Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Wormold Makes A Choice

This week's sentence was from Graham Greene's 'Our Man In Havana.'

It was: 'Wormold felt an enormous bewilderment.'

Wormold Makes A Choice

Wormold felt an enormous bewilderment. For a split second his mind considered alternatives before concluding that bewilderment was indeed as concise a definition as it could muster.
At least at such short notice.
One moment he had been wrenching his bag free of the damned ticket barrier and running pell-mell down the platform toward the conductor who was about to lock the doors.
And the next.
Well that was where the bewilderment came in.

Most things in life bewildered Wormold. He confessed that women especially were a complete mystery to him. Come to think of it, just about everything that had happened to him over the last fifty-something years had baffled him in some way or another.
Summoned into being in such a bizarre and traumatic fashion as to refute the existence of any benevolent deity, he discovered that life came equipped - rather shoddily in Wormold's opinion - with neither user manual nor "undo" button. Even a manual filled with gibberish, such as the one that came with his Moskvich car and which he was convinced had been translated by someone who spoke neither Russian nor English nor had ever seen a car, would have been better than nothing. But nothing was what he got.
From that first breath to this last he had lived, like the rest of us, by winging it and hoping for the best. And now, after a lifetime of not knowing what was going on or why, came the biggest bewilderment of all.

Wormold supposed that now was as good a time as any to consider the afterlife. Look at the possibilities. Browse the catalogue, as it were.
Most religions' afterlives were out of bounds to him as a non-believer, but he still had options. He had been raised a Christian, but would be happy to discover he had been misled. An eternity of hellfire and damnation didn’t sound a bundle of laughs but it was decidedly more appealing than a heaven filled with self-righteous god-botherers sucking up to the kind of deity who considered the penis an ‘intelligent design’.
Wormold had flirted with Buddhism as a teenager but now reincarnation seemed way too much like the lottery. A glance at the numbers told him that the laws of probability ensured that just about everyone on the planet would come back as an insect. Bugger that!
The only afterlife that really held any appeal was carousing in the halls of Valhalla. Wormold was sure he had some Norse blood in him somewhere and wondered if he might qualify.

But no. Oblivion was the way to go. To simply cease to exist. Nothing bewildering about that. As a bonus, existentially speaking, the moment his own consciousness, and therefore the entire universe he knew, blinked out of existence, so would everything and everybody else. Including the bloody train company.
As his body fought for breath that wouldn’t come and pain tightened across his chest, Wormold smiled. And the universe and everything and everybody in it ceased to exist.

9 comments:

Vanda said...

Poor Wormold. I was afraid that's where it was going.

I'm afraid I share your sentiments about heaven and hell.

dive said...

Vanda: Every day, as I pound along the platform, gasping for breath in an attempt (sometimes futile) to catch my train home I risk doing a Wormold.
Not for much longer, though (watch this space).

As for the Christian heaven: I'm with Quetzalcoatl on that one.
I'm happy to let every Christian into heaven as long as we can bar the gates and keep the buggers locked up in there.
Of all the creatures with whom I'd wish to share eternity, Christians come somewhere below slugs and jellyfish (at least intellectually) and only one step up from insurance companies.

Vanda said...

Are you changing jobs or moving?

dive said...

Vanda, you forgot the other two options: am I running away to join the circus or mutating into Gojira and stomping the shit out of the train company? Actually, that last one has some REAL appeal!

Three little words:
Watch.
This.
Space.

Patience, young Jedi.

Vanda said...

I have suspicions. I'll be quiet.

dive said...

Okay, I fess up: I am running away to join the circus and will be sharing a caravan with Lobo from your story.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

I am reminded of Willa Cather's "Paul's Case." I wonder if Wormold had that all-too-late change of mind like Paul did.

Personally, I believe in re-incarnation. No doubt in my mind I can come back as a purple lilac in my next life.

dive said...

Katherine: Ooooh, I love Willa Cather. Purple lilac is a good thing to choose for your next life.
I rather like Pratchett's premise that when you die you get what you believe you'll get. Christians go to Heaven, Vikings to Valhalla, Buddhists get reincarnated and those of us who don't want any of it get switched off.
If I were Buddhist I think I'd like to come back as a migraine inside the head of someone loathesome like Dick Cheney or Sarah Palin. At least the afterlife would be fun that way.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

HA! You would make an awesome migraine. I just know it!