“Don’t go there,” the voice said. I knew that voice yet I couldn’t place a face to the person that owned it.
“Who said that?”
I knew they were coming. Even though I could not decipher the secret message in the runes, just holding the slip of parchment in my hands sent the warning through the tips of my fingers to my brain. Something disastrous was about to happen. I had that sensation when you don’t know what it is but you can feel it coming, like an ominous fog creeping out of the forest. The hair on the back of my neck rose. He was there beside me, behind me, all around me, yet I could see him nowhere. I began to run then I froze like a cowering dog about to be beaten. But there was nothing in my small room with me but my own fear and his voice.
It was him, that voice. The one from my dreams. The one that spoke with me when I was awake though my mind drifted. The one that told me stories of my past, reminded me of my life, my loves. The voice that shamed me with reminders of my despicable acts of greed and avarice. The voice that reminded me of my great works, my judgements at the Althing, my generosities and kindness, my politics. He spoke and thought like me yet we were very different. Every inch of my being was filled with dread.
Yet, in the next moment I was calm. The inevitable was about to happen and I knew that it would all pass within an instant and I would be released from all my trepidation. This did not keep me from making bargains to the empty air, to God. Was I praying, or was I begging like a sniveling child?
“I will do better,” I said to nobody. “I promise to be better.”
But this bargain only made it worse in my mind, made me think less of myself. I felt I could be no more pathetic, yet I offered my good deeds, my generosity, my scholarly wisdom in exchange against my weaknesses.
“Run,” the voice entreated.
“I can’t,” I pleaded.
“You won’t die here,” the voice said. “Go now.”
Of course there was nowhere to flee to except across the short way to my garret, my sanctuary.
I should have done better. I should have done more. It didn’t occur to me to look at the politics of my life. It didn’t occur to me to give more favor to those of lesser means than I. It didn’t occur to me until I faced inevitability. I could have said I was sorry. Should have said it. It became so clear to me the truth that ‘as you lived, so shall you die’. No escaping accountability.
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