The Parting

Black and white photo of an uprooted plant on a beach
Photo by Christian Lambert on Unsplash

The soul pushed gently against the body. The body lay cold and unmoving but not yet ready to surrender. Nothing appeared to be working in the mind and body, so the soul patiently began searching for an exit.

The body lay on a narrow, yellow sand beach. It was thrown there unceremoniously by the surf no differently than if it had been an old log or a lidless styrofoam cooler. The ocean had stripped the body of all its clothes save a floppy wide-brimmed hat covering the face and a pair of faded, blue boxers. Low black clouds and driving rain were replaced with white, thin clouds scudding high overhead in a bright blue sky. Gusts of wind skipped and tumbled along the beach, playfully flicking at the soggy brim of the battered hat. Chance left the body as if it were there sunning itself. It lay face-up, a hand resting palm-down on the belly, legs splayed in a seeming display of total relaxation. Gentle waves rushed merrily up the beach, moving over and around the feet before receding. Nothing about the scene looked unusual from a distance, save the other arm’s odd angle, bent under and behind the back. On close inspection, the body exposed the farce, telling a tale of elemental violence.

Small translucent crabs clambered over and around the body. Still, none had yet begun to feast, not yet sure if this oceanic offering was ready. Bruises and welts covered the body from the ocean’s unrelenting battering and the surf’s rolling and scraping of the body on the beach and coral. Hands and feet were blue, their skin shriveled from long immersion. Blood trickled slowly from a roadmap of cuts and scrapes. Sand and blood clotted, forming tiny red-brown mud balls that dotted the body and dropped to the sand. These, the crabs ate excitedly.

The soul was not receiving regular communications from the body. Mind was nowhere to be found. Soul’s need to leave intensified.

Moving deliberately within the body, the soul probed in all directions for a point of escape. The soul is immortal and, on release, is reabsorbed into the universe. Each drop of water on the planet is recycled within the environmental system; likewise, soul energy is released, recaptured, adapted, and transformed on a universal scale. Though anxious to complete its transformation, the soul was gentle as it acted.

Fingers and toes had sacrificed themselves early on during the battle with the storm. Like good soldiers, they retreated to conserve heat in the body’s core. Other members and systems, however, had fought long and hard and were now exhausted. The lungs heaved and strained as long as possible under the constant deluge of cold water. Deprived of oxygen, the heart pounded for what seemed like an eternity. Full of saltwater, the belly was distended. Muscles were bruised and torn from the involuntary acrobatics forced on the body by the ferocity of the waves.

The mind suffered the most. Terror and panic had overwhelmed it. As the night wore on and the body continued to endure abuse, hopelessness and desperation took their toll on the body’s efforts to survive. More and more of the mind’s functions were closed down in a long-shot at self-preservation. Eventually, the mind started fading in and out of consciousness leaving only the primordial brain to fight for survival. In horror, the soul could only observe this titanic mental and physical battle, unable to provide comfort or material support.

From the deepest point within the mind came a pulse, “hold on to the soul,” a last-ditch plea for survival. The electro-chemical pulse was picked-up a few nanometers away by a nerve that relayed it to another, which lazily alerted several glands as it passed the pulse along. Various organs and subsystems received the minuscule messages but could not execute them. The mind’s plea echoed around the wreckage of the body with little response.

Surprisingly, the pulse reached the heart causing it to beat once, again, and then a third time. The sudden flow of blood awakened the lungs, which attempted to inhale but only found water. Various internal systems tried to activate but lacked nutrients or were overwhelmed by toxins from the large-scale physical shut-down. While the primal mind flared for an instant, the conscious mind did not respond. With one last fading effort, the body grasped for the soul. A spasm shook the body, tilting the head back ever so slightly and opening the mouth. Small crabs frantically scattered at the sudden and unexpected muscle movement. Several seagulls creeping near to the body to snatch a quick crab meal retreated a few yards with loud squawks and the flapping of wings.

A small susurrus and the soul slid quietly out of the open mouth as neither mind nor body was capable of holding it in place. The soul hung momentarily over its temporary abode. For 56 years, mind, body, and soul had undertaken a great adventure together. Soul had been nurtured by mind and body, producing a great deal more of the eternal, cosmic energy. It was saddened by the end of their partnership but also excited for what would come next. Perhaps soul would become part of another earthly being or travel among the stars or join with entities on other planets, fulfilling its purpose as the provider of the divine spark. The soul dispersed into the cosmos and then the body shuddered one final time and was still. The crabs started eating.

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Skip Lockwood

Writing short stories, dropping truth about running nonprofits, raising kids.