“How many times have you died?” the young man asked the old.
“More times than I can count,” the old man replied.
“And the first?”
“It was long ago, before the seasons of the Earth began to change for the first time. Way back before the first great drought; before April showers brought May flowers and all of that. That was the first time I experienced death, that was the first time I died. Of course the Earth has gone through many changes since then.
“With each death the Earth I once knew seemed to drift a little further away. Friendships began to shrink, families split apart. I tried to tell them, I tried to warn them all what was coming, but no one, not one single entity would listen to anything thing the crazy one had to say. Even to this day, no one would listen to the old crazy man.”
“I’m listening, old man. Tell me what it means to die.”
“To die means to let go of everything and everyone you have ever cared about. It means to be willing to lose every social relationship you have ever had in favor of something else. Dying means exchanging one world for another.”
“That can’t be so bad, old man. I mean knowing there is another world to go to.”
“Boy, you do not know what I am talking about, do you? Look around, does this place seem like heaven to you?”
The young man gazed across the terrain that lay barren beyond the old man’s front porch. Where many decades ago stood trees and fields of grass, ponds where perhaps animals once got a drink, all of it gone now. Gone like the Arctic ice and the dinosaurs that the old man claimed to once walk with.
“I think the world is kind of what you make of it, old man. Heaven and hell are just as likely a place on Earth, in what ever form, as they are a place in the afterlife.”
That gave the old man a chuckle.
“Listen son, I have a secret for you. As many times as I have died, so to at some point, will you, or you would not be here speaking to me.”
“And what makes you so sure, old man, that I am not here to lift you up from death, to take you to heaven?”
“Heaven hasn’t been a place I wanted to be; not for a very, long, long time. I went to heaven once. It seemed like the kind of place a man had nothing to worry about. And maybe there was a time when that was true, but heaven, my young friend has been tainted by someone who should not have been let in. The problem with heaven is that you can’t see ‘em coming for you there. Too many people walking around like zombies; so blinded by the light, it's so easy to die there and never see ‘em coming for you. At least where I am now, and I know where I am, I can see each death coming and at least can get a shot or two off before they kill me once again.”
“No one can sit out here like this forever, old man.”
“Oh, I suspect I can out last you, and them, young’un. No matter how many deaths I suffer, no matter how many lives I have to live, no matter how bad the Earth gets, eventually things will turn around.”
“Well, good luck with that, old man. I must be moving on now. Hey, just how old do you think you are now?”
“About 3.5 billion years old, I suspect.”
“That's a long time to live down here, old man. Don’t you think?”
The old man continued to sit in his squeaky wooden rocking chair, holding the shotgun over the arm rests. “At least I can see them coming,” he replied, “At least I can see them coming.”