“He is dead you say?”
“No. Alive. He is one of the Quick.”
“Alive? You mean dead don’t you?”
The Mayor rolled this thought around his head for a moment. “So let me get this straight. He’s dead and…”
“No your not listening he’s alive.”
“Alive, it’s just preposterous. Doesn’t make sense. But because he is dead, it’s no problem…”
The young man gave up. The concept could not be grasped by any of the town folk and the gigantic head was not going away. It sat right beside the town fountain and was nearly as big as a house. The head could turn around on the spot but that’s it. It was as flabbergasted as everyone else at this new state of affairs.
The Mortician came up to the Mayor and the young man could heard the Mortician’s wispy voice say, “ah, if it is dead there is no problem…” It was too much for the young man and he yelled at both of them: “HE IS ALIVE!”
All the assembled town folk, who came to see the head, audibly sucked in their breath and followed by a low mumbling as they conferred among themselves. The Mayor sighed and approached the young man. “Now there is no need to be so outrageous. Seeing he is dead there is a little worry for us…”
All this time the head was listening. The head was definitely male and in the late thirties the young man had figured. The young man was a scientist and he gone about all the regular tests the moment the head had appeared. The head didn’t mind too much and occasionally complained that some of the tests ‘tickled’ (a sure sign the head was alive).
“Excuse me but could someone scratch my nose?” This was the first time the head had spoken to the assembled crowd and again they all sucked in their breath again. The Mayor walked up to the head quite slowly showing that he was purposeful even though he hadn’t a clue. He attempted to circle the head. The head’s eyes followed him till he was nearly out of sight and then the head slowly rolled around so that the Mayor couldn’t get to the back of the head. The Mayor continued his slow circle three times in an attempt to see the back.
The young scientist was agitated with frustrated and went striding forward to scratch the head’s nose but the Mortician and the local Publican held him fast. The Mayor stopped and then stared through his monocle at one of the head’s eyes. The head blinked and the Mayor stepped back.
“Seriously, my nose is quite itchy. Just one scratch, please!”
“Your… nose?” the Mayor asked as if it wasn’t obvious.
The head spun slightly so that it’s nose nearly knocked the Mayor over. “Yes my nose.” The Mayor slowly scratched it and the head let out a sigh.
“What’s all this fuss that our young scientist is worried about you being dead?”
“Actually, I’m alive. I’m pretty sure of it. Last thing I remember was sipping some coffee at…”
“Cough. Ee.” The Mayor repeated, considering each syllable as if it was of some importance. The crowd repeated the phrase.
Only the scientist was ever convinced the head was alive but the rest of the town folk came to quickly accept the head and even the head begun to enjoy its new condition. The head’s only complaint was that there was no day here and the only light was from the moon.
But they included the head in everything, from festivals and town meetings to birthdays and births. They even setup a Head Committee who’s sole purpose was to take care of the head, cut his beard, trim his hair, clean his ears, etc. Old Grandma would tell her stories in the town square so that the head could listen. The children would sit around him and some of the more adventurous would climb up using the lobe of his ear and sit in his hair.
She told the story of the Angels. That when an Angel died it would ‘wake up’ here on it’s way back to Heaven. It would take a long time to really wake up and it was said that while it was waking you could whisper things to it and it would believe it but when it finally woke up it would see right through the lies. She had stories of men who tried to manipulate the Angels to do terrible things for their greed but always got their comeuppance either by the Angels’ own hands or by their own fate.
The head got tired of these stories and once sighed when the Grandma started one of them. The Grandma gave him a frightful stare and after she had told the story and the kids had gone home, Grandma poked his cheek with her walking stick. “You don’t like the stories?” she poked him again.
“Ouch! They get old quickly…” he answered only to get another poke.
“That’s ‘cos there made nice for children.” She replied and then yelled “Grandpa!” The old man appeared in the door of the tavern and hobbled over. Some of the other men and women came out as they knew Grandpa was going to tell a story, a story for adults.
“There was a beautiful lass I knew when I was a young’in. She had a husband and three kids. She had good liv’in.” (That’s ‘living’ or having a good life as opposed to profession or being alive which are apparently very different as the head had come to learn). “This story is a tragedy and though it starts from a good place, it’s a bad thing that I must begin with. A great lizard-dragon burnt their home down while she was at market. All her family gone, except she. Struck with a terrible grief she mourned them for years until the town could no longer stand her crying.”
“Being ignored did her no good either and she started to try and kill herself. She asked the Mortician, the Soldier, the Publican and even the Doctor (though he did offer her things worse than death). But none would kill her. How could they? Action breeds responsibility and no-one was willing to face that for her.”
“But that’s when she saw a Star fall. An Angel had died. She trekked across the land looking for the little piece of broken Heaven and found the sleeping Angel in a rundown shack. ‘Angel,’ she whispered to it, ‘I am not worthy. You should kill me.’ The Angel stirred in its slumber. The girl had heard the stories, knew that Angels could be tricked as they slowly awoke. What she didn’t know is that Angels’ greatest weapons are not like metal swords. They are the razor sharp edge of truth.”
Grandpa took a deep breath. He said he had to get the words right.
“The Angel spoke ‘I have brought down nations, I have raised the humble to heroes, I have betrayed God and found Faith. I am waking and I have not yet the strength to strike you down. Tell me why I should kill you.’”
“She replied a little like this, ‘I have nothing, I have no-one. I cry and lose my living. I look only to the past. I am not worthy, you should kill me.’ The Angel, in it’s white smock rose from up from the depths of sleep as if it was a great fish climbing out of the depths.”
“The Angel responded, ‘I know you. I know what happened to you. The lizard-dragon was meant to be dead but I had failed to kill them all and so your tragedy is given from my guilt and failure.’”
“‘Then you should kill me now then, it’s all I ask.’ The Angel was now awake and he stood up, his glory barely concealed by his simple smock. His glory is a true vision to behold but it would be your last if you saw it.”
“‘You are a fool. I am awake and I see through the lies.’ The Angel said. “You do not really wish to die, but only crave the attention suicide offers. You wish the very heavens to feel sorry for you. Yet I will kill you.’”
“She went that kinda deathly pale when you see your own shadow wak’in. But that’s another story for another night, Mr. Head. The Angel said then ‘I will kill you because I see the truth and you are not worthy and do not deserve living. I will kill you slowly and painfully for Heaven does not care for pity.’ With that he revealed his full glorious form and she burnt in her mind for years until it was ash and her body was consumed by the light.”
Grandpa stopped speaking. The assembled people nodded their head in understanding. If the head was able to nod, it would have too.
(Sometime later, the head asked Grandpa where the woman was buried. Grandpa spoke slowly as he explained that the woman was still dying but the light of her burning soul was so bright that they threw it up into the sky once her body had gone. Her name was Luna.)