Passing Through

Submitted into Contest #151 in response to: Write about somebody breaking a cycle.... view prompt

63 comments

Friendship Speculative Adventure

“We are here again.”

“Unfortunately…”

“How long have you been waiting?”

“A few years or so, but what does that matter? You are here now.”

“Remind me of this past life. Who were we?”

“Old Yemeni soldiers. Too old to fight, actually—but what can you do? The Houthi took control of Sanaa. I died in your arms.”

“Terrorist insurgency or foreign invasion?”

“Civil War.”

“Ah, yes. I remember now. We were running. Your skull shattered. I saw your brains ooze into the gutter. Quite awful.”

“I don’t remember that part of it.”

“Unsurprisingly.” 

“Particularly odd this time, don’t you think? You usually die first.”

“True. I do.”

“We’ll have to figure out why you usually die first before one of our next incarnations.”

“Lifetimes of bad luck, I suppose. But I’m grateful to you for delaying the next cycle. It would have been lonely going without you—so thank you for meeting me at the end of another beginning.”

“Why would I go alone? It’s awful enough as it is. I’ll never go on alone.”

“I find comfort in that thought.”

“There’s little comfort to be had in our endless suffering, so I’m glad my waiting for you brings you a soupçon of relief.”

“There was a time when we were separated far too early. Oh, gods—the Plague of Athens! We were twin girls in utero, but you were stillborn.” 

“True, but I didn’t have much choice in the matter. And you did die of exposure soon afterwards, so our separation wasn’t for very long. We’ve had much longer times apart.”

“That cycle was particularly short.”

“Quite, but it would have been worse to live.”

“Regardless, it’s good to see you again.” 

“Likewise.”

“Oh, I wish we were through this process. I’m getting quite tired of it all.”

“I believe you were closer to getting off the wheel more than ever this time.”

“No, not true. I am still attached to too many things.”

“How so?”

“Well, I particularly liked my ugly wife and children. Three little boys—born one right after another! Fat and happy babies. Rambunctious as a box full of puppies. I’d carry them on my shoulders. When they grew up, they were as handsome and dutiful as their mother was ugly. But my wife’s cooking! Yes, she was as ugly as a goat, but unfailingly kind to me. I miss her areeka and masoub served with rivers of cream and honey! And I miss the Somali prostitutes…”

“You lived to be such an old man this time! You think you’d abandon that particular craving.”

“Old men are ravaged by desire—much more than any younger man. But it’s a sad, impotent desire. Laughable, really. A weak decrepit soul shambling about in a body no one wants. Not even an ugly wife.”

“I liked it when we were old women in the New York tenements. Right off the boats. We spent the weekends at church and weekdays cooking up vats of tomato sauce. We’d yell across the yard at the kids. Old women have the best senses of humor, I think. I do like to laugh.”

“You are misremembering a bit. Our husbands drank too much and beat us on occasion. Our children were sick more often than not and the communal bathrooms were filthy. No sewage. Poverty. Disease.”

“It wasn’t all bad.”

“It’s never ALL bad.”

“When we are born women, it’s a bit more complicated, don’t you think?” 

“There are advantages.”

“I guess in certain times and places…”

“Remember when we were concubines to Qin Shi Huang? What an old fool he was.”

“Ah yes, the Qin Dynasty. Yes, and if I remember correctly—it was you who suggested he build a wall.”

“And a great wall it was!”

“Well, you were rewarded handsomely, and I was buried alive—prepared, standing up, all to greet him in the afterlife.”

“And did you?”

“The honorable First Emperor returned as a dung beetle, so—no, I did not greet him. I may have stepped on him or one of his castrated imperial servants.”

“At least the universe is equitable to some extent. That’s all you can really hope for.”

“I suppose.”

“It does get quite wearying. The hoping. The disappointment. The cyclical nature of everything. How nice it would be to stop. Perhaps that is why there are so many nonbelievers. Who wants to keep yearning for an eternity? Easier to believe life simply ends.”

“Well then, we should try harder to give up all desires next time.” 

“I don’t know. There are too many things I miss. I miss sopaipillas. I miss zeppole. I miss sonhos.”

“Fried dough? That is what will keep you from Nirvana?”

“Yes. Probably funnel cake—dusted with a mountain of powdered sugar.”

“Oh every culture we’ve ever experienced has doughnuts. What else keeps you bound to this earth?”

“Your body. Whether you are my child or cousin or grandfather. I miss being next to your body.”

“We’ve been great lovers on occasion. I remember Paris in the 1940’s…”

“Before we were shot.”

“La Résistance…”

“You looked lovely in a beret. You had dimples at the time, and your smile melted me entirely.”

“Dimples weren’t a match for the Vichy régime. If there were a hell, those sympathizers would be properly roasting on a spit. As it is, I saw Pétain return back as a young Franciscan nun, newly dead of breast cancer. He should have been born a blood-sucking tick, eaten slowly by an opossum.”

“Oh, it’s all too much.”

“Maybe we will be able to give everything up next time. Even each other. Then we can move onward.”

“Doubtful. Even my desire to get off the wheel is too strong. Too all consuming...”

“It’s odd how desire almost precludes you from doing something you wish—as if desire is the point entirely.”

“True. And while we're being honest, you should know that I’m far too attached to you. What would enlightenment be without you by my side?”

“Don’t fret. We’ll get it right in one of these lifetimes. Certainly there must be an end.”

“Must there?

“What else is there to strive for?”

“Why strive for anything? We’ll simply go on. Together.”

“All right. But let me die first next time.”

“If you insist.”


June 23, 2022 11:23

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63 comments

Moon Lion
05:18 Jun 25, 2022

This was so clever and hilarious. Nothing funnier than two immortals/reincarnated beings chattering in a casual way about their experiences and feeble deaths. "If you insist" is a perfect piece of dialogue and a phenomenal end.

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11:44 Jun 25, 2022

Thanks, ML. How great it would be to be so casual about life and death... That reminds me of the first piece of advice I received in high school when I worked at a fast food restaurant. Some old lady told me: "Men are like buses. Miss one, catch the next." Pearls of wisdom given over by the fry station. It has stood me in good stead.

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L. E. Scott
13:51 Jun 24, 2022

I absolutely loved this. Full stop. The dialog, the small references to different times and cultures, the anecdotes. It made me smile more than once and chuckle a couple of times as well. Very well written.

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14:54 Jun 24, 2022

I absolutely loved your comment. :) Thanks for the support. It's lonely at times writing into the void...

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L. E. Scott
13:27 Jun 25, 2022

I'm new here, but I totally get what you mean. When I don't get likes on my stories I dont know if its lack of exposure or because they're bad. I don't have any comments yet to let me know what to change. Guess I'll keep churning them out anyway.

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13:31 Jun 25, 2022

Don't worry. It takes awhile to build up a rapport. There are so many generous and talented people here -- just comment on lots of stories and politely ask for feedback. That's the best way to engage. Reedsy has a discord channel, but there's another more raucous one: https://discord.gg/bxTWQw3HJR

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13:32 Jun 25, 2022

(And P.S. -- you can like your own story!)

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Jay Mc Kenzie
05:51 Jun 24, 2022

Aw, I love a story in dialogue. This is a gorgeous Sunday morning amble through some pretty huge philosophical ideas, but presented as a causal chat (hopefully over a cup of tea, nestled under a duvet). I love the skip through the history of humanity without getting bogged down in historical detail. It's lovely.

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12:43 Jun 25, 2022

Jay, you are the best. Thanks for the moral support. Truth be told, stories in purely dialogue are infinitely easier to write. Just conjure up two characters and then let them have at it. (Who needs a setting? haha) So glad to know you and your great work. Your legion of fans and I are still looking for a date with you on Read Lots...come on in, the water is fine. And share your magic :)

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Claire Lindsey
22:41 Jun 23, 2022

Fascinating characters, great humor, and philosophical musings, just through dialogue. Is there nothing she can’t do?? Loved it!

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22:55 Jun 23, 2022

Ooo Claire you know how to flatter a gal...

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Michał Przywara
20:42 Jun 23, 2022

Two souls attached to *each other* is an interesting idea; an interesting karmic complication. And if they keep coming back as humans, they've got to be tantalizingly, infuriatingly, close to getting off the wheel. There's a lot of funny lines here, and quite a bit of witty dialogue. I particularly like: “What else is there to strive for?” “Why strive for anything? We’ll simply go on. Together.” Perhaps the end (or the end of ends?) is in sight after all. Structurally, I like that this story itself is kind of cyclical. We start off br...

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23:05 Jun 23, 2022

At this point, Michal, I'm pretty sure you are God -- so that last paragraph is probably scripture. Przywara 1:7 This was a ham-fisted mishmash of pop-Buddhism and eastern philosophy and early morning ramblings, so thanks for finding a through-line. I've always loved Aristotle's quote: "Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies." How lovely this would be if it were true. It wouldn't matter the combination: master-slave, teacher-student, husband-wife, cousin-West Virginia (ha)...the companionship would be all. I find it charmi...

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Michał Przywara
21:28 Jun 24, 2022

That's a good quote, and certainly applicable here. And those are great philosophical musings, the kinds we can probably drive ourselves crazy with. So, the best kind :) Looking at it another way, maybe discontent is a feature, not a bug. Maybe it's evolutionarily advantageous to us to lose satisfaction and keep desiring. It's what's pushed us to all corners of the world. I mean, it's not great for other animals, plants, or the planet, but it's kind of worked out for us. "If we were content, wouldn't that be the perfect misery?" I think ...

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23:30 Jun 24, 2022

Yes, Brave New dystopian rule by the things we love (sex/drugs) -- as opposed to the Orwellian nightmare: rule by things we hate (Room 101!)

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❀Leo Fall❀
18:13 Jun 23, 2022

You people, telling stories with just dialogue, I'm jealous. It works so well showing practice. I like the tone of this story, it seems friendly and comedic. Inspiring in a way too, which is nice. Another really good one, Deidra.

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18:52 Jun 23, 2022

Thanks, SLHP. Try writing in dialogue only for a change. It's good practice (and kinda fun).

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❀Leo Fall❀
21:37 Jun 23, 2022

I think I might try that.

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22:56 Jun 23, 2022

Do it. And then send me the link so I can read it :)

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❀Leo Fall❀
23:31 Jun 23, 2022

I will.

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❀Leo Fall❀
00:31 Jun 24, 2022

https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/v4koh1/

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H L Mc Quaid
16:26 Jun 23, 2022

What? You told a whole, amazing complex and humorous story exclusively through dialogue? Show off. ;) And yeah, there's a deeper message, reminded me of the debates on 'the good place'... Great story. :)

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17:43 Jun 23, 2022

Hey HL McQ! Not sure if I knew exactly where I was going with this one, but it definitely fits the zeitgeist of my life at this point. The writers on "The Good Life" are brilliant, mixing slapstick humor with just enough philosophy and religion to make us think that life has purpose and meaning -- just before heartily encouraging us all to embrace absurdism. As it should be. :)

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Nandini Panchal
12:28 Jul 17, 2022

Really amazing!!! From where do you bring all this talent, honestly? 😂 I really like your writing style, I'm going to try following your footsteps.😁😁

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Rebecca Miles
18:25 Jul 04, 2022

I've never attempted a story all relayed with dialogue so I read this with more than a soupçon of interest! Loved how you had the broad sweep of time and lots of funny moments; my favourite reincarnation was the emperor as a dung beetle- ha! Really enjoyed this and gelt I'd learnt a lot about dialogue along the way.

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19:42 Jul 04, 2022

Give pure dialogue a shot -- lots of fun with the right two characters :)

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Philia S
15:55 Jun 30, 2022

Hey! I loved this story. Nothing much to say, really. I am supposing those hints of eastern philosophy were deliberate--made me immensely excited. XD I suppose, you probably have read about freedom from the cycle of life and death?(or moksha from samsara chakra) Anyway, twas really nice to read. I wonder(and admire) how you produce such masterpieces every week. -Philia

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18:35 Jun 30, 2022

Ironically, this story loves you. I had originally entitled this "Samsara" but not sure it would have gone over with the Western crowd. Thanks for the read, Philia. It good for a writer to have readers. :)

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Philia S
19:07 Jun 30, 2022

Dear me, I would've loved that more, personally. But of course, then there's the west. (reminds me of those lines-- oh, east is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet. XD)

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19:17 Jun 30, 2022

And the west is always about 1000 years behind the east... The West: "We discovered fire!" The East: "We just made gunpowder and porcelain and algebra."

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Philia S
19:33 Jun 30, 2022

XD it is sort of true. There's discoveries and inventions the West is coming up with and the East is like, "stale news." (I mean zero and Pythagoras? Gimme something new!) But not always, of course. They are two sides of the same coin. XD

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20:59 Jun 29, 2022

I could picture the whole conversation playing out in my head and it was both clever and amusing. Well done!

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22:06 Jun 29, 2022

YAY Thanks for the read!

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16:36 Jun 27, 2022

Eternity.. evocatively captured in a few minutes. Another stunning story, Deidra. P.S I've been so inspired by your dialogue only stories I've tried it myself this week!

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17:27 Jun 27, 2022

OooooOoOoOooo I need to read yours :)

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Wendy M
15:41 Jun 27, 2022

A-Ma-Zing! I almost enjoy reading all the comments and responses as much as I enjoy the story. You guys have a great rapport. What a fun place to come and write. I love stories told in dialogue, I have to give it a try, thank you for being an inspiration.

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17:27 Jun 27, 2022

They are REALLY easy and my go-to when the week runs short. Let me know when you write one and I'll head over for a read :)

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Wendy M
18:35 Jun 27, 2022

That's very kind, I'll take you up on that offer one day.

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Wendy M
16:58 Jul 08, 2022

Hi Deidra, I'm hoping to take you up on your offer to read my story. I've had a go at dialogue only for the latest prompt, so if you have time I'd appreciate your input. Wendy

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17:00 Jul 08, 2022

Let's go :)

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Seán Mc Nicholl
12:13 Jun 27, 2022

Ah Deidra, you knocked it out of the park with this one! The casual nonchalant dialogue that was woven with wit and humour was brilliant, and to only have dialogue was a stroke of genius! Loved it!

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14:32 Jun 27, 2022

Sean, you flatterer. Thanks for the good cheer. Not sure this coalesced as much as I had hoped, but there is always next week. Onward :0

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Shea West
17:19 Jun 25, 2022

Deidra-- I'm late to the party, but please know I always bring snacks! You know how much I love and adore and {cough idolize cough} your dialogue only short stories. I suspect you're so good at them because you also possess this natural ability to talk to people in a way that makes them feel like the coolest human in the room. I enjoyed the way that you approached this prompt and had these two soul(mates) going through all of these reincarnations. If only we got to choose it this way! I'd know who my ride or dies would be in the next li...

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18:24 Jun 25, 2022

Snacks cures all ills. Especially fried doughy ones. I'm looking forward to our Easy Rider trip when you turn 50. We'll get Beth Connor and party in Brazil with K.

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Shea West
18:29 Jun 25, 2022

Welp, I'm 40 this fall🎉🎉🎉

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18:49 Jun 25, 2022

Life begins at 40. Then again at 50...

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Jim Firth
09:31 Jun 25, 2022

Deidra, I love how the two souls reflecting on their past lives allows you to describe each incarnation and add a lot of variety to the story. I mean, what could bring two characters closer together than having lived many, many lives together? “Fried dough? That is what will keep you from Nirvana?” is one of my fave lines. Because it was all dialogue, I could see this story working if it was performed on stage, but wouldn't know if or how to represent them as 'souls'.

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10:48 Jun 25, 2022

Thanks 🙏🏻 Jim! I was channeling Samuel Beckett for sure on this one. His short plays are masterful at absurdism with touches of religion, philosophy, and madness (which at some point are all synonymous?) Beckett’s wild take on “souls on stage”: https://youtu.be/s2QJ0FYE3pw

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11:27 Jun 25, 2022

P.S. 🍩 If there's an emoji...it's probably central to the human condition.

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Jim Firth
12:12 Jun 25, 2022

Ah yes, that's how you do souls on stage! I remember my dad showing me this one on DVD when I was a kid and I didn't get the absurd humour at all. If I'd known it was Rickman/Severus Snape I might have paid more attention.

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K. Antonio
22:52 Jun 24, 2022

Ugh, I really enjoyed this Deidra. I liked how you started with an event and how this entire story is a conversation. The back and forth works so well (you're ability to pull this sort of dynamic off so seamlessly always amazes me) that it makes the story feel even shorter, like I'm just there witnessing (well, I guess, as the reader, I am) the story unfold. I love how it's a paranormal friendship piece, how the two characters have known one another and reminisce about dying and coming back to life. Such an easy, breezy (cover girl) delig...

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23:30 Jun 24, 2022

Who loves you more than me? No one.

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Shea West
05:49 Jun 25, 2022

Possibly me. But we can be co-hoes Deidra🤣🤣

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11:41 Jun 25, 2022

Any place, any time.

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B.T Beauregard
16:41 Jun 24, 2022

*Standing ovation* I don't have words. Beautiful. I love. 15/10. Damn.

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20:15 Jun 24, 2022

Totally by accident. Not really sure how this thing came into being...? (Late night writing. You know how it is...)

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Ace Quinnton
19:56 Jun 23, 2022

Another great story Deidra! It's funny actually, you did an all dialogue, and my most recent submission is too. If you get reincarnated (whether as a human or animal), what would you like to be, and what would you probably end up being? In some other fantasy universe, I'd like to be a dragon or a rogue goblin, but I'd end up as a druid that guides MC on their journey. Not like that's a bad thing though it's not what I expected or wanted. Oh well... can't wait to see what you'll write next!

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23:11 Jun 23, 2022

Ooo let me see. I would like to be reincarnated as an octopus, but I'll probably end up as a sea slug. Good luck with the dragon life. Druids would be quite cool. Goblins?? Hard pass. Those are some ugly dudes...

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Ace Quinnton
23:27 Jun 23, 2022

Octopi are very smart and flexible so that's a good choice. NONONO, YOU MISUNDERSTAND ME. Cute female goblins are adorable and I love them. It's mostly the males that aren't good looking. (No offense to the male goblins out there.)

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23:35 Jun 23, 2022

O, darling... There are male goblins everywhere. Like way too many.

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Ace Quinnton
23:43 Jun 23, 2022

That is EXACTLY why I'm forcing my artist friends to make female goblin characters instead of male. I already have one, her name is Olive Lich and I adore her.

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Del Gibson
04:25 Jun 30, 2022

I loved this story! I have never seen a short story written in only dialogue. No stuffing around with the usual, character building, setting or exaggerated drama. It works! This is wonderfully written, and easy to imagine some of the places and experiences your characters discuss. Great job!

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