Tears Not Lost to Time
by Chris Behrsin
Adam died drinking at a solitary table in a pub called The Angel and The Scythe. It wasn’t so much the vomit that killed him, since the patrons had been quick to turn him on his side as soon as he collapsed, but the stroke that came out of nowhere. However, such death was expected they realized, when they saw how complex the folds were in his skin, and how much serenity was in those eyes that said, Let me go. I’m old and ready to die.
Thus, Adam’s reaper became conscious for the first time.
The first thing the reaper noticed was the blade of his scythe buried but bloodless into the left-hand side of Adam’s chest. The reaper then learnt his name, Mada, and that he had to travel with Adam backwards through time.
But before that he had to return something to Adam, for in his hand he held a handkerchief, yellow and soggy and heavy, which he lifted to Adam’s face. From it, four salty water-drops rose into Adam’s tear-ducts; tears that had been cried more out of sheer pain and realization of death-to-come than as a product of emotion.
With those four tears, Mada gave back to Adam the first drops of his soul.
Mada removed the scythe from Adam’s heart and fastened it around his back. Around him, the patrons were slowly spitting their beer out into their pint glasses and the bartenders wiping dirt and condensation onto the bar. Eventually, they clientele sobered up, and walked backwards out of the bar, alongside three barmaids. They left Adam alone with his beer and a barman, to whom Adam occasionally gave his pint glass, to have the liquid sucked out into the tap.
As Mada journeyed with his companion, he met other humans. They all had their silent reapers with them, with scythes swinging between their shoulder blades and soggy handkerchiefs held out like lanterns, clearly with so much soul inside them, but drying out as they walked on. Mada watched out for opportunities to deliver tears back to his companion too.
Many he returned at the suspension bridge, right before he saw Adam sucking back the air around him in a great backwards roar. Here, Adam’s second wife flew feet first from the river-mud up towards the suspension cables, with a scythe in her heart and a reaper attached to the handle. The bridge-wires twanged and sung against the wind, as if mourning this tragedy themselves.
Mada gave Adam more tears back at his second wedding. He watched the bride and groom walk backwards hand-in-hand down the aisle, the congregation’s heads turning away from them as if repelled by magnets as the couple, soon to be wed, passed.
He regarded Adam’s wife’s reaper then, saw a hidden but spooky beauty beneath her wan face and tired, overworked eyes. For every reaper looked just as their companion had at the time of their death.
He returned more tears at the divorce of his first wife, whose reaper’s face was so old. These, Adam had cried mostly because of the legal separation of his children that Mada would soon meet.
Oh, and the children were wonderful, boys who loved to summon footballs out of nets with their feet, and girls who meticulously ruffled up the hair of Barbie dolls with combs. But Mada saddened to see how their handkerchiefs, which were so full and yellow to begin with, had become bone dry. These children weren’t Adam’s by blood and so Mada had to eventually leave them and their reapers behind.
Over time, Adam became a child too, when Mada returned most of the tears. Before the wasp plucked its stinger out from his little finger and Adam tumbled up the stairs for the first time. Mada found it hard to accept how dry his handkerchief had become.
It took many years for the reaper to reach the hospital bed, where most reapers ended up. There Adam, now a baby in a nurse’s arms, was rushed back to his mother’s ward.
That was the first time Mada saw Adam’s mother. The scythe in her heart and the surgeon stitching apart the Caesarean. Mada then met his mother’s reaper Arabrab, so young and clear faced and wonderful, and he wanted to cry himself. But, being a reaper, he was bereft of tears.
Mada travelled hand in hand with Arabrab, but no longer accompanied by Adam, who was now in his mother’s womb. Mada taught Arabrab what he knew about this world, what his mother had to do, how he would one day have to leave her, how, like humans, every reaper must come to an end.
It took Arabrab a while to understand.
One morning, when Adam’s mother was with her gynaecologist, Mada realised his end was nigh. The gynaecologist had just confirmed Adam’s mother’s suspicions of her accidental pregnancy.
Mada saw in Arabrab’s eyes that she didn’t want him to leave her, that she didn’t how she would cope.
Yes, Mada knew this pain so well, because he had come into this world disorientated and lonely. But he had had to return Adam’s life to him. And Arabrab had a purpose too.
Thus, Mada stepped onwards with Arabrab and waited until the moment of Adam’s conception. Then, with a smile and final broad sweep, he plunged his ghost-like scythe into Adam’s mother’s stomach.
This didn’t take Adam’s life away. Instead, it ripped Mada’s out and returned it to the young embryo, gifting Adam with a wonderful yet tumultuous life.