Published by Edgar Million at Shakespir
Copyright 2017 Edgar Million
The Witness (a new Sum inspired story).
After you die you begin a new life as a Witness.
Your new existence begins as you find yourself standing in the corner of a bland room which smells of cleaning fluids and coffee. It begins as you watch your own mother, younger than you ever remember her being, smaller that she could ever have been, in the throes of agony as she gives birth to you.
Your father, pale and anxious, holds your mother’s hand with a limp, weak grip, looking fearful, cornered; lacking the purposefulness which you’d forever associated with him.
At last the tiny version of you enters the world, wrinkled and bloody and howling with a primal rage which only infants can achieve convincingly.
Your mother and father look so happy in this moment, more in peace and joy than you can recall and you share their happiness. You can’t recall a time you ever felt so loved.
The days of your life begin and before you know it the infant version of yourself has grown into a robust child, fond of climbing trees and running. Unlike the adult you will grow into, he loves nothing more to be outside. Chasing a football, building a den, exploring imaginary worlds.
It’s fascinating to see this, because much of this experience and memory were long overwritten in your memory, in hard climb into adolescence.
Only a few good memories linger from this period, but now played over, you see there was so much happiness in this time.
You and mum doing a jigsaw together; the tender touch of her hand as she helps you slot a stubborn piece of a tiger’s eye into place.
You and your dad squashed onto the settee on a Saturday night, watching some movie, a warm easy affection which belied the cold, driven man who you recall.
You perch on the arm of the chair, warming yourself on the scene, a slight ache in your stomach, that you can’t do this yourself; squeeze in for one last hug with a parent you’d forgotten had ever had any tenderness in him.
At the start of this journey you thought that maybe at some point you would fast forward onto the key points of your life, but the pace never changes, life is slow and sometimes beautiful, and much as you wondered during your time on earth, you wonder what is the point of it all.
Child-you is nearly a man now and you watch as he begins a series of adult firsts: love, drink, sex. You cringe a little to listen to the naive but confident young man you’ve become, filled with the brash, noisy inexperience of youth, overflowing with the certainty you are bound for glory. But part of you envies him, untarnished as he is by the seasons and the lessons of your life.
You stay with him as he grows, weep with him as he loses his first love to an older boy with his own car and facial hair, then watch apprehensively as he meets the woman he will eventually eventually marry. You are fully aware that this marriage is going to end badly, yet at the same time you find yourself falling a little bit in love again, with the beautiful young woman who in life you’d grown first distant from, then to despise.
You share the moment again when your twin sons were born, then watch, a bitter tang rising in the years which follow, as you wait for her to change, to grow hard and sharp and break his heart. Break your heart.
Yet as you watch, you realise, more clearly than in life, that there was shared blame on each part. From outside, you see the seeds being planted which would lead her away and into the arms of her best friend.
You curse him for his disregard for her, will him to be more tender, more alert, but he is condemned to repeat your mistakes. You are condemned to witness them.
The years pass.
You watch as other loves come and go, but know that you will never again let another woman inside, not completely, so most of the time his only company, for most of the rest of his life, is you. Yet he has no idea you are there.
The infant you has become an old man now, infrequently visited by his children. Visited even less often by his grandchildren, who look upon him as if already a dead thing.
You watch him, alone in a cold room. Waiting for a death which cannot come too soon, and recall the internal dialogues, the bitter, silent wail at your perceived abandonment.
But he is passing now and as he eventually leaves the world you wonder what happens next.
It was enough to live this life once, you want to go now. You’re very tired.
As you watch the final breath issue from ancient, paper-thin lips, you find yourself being addressed, directly, for the first time in over eighty years.
A small grey man with a clipboard has appeared and is talking to you, “okay, now you’ve had the chance to view it, did you make the most of that life? Are you satisfied it was enough?”
You think, of all the missed opportunities, and answer, “no, not really. But what difference does it make?”
“Okay,” he nods, in apparent agreement, “would you like to make another attempt? With the wisdom you have now gained, or move on, to the next place.”
You consider this. Move on, or try again. Could you put things right? Be kinder, be happier? You look at the man, his eyes downcast on his notes.
You give him your decision.
Thanks to the inspiration of David Eagleman’s wonderful book Sum, which I highly recommend.
This is the second story which I have written with this, structure, the other being Possibility, in which a man dies and finds himself in a world populated by all the choices he’s ever made.
That story is available for free, here:
And also as a podcast of it on the Edgar Million Podcast (search on i-Tunes, Pod Addict etc) or there’s a direct link below:
Finally, special thanks to Mike Lewinski for making the cover image of star trails available under a CC license:
Thanks for taking the time to read my story and I hope you’ll forgive the odd typo or grammatical error that slips through. Feel free to tell me about any you find via @edgarmillion . As much as I try to proofread everything, I know I miss errors here and there, and I’ll remove them if you tell me.
If you follow me at @edgarmillion you’ll get announcements of any upcoming stories or other news, along with occasional complaints about football and The Donald.
Finally, if you liked this story, I’d love a review if you have a mo.
Also, if you like listening rather than reading I publish lots of my stories as podcasts/audiobooks for free here: and on iTunes.
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One man has a Button, which when pressed will save the world.
Patrick K Useful wants to stop him.
The Witness When you die you return, a mute, invisible presence who watches all your days repeat. All your sorrows, all your joys. You watch your entire life replay as a mute observer. A witness.