As I am shoved roughly toward the gallows, hands tied behind my back and a rough canvas sack over my head, the most important events of my life flicker through my mind:

My birth - The moment I became an apprentice - My graduation into mastership of my work - Marriage - The births of my children - The first thought of revolt that sparked in my head like a kitchen match - My capture and trial as a traitor

I blindly climb the rough wooden stairs and reflect upon the futility of all my actions. Nothing I have ever done has had any effect upon my fate. From the moment of my conception, I have been judged and found guilty of life. And the sentence has always been Death. For every step I've taken, the ground has been pulled out from beneath me, leaving me no closer to my ideals.

In fact, the actions I thought were of the most import and gravity, the revolution that seemed like it might make this world a place worth living in, led me directly to the noose. In my quest to immortalize my self and my principles, I sealed my own doomed fate.

The black-masked executioner whips the bag from my head and fits the hairy rope around my neck. I can barely see the glint of his eyes, shadowed in the ragged holes in his hood. He could be anyone -- my father, my son, even my wife -- and despite his cold demeanor, despite his daily tributes to the gods of decay and loss, despite his visceral awareness of the fact of entropy, he will die too. Whether at the hands of an enemy, in the arms of a lover, or in the unforgiving embrace of his own noose, he will leave this world of beauty and suffering and enter the void, losing his selfhood in the balance.

The bailiff reads the charges to the gathered crowd. I can see the fascination in their faces, the morbid curiosity that leads them to this grisly show day after day. They want to know, as we all do, where we go, what might happen. Will my soul go on? Will there be demons? Angels? Spinning lotus petals, banquet tables, another incarnation? But as much as yearn to know, their fear holds them back. They don't want to leave all that they've ever known, this land of expectations.

I admit, I don't either.

But I am not being offered the choice, am I? None of us are. As certainly as my death will come, so will theirs. They just don't have the advantage of knowing when.

Oh! Here I am, lost in thought, and the bailiff has to ask me again.

"Do you have any last words? A message for the people gathered here, perhaps an apology? You have exactly one minute before you'll never have a chance again."

I realize that this is my opportunity. I open my mouth, beginning to giggle with delight at my freshly hatched plan.

"Yeah. What did the snake say to the chicken egg?" As a group, the crowd leans forward, mouths slightly agape in anticipation. They think, perhaps, that I have a nugget of wisdom to express in my last seconds of life. I begin to laugh.

Louder and louder I laugh, the absurdity and futility of the whole game finally becoming clear. I laugh in the faces of the executioner, the bailiff, the waiting masses. I laugh in the face of my father, of the king, of my fellow revolutionaries. I laugh at the devil and I laugh at God. I see the man's hairy fist twitch on the lever and I begin to tear up, laughing hysterically at the irony of it all. As his knuckles whiten and his muscles tighten, I laugh at the flea biting my leg.


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