Oliver D. Bernuetz's Stories
Dead is Dead
Hear me well young ones and I will tell you a tale of long ago. Back then when we ruled the land and walked as giants beside the gods we never died. But then came dark Humakt the Separator who was never happy unless two things were separate. He caused it so that we were separated from the gods and where as they go on forever we must die. And die we did. We died and we died and we died. And soon there were dead people everywhere. You couldn't walk without moving through a dead person. You couldn't breathe without breathing in a long dead aunt or uncle or worse someone else's relatives. At first no one minded since this meant we could still see our loved ones. But soon our steads were so crowded that we couldn't do anything without some dead person being in the way or just watching what you were doing. And we were never free of our interfering relatives. It can be a right burden to listen to our parents and grandparents but imagine having your great- and great-great grandparents around too and their grandparents and so on. They never spoke but they certainly could give disapproving looks. It was like being at a great feast with all your relatives. It's fun for a while but never ending? The situation started annoying the living and the gods. They went to Orlanth the King and complained and complained and despite his woes and troubles he heard them and went to Humakt. "Humakt," he said, "You've made a fine mess now. You've separated us from man and now they die while we live and they're cluttering up the place. What are you going to do about it." And Humakt shrugged his massive shoulders and said, "I just separate the things that need separating, I don't care what happens to them afterward. What you need is an organizer." Orlanth grimaced and went to see Lhankhor Mhy. "Lhankor Mhy, you help me organize things. Can you do something about all these dead people?" Lhankhor Mhy frowned and said he would try. He went around and marked all the dead people with a special rune so all would know them by sight. Well this pleased no one as it changed nothing and solved nothing. Orlanth tried other gods then. Eurmal tried to play tricks on the dead but they were immune to his tricks and the living who were invariably affected by them got so angry with him that they sewed him into the skin of a nonsense animal called a walrus and tossed him into the sea. Harst the Reeve tried to put the dead into storehouses but they wouldn't stay put. Ernalda could not heal them, mother them, nor lead them. Pella the Potter tried to seal them in jars but they wouldn't stay put. Roitana tried to dance them away but they just watched her until she collapsed in exhaustion. The fiercest war god held no terrors for them. They wouldn't get drunk, wouldn't be herded and couldn't be hunted. No one knew what to do with them. And then Issaries returned from a trading expedition and found everyone sad. He asked what was wrong and was told about the dead people. He thought about them and decided that they couldn't be sold and no one would take them in trade. He sat and thought some more and then thought some more. And then he wondered. If the living are bothered so by the dead are the dead in turn bothered by the living? What if he offered the dead a home in the Other World? He went to Orlanth and Humakt and proposed this plan to them and they both agreed. So Issaries went to the dead and he offered them a home where they could be free of the living. They agreed and he led them off to the Storm Realm and we were free of them. But after a while we realized that there didn't seem to be any new people born. Issaries was taking the dead away as quick as they died but no one was bringing new people to us. This worried Orlanth and he went to Humakt and said that soon there would be no mortals left. And Humakt shrugged and said, "Dead is dead and living is living. You cannot alter my nature this way. I separate the dead from the living and Issaries takes them off to the Other World in his basket." Issaries piped in, "I've been meaning to mention that. I've taken all the dead to the Other World and I've never received anything for my efforts. It's contrary to my nature to do something for nothing. Wouldn't you agree that it's wrong to alter my nature too?" Orlanth nodded his head yes and grim Humakt shrugged and nodded his agreement. "This is what I propose, " Issaries said, "I will continue to take the dead to the Other World in my basket, but when I come back I will bring as many dead people back in my basket to be born again as new people as I took away. That way I will be repaid for my labours, for dead people make lousy market goers." "Wait a minute," glared Humakt, "Dead is dead. Once they are dead they cannot come back, that violates my nature." Orlanth shrugged and said, "And it violates Issaries' nature to do something for nothing so I agree. Besides this way you can separate them again. At the rate we're going there won't be anyone to separate soon." This mollified Humakt and he agreed and that's why dead is dead most of the time except when it isn't.
Originally written 2002. Last updated September 25, 2016
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