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A Celebratory Kielbasa

By Beth Wodzinski

Today I am going to remove death from the world. I had a fine celebratory kielbasa for lunch this afternoon. I enjoyed it very much. The little restaurant down the street is owned by an old Polish woman. Her family does most of the hard work these days while she sits in a corner booth drinking tea out of a water glass, Polish-style, and watching everything that goes on.

Her name is Basia, and she's gotten old. Her back is hunched over and she moves slowly. Arthritis, her son told me. He's almost 60 himself, and I can tell that moving hurts him, too. Basia is still sharp, and nothing happens in that restaurant that she doesn't see. Still, every day brings her closer to death. I can see the shadow of her death looming over her, growing larger each day.

Until today. Today I'm putting a stop to it. After today, there will be no more death. I just need to double-check my calculations, and make some last-minute adjustments to the Death Killer. It is a beautiful piece of machinery.

Finest kielbasa in town.

Something like this, you really only get one shot to make it work. So I open up the control panel and examine the circuitry again, for the hundredth or thousandth time. I could do this with my eyes closed, and, in fact, sometimes I do. In the middle of the night, if I can't sleep, I'll just come into the lab and sit in the dark with the Death Killer and run my hands over it, tracing the delicate pathways that will eliminate death forever.

Did you ever read much about Buddhism? The great Wheel of Causality, always spinning, always spinning. Life leads to death leads to rebirth leads to life leads to death, inexorably, unceasingly, like that annoying guy on the bus: He keeps tapping his finger against the window, he doesn't even know he's doing it but the sound of it is making you angry, he just keeps tapping at the window, you wish he'd stop but you can't say anything to him because you don't talk to strangers, so he keeps tapping, tapping, tapping. It's like that, the endless Wheel, always turning, with suffering and sorrow and agony at every step.

The Buddha said the only way off the Wheel is enlightenment. Believe me, I tried; I spent endless hours on my meditation cushion, trying to become a Buddha. But mostly I just thought about sex. I am not a good Buddhist.

So I had to explore other possibilities.

I'd like to say that Basia and her fine kielbasa were the inspiration for my mission. But, no, it was nothing so altruistic. My first experience with death was when I was six. We had a puppy, cute little mutt. I called him Spider; I don't remember why. We'd only had him for a few weeks, but he was my dog— everyone knew that. He slept with me every night, curled up on my pillow. During the long summer days, he followed me everywhere. A boy and his dog. My mother died six months before, but my father kept it a secret from me so Spider was the first death I knew about. My father never let me up in the attic.

Then we went on vacation. We couldn't take Spider, so my father tied him to our back porch, and put big bowls of food and water down for him. We were only going to be gone for a few days. I don't remember where we went, but I guess it was fun.

When we came back, Spider was dead. He'd run up the porch steps and jumped off the deck, and hung himself to death. That's how we found him.

From that moment on, death was everywhere: Wars, and plagues, and cancer, and suicides, and car accidents, and drive-by shootings; fresh obituaries in the paper every single day.

After the police found my mother in the attic I couldn't live with my father any more but I still collected death stories. When I got older I tried to find a way to solve the problem of death. Biology, physics, metaphysics— it all seemed promising at first. But even if I could defeat disease and aging, nothing would prevent people from killing each other, or themselves. Immortality was harder than I thought.

Basia has seven granddaughters. I like to watch them walking to school, all in an untidy bunch. I wish they would be more orderly and walk in a line, arranged by height.

Finally, after decades of searching, I realized that the Buddha was on to something. Without life, there is no death. Enough destructive force and the Wheel of Causality will grind inexorably to a halt. It has to.

Isn't the Death Killer lovely? It's a bomb, my own creation, orders of magnitude more devastating than any other weapon ever created. When I push the button, it will start a chain reaction that will destroy the entire universe, atom by atom, ripping every molecule apart. It will be nearly instantaneous, my calculations tell me; no one will even know. It is enough that I know.

There will be no more death after today.

The circuits are correct, I am quite sure of it. I am ready to press the button.

The kielbasa was delectable.

 

Beth Wodzinski's fiction has appeared in Quantum Muse, Bewildering Stories, Fantasy World Geographic, and Story Garden 6.0. She is the editor-in-chief of Shimmer Magazine.

 

Photo "H-bomb" courtesy of Sergey Lebedev, Saint-Petersburg, Russia.

 

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