In the Spotlight

“Why?” A young woman with a light brown ponytail asked.

“Huh?” Kate looked up. She was surprised to see someone, anyone, standing close enough to talk to her. Kate sat on a park bench wondering just how much more of life she could take. It was a cool, sunny Friday morning. It was objectively a beautiful day but Kate was too busy lamenting her problems to notice. She also didn’t notice that she spoke aloud.

“You said you wish you were never born,” the woman said. “Why is that?” Kate sighed. She didn’t want pity; but, at the same time, she felt like she really needed it. Maybe a kind word from a stranger would help her get back on a positive track.

“Because I feel like I don’t matter,” Kate lowered her eyes to stare at the cement path. “Never have, never will…,” she whined. Kate hoped for kindness. Or at the very least, a warm smile before the young woman moved on from the sad sack on the park bench. Instead, she got a hearty laugh in exchange for opening up. Not only that, the stranger decided Kate was entertaining enough to sit down next to her.

“You don’t!” the stranger said with glee after her initial outburst died down. Then, for some reason, she extended a hand at Kate. “I’m Elsa,” she said.

“Kate,” she tentatively shook Elsa’s hand. Sure, Elsa made fun of her; but, she was also the only person that seemed interested in having a conversation with Kate in the past year. And, Kate wasn’t a stranger to abusive relationships; assuming Elsa wanted a friend at all.

“Thanks for the pep talk,” Kate added. “I feel so much better.” Elsa continued to giggle.

“No, really,” Elsa said. Her giggles died down but she maintained a broad grin and amused, sparkling eyes. “You want me to prove it?” she asked. If Kate had not already been contemplating suicide, that question might have raised an eyebrow. Instead, she felt like she had nothing to lose.

“Sure,” she shrugged. “Show me how unimportant I am.”

“You got it,” Elsa snapped her fingers. Then, Kate blinked. She found herself in a hospital room. A younger version of her father held the hand of a younger, screaming, version of Kate’s mother.

“PUSH!” her father yelled, then, everyone froze and the room went quiet.

“This is the moment of your birth,” Elsa said. Kate stared at her unmoving parents, then looked at Elsa.

“How….who or what are you?” Kate asked. She was willing to accept that she may have gone crazy at the park. Or that maybe, she accomplished what she planned to do that day and this was just some version of her life flashing before her eyes. But, Elsa was there to talk to, so she asked her.

“That’s kind of an involved answer,” Elsa said. “For now, the easy explanation is, I’m Death.”

“Death, huh?” Kate couldn’t not believe her; she was standing in the past at the moment of her birth. “It’s about time. I’ve been hoping you’d show up,” Kate said, she almost smiled at her own joke.

“And, I did!” Elsa laughed.

“But, I wanted to never be born,” Kate said. “Killing me at birth just feels mean to my parents,” she said.

“I’m not killing you. I’m showing you why you don’t matter,” Elsa replied. She reached forward and grasped at nothing in the air. Kate didn’t see how it happened but the moment Elsa closed her hand she held a long pitch-black scythe. Then, she walked closer to Kate’s mother and placed the flat side of it on her mother’s stomach.

After a moment, Elsa flipped the scythe over and rested the other flat end on Kate’s mom. When she was satisfied, Elsa lifted the scythe and returned to Kate’s side. The room roared to life again as Kate’s mother continued her labor.

“And there you go, you’re never born. Let’s see how this turns out,” Elsa said. A dozen questions flooded Kate’s mind but she was distracted by a sudden blink. When she opened her eyes she was in her childhood room. It looked different, but she recognized the peeling wallpaper and stained brown carpet. She was surprised to see her 8-year-old self walk into the room. The little girl dropped a pile of clothes on the floor, then dashed out of the room again.

“You said I was never born…,” Kate said.

“And you weren’t,” Elsa replied. “She was, whoever she is.”

“That’s me!” Kate said.

“Oh, damn. I might’ve done something wrong. Are you sure that’s you? Were you this messy as a child?” Elsa asked. The clothes on the floor fit in well the decor of everything else being on the floor too.

“God no, I always kept things tidy,” Kate replied. Which was true. It was why she chose to go to the park that day; she did not want to leave a mess behind in her apartment.

“Then, it’s not you,” Elsa replied.

“But she looks just like me!”

“Really?” Elsa asked. She tried to sound surprised, but Kate got the impression she was putting on a show. “Let’s check again a bit later.” Kate blinked again. This time she opened her eyes to her own wedding.

“Yeah…I guess she does kind of look like you,” Elsa said while appraising the bride in all black.

“Black wedding dress? What’s wrong with her?” Kate asked. “I can’t believe Jeff married someone that would wear a black wedding dress.”

“You mean he’s not marrying you?” Elsa asked. Her voice carried a hint of smugness, but, Kate was okay with that. She started to feel like she was understanding Elsa’s lesson.

“So…, my parents had a baby. And that baby is going to marry Jeff no matter what? Whether or not my soul is in that baby?” Kate offered her guess. Elsa smiled, then Kate blinked. They were back at the park and Elsa’s scythe was gone.

“I wouldn’t say ‘no matter what’,” Elsa said once Kate got her bearings. “But for the most part, yeah. It’s not something I go around talking about, but I think it’ll help you. Time is kind of like TV show. Before you see it, the route to the end is already planned out. If someone doesn’t show up, they get replaced.”

“So, nothing I do matters?” Kate asked.

“Not really, no. Life goes on.”

“Then, what’s the point?”

“There isn’t one,” Elsa said with a large grin. “That’s why you get to make up your own.”

“But what if-,” Kate’s question was interrupted.

“What if what?” she asked. “I just proved that nothing matters. Actually, that’s wrong too, there is one thing that matters.”

“What?” Kate asked.

“YOU are here. You’re ON THE SHOW!” Elsa said. “It’s your chance to do whatever you want to do. Whether you do it or not, it doesn’t make a difference. So, you’ve got to decide if you’re going to try to enjoy being on stage or resent not knowing the routine, that no one cares about, until you’re out of time.”

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