The Man Who Forgot To Die
(A novella by Michael Mulvihill)
What particularly comes to his mind, when Claudius thought of his state of being that he was now heir to was the icon, “Softener of Evil Hearts,” also known as “The Seven Swords,” depicting seven swords lodged within the heart of The Virgin Mother, stabbed with 3 knives cut through the right side of her heart, and four knives cut through the left side of her heart.
This icon came to his mind because even as a protected person, his needs went beyond feeling physically secure from danger, he needed to feel spiritually safe from attack. He needed some extraordinary, divine force, some higher power to soften the blows inflicted on him from real life events that involved severe not imagined threat to life.
The affliction that oppressed him was not just of spiritual origin, not only the work of the supernatural, but within the realm of the evil that men do to men, the cruelty and the inhumanity which he had sadly become all too familiar with.
Claudius kept this icon in his bedroom. He prayed before the icon every day, before and after work. The psychological reasons for this was obvious. Claudius had lived through his share of traumas, his heart unequivocally needed to be softened, likewise the heart of his brutal enemies needed to be tamed and brought to sobriety.
The main thing to fear from evil, and this point of view is not idle speculation, he had seen human barbarity, he had perceived the power behind demons, he had prayed deeply to defend himself from their assaults, thus he was neither pontificating, nor lecturing, nor speculating, in his view point, it is not simply the evil acts which are done against a man, but the seeds set from the actual cancerous works of evil that the true author of wrong doings and the legions of demons which are behind evil, that one must guard against so that they do not insert themselves into your own soul and drag you down to their own lowest level. Let it be known, we have no human enemies, our enemies are the demons which pervert the course of freewill, for this is what he had to truly believe.
He was sure of the mercy of God and the love of God. He believed in the remission of sins and the cleansing his soul got when he prayed and partook in the sacraments of the church. He did feel Gods grace and he did confess his sins. He did see love, beauty, goodness and mercy, and acutely he felt how envious the devils were of Gods creation. Why did he love them, why did he make them in his likeness?
from side to side. This already was shaping up to be a truly long, arduous winter, which challenged the health, wellbeing and mind of Claudius. Now, at this very moment, his soul was even more ill at ease than it ever had been in his entire life.
The chill increased, causing within these walls a welcomed shelter from the elements that were waiting to open up. For outside of these walls the elements rendered the environment a no mans land.
Reflecting on all of what went before in his life, of course, in the interest of balance and objectivity he had known good, kind, soulful, decent people, who would only do good turns for people. They precisely were the reason why he never thought God was completely angry with humanity and why God was able to draw from the well of mercy.
He witnessed acts of evil. Hatred for the people who were the wrong doers lodged within him. This hatred never went away. This hatred was in flavor bitter like the Swerita Chirata herb, the Karag kaayi of the terminalia chebula tree, known in Hindi as Hariraki, or bitter like gourd/balsam pear karela, such was the bitterness he held for people, whose memories of their wrong doings was over six years old, though its sordid after taste had to be cured, lest his mind be driven past the borders of sanity, into florid psychosis or absolute rage.
If anger is like mercury rising, if the venomous substance of anger is similar to mercury, praying to this icon with forgiveness reigning through the words of these prayer, no doubt the vicious aftertaste of abuse being ‘enmity’ would dissolve.
Clouds increasingly darkened overhead, comparable, in form, to a plastic bag filled with water that was about to be punctured by a sharp pin. A wall of snow and hailstones was waiting to fall, save for now, the snow and hailstones stayed absorbed within the skies above.
An antique clock chimed. The sleeper lay still like a rock, absorbed completely, through and through, with anxious, nervous exhaustion, though his body had not stirred, nor had he lifted an eyelid, or a finger in hours, if anxiety attacks it either would sever sleep, or deepen his sleep.
A wicked crack stirred from the sky abruptly causing hailstones to aggressively pour out of the clouds. For a full hour the hailstones soaked the dry, thirsty ground below, allowing the soil, the plants, the vegetation to drink again, and for life to continue, because although it had been cold, there had been no rain or snow in sometime.
Who else here knew this feeling of thirst as intimately as the ground? Claudius did, what he thirsted for was proximity to God, there was nothing else which would have given him such equal joy, since his harrowing of the soul nothing else would do.
He slept all night in a state of inner torment. Something had changed; suffice to add the masters of dread were reigning over his mind. Dread is a formation of the future from a forewarning that is known to the anxiety filled sufferer. In this crisis his bones shuddered. Lord help him, if he could survive this impending crisis, he could live in the mouth of a ravenous, unfed tiger, and miraculously be in one piece.
He gave up sleeping. His heart filled to the brim with too much worry, no way could he stay still. His mind raced at a million miles per hour.
Claudius rose from his bed as dawn arrived. He read the offending letter he received yesterday, once again, to fully digest the indigestible words that were written below. It was like a blur, something awful was happening, but it did not feel real. The comfort of the life he knew was assaulted by the fears made real in the wording of this letter. His virtual survival seemed to be under massive attack, the security he had come to know was being taken from under his feet. How could anyone write a letter which, when fully digested, meant the state were recanting on their decision to accept his legitimate and genuine case for asylum as a genuine refugee applicant?
His mind raced with thoughts going at one hundred miles an hour. His heart was beating like a drum stick. The sound of the murmur felt so terrifying, like his heart would blow up in his chest. He could hear the beats clearly pumping from his heart; a cardiologist told him his heart was in superb working condition, he would live to be one hundred. Now he doubted the doctors prediction. His pounding heart, he knew this was the sound of panic attacking him, all out panic, the type when you know your whole life is about to be destroyed.
The vulnerability, he was now assaulted by, felt like it was lodged on the left side of his chest, there he felt an acute pain, and a suffering which he believed would kill him.
He was quiet. The world he thought he knew was all but disappearing. This one, massive problem, terrifying, horrifying, like a plank lodged within the orbs of his eyes, and the shaking, the petrifying, quaking of his heart, as he lay on the side of his bed.
He felt small, infirmed, like he fell down a deep sinkhole and was struggling to worm himself out. The shock that hit him felt like it could strike through his heart and take his life. The blood in his body as the attack would strike would not leave his body. This could be a silent, devastating death.
Would he see another day? Would he see another week? Would he see another month? Yes, he said, because he had to be positive, because he had to believe that the life blood within him would not be frozen solid.
His human nature caused him to fear death. He could cognitively rationalize the illogical nature of this thanatosophobia. He had seen enough gruesome, cruelty, and the killing of innocence of all ages, to know that every living day can bring the abrupt pause to ones very own front door was shocking thing to know deeply, truly, fully, completely, how vulnerable we all are.
As he left his home, closing the white, wooden door behind him, his hands shook. The chill went straight to the bone. He wept all the way around the walkways of the river, standing to watch the snow fall into the deep rivers below. The fingers of his hands felt like they would themselves and fall away. Soon, how he feared, it would no longer be his world, but a world taken from him, how downhearted this made him be. There was no coming back for him either, like the way he fell into the sinkhole was all blocked off. His heart quaked, in a way that only the terrorized know how the heart can quake from being the subjects of absolute horror, an internal debate ravaged his mind, if this letter was true, oh how could he stop his mind from thinking what would be the case if this letter truly meant what it wished to say?
Destroyed was his ability to reside in the state. Dead was his property, the very roof which lay over his head. Gone, if this letter was true, was the job he had worked these years in maintaining.
Claudius all those years back applied for refugee status. This cut humility into his bones; it chastised him to re-evaluate what things a person takes for granted can actually be taken for granted.
Claudius wanted to know if the state he had to run from would still be the no mans land that he had to run from. The old streets, the dilapidated buildings constructed from a wicked heart of brutalism, a design that denied beauty from without, and concealed beauty from within, to bullet ridden walls and mortared houses. He may have shared a language with the land of his birth, but it ceased to be his stronghold.
His life thought him the vanity of pride is burnt by the corrosiveness of life, if a harsh, unexpected reality acts as an adhesive and attaches itself to someone who has a good, comfortable life, as Claudius knew, one is left only retrieving what was burnt in the fire.
He got away from a nation that was inflamed by war with some money in his wallet, some belongings in a satchel and the clothes on his back. He spent years avoiding the possibility of returning to the corrupted, torn country of his birth. Those years now felt like a flicker of light, now the curse of square one was reigning over his head and a groundhog was present that could ground through him like a knife.
How could a civilized country really expect him to return and live in a hell like this?
“I was one of the lucky ones,” he said in the application process for asylum, and he worried were these the words that went against him?
Claudius got away from the biting cold and choppy river waters. He bought a coffee and asked the lady who knew him to put on a breakfast for him.
Having waited for his food to be cooked, it arrived on his table in due course. He ate his food quietly. Thinking, his mind in perpetual distraction, what does it mean to come from somewhere? There are masses of people who go through life with no real problems, just imaginary ones, they will never be forced to think what does it mean to be from a land that succumbs to war, especially when there is prosperity and the people are at peace with one another?
He kept reading and rereading the white piece of paper before his eyes. No one in their right and sane mind could prepare themselves for the stomach churning possibility ahead of him. He thought he did everything in his power to adapt to the refugee lifestyle. He thought he had done so much to secure his life and wellbeing.
Living in refuge helped bring parts of his self-back to life, because, here in this land, there was an absence of bombs, bullets, shelling, torturers and militant terrorists. He was able to do groundsman, repair man, cleaner, and security. The empty time he had he reserved for prayer or reading.
This was a good life. He knew that it was a good life because there was no danger, the absence of tension, turmoil, trauma, terror; all were sources that were vital and calming to ease his mind.
The insanity of this situation he could understand. The praying he had said for years on a daily basis was said in a peaceful country to clear the poison that his soul was filled with when challenged by the curses of war.
Attacks to the soul take a lifetime to heal, who knew this better than someone like Claudius? To return to hell when hell has not been fully liberated and the demon was looking at him straight in the eye, waiting for him to look away, so that the demon could take advantage. To look away would emit the scent of fear, from fear it would create an internal disequilibrium within Claudius, thus his attacking demons would assume, game, set and match.
Claudius had to make the decision of his life, to fight this assault or cower into a corner and concede defeat. From birth we should train ourselves to not duck our head downwards, but to maintain eye contact, and to look fear, rage, insult, terror, straight in the eye.
Claudius returned to his home. He stood before the icon of Jesus Christ with his back straight. He could sense the roads outside and chimneys, covered in demons, even the footpaths to. Was it egotistical to think the demons were only after Claudius? Claudius believed they were particularly after him.
Have mercy on us. He trembled, what did he do wrong, did he take Gods mercy for granted? Maybe by being afraid he was being distrustful, and by being distrustful he was making this ordeal more painful than it actually should be.
He was not untrusting in Gods infinite mercy when he was dragged up the stairs by two armed men who wore all black: black balaclavas, black trousers, black boots, carrying knives, and handguns in a lapel gun holster.
He was about to be beheaded.
They were terrorists. They were not interested in keeping prisoners. They were interested in becoming heroes within their militant rank. At this point their only concern was to treat Claudius as an object for propaganda. His body was theirs for the purpose to propagate the ideology.
They were about to behead Claudius, it was the eight hour, the warmest part of the day. They were debating about making him drink the warm waters of the well and giving him vinegar. They had been choking him with the cross he wore around his neck and then decided it was time to kill him by bringing him for a long walk to the rooftop.
As he walked up those stairs his eyes kept seeing images of Christ the Pantocrator, also known as The Lord of Hosts, God Almighty, because Christ is the icon of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, this is what his dying mind told his soul.
Whatever else he could see, he was ever so sure his soul was now leaving his body. In this moment of absolute helplessness, a totally unexpected and utterly surprising serenity overcame him.
Now, just as he fetched a match and candle for his icon to light before Saint John, Who is. Who was and who is coming, at that moment where he thought his death was upon him he was unable to doubt the presence of God, as the blades of the scimitar sparkled in the sun. The Christ icons in this period of assault never disappeared in his minds eye. Christ wearing a red robe for his divinity, and a green robe for his humanity, Claudius could not understand why the Lord was following him whilst those he loved would writhe in agony if they discovered how he died.
Again he saw the Lords icon, how Jesus was depicted giving his blessing with his right hand. His eyes cried tears.
Why, at this time was his body still and not shaking, no, not one single bit? Nor was he afraid, truly he was at peace with himself, though only briefly, for fear rushed straight back into him.
The terrorists told Claudius how they will fill the plains sea crimson because they walked dark nights, to slice and slaughter, with the blade of vengeance that poisons anyone who they are angry with. Macabre, poetic, but utterly real, he could anticipate his body becoming the object of butchery.
Claudius thought how mad they were, dressed in black, abundant with the joys of depravity. But somehow he felt he was being divinely instructed not to be afraid, just as icons would enter his minds eye depicting the savior holding the Gospels as depicted as an icon of Christ the teacher.
Of course his human condition meant he felt dread. The adrenalin surged through his body. They may cut all the flesh of his body or cut off his head. There was no such a thing as a preparation for such a crime.
His lips insisted on saying repeatedly, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God have mercy upon me who is a sinner.”
The victorious sword against demons lay upon his lips, Lord Jesus Christ Son of Man have mercy upon me who is a sinner, as he knelt on the flat roof, the scimitar raised over his head. Incredibly gun shots went straight through their hearts. Claudius rose up from the ground where his life should surely have ended. Hands held onto the disc shaped pommel of the single edged, curved blade of the scimitar. Blood poured all over the scimitar. Miraculously the blood that poured was not the life blood from the body of Claudius.
God saved his life.
No he did not have the stomach to return to and experience this torture ever again, just too perversely see if he could survive this ordeal twice.
He blessed himself. Lord Jesus Christ son of God have mercy upon me who is a sinner. Again, Lord Jesus Christ son of God have mercy upon me who is a sinner. Again and again and again. Lord Jesus Christ son of God have mercy upon me who us a sinner.
“Christ is Risen,” the priest declared on the first Easter of his refuge.
“He is risen indeed,” the congregation joyously replied.
“”Christ is risen,” Father Alexei said more joyously, more happily, in an even more exalted tone.
“He is risen indeed,” the congregation declared with greater conviction.
That moment, even though it was only transitory, he felt he had caught a glimpse of what it was like to be risen from the dead, to have trampled fully down on the curse of human mortality. For a passing moment he had caught a glimpse of what human salvation could look like.
Maybe he was not amongst the damned. Was he particularly religious, overly devout? With those terrorist ready, waiting in their lairs, to draw him to their side, or, failing so, hack his head off.
He had no other choice but to cling to God like an infant child would cling to a wet mother, with hands outstretched, and a feeding mouth wide open.
God grant us strength to survive these days alive and to be in one piece. He wished he could walk to the church and prostrate himself completely. But there was no full time priest there, nor anyone to keep the church open, and the candles burning at all hours.
His faith was not as good as a monk or a priest. He was only a lay man with the demons rising above him. He imagined every person he knew, from his home village, martyred, beheaded, why was he saved and them not? Maybe he had to return home, but God does not require blood sacrifice, it would be irrational to conclude that he had to donate his head to the scimitars blade. No.
It frightened him; truthfully he did everything to avoid hearing about his country of origin. He changed his name, as by now this should be obvious to those of you who stumble upon these words. He never told people where he was from. He did not follow international news deeply, especially the news concerning his country of origin.
He knew he came from a cursed land possessed by ethnic hatred, religious bigotry, and political turmoil. He did not need to know anything more about this land; he knew that his religion was all that mattered to him. He was an Orthodox Christian. He would be tortured and killed as an Orthodox Christian. Or, as he intended, until now, he would stay Orthodox Christian, spend his living years working and attempting to deepen his faith.
For Claudius, like many Orthodox Christians prayer meant so much. For an all too long period Claudius suffered an apathetical relationship where he did not truly attend to prayer. Now, he could hear the demons quarreling for how they would attack and destroy his soul. This made his prayers stronger than they had been in years. His heart was filled with sorrow. Turning to a possible cure for this sorrow he prayed before The Icon of the Seven Swords blessing himself five times.
He sighed. The prayer meant to him that he did not have to think this deportation order was destiny handing a card to him so that he could martyr himself to God. In fact this prayer was also about protecting people from the cruelty of angry people and not putting them into the hands of cruel people. It was also about softening our evil hearts lest they in their imperfect nature become possessed with anger.
“Those demons are out there,” he said to the icons as if summoning them for help.
“They are dragging me back because they did not abuse me enough the last time, torture me enough, cut me enough, burn me enough. I was not meant to come out alive, whilst the rest of the world goes on living, my order is to be murdered. It is not enough that I escaped my own would be murderers before.”
The entire drama does not end there. Angry voices, demons hiding behind beards, heads fired up with amphetamines, sea water forming into waves lashing against the shore, as blood of the Coptic martyrs spills into the sea for refusing the renouncing of the Cross, for not denying Jesus. Shot in the back of the head, kneeling men whose lips read the word, “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy upon me who is a sinner,” as their life was taken away in Libya.
Claudius stands straight to make the sign of the cross and to fully appreciate the Christians who have died defending the Cross if only to retrieve his own courage back and to restore his own self pride. It is not as if he never fought demonic entities before.
I cannot live in this land again I cannot see these terrors again; endure these hardships and miseries again. See the things I have seen again.
He looked at envy with the people born to this land, who were citizens of this country. He was not a citizen. This is the same feeling a person has who knows at any moment they can be thrown out of their home and into a violent storm.
How easier it is to live a life in peaceful times, if the land and the city is at peace, than the soul is at peace, the cancer of sin is decreased. But war, hatred, terror drags the demons from their nest.
He read excellent words by St. Kosmas Aitolos about hatred which was worth repeating.
“Hatred is the devils poison, and just as when we put a little yeast in a hundred pounds of flour it has such power that it causes all the dough to rise, so it is with hatred. It transforms all the good we have done into the devils poison.”
Claudius dressed himself formally and gathered papers together confirming his residency, and a letter granting him refugee status as a protected person escaping persecution. It was eleven am he would be at the office in forty five minutes. He had to confront the reality of this impending darkness before it engulfed him and choked him to death. If something horrible is about to happen it is better to know fully about it in due time, than to have it attack you and without any forewarning. A forewarned assault always can be compensated for, but for an unexpected, surprise, out of the blue attack, there is no preparation. Claudius stood by the bus stop. Snow fell all around him. He could not smile, though he nodded his head at a face he recognized, which was enough to impart some friendly gesture.
The bus pulled over. He sat down near a young lady wearing an orange tee shirt and black jacket. Opposite her was a middle aged woman, drug addicted, who sold her body to buy drugs, they lived in worlds apart. Every minute of this bus ride felt like a lifetime. What was he expecting to find at the end of this visitation? For some peculiar reason he had hope, even though hope had no right to reside with him.
The bus stopped beside the immigration office. He saw a man dressed in military fatigues holding a large scimitar. When he looked around him that same man was outside every window blood was spilling from his scimitar. He stood still. The man lifted his right hand, Claudius could see very clearly his decapitated head held up in the air, his eyes cut out from their sockets and his hair covered in blood.
By your scimitar you are a warrior, but only in your mind.
By your scimitar you feel you are blessed though you are only the killer of innocents.
By your scimitar your victims are the martyred people.
By your scimitar you are a murderer.
By your scimitar you are a self-murderer, murdering your soul.
By the blood that pours from your scimitar you are damnation.
Lord have mercy on your soul.
Claudius looked at these corrupted lost souls straight in the eye. They were not the same murderers as the first murderer. The first murderer was scourged by envy. Cain felt inferior to Abel, less favored and less loved by God. But Cain spent the rest of his life regretting his fratricidal crime. He did not think their blood lust was comparable to Abels, nor did he believe, did they know pangs of conscience or regret.
Claudius continued on his way. When he reached the office doors he held his head up as high as he could, and walked in through the door. He handed the letter to the officer at the reception. The officer stood up and read it.
“Sir, take a seat.”
The officer went upstairs.
Claudius waited a full thirty five minutes. Thirty five nervous minutes later 3 officers walked through the doors, 2 male, and 1 female. Claudius stood up when he saw them.
They stated his name fully.
“This is me,” he replied.
“You are about to be made a naturalized citizen,” they said.
“Well I cannot anymore. I am being deported.”
“We will look into this letter you have given us and inform you in a few days.”
“I would greatly appreciate that.”
When Claudius returned to his home he lit a candle and held a cross in his hand. He repeated the Jesus prayer, Lord Jesus Christ son of God have mercy upon me who is a sinner, because the only remedy for evil in this world is the way of the cross. The people who had wronged Claudius did not require retribution from Claudius, nor did his torturers require a burn for a burn, they required forgiveness, nor did his potential killers require his vengeance, he was simply not worthy of such a martyrdom, this is why he was still living on this earth, battling to be saved.
He stood and prayed before God for his enemies. He placed his first icon of John the Baptist on his shelf to help him pray for all beheaded martyrs. The attackers were not finished with Claudius, nor was Claudius finished with them.
Michael Mulvihill, email@example.com, of Dublin, Az, Extract from Syracide, Indian Periodical (Sep 3, 2017), “Bombing Basra” Indian Periodical (Feb 8 2017), Ireland, wrote BP #77’s “Drop” and “Lupine Savagery” (+ BP #76’s “The Watchers”; BP #68’s”The Toasters’ Tragedy” and “Ziggy’s Afterlife Analysis”; “Homeless” & “Why the Hell Siberia?” for BP #67; was featured author for BP #65’s “Ethagorian Evidence, Parts 1 & 2” & “Uninsured Assurance”; VAMPIRE HORDE, Ch.1… for BP #63; BP #61’s poems, A Love Story Beautiful, Capitalism’s Modern Architecture of Love, Red Brick, The Securocrats, and Toxic Addiction; the poems, “Fatigued,” “O Mother,” & “Spike-Inverted Hearts” for BP #58; “The Cleaner and the Collector” & all 6 BP #56 poems; BP #50’s “The Soul Scrubber” and was featured vampire poet with A Vampire’s Dilemma: Love, Becoming a Vampire, Vampire Insomnia, and Vampiric War in The Kodori Valley; wrote BP #49’s poems—I, the Vampire, The Reluctant Vampire of Tbilisi, Vampire Observations, and Vampire Psychoanalysis). The author published a short story, “Ethagoria Nebsonia,” in BP in ’98 and had a poem, “The Bombing,” in The Kingdom News about a domestic tragedy in Ireland. He has written the horror novels, DIABOLIS OF DUBLIN & SIBERIAN HELLHOLE.