I am an umbrella: just my luck.
Reincarnation dictates a continuance of consciousness – the eternal «I» threading through time from the creation of the universe – that primal explosion of gas hurtling exponentially outward into the black vacuum of space. I am an atom, a child of Chaos, inhabiting now a wisp of gas, now a chip of matter, travelling for countless billions of years, riding the star-crowded waves of the cosmos. I have witnessed extraordinary things: I have seen the birth of wondrous worlds and their demise, flicked casually aside – the butt-ends of space. Thus I voyaged through the universe until I reached this place.
I worked my way up through the various life-forms. I was a tiny worm wriggling deep in the mud of the restless ocean. I was a clam crouching on the seabed, refusing to give up my secret. I was one of the first marsupials to heave myself out the water onto the newly-formed land and waddle with my fins up the primordial sands. l loped and crouched semi-sapient and half-erect through the dark forests. I was eyeless in Gaza toiling blindly with slaves. I was one of the drunken Frankish knights who entered Jerusalem wading waist-high in blood. I flew point in a V formation of wild geese flying across the Canadian uplands. I was an eagle quartering the dizzy sky scanning the earth with my piercing eyes before diving onto my terrified prey. I was a pearl diver, plunging down with my weight-stone into the murky green depths, forever searching for that glittering prize. l was killed on the Western Front, one of the fifty thousand fallen on that murderous first morning of the Somme Offensive, shot decorously through the forehead as I emerged from my trench.
In my last existence, being a bookish sort of chap, I read a story by Franz Kafka in which the hero wakes up one morning to find that he’s been morphed into a centipede: (mum, I can’t go in to work today, I’ve turned into a bug). I feel a bit like that now: (mum, I can’t go in to work today, I’ve turned into an umbrella). It must be some kind of cosmic glitch – you see, I’d read a Taoist astrological chart indicating that in my next life I was due to be married to a princess.
(To be continued)