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His despair was profound, his heart constricted even as he acknowledged with deep regret that the light of his soul had been extinguished. He felt as if he was encased in a solid block of ice. He could no longer summon the will to go on. Was it, after all, necessary to go on? A brief analysis of his current situation informed him that it was not.

The next step was obvious. What he needed was a convenient cliff - this being his preferred mode of departure. He finally located an inconvenient cliff, a place of considerable (though not total) isolation. It would at the very least afford him the opportunity to do away with himself in the privacy of his own mind.

There was no hesitation - not even relief. Nothing. Thought and emotion had expired long ago, now was the time to finish the job. He was ready to embrace death, his last coherent thought before he took the plunge.

"Where do you think you are going?" A gentle voice echoed in his ear.

His eyes were squeezed tightly shut, he wondered vaguely where the sound came from. The question was repeated.

He experienced great confusion. Here he was, happily on his way to oblivion - and there this insistent voice was asking a stupid question that he did not feel merited an answer. Was it not apparent where he was going?

He gradually became aware of a strange uneasiness. Surely he should be falling? No such sensation was forthcoming. He opened his eyes. What they encompassed startled him.

He was mid-way down the steep cliff. In other words, his progress had been halted, by what means he was unable to fathom. This caused him great displeasure. He had instructed his body to jump - and it had obeyed. Thus far, all seemed well. Now, however, it appeared reluctant to go any further. He knew enough about these things to realize that this suspension in mid-flight was impossible. What, then, had impeded his descent?

A being came into his line of vision. There was sorrow in its voice and a pained expression upon its beautiful countenance, when it reiterated the question:

"Where do you think you are going?"

"I am going to embrace death - if its any of your damn business!" he responded.

"It is my business actually - because I am not yet ready to embrace you! Though I thank you heartily for the compliment! " said Death.

"Oh...I see...so...you are the real thing are you? You are Death?" asked Life.

"Indeed I am," replied that Worthy.

"Ok - so now that we have established each others' identities - do you mind shifting? I was just on my way out of here," said Life, full of determination.

"You cannot leave yet," said Death.

"Why? Why am I being prevented from doing what countless others have done before me?" demanded Life. He was not at all happy at this attempt to obstruct his desire to self-destruct.

"Alas, there will always be those who are destined to depart in so tragic a manner. In any case your term is incomplete," stated Death.

"My term?" Life was bemused.

"Your Life-Term," explained Death.

"What is that supposed to mean?" demanded Life.

"Things are granted a brief time in space. Both are withdrawn when the term ends," said Death, kindly.

"Both?" asked Life, somewhat bewildered.

"Time and space - both withdraw when a term has reached its completion," replied Death, patiently.

"Do you seriously expect me to continue on with this wretched existence, simply because there is some time - or space - left? What is this anyway, a jail sentence? A prison term?" shouted Life, enraged.

"Come, you surely do not compare the world to a prison? And as for your life, you must seek its inner purpose and learn its ultimate meaning" said Death, quietly.

"Don't be ridiculous! I don't want to "learn" anything! My learning - and living - days are over. I am not interested in life - or in time, space or whatever. I am not even interested in you - you merely represent a means to an end. I want an end. An absolute and total end. Wipe-out!" Life could not have been more emphatic.

Death remained entirely unmoved. He gazed silently at Life. Life glared back defiantly.

"You have time left to serve - sustenance yet to part-take of. There is to be no end - not here and not now. Go back to that which you are striving to escape from and seek that which is hidden - yet manifest - within it," urged Death.

"Must you speak in riddles? And anyway, what is there left to seek that I have not sought for in vain? I have encountered nothing but pain. I have had enough. Who are you to stop me? You - the evil slayer of the living!" exploded Life.

"I am Death. I escort the living to their true abode, to a place unseen, their substance transformed into different states of being. I only do that which I am commanded to do. I strive to perform my task to the very best of my ability. I was created - as were you, and all things - for a reason and in accordance with the truth. Life does not belong to you - even as death does not belong to me. You cannot, and, in fact, are unable to come and go as you please," It responded.

"This life is mine! I shall do what I want with it!" proclaimed Life, arrogantly.

"No doubt you are able to ruin your life, you have been granted sufficient freedom to do that. But, do not elevate yourself above the rest of creation. Your cries are reminiscent of the selfish, self-indulgent, self-absorbed, self-pitying creature who deems none worthy of recognition and attention except his own wayward desires. To wilfully destroy a gift lovingly bestowed is a sign of gross ingratitude," said Death - and his tone, for the first time, was stern with disapproval.

"I did not ask for this gift," Life was now on the defensive.

"So - that is your justification for destroying it, is it? A feeble riposte indeed!" replied Death, not impressed.

Life became conscious of utter exhaustion.The fight seemed to be ebbing away and out of him. He looked at Death appealingly.

"I cannot leave?" he whispered.

"You cannot leave," Death stated no more than a matter of fact.

"Even though I want to - even though there is no desire in me to live?" asked Life, sadly.

"Consider yourself a traveller upon an adventurous, fascinating - yet incredibly brief - journey. The departure is Life - the destination is Death. In between - is the living, the being, the seeing and hearing, the thinking and the striving - the travelling. Buy but few possessions, for too many will weigh you down. Make many aquaintances - for these will alleviate your loneliness and from some you may learn and to others you may convey much. Truly, there is some joy and great sorrow to be found. Let not your emotions overwhelm you. Employ the forces of your intellect to defeat the forces of your inertia. That is the only way to attain Truth," encouraged Death.

Death watched Life, and waited. The battle being waged was a tremendous one. Life was desperate to die - and yet now was determined to live. The contradictions in his nature fought for ascendancy.

Eventually Life raised his handsome countenance and looked upon the beautiful face of Death. The struggle was over - the battle had been won.

They both smiled.

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