The Seven Ages of Man (short story, complete)

By: Stephanie Peters

(((( If you have any questions ask me, its a scrap story i spilled out while listening to the piano for three hours and i didn't read over it :( ehhh but ENJOY anyways! It makes sense to me in an odd way. ALSO; I.E. Reference that Shakespeare's quote from Act II, Scene VII of AS YOU LIKE IT. was the actual basis of this short. So you might want to find out more about that )))))

- before the beginning

"All of their faces were staring with intense inspection. I made an apt decision to turn away… and wait at the same time. Holding. Holding myself and no one was with me. Moving was impossible. They were impassable. All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages; A home to political exiles, banished lovers, and simple shepherds' as Shakespeare once wrote. I was a vacant home; to broken doors in which I was poorly built, letting in strangers and fools; treating them with hospitality, sheltering them and taking them in to me. I was the pretentious one... not Jacques."

About this time I awoke, each day new but as old as the days been passed. A horse fly buzzing in my wake… whizzing about the room oblivious to everything. The pale white walls were turning a shade yellow. Smoke silently pouring under the sheet in place of the door.

Age one

Had their been another significant human to harbor me as a child, perhaps this would all be abolished in the sand. Perfect as She was She was but one. It was two for tango, and one for tea; Her golden eyes grabbing mine… until they took me away from Her. I wailed for two hours at birth. Sieving as the nurses were they weren't quiet sure what to do with me. I lay alone in a plastic base while onlookers took onto me; patting, rubbing; cleaning; poking; smiling. Why?

The umbilical cord... clamped and cut to form my navel. The provider of my food for the months inside her... left to shrivel and shrink unto me. To be used as nothing more than a budge in my stomach. In or out? That cap was nice though… and Her abdomen kept me warm while Her bright red face touched mine in comfort. I was home again… so it felt.

The room was bright and unfitting for someone living in the dark womb for so long. A bright flash shot unto me as they pierced my soul straight to the devil before I could even say. Perhaps that is why the babe will cry so much at birth. Apart from everything else…

I would think nothing much of a birth but a celebration, yet He showed up late to my arrival, the first of many times to befall.

As I surveyed the smoke arriving underneath the sheet, I rolled my head back smoothly opening my eyes; one centimeter at a time as I portrayed the ceiling. The stucco was to dry and chipped all over the white and now Cornish yellow color. It wasn't much but it was somewhere. My hands stretched and my legs followed as my head extended further back and I yawned like a lion; curving my head around and back on its side of the pillow where it belonged for the next five minutes. I wiped supple morning tears from my eyes and frowned ever so slightly. The striking sense of smell hit me now... commanding my attention…

Age Two

"Mother, must I really go?" I cooed in question. Why was she leaving me here? For what reason? I had done nothing wrong, in fact I think I was much behaved for my age… most mature for a 6 year old. All of the other children inside already starting their day and I was outside refusing to make an inch into the doorway. Her golden eyes gazed into mine and that look I should never hope to forget. I looked away from her eyes and down to the ground… broken cement and cheap fixings glittered through my eyes trying as hard as I may not to look back at her. "Yes, my son. Come here…" Her arms reached for mine and I lost as I looked back to her, still unsure why she didn't want me anymore. "It is for the best my love." She cooed into my ear as I gave in and hugged her. "I will never leave you… even in death" She whispered and I clenched tighter… as if by doing this, she would not go.

Minutes passed us both and we did not budge. As we did; her golden eyes were not so golden… they weren't so large. They were shriveled black coals before becoming diamonds again; which they did as she smoothed the tears away and off of her ivory skin. A smile to anyone else but to me it was a frown. A weary frown but was her version of a smile, nothing to notice in it though, and she turned me about face and I stepped that inch.

For some reason I refused to move. Instead I turned to my other side and pressed down on the worn play button of the cassette beside me. A few seconds of scrap airwaves… and then "Comptine d'un autre été" filled the room as smoke began to sift above to the Cornish ceiling above me… venting around me ever so slowly… ever so comforting. I could not think of any other way.

Age three

"Are you really going to leave Jacques?" She murmed across the desks to me. I tilted my head to the side a little and smiled lightly. "Please don't…" She asked.

"I won't if you will be mine…"

She frowned and stood up… leaving class early. I blinked long…and stared blankly out the window for what seemed an eternity; moving my hand over the smooth surfaces of white lined paper searching blindly for my pen. It was love I was searching for now. I was thirsty for the taste of her nape and neck, and could not think of a way to win her. I broke my gaze when I found the pen I was looking for and I began to write on the white-lined paper.

Dearest Amelie,

To know what you are and not to share is something I hope

Someday you will understand… I can no longer bear.

Yours in life

And in death… Jacques

I split the paper in half into a fold and walked from the desk… to the door. I dropped it into an envelope and set it at the office with her name on it. Sealed. As I exited the building I went straight forth to the parking lot not even stopping to say good bye to anyone. I got into my car and drove past the town limits.

After driving for hours… I stopped on the side of a road in a town which I didn't know existed. It had no name to me, much as I had no name to myself anymore. Who was I? Nobody wants me. Not even… and as the thought of her ensued my head, I thought of gold and black… and cascading lights. Yet now… the sign above me stood out. Much as it never had before. I had made it to the right place… at the only time possible.

We Want You

The man said as he pointed a finger towards me. He was not of any interest… but if I had nothing left to give and certainly no one for me to receive… I had nothing to lose. I would fight for my mother country; even though it had no interest to me, it was interested in me. O dearest Amelie… you make me my own death.

As the simple keys played in my head it brought back the memories of such moonless nights and such brilliant days with cloudless atmospheres; Patching the lips of passion together as I struggled not to move. Not to breathe. But to think of such things made it possible. Possible for me to finally escape from which I had been indubitably running from since she last gazed at me. The light in her disappearing forever when she let go of me.

I tried harder not to think of what I was trying in the first to think. The sacrifice was playing in my head. I was but six years old and she was a mere child as well. For what was I to her ? I was her soul and her body and her happiness in one. She gave me away for her own lights were fading; trying not to flicker mine along with hers. Appointing me to a house of children alike me. She was all I ever knew… and all I ever had.

Age four

The struggle had been tremendous while waging war with two worlds. One with the country, and the other inside my own mind. At first we had been infuriated by drill inspectors and the entire like. I became not a man of love but a man of hate now. Just watching death and avoiding death. My life was circled by death, fear, and hate. We don't come programmed with such thoughts or intentions. This was our control aspect. This was their fuel for us to keep going. To make it in this place… survival was the only true aspect we hoped to gain, but this wasn't surviving anymore. This was idling.

We trenched the grounds of many men and many fields of the departed. Many lands of solemn promise, now blood shed filled the skys below us. We walked on uneven grounds towards men who say pass only four ages of life. Some have passed a few, only knowing of the fourth age. Raised as an animal and not a human being. I was an exception to this.

The men of my brigade were all hopeless, and hopeful all at once. We were tired of this life but this was all we to our life. We didn't stop until there was nothing left… their own pistols in their mouths. After being brought to arms and satteled above the earth… riding into our own demise. Life works that way sometimes. It was my only hope left that I… should make it to the fifth age. The fifth age of life… where this anger would no long hold me in its locking grips…and there will only be one thing left.

Bringing back those memories had me thinking in a way I no longer knew; thinking of the seven ages of man. As the keys in this death drone symphony grew faster in pace so did my spirit. If for nothing she gave me this life and I denied her… I would be giving away the best gift of all. Giving her love and her light to the shadows. To the devil, so he may prey upon them, and enjoy every gift of her she gave to me. My mother was smart but I was… becoming smarter…

I choked the smoke into my lungs… bells and alarms began to ring and it was questionable if it were too late for me. I had my eyes clenched tight, they were burning as the carbon monoxide made them bleed and scratch my lungs worse than any parliament butt I've ever tasted. My hand jolted to the left trying to find the cassette player and take it into my hands and hold it like it was my only way to survive. Like it was the light and only life left of me. I wore it long in my heart since the day She left me. The songs of love lost and love no longer able. The simple keys to the piano that stained every inch of my heart but one…

The inch I had left… and did not plan on giving up with the song.

Age five

As I became aware that there was no escape to the burning apartment… I began to think it was too late. I rolled from the bed to the ground as swiftly as I could, but I was starting to become delirious. I didn't know anything anymore. All I knew was the cassette, which would surely be my demise or my survival from this pit I purposely laid myself into. I began to crawl, if that's what you could call it. There was nothing past the sheet, but I made it through…

I put a hand onto the carpet, grabbing at the threads, digging my fingers into it, and began dragging my lifeless body from the bedroom that was almost my grave. Almost. I was starving for air. I was starving for sight. For smell, and for Her touch. For her help.

"Please.."

As if nothing had happened.

I was alive.

Breathing. Through a tube, but none the less I was breathing. I heard the monitor of my heart beeping fast, a thing I thought no longer existed deep inside of me. People were rushing all around me. They were talking so fast you would think they were snakes slither their tongues at each other loudly. I was dazed, and someone put a small flashlight to my eye. Zipping it from left to right and back and forth. I could move my pupils it was too much energy. They felt raw in the iris and burned badly. My vision was so hazy and blurred very badly. The woman turned it off and as I stared hard into her face… She seemed so… familiar.

Those golden eyes… beaming, like crystals. Brighter than any diamond in the sun; louder than any whale in the ocean. I couldn't believe it… She saved me. She came for me…

And that was the last thing I saw.

Ever.

It was months of recovery for me. I never knew who she was, but I knew in my heart she was who saved me. They say I collapsed at the front door on my way to the steps. A medical student in my building saw me and phoned the fire emergency immediately and she got me an ambulance to the hospital… riding with me the entire way. I had been blinded for life and had severe scars on my eyelids and eyes. I was fully blinded now, not blinded as I was before to give up my own life. I prefer to think of myself as jaded in a life full of sore things. I was in the hospital for months before the young woman who saved me… came to see me… and I was upset I could not look into her eyes again… Those strange mysterious golden eyes…

The ones from my past

And of Her I could never forget

She truly saved me that night.

"Hello" Her velvet voice spoke to me. I knew she came into the room… the smell of plastic and latex disappeared when she stepped in, it was now full with scents of lilac, freesia, vanilla, and leather. I smiled a little and put out my hand searching for hers. She complied with me and took my hand as she sat down in the seat bedside my bed.

"My name is Olivia.. I am the woman who found you.. the night .. er.." She stopped and I felt her pulse quicken a little. I nodded in understanding. She took a larger breath. I sat quietly as she continued. "I just wanted to see how you were doing.. I'm very sorry I couldn't help you sooner. "

"Please."

Was all I said.

And she understood.

"If you don't mind my asking..?"

I nodded. "How old are you? You are too young to think in such ways. Surely you know what talents and gifts you could've wasted."

I tilted my head a bit, confused. She couldn't have known what my true intention was. Could she? No one knew or talked to me, no one knew my plot in the apartment that night. It was foolish for people to ask, but she asked like she knew.

"I'm sorry?" I said

"Don't play foolish with me. I know what happened in your apartment that night. You weren't planning on surviving. Something made you want to though, after it was too late to put the fire out. I'm just confused why…"

"I'm 28." Was all I replied. And she understood. She stood up and my heart jumped, maybe my body did too a little. But she reassure me.. "I'm not leaving, just getting you something."

What could she possibly be getting me? I thought. And before I knew it she returned and so did the soft music, although it wasn't my depressing keys… it was Michael Nymans "The Sacrifice" She salvaged my cassette player as well as my life. She set it down on the table beside my bed, and let it play as she took my hand again.

Age six

I had survived another age in my life, and it seemed that all else was looking up too. My wife, Olivia beside me everyday. Our children and their children playing in the fields beside our home. We had grown old together. Past all stages of life… I knew I would never leave my children or their children… not even in death, as She once said to me. I'm able to give advices to them that I had never gotten as a child. One is that I do not believe in the seven ages of life anymore.

Life is your own to grasp and mold, sure you are playing different parts in life, but as long as you are yourself, you shall not remain multiple actors, or an actor at all. It was true that we continue through certain aspects in life. Now that we have gained newer technologies and improved the human race as it is today- Back in Shakespeare time… maybe all they had were seven ages of man. But as my daughter would say… There are more ages to man now… because a woman is in his place. Together they envelope each other into one solemn age. The age of humanity.

The end