Old Age and Agony of Lady Death
Chapter 1 Birth and Childhood of Lady Death
riters, poets and historians let their words ﬂy when they want to praise the great heroes whose stories they wish to bring to life. They will often exalt the city, town or place where those heroes were born, admiring their strong walls, high towers, palaces, pyramids and temples. No ediﬁce of this sort embellished the place where Death was born; however, it was a place worthy of all praises, and the most wonderful garden of all: the Garden of Eden. Four rivers ﬂowed through its evergreen meadows, unpolluted, birds adored its trees with beautiful sounds, and the most beautiful and perfect Being of all, God himself, walked down its marvelous hills and basked in the breeze of its fresh mornings. Animals would run here and there, and the ﬁrst human beings of the world were meant to enjoy this Garden as their home for all eternity, in everlasting innocence and joy: this place was Death’s hometown. She was born there to become a ghost and haunt all mortals ever after. Many critics and wise men of our time will think that a marvelous place like this does not suit such a terrible and ugly Lady, but they should consider that Death is, compared to her parents, very beautiful, and yet her parents were also born in the Garden of Eden. Death’s parents were the most vile, hideous and vicious creatures: she was the legitimate
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Birth and Childhood of Lady Death
daughter of Adam’s Sin, her father, and Eve’s Guilt, her mother. These two, as it’s written in the Bible, gave birth to Death: Paul the Apostle testiﬁes of this fact. All preachers and pastors have warned against this infamous couple: whoever let’s them into their homes is a fool, and suffers the most terrible consequences. Sadly, there is no household that doesn’t let Sin and Guilt come in for dinner or even stay for the night nowadays, but that’s another story, and I won’t enter into its details. Let me just remind my readers about the story of a young poor fellow who came from a small town, and had never seen a light bulb. He felt so compelled by the light, that he grabbed it with all his strength, cutting his hands pretty badly. Something similar happens to some people: they are enchanted by Sin’s charms and offerings, but they don’t know that Guilt awaits them at the end of the road. Everybody fears Death, but believe me: her parents are much worst, and you should be more aware of them.
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The birth of Lady Death took place during the happiest time this planet enjoyed since its Creator brought it into existence out of the nothingness of empty space. It was a brief epoch in which human beings were merely babies in the Garden of Eden. This era, like a lightning before a major blackout, didn’t last long. According to the estimates of the sagest people of ancient times, it took Adam three hours to ruin it all for the rest of us. An adorable Evil Angel came into the Garden and, ﬂattering Adam, persuaded him to disobey the orders of the Supreme Judge, and eat a forbidden fruit. In the very moment in which Adam took a bite of an apple, a fruit that was forbidden to him, Lady Death was born. Had Adam kept himself from biting that apple, we would all be immortal; but he ate it all, and brought upon us a great ﬂood of calamities. We all had to pay for his dinner, and he didn’t even save the crumbs so we could have at least a little treat. In every town and village, it is customary to celebrate the birth of a Princess with great gatherings and prolonged festivities. The opposite thing happened after Lady Death’s birth. On the day she was
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Birth and Childhood of Lady Death
born, laughter was forever thrown away from the Garden of Eden, and innocence was banished from the land. After all, who could be happy while looking at gloomy-dressed Lady Death, always so melancholy? Sorrow, Grief and Anguish ran across the land, telling everybody that Death had been born, and the world would never be the same. From the day she was born, mankind regarded Death as an enemy. But in spite of a little resistance at the beginning, Death soon dominated mankind, and she is, to this day, feared and respected in every nation. She soon became a Queen, an Empress of the Underworld. But before Death was declared the Empress of the Sepulchers, and Lady of all Human Nature, she enjoyed a happy childhood. She was baptized, just like every little girl. She loved to play with her grandmother, who would spoil her just like every grandmother does. And I must tell you, my readers: I was very concerned to know who Lady Death’s grandmother was, and I had to undergo hours of study in order to ﬁnd out. But ﬁnally, after days of meditation and reading, I bumped into a letter by James, the Apostle, in which he explicitly says that Concupiscence gave birth to Sin. You cannot imagine how happy I was to have discovered the name of Lady Death’s grandmother: Concupiscence, Sin’s mom, Death’s grandma! Such a great Lady ought to have a grandma with a very solemn name. Even in her earliest childhood, Death would model little sepulchers out of clay under her grandmother’s vigilant eye. Concupiscence would take Death to the beach where, instead of sand castles, they would build sand cemeteries and crypts together. As with every normal child, these games were intended to help her practice what would be Death’s job for the rest of her adult life: being Empress of the sepulchers.
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Chapter 2 Death Takes Possesion of her Empire
ot long after God expelled mankind from the Garden of Eden, Death, the sworn enemy of the children of Adam and Eve, proved to be a strong adversary and declared herself an Empress. She published a decree which established a series of commandments and conditions for all of her vassals. I happen to own a copy of that decree, which I transcribe here verbatim:
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Death Takes Possesion of Her Empire Imperial Decree To be published in all states and territories under the government of Death Sole Article All my vassals, children of Adam, must pay taxes in order to sustain my kingdom. The only toll that I accept as payment is your own life, for that is the only food that is served on my table, and the only thing I can ever eat. Also, you must not ignore that I keep a copious army of ﬁlthy maggots, and many troops of mice and other disgusting critters who only eat human ﬂesh, which they ﬁnd delicious. Therefore, once you expire and hand me your lives as due payment of your debt, your bodies must also be thrown away from your homes and given to the undertakers, to whom I grant the power to bury them, cover them with dirt and step on the dirt that they’re covered with, so that your bodies serve as food for my armies of underground critters. This must be done within twenty-four hours of your death, and regardless of race, color, social status, beauty, age, money, etc. Every body, from the President’s to the vagabond’s, the beautiful teenage girl’s or the old and wise professor’s, must be delivered for my army’s feast, with no exception. Know also that no special treatment will be given to any man or woman: I shall treat everyone in equal manner, with no distinction whatsoever. Democracy will be upheld in my Empire at any cost. The Empress of the Sepulchers
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ut before Death could take possession of her empire, there was a short parenthesis in time when the underworld –now overpopulated by many reputable skulls and skeletons– was desolated and uninhabited. Since the day she was born, Death had been thirsty and hungry, for her only drink is human blood, and she feeds on human tissue. In the beginning of human history, after Death published her infamous Imperial Decree, she looked for the occasion to bring down the ﬁrst man into her realm, because only after the death of the ﬁrst human would her empire be an actual one, and not only de jure. And that ﬁrst death did come, brought about with the help of a traitor. This traitor was not a person; it was a passion inside the human soul, a passion that decided to rebel against its masters and wage war on Death’s side. The ﬁrst homicide was incited by this passion – with Death’s advice, and it permitted Death to exercise her jurisdiction cum plenitudine potestatis tam in capite quam in membris (with all power over head and members). And because God wanted Death to seem terrible to mankind, in order to keep men from loosing themselves in vice and sin, he allowed this ﬁrst murder to be the most horrendous of them all, of which the stars and the entire world population –which was not too big at the time– were witnesses.
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Death Takes Possesion of Her Empire
Abel’s only merit was that he managed to attract His Divine Majesty’s eyes to a sacriﬁce that Abel offered, and yet this one merit granted him the First place among the dead. Cain and Abel were brothers, but when Cain saw that God had liked his brother’s sacriﬁce more than his, he gave his heart to Envy –that treacherous passion I was talking about– and, breaking nature’s strongest bonds, he played with Death’s bow with such skill that he only needed one blow to kill his brother, showing such cruelty that Death herself was astonished by this spectacle. When the earth felt Abel’s blood running on its lap, she couldn’t stand the pain and cried up to God in order to denounce Death’s crime, asking for justice. Death felt remorse, for she has a conscience too, even if she does not listen to it very often. She was certain that God himself would come down from Heaven to punish her for her part of responsibility in the murder of Abel, and instigated by the voice of her conscience, she decided to ﬂee and seek refuge somewhere out of this world, leaving Cain alone to face the punishment. This is why, as it’s written in the Bible, Cain was not able to ﬁnd Death no matter how hard he looked for her.
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Death Takes Possesion of Her Empire
C a i n ’s luck was similar to that of Judas, who was instigated by another furious passion: Greed. This makes me wonder which one of these two wild beasts, Envy and Greed, is more fearsome. With all due respect to so many Doctors and Masters, I will ignore their opinions and give my own in this matter. I believe that whenever Envy and Greed ﬁght each other, Envy wins. I shall now give an experimental proof to support my case: In a European court there were two soldiers. One of them was envious, and the other greedy. One day, the Prince called them into his palace, in order to amuse himself with the display of their vice. He ﬁgured a way to make them compete: he told them that, in return of their faithful service and as a reward for their courage, they could ask him for anything they wanted. The only condition was that they both had to request their reward in turns, and whoever did it second, would get double the payment. They fought for hours, more interested in deciding who would go second than in what they were going to ask. Finally, the envious soldier said he would go ﬁrst, as long as the other one allowed him to decide the reward. But when the envious soldier spoke to the Prince, he told him: “Great Prince, I ask nothing from you but to have one of my eyes removed from my face”. Knowing that he would have both eyes removed, the greedy soldier ﬂew. The Prince was astonished to ﬁnd out how strong envy is, and was forced to admit that it was the worse of human passions.
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he story about the Prince reminds me of a summit celebrated by Death, in which she discussed the matter of populating the inland colonies of her empire. For the gathering she invited only two counselors: the Devil and Appetite. Once they were at Death’s palace, she proceeded to speak in the following manner: “You must be aware of the importance of my motives to bring you here. As you know, I have been proclaimed queen of all living creatures, regardless of nationality, creed or customs. My own parents, Sin and Guilt, gave me access to this imperial sit; I must endure and, against the will of human nature, ﬁll the inland colonies of my estate with cadavers and skeletons, who are the proper inhabitants of these low lands. Even though I have, since I was a little baby crying in my cradle, been taking the due steps in order to fulﬁll my intentions, men just take too long to die. Adam, for instance, didn’t come to my colonies until he was 930; Seth, his son, when he was 912; Jared, lived for 962; Enoch, 365; Methuselah, 969; Lamech, 777; Noah, 950. All these dilations have kept my lands empty for too long, and it worries me to the point that I no longer see solution for this situation. That’s why I brought you here, my loyal and clever counselors: you must let me know the best way to shorten the lives of men and thus populate the inland colonies.”
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aving heard these words carefully, Appetite stood up and, with a revering voice, said:
“Because we are ministers and counselors in your court, we are obligated to guarantee the expansion of your interest and to pay the trust that your Deadliness has deposited in us. The difﬁculties that trouble your mighty skull are rather easy to solve if I put myself to it. You see, I am actually a cook; I learned this profession in the many restaurants where my parents made me work since I was a little boy. I know how to prepare great feasts of spicy food; if you give me access to your estate, I can buy clover, cumin, almonds, pepper, olives, grapes, cinnamon, sesame, chili, and a few pounds of oregano and coriander. I won’t ask you for meat, because I know you don’t have any, but I will obtain it myself, and I will prepare such aromatic and tasty dishes that they will awake man’s gluttony. Soon your Deadliness will see the world full of eateries, canteens and buffets of all kinds; men will ﬁght each other over the best French cooks, and every pantry in every house will be ridiculously full. “Once men unleash their gluttony –continued Appetite– they will know no treasure other than food, and no god other than their own swollen abdomens. If we only counted those who will stuff themselves to death or will die of obesity, we would still be talking about thousands. Just wait and see, your Deadliness: an age will come in which cooks, bodegas, idleness and abundance will bring about hundreds of thousands of excesses, and the number of the deceased each year will be greater that the tolls of the bell on Day of the Dead. There will no longer be room for the corpses in cemeteries or in churches and people will be forced to ﬁnd new ways for the disposal of the bodies, in order to prevent the cities to become infected.
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Death Takes Possesion of Her Empire
“I can even support my words by quoting the greatest men in the universe, for when you called us for this gathering I went to my studio and consulted father Tobias Loner’s library. There I found renowned doctors and divines –from whose names I’ll spare your Imperial Skull, because I don’t want to annoy you – both in Greek and in Latin who agree on the fact that gluttony is the source of all diseases, and a fast track way to the sepulcher. Everybody knows the natural heat of the body can only digest a limited amount of food. When meals are overabundant and continuous, suffocation occurs and the raw material inside the intestines gurgles, bringing pain, uneasiness and, ﬁnally, death. And this, my Lady, is the plan that Appetite has designed to populate your colonies.”
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nce Appetite ﬁnished his reasoning, the Devil, without leaving his seat –for his old pride wouldn’t allow it– and full with arrogance, started talking:
“My proverbial cleverness and malice would be put into question and I would feel insulted if Appetite’s projects were better than mine. There’s no counselor that can match the Devil when it comes to bringing men into the hands of Death: several passages from the Bible acknowledge this fact, and I am sure no one will dare argue against the wisdom of the Holy Scripture. The plan proposed by Appetite is good, but mine is even better, for my malice against men is greater. Appetite might be able to attract great numbers among the wealthy people of the Earth, but he is powerless against the poor. My scheme shall shorten the lives of all men in the entire universe. “It is true that your Mortality is Empress of the sepulchers, but I am a monarch too. I am the Emperor of the abyss, and I am more than interested in populating your inland colonies for personal reasons, because in the process of devastating the Earth, I shall bring down as many souls as possible into my own dungeons. Therefore, I insist we adhere to the following scheme: our success will be guaranteed if we call upon the aid of Sin and Guilt, your own infamous parents, my Lady, for they have always had a tremendous power to shorten the lives of mortals. To prove this I need not consult any book other than the Holy Scripture, where I long ago discovered the secret to effectively bring people down to the sepulchers and to hell. Your melancholic Majesty will probably doubt my word, because I’m known to be the author and father of all lies; that’s why I brought the Old Testament to this summit. In it, the omens of the patriarchs and prophets inspired by the Holy Ghost support
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Death Takes Possesion of Her Empire
my case. There you can read what Job says: that the evil men shall be taken before their time, and sinners shall die sooner than expected. Moreover, in the book of Proverbs, Solomon writes that the years of evil men shall be shortened. The book of Ecclesiastes too recommends men not to accumulate too much guilt, for they will die earlier than they should. Aren’t these passages proof enough to support my intentions of bringing your parents into our little project? “Your Mortality will deduce from all these passages that there is no better way to shorten the days of men than to throw them in the hands of Sin and Guilt. I will only give you one more example, also taken from the Scripture: when God sent the ﬂood as a punishment for the sins of men, the entire population of the world was wiped out, except for eight people. Sin, milady, brings a fast paced death; you must remember this universal massacre, as you ripped a great quantity of bodies during those days of copious rainfall. “We can work together in this plan of mine; if I remember correctly, John writes in the Apocalypse that you own a pale horse. You shall ride it, and I shall give you the spur of sin, which will make it run faster. But you must keep this in mind: you must attack men from behind their backs, making sure that they do not see your coming. Because when men see that you’re approaching, they usually repent, and abandon their life of sin, which could ruin our plans. If we erase the memory of death from their minds, they will not remember that hell awaits them, and they will live in sin, thus shortening their lives. We will both win: you can keep the carcasses and skeletons to populate the inland colonies of your empire, and I shall keep the souls. My dear friend Appetite can, then, prepare a feast to celebrate our victory.” Once Death heard the words of these terrible counselors, she decided to follow both plans and instructed her ministers to do so. But just as she was dismissing them from her court, a servant entered the room to tell Death that an old doctor, dear to her, was in extreme agony. I shall write about this doctor, as well as other Death’s lovers in the next chapter.
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hroughout history, there have been countless resourceful and talented people who followed the steps of Hippocrates and Galen, and chose a profession in the ﬁeld of medicine. A lot of them have been friends with Lady Death. I want to be clear about one thing: it is not my intention to mock, parody or to ridicule the medical profession entirely; after all, its practitioners provide us with comfort during some of our most difﬁcult times and darkest hours. Even if their only merit was their ability to help us face our mortality and prepare us for our last journey, we should be thankful. However, there’s always a ﬂy in the ointment, and regarding the practice of medicine, Don Rafael Quirino Pimentel de la Mata was that ﬂy. He was born in the city of N. to Don Serapión Garzés Pimentel y de la Mata and Doña Escotoﬁna Zaragoza. His parents were, in fact, his ﬁrst patients, be it because he wanted to become an orphan rather quickly, or because he couldn’t wait until graduation to become a doctor. He saw the light of day after a very long and difﬁcult labor that put his mother’s health at risk, and ﬁnally killed her. Apparently, young Rafael wanted to become acquainted with the ups and downs of his future profession even at such an early age. When Death saw the boy’s potential, which promised to deliver a gross and constant ﬂow of corpses to her estate, she immediately took him as her protégé. It is important to point out that one of Rafael’s last names –for he had several, as you may have noticed, the name Mata, means ‘to kill’. We believe this was a presage of little Rafael’s commitment to the act of breaking the ﬁfth commandment: ‘thou shall not murder’. For this reason, and
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Love is in the Air
also because Rafael’s special relationship with Death was obvious for everybody, all of his colleagues and classmates respected him, and he managed to pass successfully through medical school, in spite of his lack of talent and his blatant ignorance. Once he graduated, he established a private clinic in a separate room at his house and began practicing, always assisted by the diligent hand of Death. So close were Death and Rafael that people believed they were brother and sister. Whenever he made a house visit, Death would ride alongside him in his horse. She would even help him during consultation, ﬁlling out the prescriptions for him while he was occupied writing the bill and collecting the money from the patient’s family. It isn’t hard to imagine the result of such a way of practicing medicine, with Lady Death ﬁlling out the prescriptions: every ill person visited by Rafael was cured of pain and illness very quickly. After all, everybody knows the best way to get rid of the diseases of the body is by separating it from the soul.
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ut when Rafael Mata was eighty, after a whole life of commitment to the risky business of medicine, he received a call from mother Earth, who claimed his body and started pulling him down, bending his spine and lowering his chin. Since Death is not allowed to extend life beyond its natural duration, she was forced to cut the thread of Rafael’s existence herself, which she did with grief. The loss of her beloved friend brought her a sorrow so great that she almost passed away herself; she was only spared because her time was not due yet. She stood by her friend’s deathbed and, as soon as he died, she dressed up in black and started mourning. She mourned her friend’s death during nine full days, and her grief was so great that during those days she forgot to perform her duties. Partly for this reason, Rafael’s funeral was greatly attended, for Lady Death had given the world a truce. Many people came and thanked God and Death for ﬁnally having taken the doctor to the sepulchers, because Rafael was so industrious that he seemed committed to take the whole world down before he went. And indeed the whole world cried his passing, some out of relief, and others for the memory of the relatives they lost to Rafael’s medical practice. The only one who did not cry was Death, not because she didn’t care –for, as we’ve said, she was sunk in grief– but because being a skeleton, she didn’t have lachrymal glands inside her empty eyeholes. During Rafael’s funeral, music was played, poems were read, and Death received everybody’s condolences. A foreigner, who happened to be at the funeral and didn’t know Rafael personally, asked Death
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Love is in the Air
about the reason of her great sorrow. In order to help him get a clear idea about the magnitude of her loss, she took him to see the churches and cemeteries ﬁlled with Rafael’s patients, explaining that, without her dear doctor, the provision of skulls and corpses for her army would not be as rich as it had been during the last eighty years –thanks to Rafael. Once the funeral was over, Death recovered from her grief and she returned to her old self again. Rafael, on his side, confessed, before passing away, that he had had many accomplices during his medical career. Perhaps in order to relieve his conscience a little, he admitted he couldn’t have killed all those people without the aid of the pharmaceutical industry and the insurance companies, who not only provided him with indispensible assistance, but actually proﬁted from the matter even more than he did.
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Before I move on to the next chapter, I would like to make one last clariﬁcation. I suggested Death returned to her old self once Rafael’s funeral was over, but I must specify that, in matters of the heart, Lady Death was actually never the same again. Although their relationship remained strictly platonic, it was evident that Rafael was Death’s ﬁrst and only love. Following his departure, Death became more cynical, and started dating several men, most of them sinners, with whom she would even marry from time to time. It happens that Death, granting herself the license, started practicing polyandry. She celebrated several nuptial contracts with sinners, fools who, in fact, were never able to consummate the marriage, because the ﬁrst time they saw death without their clothes, they perished. Illegal polyandry is, perhaps, Death’s only real crime, a crime that, after all, came out of a broken heart. In the Bible, Paul the Apostle often warns sinners not to marry Death, while urging them to come back to the righteous path. Death, writes the Apostle, is a tricky wife who will make big promises, but never fulﬁll them. And Paul was right. Lady Death would ask sinners to marry her, promising not to come to their bridal chamber for some time, in order to allow them to continue their lives of sin and excess. However, when they least expected her, she would appear and take them away, without even being able to perform the sexual act, by reason of impotence. So Death could remarry as much as she wanted, while remaining a virgin.
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Love is in the Air In this respect, she reminds me of a character in a famous parable from the New Testament: the parable of the ten virgins. According to the Bible, there once were 10 virgins who were supposed to stay up waiting for the arrival of the bride and groom after a highbrow wedding. Five of them were fools, and the other ﬁve were wise. The ﬁve fool virgins thought to themselves: “The bride and groom will not come until dawn; let’s catch some sleep: there’ll be time to prepare things later.” But the bride and groom arrived before expected, and ﬁnding these fool virgins not prepared, condemned them. The characters in this parable have a symbolic nature. According to the scholars, the groom represents Jesus, and the whole event is an allegory of the second coming. However, there are discrepancies regarding the identity of the bride. Without pretending to be a very skilled interpreter of the Book, I feel tempted to say that Lady Death herself is the Lord’s bride in this parable. Who else would come up with this idea of arriving before expected?
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Chapter 6 The Empress and the Lord
ost people believe Death is an enemy of all that is good, beautiful and sacred, and they’re not entirely misled in this assumption. After all, Death’s friendship with the Devil is well documented, and Paul the Apostle describes her as the last enemy to be defeated by Christ after the End of Days. However, Doña Sebastiana’s relations with God have always been very close, and after having succeeded in shortening the lifespan of mankind, her interest in the Devil’s plans and schemes, although it didn’t disappear, it sure diminished greatly. In fact, she is known for assisting the Almighty in several occasions. Moreover, God and Death have always kept an active correspondence, and they have collaborated with each other many times. Lady Death has always being concerned about people’s negligence regarding the matters of her empire. In fact, she once wrote a lengthy letter to God, in order to complain about the mortals that neglected her. In this chapter, I will transcribe a substantial portion of this letter, as well as God’s response.
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The Pious Side of Lady Death
Almighty Lord, would like to present before I offer you my most sincere admiration. I and Sovereignty a petition Your Incomprehensible Majesty, Greatness rdless of the fact that you regarding man’s insufferable negligence. Rega importance of remembering have, on several occasions, insisted upon the transience always present, death, and keeping the memory of life’s of consumption. They have people have chosen to embrace the futile joy ude against their own best forsaken and ignored me, embracing an attit onitions. interest, and also against your Majesty’s adm you know this already, People have forsaken me, my Lord: I know Inaccessible Light, and there because everything is illuminated by your I were a criminal. It is true, I are no secrets for you. They treat me as if r, I am determined to take know, that I have taken many lives; moreove beautiful as they might be. them all. I will spare no one, bright, pure or safeguard all the elements of However, I have no other intention than to give them back to you, their life inside my cofﬁns and sepulchers, and to the universe going until the true owner, so you create life again and keep decide. End of Days, which will come whenever you neglected me. They have The problem, Lord, is not only that men have to mention any death-related also come to a generalized agreement not cities. They don’t like to issues in their homes, their ofﬁces and their shut their doors for me, and listen to people talking about me; they have ce, I make myself visible by won’t let me into their lives. If, by any chan aintances, they quickly forget taking one of their relatives or close acqu to their mesmerized and the dead and Death altogether, and go back and disﬁgured remainders of vain existences. They burry corpses – grim a tear or two, and that’s it. their ultimate fate– rather swiftly. They shed . Nobody keeps the memory of Death alive love with their own worldly The hearts of men, my Lord, are deeply in be taken apart from them. creations. They ﬁnd it very painful to t they believe is their only joy Therefore, when I separate them from wha Lord, when they remember and delight, they suffer. They even suffer, them that I am waiting for me, when someone or something reminds r for them that they detest them at the end of the road. Death is so bitte
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me, because, in spite of their resistances, I will ﬁnally separate them from their worldly possessions, and they know it. People should know, my Lord, that the only way to overcome fear and tame a feisty beast is to know it very well, to become very close to it, to become familiar with it. They cannot live their lives as if they were eternal; it does no one any good. People think that reckoning about death entails a melancholic character, and a life apart from human society. They believe they have to be gloomy and thoughtful, but that is not so. Thinking about death can bring the joy of a life well spent. It can help people savor every moment, and live to their fullest every single day of their lives. Death is not grim; I can be a source of tremendous joy, if people would just give me a chance. Some people fear me, I know, but those who are afraid of my arrival only tremble because they know they haven’t lived as they should have. Those who know that life is but a dream, and death is the only certain thing in the whole world, are the wisest and merriest men on earth. You know, my Lord, I help out those who think of me. If someone has being lazy, I remind him he should get up and start working. If a man has being bad, I bring about the memory of his ﬁnal hour, so he straightens his ways. Even more: I bring hope to those who are tired of the misery, pain and suffering of human existence, reminding them that all their troubles will be over when they meet me. If people stress over money, I make them see that, in the end, they will not be able to take any riches to their graves. If they are troubled by the pressures of modern life, I remind them that, in the end, a white or a blue collar makes no difference. But man’s ingratitude is great, and people wish I didn’t exist. Therefore, with no further complaint, I rest my case and ask, my Lord, that you assist me and tell people to remember me. Urge them not to neglect me, God. I trust you will do what’s best, according to your great wisdom. Yours truly, Death, Empress of the Sepulchers.
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The Pious Side of Lady Death
he Lordâ€™s response was immediate. He wrote a letter to mankind, with special attention to all the believers in the world:
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Chapter 6 To whom it might concern, I, the King of Kings, the Creator of all Things and Supreme Author of The Work, command every living human being: listen to my Word, and pay attention to the message I hereby submit to thee. It has always been of great advantage for mankind to remember its mortality, and not let a single day go by without reckoning upon Death. The best men and women of all ages, artists, preachers, philosophers, monks, have this one thing in common: they kept very close relations with Death, and were constantly thinking about her; for it is indecent and contrary to piety and devoutness to forget that man is mortal, and he shall dwell in the house of Death at the end of his days on Earth. I have noticed that, in spite of being constantly exposed to images of death –in the news, in art and literature, in funerals and sermons, people seem to be desensitized, thinking only about their own pleasure, ﬁlled with arrogance and self-importance. I am especially concerned about those who, because of their dignity and profession, should be more than interested in maintaining a good relationship with Death, but aren’t. I was, then, not surprised to receive a letter from Death, in which she expressed her just complaints against man’s ingratitude and forgetfulness. Such carelessness makes me realize that my holly attempts at providing for the spiritual health of mankind have been in vain, and this ﬁlls me with divine disgust and indignation. I have taken the abandon and oblivion to which men have conﬁned Death to be a matter relevant to my own Spiritual Kingdom, and I have ﬁgured out a punishment worthy of the offense. I have, therefore, determined to abandon men to oblivion. Neither Death nor I will present ourselves before men, or give them signs of our presence. We will no longer remind them that we’re here; we will let them live as if there was no Death, no God, no End of Days, so they keep living their lives in shadow, in that dreamlike forgetfulness they seem to enjoy so much. What greater punishment for a broken consciousness, than to walk in perpetual darkness? Not thinking about Death, they will bind each other with heavy chains, accumulating fault after fault, guilt after guilt. The system such punishment will create will be extremely dangerous and inhuman: without the memory of Death, men will abandon themselves to their appetites and to despair. They will seek feeble joys, mindless recreations, and they will explore their cruelest instincts, but the happiness they seek –one they claim the memory of Death spoils for them– will be dissolved precisely at the ﬁrst glimpse of their mortality. If there has ever been a time deserving this kind of divine non-
40 Astounding Life of Death
The Pious Side of Lady Death
intervention and justice, it is today. The world has never before seen such proliferation of newly invented diversions, pastimes and spectacles; moreover, people are determined to distribute these entertainments all around the globe, and thus eliminate all thoughts of Death from the face of the Earth. When has man been more surrounded by luxury and comfort, profanity, and the trends of fashion? Is all this compatible with trying to remember Death in order to obtain wisdom? This forgetful attitude has affected all mankind; this is why Death was forced to present a formal complaint in my chambers, and I have been forced to exercise my right to punish men. Nobody will speak about death anymore. There’ll be no more sermons, masses, books or prophecies about her. I will no longer assist humans in their troubles, and I will let them sink further in their own vanity and denial. They will see their relatives, friends and neighbors die, but they will not be affected profoundly by it. They will think death is a trivial and boring subject, and they will go back to their lives quickly. They will hear people talking about the End of Days on the streets; they will read about how they are dust, and shall return to dust, but they’ll consider all this an insigniﬁcant topic, a cliché. They’ll stop attending funerals; they will no longer go to church or to the graveyard to visit their dead relatives. They will live in complete alienation, until they ﬁnally die and met Death in person. That will be their punishment. If this letter, by any chance, should fall in their hands, they will surely dismiss it as a joke, as a piece of bad taste. However, if this letter shall fall in the proper hands, that is, the hands of a man whose friendship with Death is well known, I encourage him to make it public; I am a merciful God, and I do not wish this punishment to last forever. If people repent, and start remembering and paying her due tribute to the Empress of the Sepulchers, I shall withdraw this sentence and start communicating with them more often, like a used to do in the old days.
The Supreme Author of The World, God
Astounding Life of Death 41
There will be no Death in the thereafter Et mors ultra non erit
The Astounding Life of Death Salvador Olguín Tobías New York, 2010 A free adaptation of Fray Juaquín Bolaño´s La Portentosa vida de la Muerte, Emperatriz de los Sepulcros, Vengadora de los Agravios del Altísimo y Muy Señora de la Humana Naturaleza. Mexico, 1792 Prints from the original manuscript by: Aguera Fc. Design & ilustrations by Rebeca Olguin
A Free adaptation by Salvador Olguin