Reincarnation: A Story
In a place that can only be considered a place because of lack for a better term, outside of time, and outside of fear and love and hatred and joy, there is a long line of spirits continually growing, but continually shrinking at the same time. There is a repetitive dinging sound, similar to the sound people would relate to that of a bicycle bell. Toward the middle of a line, a conversation begins between two peculiar spirits.
“I hope this is the human line,” one spirit says, leaning in to the other, we’ll just call this spirit It for now.
“You’re telling me,” the other spirit says, we’ll call this spirit That. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been through this line and ended up as a stupid mouse.”
“Oh yeah,” It says. “I’ve been down that road and let me tell you, once was enough.”
“This last time I was a pet mouse,” That says. “Surprisingly enough, it was much worse than a wild mouse.”
“You don’t say,” It says.
“Oh, I do say. My owner even stuck me in one of those hamster balls or whatever you call them. You know, the ball that they stick you in with no way out, so even when you get to roam free, you’re still trapped. The idiot could not get it through his head that I wasn’t a damn hamster. I hated that ball.”
“You hated the ball?” It says. “I would have loved one when I was mouse.”
“Oh, no you wouldn’t have,” says That. “It’s so constricting and everything around is all red. Not to mention the claustrophobia I developed, no thanks to it.”
“I’ve been a bee who was born without a wing before,” It says.
“What? A bee without a wing?”
“Oh yeah, it was horrible. Granted, I didn’t last long which gave me another shot at this here lottery. I don’t think I would have liked being a bee anyway.”
“Is that what you think this is?” That says.
“Is that what I think what is?”
“This. Here. You think we’re just in the midst of some random lottery?”
“You don’t?” It responds.
“Not a chance! Certainly, your previous life on Earth affects the results in some way. Sure, there might be slight randomization. But when I say slight, I mean very little.”
“No way. Take my life as a mosquito for instance. I did all the right things. I buzzed around people’s ears as much as possible, sucked their blood making sure to leave as much of an itch as possible, and then I was eaten by a frog, which helped supply life for another being. And you know what my next life was? A tree. I was a fucking tree next. A redwood even. I lasted for hundreds of years not able to do anything aside from just be. I had no say about what was done to me or the trees around me, no form of communication whatsoever. I just had to sit there and wait for someone to come cut me down and let me pass on to the next life. I get that bullshit from my life as a mosquito, a damn good mosquito. I even gave someone west nile. I served my purpose so that I could go be bored out of my trunk for three hundred years. No, there is no way this thing is anything but random.”
“Well, how do you explain me ending up as a mouse for the last twenty-six cycles? It has to be because I’ve been doing something wrong. I just wish I could figure out what exactly it is.”
“Well, I sure hope for my sake you aren’t in line for your twenty-seventh cycle. I have no desire to be a mouse again.”
“You’re telling me,” That says. “Hey.”
“Have you ever been a cow?”
“Yeah, a cow. Have you ever been one of those?”
“No, what’s so great about being a cow?.”
“It’s the best. You just sit around and eat all day. No other responsibilities. You’re not even micromanaged like if you were some kind of pet.”
“Sounds boring,” It says. “Humans are where it’s at. Then you really get to do whatever the hell you want.” There is a pause as both It and That focus their attention on creeping line. “I’ll tell you what,” It says. “That dinging is getting annoying.”
“Yeah it is. At least we’re getting closer to the front though.”
“Ever been a human?” It asks. “I hope that’s what’s next.”
“Yeah…well, kind of. It was the cycle right before I got stuck on the mouse. It didn’t last long though. I keep hearing how awesome it is to be a human, but I don’t really see what all the fuss is about. Then again, I was killed by some thing called abortion before I even left the womb.”
“Well, there you go. You didn’t really get the whole human experience. I was a human a few cycles before mosquito. I’ll tell you what, it was the best.”
“You must have been a pretty shitty human.”
“No way! What makes you say that.”
“Because you ended up being a mosquito a few cycles later. Only a shitty human goes back to the level of the mosquito, no matter how many cycles later.”
“Well, that’s if you believe in earning your next cycle. I was a great human, just like I was a great mosquito. I’m telling you, this whole thing is random. It’s not even all that surprising that you’ve been a mouse so many times. You know how quickly mice reproduce? I’m not exactly educated, but I’d guess it goes faster than just about any other species. Twenty-six in a row may be statistically improbable, but it certainly isn’t impossible by any means.”
“I think you were just a shitty human, just like you were a shitty mosquito and you’re just blaming chance because you don’t want to hone up to being a shitty spirit.”
“Who are you to say that, Mr. stuck in mouse?” It yells. The other spirits in line focus their attention on It and That before another ding turns their attention away again.
“I’m sorry,” That says. “You don’t seem like a bad spirit. I was out of line.”
“Thank you,” It says.
“You know what sucks most about being a pet mouse?” That says.
“You don’t even get to have sex. Not even once. I mean, what’s the point in being a mouse if you don’t even get to have sex? It’s just ridiculous. And then they give you cheese as if they’re making up for it in some way. You know why mice like cheese so much, don’t you?”
“Sure,” It says.
“When all you get is sewage, trash, or mouse pellets, cheese is like breast milk all over again.” The conversation ceases as It and That reach the front of the line.
“Well,” That says once he’s at the front of the line, with only seconds to spare before his next cycle begins. “Let’s hope we’re not mice. I swear, I will step into a mousetrap as soon as I can if that’s the case. So long.”
That then disappears, soon after followed by It.
Several cycles later, they meet in the same line once again.
“Hello there,” That says.
“Hi,” It replies.
“Remember me? I was stuck on mouse for twenty-six cycles? We talked in line a few cycles ago?”
“Ohhhh yeah! How have you been?”
“Oh, you know, just trying to work my way to human.”
“Still convinced that you earn your next cycle, huh?”
“Oh yeah. I was a pet dog last. It was mostly awesome just cause I got to see how awesome humans are firsthand. Hey, how was being a caterpillar.”
“The caterpillar sucked. The butterfly was pretty cool though. How about you?”
“Didn’t get a chance to be a butterfly. I got eaten just as I was getting ready to make my cocoon. Typical really. What do you think this is a line for?”
“I don’t know,” It says. “I don’t really care any more to be honest. It’s not worth getting my hopes up guessing.”
“Oh, I see,” That says. “They still got that annoying dinging, huh?”
“Yep. Still annoying as ever.”
“Well, I’m up, see another few cycles from now,” That says and then disappears.
A few days later on Earth, two mice run into each other in a damp basement of some rental apartments. There are a few traps scattered throughout the basement and one mouse heads right for one. The other, as best as a mouse can, tries to warn the other mouse by moving its whiskers and letting out some squeaking noises. Seconds later, the mouse heading for the trap is now clamped in the jaws, dead. The other mouse feels a brief moment of sadness, at least as much as a mouse can feel sadness. Suddenly though, a strange, unidentifiable memory pops into its mind. It scurries over to another trap and before it can grab any cheese, the large metal jaws come clamping down, ending its life.
“Hey,” That says to It, as they once again find themselves next to each other in line. “You weren’t just a mouse, were you?”
“Sure was. You were right about being a pet mouse. It was awful. I had to escape. Luckily, I forgot what a mouse trap was and ran into one.”
“Yeah, I saw that” That says. “You reminded me what it was. Thank you.”