Author: Elaine Thomas

The warm sun felt good on the old man’s skin. He stood on the balcony, gazing down into
the garden.

“A beautiful day,” he thought, “a good day to die.”

He examined his hands, gripping the railing, wrinkled, marked with spots of age and
prominent veins.

He shifted his fading eyesight back toward the garden below. The old man took solace in
flowers, that something so alive and lovely could rise up out of the dirt and all that might lie hidden beneath. Enduring perennials bloomed alongside annuals that required replanting every season. His carefully cultivated garden held the perfect blend of forms and colors, each according to its kind, and he saw that it was good.

His young grandson played among the plants. Yielding to sentimentality, the old man thought of the radiant child as the most beautiful flower in his garden. He pushed away sadness, letting himself fill with a familiar flush of pride. “Such a boy comes along only every few generations,” he thought. Despite his failing body, and aggrieved acceptance of its mortality, knowing he would live on through such a child comforted his ancient soul.

The boy looked up and waved. As the old man wound his way down stone steps toward the garden, his mind pictured the sadness the boy would have to carry into his grandfather’s funeral. No doubt the child’s composure, wise beyond his years, would impress all who witnessed.

If anything could make the old man rethink his decision, it was the sweet child who smiled at his approach. He wanted so badly to spare this boy pain, but his own gnawing need was stronger, deep and primitive and irresistible in the way of all instincts.

The grandfather threw open his arms. The boy eagerly ran to him. He stooped to lift the child, folding him against his chest, savoring the feel of the sturdy young body, the warmth, and smell, the generational newness. He held the boy tenderly for just a moment, before giving in to a hunger now beyond all control. He spread his jaws and pressed his mouth to the boy’s face. The alarmed child’s back stiffened. The exchange began.

He left his old, withered body where it fell. This now-new boy never looked back. He knew what everyone would say when the boy’s father found his own father’s body, “He died peacefully in the place he loved most.” He had left written instructions, requesting burial there in the garden.

To himself, he whispered, “I am …” Energy pulsed through his new body, replacing any memory of suffering or sorrow. “I am…” he whispered again. He belonged both to and upon this dirt, from which he had emerged long, long ago. He felt as he had so many times before, as he knew he would so many times again, perennially, each time and always, no matter how different, the same boy.