It won’t ever get any easier. No, not even for the dead. Rest in peace! What a naïve anticipation! It is only when you are dead that you realize all that exists is absurdity.
Back again in this dreadful town, everything is still as grotesque as when I left it. Here is Unpleasantville. Out there, they call it the town of the dead. It did use to sound eerie. But with Grace and I being dead, now it is nothing but a fact.
We all do return here sometimes, though not summoned. We return to remember the nasty memories of the time we lived the dreary life, and all the sufferings it had to offer.
Behind the lake, is our graveyard. We call it the Motel. The Motel is a brick wall surrounding our graveyard just to make the intolerable winter more bearable. Yes, you do suffer the cold even when you’re dead.
I walk past some fellas to find my bed. So-called my grave. A place where we can get some sleep, as if we were ever awake. Some dance, some drink. And some gamble on who has lived longer. I doubt if they’re counting the number of the years, or…. It doesn’t matter anyway. Who really knows what living is? And then, there are some like me. A little bit lost, a little bit confused.
Finally, I arrive at my bed. I, Gregor Sam, am to visit my grave for the first time. Strange as it sounds, I feel my heart pounding. And then, I see the words.
A loving son,
And a caring brother.
And that was it! Except, there was something illegible written with a white spray. My sister’s handwriting, perhaps. I laugh at my own ignorance. Idiot. What an idiot I was. Someone like me is not going to be remembered any better. What else was I expecting?
Once you’re dead you become forgetful. Occasionally, you forget how you died. Occasionally, you forget how it felt to be alive. No matter how bad it might sound, I’d say it is a blessing in disguise. Yet, for some reasons unclear to myself I kept trying to recall something. Anything.
When I saw a giant insect approaching, all my efforts were wasted.
“Good evening, sir,” it said.
Now, I cannot tell which I found more peculiar. Seeing an insect double the size of my tombstone, or actually understanding his conversation. But I did not mind any of it for I was pleased to be interrupted. Anything that kept me from remembering was indeed a gift. So, I nodded to its oddly warm greeting. It laid, rolled, and tried to fit itself into my grave. Then it looked at me again.
“Pardon my asking, but have we met before?” it asked
“I doubt so.”
It took its time to find the most comfortable position. Every turn that it made, made me more impatient.
“Then What has brought you here, may I ask?” It continued, pointing to my tombstone.
I was already annoyed by the contrast between its courtesy and intrusion. And now, interrogating me. In what level of misery was I trapped to be begging for companionship from an insect. And not a common type of insect. A cynical one, I might add. I had to come to my senses. I had to put an end to this distress. I decided to ask it to leave.
“I’m afraid I have to ask…”
But right at that moment, right before I finished my words, I noticed the name on the tombstone. It read Gregor Samsa. The last two letters were hiding behind the snow, smirking at me all this time.
“I’m afraid I have to leave.” I excused myself.
When I left, I felt something. Something that was not happiness. It was beyond it. I had mistaken my grave. And that meant there was still hope. Meeting Gregor Samsa was not too bad after all. I kept searching. But it seemed that my grave was not inside the Motel.
I went back to where the gamblers were. Some were still playing. Many had already left. What they were going to win, or what those who had already left had lost, I had no clue. And I did not care. I went to them to ask if they could help me in any way. One of them looked at me, a silly smile on his face. Perhaps he was the one who was winning the game. He told me to check the warehouse on the other side of the lake, where they kept broken, or unnamed tombs.
By the time I arrived at the warehouse, dead birds were singing. One single step away from the entrance, something stopped me from moving forward. My feet were glued to the land that I once used to live on.
I wasn’t sure whether I would want to find my tombstone in an abandoned warehouse. Or to find my grave even more pitiable than Gregor Samsa’s. Or to see a note, this time quite readable.
What if I don’t have a grave at all?
I was caught in a storm of intrusive thoughts.
Behind this door, once I know the truth, I can never change it.
So, I went back to the darkness.
This way, I and only I define reality.
Elahe Nassr is an independent writer and filmmaker based in Japan. She is the recipient of the 2018 Henry Fong Award, and a participant in the 2019 Kyoto Filmmakers Lab–Masters Session. Her first short film "Life as It Is" was selected at the Longless Film Festival for the International Selection category, in 2020. Her photography works were selected for contests by Kyoto International Student Film & Video Festival, and Tokyo 2020 Olympics Torch Relay. She is currently the programming manager of Japan Web Fest and a graduate student in the field of tourism.
Forthcoming: Elahe’s second short film, Nozomi
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/elahelennassr/ (@elahelennassr)