The need to know
By Parson Thru
The two men sat across the table from one another.
To look at them, they might have been father and son.
They were brothers.
The younger one spoke first: “What did you bring me here for?”
“Because I need to know.”
“But the things you’re seeking can’t be known. Not this side of the divide.
You dream, don't you?”
“Why can’t you be satisfied with that? It’s as close as you’re going to get.”
“Because I always forget what I’ve dreamt.”
“Almost always. By the time I’m awake, it’s gone. Just a few hazy, lingering moments – a few people maybe. I don’t even know who most of the people are.”
“It’s the same for everyone. Some people don’t even get that. I don’t understand what it is you want. Why can’t you just live?”
“I am living. But I know there’s more. Much more. All those things forgotten and lost. Except I know they’re all still there. They screw me up – they mess with my mood. Jonathan! Please! Tell me what’s going on.”
Martin became aware of arms closing around him. He was enveloped. He was being scooped-up and hugged. A woman’s voice whispered in his ear, but he couldn’t make out the words.
The sun was shining. He was walking along the shallows of a river, stepping over rocks between steep grassy banks. He was happy. Carefree.
“Why can’t you just be?” Jonathan spoke again. “I couldn’t tell you anything even if I wanted to. And if I did you’d never remember.”
“I would. You know I would.”
“You wouldn’t. There’s no reference – nothing for you to hook into.”
“Tell me if this is real.”
“What do you think?”
“For God’s sake, what does it matter what I think?”
“Of course it matters.” Jonathan’s voice was calm and compassionate.
“I pray every morning for the strength to carry on, and for a break for my family, friends; anyone who needs it. Just for a little hope. Who is it I'm speaking to?”
Jonathan shrugged. “I told you, there’s nothing to say.”
“But what about spirit?”
“I don’t know.”
“You mean you won’t tell me.”
“I mean I can’t, even if I wanted to. This isn’t the place.”
Martin picked up his drink and peered into it. “Did you believe in anything?”
“I believed in something – I don’t know what.”
“And does it exist? You must know so much more now.”
There was laughter from a group standing beside a car. It was parked under a dim tungsten streetlamp. A man and woman got in and drove away. Martin knew them from somewhere.
When he looked across the table, Jonathan had gone.
“When there’s nothing else to believe in, believe in yourself.” The words echoed in his consciousness.
He wasn’t sure if he’d just heard them or if he'd known them all his life.
Cold water was running over his feet and making them ache. A few feet away, or maybe in another life, a child stubbed his toe on a rock and started to cry.