“Welcome!”, said a voice in a very deep tone.
It is pitch dark. A breeze reaches and envelops me. The cold cobblestone floor is the first thing my body feels. My inert body suddenly becomes alive as my muscles twitch in an uncertain strength.
“Don’t be afraid.”
I hear birdsong, voices, music. All those sounds, very faint, yet filling my head with wonderful, terrible sensations. It is deafening.
I can feel the dead leaves all over the cobblestone path. Not with touch, but smell. The stench of death emanates from this place. The new death from the leaves, and the old death from under.
“Open your eyes.”
The brightness blinds me. I get adjusted to the light but still cannot make out what surrounds me. Everything is blurry. A blurry dark shape stands steady right in front of me.
“This will help you.”
The shape gives me something to drink. I feel nothing. I still have no strength to get up.
“Look beside you.”
I turn my head to each side of me. To my left and to my right I can make out shapes made of light, all in distinct colors. My tongue feels a taste of wild berries.
I can finally sit up and breathe. The colorful shapes beside me do the same. My sight perceives sharper shapes. The one closest to my right touches me and holds my hand. A shiver travels from my hand all the way to my spine. It’s a pleasant feeling and I do not know its name.
I look at her and realize she is one whom I have loved but long forsaken. Old feelings of guilt and self loathing surface in my heart. But she smiles with a peaceful expression. Slowly those feelings are dispelled, replaced with happiness and music and warmth.
With the taste of wild berries flowing through my body, I feel enough strength to stand up. The other colorful lights get up on their own terms, and follow the thin well-dressed man with me.
We are standing in a cemetery. I can see that now. The cobblestone paths we walk over bind long avenues and streets of mausoleums. There is crying and laughter and sadness and happiness. And music. It is all so overwhelming, so much to take in that it dulls our senses once again.
People dressed in black wander in a somber manner, wishing they weren’t there, walking towards and away from us. They don’t notice we walk among them.
Fences and doors of each mausoleum spread wide open. Gorgeous people walk in and out of them, all interacting, cracking jokes, laughing. Colorful see-through curtains veil the entrance, giving them a semblance of privacy. They are too afraid to approach us when our presence is felt. So they keep it to themselves, their laughter, and their music.
The dark shape gestures us to follow him still.
At the end of the long avenue one of the mausoleum a young man walks towards us and is able to talk to us.
“Welcome to St. Louis, I….”
The dark shape rushes towards him, approaching his face in front of the man, gazing angrily. The person cowers and steps back, getting back inside his mausoleum.
On the other side there is something completely different. A long stone building with marble pillars, full of windows, steps and double doors. A long line of people wait patiently to be called inside.
We are able to climb the stairs without waiting in line. As we approach the double doors above the stairs, the dark shape nods towards the greeter. The greeter bows and lets us through without a fuss.
We are bombarded with a loud explosion of rock’n’roll. Our eyes are forcibly closed with the vibrations that it overcomes all our other senses. As we adjust to the volume, we gleam the extremely colorful inside.
Kitsch. Gaudy. Ugly.
From the hallway to the main rooms, the walls are covered with blue wallpaper sporting a quaint 1920’s pattern in pink. Gold satin curtains cover the windows, allowing silky light waves in.
The shape spreads his arms wide open and bows. His dark shape fades away into smoke, letting a feeling linger that he was never there.
I realize that the artist playing the live song was Elvis. An enthusiastic ode to human nature. It’s pretty sweet, melodic, happy and sexual. As any rock song should be.
I am left alone as I follow the music up the stairs to the minstrel’s gallery. The band begins a new song, starting with the chorus “Tomahawk”. Very few people pay attention to the music, let alone dance to it. I fail to understand why. Do they hate this kind of music. Are they really aware of it?
Peering down I notice all people gathered in separate tables. They are gambling away their rights for eternal bliss, maybe to avoid being judged from actions they did in their past life. Little do they know it’s a fool’s quest. They fall perfectly in the trap with their human nature. And the house always wins.
I can see my colorful friends sliding near some of the people, and while touching them on the shoulder they whisper words of council. Briefly after those that have been touched, they would retreat from the tables and start looking around.
A breeze takes me downstairs, beckoning me to fulfill my purpose. I am taken towards a nervous woman standing near the roulette. Her hands are shaking, holding a few chips a little too tight. My hand touches her shoulder and she tilts her head, awaiting my counsel. I say something for the first time.
“Your wife misses you”, words that come out from me without knowing their origin. I am merely a vessel for the truth. She closes her eyes and feels a lifetime of memories ebbing and flowing. Feelings of love and loss from those who love her still, hit her, and she feels complete.
With a nervous sigh, she turns to me with a smile and hands her chips. Words are hard to find to explain what she goes through when she tries to tell me something. All that comes out is “Thank you.”
I lead her towards the gardens, holding her hand. The tall well-dressed dark silhouette guarding the door peeks at us and nods. The doors to the outside open. Only she can get in.
She turns to me before leaving to the sunny garden, and with her hands on her chest she bids her farewell: