The man who didn’t die
He’d had a good innings, there was no doubt about that, but there’s more to life than longevity. He’d had ideals and dreams, he’d led a great movement, but in the end, nothing had changed. No one followed him these days. He still commanded a certain amount of respect, but no more than that. What good was it for a man to live forever yet achieve nothing?
At one time, years before, it had seemed that he was at the centre of a movement that would change the world. But that was the problem – it relied on him. There was no one who could take over as he became too old to travel very far to speak to different crowds, and he was acutely aware that he was cutting an increasingly forlorn figure as his hair greyed, his shoulders hunched and his voice began to fail him.
The people around him had always been decent and well-meaning, but there was no one he could really trust to take over and remove some of the burden from his shoulders. He’d tried to get them involved – they’d had opportunities, and they’d tried their best, but it had never really worked out.
It was hardly surprising that people talked dismissively of his movement as a personality cult – it was a fair description. And what happens when the personality becomes more withdrawn and less imposing? When he just can’t get out as much as he used to? The movement dwindles, and finally dies, of course. He didn’t need reminding.
His thoughts returned, as they often did these days, to that day half a century earlier. The day when he’d thought he was going to die. It was such a relief at the time, and he’d expected that his brush with death would inspire him even more. Carpe diem! The reinvigorating feeling that every new day was a gift would surely lead to a greater urgency and dynamism.
But everyone gets old.
When he thought of that day, he often wondered how things would have turned out if he hadn’t survived. How would he have been remembered? How would the movement have done without him? He sardonically considered that dying young was often a very smart career move from a certain perspective. How many members of the 27 Club would have been so highly regarded if they’d lived to 70, still scratching a living by butchering the few decent tunes from their youth?
Maybe somewhere out there, there was a parallel universe where he’d died. In a strange and slightly morbid way, the thought comforted him. Not that he wanted to die, but at least somewhere out there might be a world where people remembered him from his prime, not the doddery old man he’d become.
He couldn’t help wondering what it might be like.