Three Visions of Death

You arrive on the scene.

The scene? A desolate alley, an empty avenue. Two broken lamps flock the mouth of the alley, and one rusty dumpster guards the rear, against the spotted, syphilitic brick wall of a 90s project. But no one lives there, not anymore.

The time? Sometime before dusk, between the communist revolution, when all people of all ages and all genders and races and classes agreed that they were all equal and equitable and all that jazz, and when the city drowned.

The person that you meet? You meet several distinct personages, the first of whom offers to be your guide, none other than—

  1. The Grim Reaper

Death is coming to this city,

my friends.


Grim, ugly, evil death. Death with a knife[1]

—or death with a fork, or death with a spork—

is coming for you.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news (although it is my job and I can hardly help it), but death, fast on its way, plans to make several incisions, some on to you the individual, and some on to you the collective city. As the omen of death, I personally feel very guilty about it all, and would much rather bring you good news, like the opening of a new cheap (but awfully delicious) Chinese place on 55th, however, news is news. Let’s see what is ordained.

[Grim tears open a sealed letter and reads.]

Death comes not in the form that we expect.

He who is irrevocably doomed to its closing jaws

Sees the jaws and the sharp teeth but not

The mouth that operates his mincing into meat.

Today death comes not as a plague or disease,

A terrorist attack or a school shooting,

But in a form far more savage than its machinery:

A toothless mouth, nothing but soft gums

And sweet saliva, still intends to swallow.

[Aside] Poetry and wit!

Death’s form is subtle, it trembles in the contours

Of the shadows of meeker messengers;

By the time that death becomes full-fledged death,

It will be too late to recognize it.

[Throws letter] Really? That’s all for today? Well, I suppose this means that I’ll have to improvise a bit. Never fear—I don’t take orders from whoever gives me these letters—no, I don’t know who gives me these letters, but I don’t take orders from anyone—yes, I still know what form death comes in. You see, you have to read a little more carefully. Close reading, you know? All those days you slept through high school English, I bet you’re regretting that now, aren’t you? I never sleep, so I understand exactly what that letter means. In this case, it means I must defer to my companions, who can give you a much better picture of what death is looking like this morning—cloudy with scattered thunderstorms, high of 79.

[Three charming young men, all the picture of perfect health[2], enter the alley. One is a student at Yale University, one is a new hire at Microsoft, and one is a public organizer fro the Bernie Sanders campaign.]

You give Grim a toothy smile. He introduces you to the three healthy boys, the first of whom is a—

  1. A Yale University Student

New York City is dead. The last scrap of integrity that it had—out the window. I know it may seem a little over the top to go ahead and say a bustling city of over eight million people is entirely dead and gone, but I’m about to go ahead and say it. The Rorschach Bar—you know, the one that made you feel like you were in Tokyo in 1975 in a 1980s anime—is out of business, and with it, the soul of New York. It’s the last of a series of closures in that neighborhood—first the punk haircutter, replaced with a Froyo place, then the dungeon ramen bar, replaced with a Chipotle, then the old cassette store, replaced with a vinyl store, after that the thrift shop that seemed kind of like a front for a brothel but you weren’t really sure, which is now a J Crew. There are no more shroom dealers on the corners, no more communists in your attic—well, you didn’t know that the communists were in your attic, you kinda just found them there several months later.

Look, my point is that gentrification is ruining our cities…[3] I’ll miss the corner coffee shop, where that crazy barista Jim sometimes spiked the coffee with acid. I’ll miss the posthuman German noise bands that sometimes came through the Rorschach and other local hot-spots. I’ll miss New York having a soul. Now it’s just this desolate commercial hub, full of every type of person except New Yorkers. New York had some great moments—the era of jazz, the days when the Black Panthers were still around. Now it’s just a gentrified shithole. And since I’m a philosophy major, I wouldn’t be able to move back there even if I wanted to.

  1. A Microsoft Hire

I’m so glad I am out of college, especially because I thought it was going to fill my mind with ideas, good ideas, but it really didn’t. It’s because there’s no free speech at college. Now that I’ve been at Microsoft for sixteen weeks, I feel like I can really look back with a fresh set of eyes. I mean, I also thought the same way while I was at college, but the passage of time has more or less reaffirmed my opinion that free speech is dead on college campus.

The sad thing is, it didn’t die that long ago. Maybe twenty years ago? Once I could’ve gone to an intellectual institution that valued free speech (albeit at the expense of women or people of color attending university in peace). Sometimes I think I was born into the wrong generation.

Attending college is like discovering you’re actually in a long game of Cards Against Humanity. Just when you’re about to learn something, you find yourself firing a rifle into the air while balls deep in a squealing hog. And whenever anyone says anything remotely offensive, you’d think there’d been smallpox blankets or a dog crucifixion. Need I say for the hundredth time that I agree, in retrospect, that it was a bad idea to invite Bill Cosby to speak on campus?

I realize that I’ve been rambling. The point is that whenever a bunch of whiny college students whine so loudly that the president of the CIA has to cancel in the middle of a talk, you know something is kinda fucked up, and that free speech is dying on the floor having a heart attack, if not already dead.

  1. A Berning Sanderista

I will never vote for Hillary Clinton, never, and don’t make me say it again. After seeing those memes that proved she dislikes Radiohead and has a super lame opinion re Pokemon and Sriracha and caves, that was really the final nail in the coffin. My opinion doesn’t really have anything to do with what kind of president she would be. I’m sure she would be a perfectly fine president. I mean, look at what Obama has been able to accomplish despite determined Republican opposition. If the Democrats take back the Senate and you put a solid Democrat like Clinton in the office, our future would be a hell of a lot more secure. In fact, she might even be a good president. She certainly has a track record of getting things done in the Senate, and a decent tenure as Secretary of State. I’m sure having a woman in the office will be great for reproductive rights and all that. But the problem with Shillary is that she just sucks.[4]

Take giving speeches to Wall Street for 500 grand. That’s just a terrible, shit thing to do. Likewise, calling a black kid a super predator—truly terrible thing to do. Being on the board of Wal-Mart and buddy-buddy with Monsanto—shitty-ass things to do. Selling arms to countries that sponsor terrorism—next level terrible thing to do. Eating jalapeños like they’re potato chips? Carrying hot sauce around in her bag, and being white? I’ll leave those for you to decide.

On the basis of this massive pile of shit, I simply cannot vote for Hillary Clinton, even if she wins the general election and is pitted against Donald Trump. Wait, I’m supposed to be talking about something that’s dead, right? I’ll flip that around. I’ll tell you what’s not dead. AMERICA. AMERICA is not dead. And the liberal and conservative elite have failed America. They need learn that the voice of the people will not be silenced.

[The young men exit.]

You comment briefly on their wordiness, and Grim agrees. Grim digs around in his robe-pockets for a cigarette, and pulls out a crumpled piece of paper.

Grim:  Oh—look at this. Looks like I mixed up my papers.

[Unfolds and reads]

A meteor roughly 50 kilometers

in diameter will hit the Earth in

seven days, destroying New York City,

killing quite a number of people

and other living things.

[Frowns at the paper and turns it upside down in hopes of finding a secret code.] I guess this what I was looking for. I knew death was coming in a more concrete form. If this is true, then all living things in this general vicinity are in deep trouble. [Turns to You] You might want to take a walk around, breathe some air, look at some rocks, while you still have the chance.

You say that you are sure that you’ll turn out all right, and note that you’re feeling rather hungry.

So Grim takes you to eat in a Chinese takeout place on 62nd.



[1] A knife is a sharp, blunt object that is used for cutting up things that will be cooked (e.g. vegetables, human flesh).

[2] In this case, health refers to sexual health. All three are perfectly capable of committing sexual acts with penises. One of them has a head-cold, another has a sore in his mouth.

[3] Ellipsis [Omitted]: Yale University Student proceeded to make a legitimate point about how gentrification tends to target poor and immobile black people who used to have a fine neighborhood, and casts them further outside of the city and its superior amenities and economic opportunities.

[4] The young and disenchanted often call Secretary Clinton this unflattering name in online comments on CNN articles.


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