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by Asiah
Rated: ASR · Short Story · Death · #1765634
Is fate real? Is Karma real? Or do we just invent these concepts to put order into chaos?

It is an old superstition that if you step on a crack you will break your mother’s back. But what of my good friend Rusty’s dilemma? Is there somewhere in the world or perhaps universe that believes an inanimate object has the power to kill? Or is it the mere fact that the act of reaching for a certain object sets in motion a sequence of events that lead to not just one death, but three including her own? In the chaotic fragility of our world do we produce such folly to create some kind of order and meaning to this cluttered world? Science up to now says no. Rusty thought yes, and I am left with unanswerable questions.

Rusty was a lovely girl. She wasn’t of conventional beauty but her hair gleamed like an auburn sun, having its own vibrancy that gave life to her pale freckled face creating an animated beauty with its fine movement and light. Rusty had been transferred over to our public school from the private Catholic school up the road after her parents’ divorce.” Just to spite my mother” were the exact words from her, when her father stopped paying the high fees demanded of her old school.  In the last month of her life she had waned, like the Luna queen retreating into the dark. No longer the sun goddess, but a cold pale lifeless shell twisted and distorted with black grief and deep sorrow. The depths of her misery were unfathomable. But they had sucked her dry of any light that was left and submerged her into a thick funk.

“Let’s get drunk” I said spirited over the phone. I had exhausted all my prior attempts of restraining her from completely falling into the shadows. I was barely propping her up, only just fulfilling my duty as a friend for a friend in need. “OK, why not?” she answered. I was surprised. Naively I thought that she had picked herself off the floor and dusted herself off. In hindsight though I was dealing with a woman who was depressed, and when one is depressed, picking yourself off the floor was not an option, let alone dusting yourself off. It wasn’t really naivety but more a grasping on to hope for my friend.

On that day, that seemed so normal and plain, on the way to Rusty’s house I had stopped off at the bottle shop to buy some vodka and reflected on the first time we had gotten drunk together. It was at the year twelve ball. We hadn’t had partners, so we went as each others, choosing tuxedos and declaring ourselves as a gay male couple. We had had a great time, both having vomited Midori and lemonade we had snuck in under our jackets over the side of the ferry on our way to the after party. We both agreed it had been a great night. Many drunken nights were to follow that one through our late teens into our twenties and shared many a hangover up to then.

The last time I had seen her before the day of her death, she had told me something interesting yet completely insane. We were sitting on her gorgeous tatty red divan in her sunroom sipping chamomile tea she had said she was using for her nerves. And while I was contemplating her maybe needing something a little more stronger, perhaps prescribed by a real doctor not a naturopath she had relayed to me the day her dad told her he had cancer she had almost not worn her old green beret from the school she had attended before she met me. “What do you mean almost not worn?” I had asked her baffled and bemused, wondering maybe she had been prescribed something but not by a doctor but a dealer. “I mean it was the same one I wore the day Tony died.” I still hadn’t known what she was going on about. It must have shown on my face because she had said “I tempted fate when I wore it. I looked at it that morning and something stabbed me in the gut. The thing that stabbed me was the memory of me wearing that blasted green beret when dad told me the news. I rolled my eyes and ignored the warning. I spat in fate’s face and look where it got me. I don’t even like berets” she was yelling and clutching the guilty object in her hands, twisting and then untwisting it. “Come on Gershia, let’s go” In an uncharacteristic for that month spurt of energy she had grabbed my hand and marched me to her car, still in her nightie. I followed her direction as she waved me into the car. Without a word she had driven us all the way to Scarborough beach.  We had stumbled through the dunes, down through the sand and right up to the shore.  A fierceness had come into her eyes then; it had looked like she had had some form of epiphany or awakening. Before leaving the car she had reached under her seat but I hadn’t been sure what it was. I had realised though what it was when she produced the offending article from out of her nightie. With a great effort she had pulled back her withered arm had tossed it into the waves .We had both watched it sink into the sea and saw the green thing get swallowed up hungrily by the swell.” Now it can harm no one again”.  I had wondered at the time where it had ended up, I remember feeling sorry for the poor ignorant creature that may have mistaken it for lunch.

“I am so sorry for being such a superstitious idiot” Rusty had said over the phone. She had called me on my mobile in the bottle shop. I was so happy with relief that maybe she wasn’t depressed anymore. “I can’t believe I put you through all that fate shit, why didn’t you give me a good shake? I really needed a good shake”  She had sounded much better, even from the time I had called her asking her if she wanted to have a drink. “That’s alright” was all I could reply with. I completely understood. She had just experienced the two deaths of the two most important men in her life, who wouldn’t try to find some meaning amongst the madness? Who would think lightening could strike twice in the same spot without it having a purpose? I absolutely empathised. I was also glad that she had come to some form of clarity and clear-headedness and wouldn’t end up in the psychiatric wing of Joondalup hospital. I had then heard a soft knock on the door of her house” Hang on Gersh,” she had said. I heard her open the door and a male voice asking her for her signature.  She had returned to the phone and said the last few words before she had died “Sorry about that Gersh, just a package. Looks foreign, I’m not expecting anything but let’s open it together when you get here.” She had sounded so excited, so I hadn’t wanted her to wait for me, let her have something to enjoy by herself. “No, don’t wait for me, open it now” I had insisted, and I wish I hadn’t because after a few rustling noises she gasped and the phone had gone dead. I had run out of the store then not thinking of martinis but my friend’s welfare.

The ambulance officers said it looked like malnutrition. The coroner said it was malnutrition brought on by depression from the heavy grief she had suffered.  I am not too sure because I had found her first, curled up like a foetus frozen with a horrified expression on her face, her lips pouted into an O shape. In her hand was the green beret. It had come all the way from Yugoslavia. A note read “you must be needing this; my son found on the beach, lucky address was inside your hat.” She had lived in that house all her life.

Life is a strange thing. Death is even stranger, cancelling out any purpose for our being. How can one make sense of death?  Death makes life superfluous, life gives meaning to death. We hold on to attachments, making these our meaning, cling to absurd reasons with a kind of twisted logic. We are born; we live and have experiences then die. The prime of our life is significantly shorter than the downhill slide into decay and demise. We pull fate out of the air or something people like to call karma.

When my cat got run over by a car I used Karma to provide a means of control over the event. The karma being from opening up mail that wasn’t mine. The punishment was the control. Cause and effect.  Can we trace bad things back to a source?  Can we even call them bad? My friend Rusty wanted to find a source, a source of her perceived bad luck.  On the outside there did appear to be a thread linking the deaths, that link was the green beret. That was the control. Maybe it is true, but I believe life is made up of random events having no discrimination whatsoever. The day I had found Rusty I had pulled the beret from her hands and put it in my bag. It’s still there; it has been for the last year. There’s a pain in my chest and a deep fatigue has overcome me. I heard the other day my friend’s cat died.

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