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November 15, 2017

An ode to death: A short parable on fear

(William Murphy/ Flickr)

Halloween has always been a great time to celebrate the things that we fear. Each person’s collective fears are a unique mix. While some fears are common (e.g., illness), each individual fear and the degree of each are far different from the next person. Futhermore, what we fear reflects who we are, what we have been through and deeper realms of our subconscious. There is, however, one feared experience that we will all eventually share. That experience is death, the great mystery of life. The following parable reflects the many things that we fear and how they all pale in comparison to that final sensation, or lack thereof, which we must all one day confront.

An ode to death through a frightening scenario.

This Halloween, a young group of friends decide they would like to attend a new haunted house, advertised as the scariest in all of Western Massachusetts. Nothing to these kids sounds more thrilling than confronting their greatest fears: goblins, ghouls and ghastly ghosts. On Halloween night, the younglings arrive at this haunted house, let themselves inside and escort themselves through an ajar door into a waiting room. Little do these kids know, they have entered a void.

Instead of the ghastly creatures that they had hoped for, the kids are confronted by an expansive empty space that is filled with nothingness as far out into oblivion as their own eyes can perceive. Fearful, they hark back to their faculty of hearing, hoping to fill in the swelling, vacant area with whatever senses they possess. Still nothing; not even the piercing shriek of a monster’s victim, a sound they once feared but now long for, to comfort them. They sniff to smell the old wood of the haunted home, perhaps hoping to catch its musky scent, however their vacuous nasal inhale affirms their existence within a vacuum. Like final flickering embers against the blowing wind, the children stretch their arms and legs out under the faint hope that the tips or edges of their bodies might brisk a surface, but their attempt proves for naught.

As their selves and surroundings become indistinguishable, the gasping fear and panic that the friends had felt soon ceases. They lose track of time and time loses track of them. They go nowhere, but somehow exist within everything. In this manner the group’s haunted house experience exists, until at the touch of a button, by an unknown force, the kids end up right back inside a very typical Western Massachusetts haunted house.

They walk through the haunted home and immediately a goblin jumps out from behind a corridor to scream and drool in their faces. The kids only muster a suggestive eye roll in response, noticeably contradicting their previous sentiments toward the beast. Following the awkward encounter with the goblin, they continue on the house’s clearly marked, designated walking path into the graveyard sector and remark how only moments ago any similar indicators of direction in space would have been a savior of messianic proportions from their impending limbo. Upon their arrival in the graveyard sector, the kids suddenly lock eyes with a ghoul! Dwelling within a cemetery that is being pumped with dry ice fog for dramatic effect, the ghoul thrashes and chomps on deceased human flesh.

Quite the existentialists now, the kids discuss how the flesh is only a vessel for the mind, which has ceased to exist inside this ghoul’s victims, and calmly moved their enlightened discussion on to the house’s exit. Right before they take their leave of this seemingly less-haunted house, a ghost floats toward them out of nowhere, exclaiming a thunderous, ‘Boo!’ To the unfortunate discontent of the ghost, the kids burst out through the exit door in laughter, confident that real spirits, if they can be called that at all, roam only in the void that did on that spooky Halloween night.

William Plotnick can be reached at wplotnick@umass.edu.

Comments
One Response to “An ode to death: A short parable on fear”
  1. Maggie Kraine says:

    Substantial tale!!1!!1!
    I very much appeciated your vacuous nasal inhale. What an absolutely positively enchantingly charming turn of phrase. You are indubitably the Fyodor Dostoyevsky of the modern era, a true misunderstood luminary.

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