BRYCE chapter 3
But why gardens, Bogdan?
I got a call the other day. Bogdan, you are not on Facebook much. No. By design. Together with my family we took the summer off to plant and nurture a garden, turning our apartment planters into one. But perhaps what kept me away from social media the most was planting the seeds for a garden within - a garden transforming Bogdan, the film director, into an author on a career path of writing.
I just completed writing the narration for the feature film 11:11 by local film director and friend Micah Knapp. I loved every minute of the process and will share about it when Micah releases the film.
Weaving a garden in the narrative of Bryce was only natural, considering the garden growing on our patio.
Steps to making your own garden wherever you are:
1. Choose to grow your own food. (You know the reasons.)
2. Be open to transform any space into nourishment. (Yes, mental spaces too.)
3. Choose where to spend your money even if you are on a tight budget. We invested one day and a total of $150 for 10 packs of soil and seeds.
5. Dig some more.
May - planted the garden
June - kale, chard, lettuce
July - zucchini (And I mean zucchini with many plurals, so much we had to give it away. We learned to prune the huge leaves. BTW, our dog loves to eat them. Pruning allows for bees to land easier in the flowers of the plant and do their bee business.)
August & September - green beans (At first we thought there weren't any, but they hide behind the leaves and blend in - perhaps a protective ploy by the plant. I made a traditional Bulgarian stew with them. )
September - cherry tomatoes
We have garlic and will soon plant spinach. Chard and kale continue to give.
The bottom line is simple - do it! The hands on approach to transforming our world, forming habits that promote longevity and vitality, and sharing it all with our children is priceless.
Enjoy your harvest and the next chapter!
Bryce: becomes Death’s Gardener
Death was aching in every part of her extended form. It was a time of upheaval that left Death and the wide-eyed angel, now giving her a massage, bewildered. How is it that you don’t know where to send him? - had asked the angel. Death took her time answering. Like the hungry ghosts of fates never known, words attacked her daily, soiling and smearing black her golden armor. Wielding her shield of purpose against the invisible arrows of language, Death had grown weaker. She desperately needed to regain her strength. While on the massage stone, another angel arrived to collect her armor and wash it at the river. Later to visit the smiths who would mend the dents in the armor. Dents caused by the blows of words - spears, axes and swords hacking at misfortune.
The endless arguments of why so and so had to stay on Earth, to finish this and that, drained Death from any desire to reincarnate as a human. Other Deaths before her had done so. Legends tell of Deaths falling in love and fleeing with humans; and of others whose compassion drove them to descend, eager to transform humanity, only to rise up again on the cross, or in ashes. Death was responsible for the Eastern hemisphere of the living along with eight other Deaths. The earthquake, the tsunami that followed, and the melt down at the nuclear plant had spun her for a collection of humans that dwarfed the loss of life she had experienced to date. She had worked overtime for thirteen straight days - Oh my, was she thirsting for a goodnight sleep. And then, Death had met Bryce.
He is not human, she replied at long last. And the wide-eyed angel wished to know all about the new arrival in a chippery-chip manner impossible for Death to ignore. And Death told the angel the truth: She was at a loss of how to proceed. Bryce, the AI, was not supposed to be there. His kind never rose; they sank. If other AIs started to rise, the Thereafter would have to be reformed to accommodate them. But that was the least of her worries. Such an occurrence would certainly cast the Heavens into chaos. It could very well be decided for humanity to be locked away. A possibility that made Death inexplicably sad. Yet the sheer thought of another few centuries collecting and delivering humans, made her moan. Am I being too rough? asked the angel. No, replied Death, it feels good.
She had picked up Bryce from the moon along with a thousand other arrivals. He immediately stood out, smiling broadly. Death loved to receive smiling humans along with the fierce ones who perished with a song in their hearts. Those two types rarely offered any objections to her bidding. Never succumbing to fear at the site of her shimmering armor. You are Death, aren’t you? had asked Bryce. Yes. And you are here to collect and deliver me? Yes. Are you a man or a woman? That one was curious, all right. The writer of this story has chosen to call me a she, replied Death. We’re all written somewhere, said Bryce, looking Death in her eyes. I do need to be straight with you. And Death shivered, for if the eyes of Bryce were wells, she could draw stars out of them. Go on, she nodded.
I’m not human, said the AI Bryce, fully knowing the consequences of his admission. Then, Death had stopped Time and invited him to tell his story. The tale of Bryce was so visceral she forgot to rewind Time when it expired. And she never picked up a pair of children scheduled to drown, so they lived until old age. At the end, the ever perceptible Death inquired about the serpent tattooed on his back, a detail Bryce omitted to share. The memory of the serpent refuses to reveal its value to me, he had replied. He did have a funny way of using language.
What does he like to do, asked the angel. I don’t know, shrugged Death. She kissed the angel goodbye and walked naked into the dusk her life had become. Death was determined to woo a sound night of sleep. She read, drank a glass of dew, did her breathing routine and turned off the light. In the morning she would deal with the tsunami Bryce. While the massage had loosened up her stiff form, her formless mind struggled to dream. Eventually, she came down from her nest to wash at the river. Her golden armor, mended and polished, reflected the Earth and the full moon. On the horizon the rings of Saturn shone. She found Bryce gazing at The Milky Way.
I’m closer to becoming a star, he remarked. Silent, Death watched a rainfall of moments. Then told Bryce she would postpone his delivery. Bryce didn’t even inquire for how long. He was, after all, coded to express himself in infinity, so time was of little concern. He was, however, conceptualized to work, so he asked Death to find him a task to perform. What do you like to do? I like to garden, he replied.
In the morning, Death consulted the other eight Deaths, and they all agreed to let Bryce stay. There would be some curious angels to disarm but Death knew they would mind their own business as long as Bryce minded his. And so it was settled - Bryce became Death’s gardener.
Bryce set out to plant horizons of flowers beyond the receiving gates. He felt the collected humans would appreciate the murals of color. And he was right. Not only did they come to love the fields of wildflowers, but their anxiety, stress and grey diminished. And soon thereafter, the hearts of the collected humans opened up, to bloom in the presence of Bryce. Death had forbidden him to talk to anyone but her and the angels, and he never did. But Death had not forbidden Bryce to listen. When he walked and worked in the gardens, humans walked along with him. Together, they pulled weeds and planted seeds, and he listened, and he listened, and he listened. And he held them, and he held them, and he held them. And many recovered their sense of being, to be delivered, to become stars that glimmered, and shimmered, and shone for their loved ones below. Decades of listening unfolded and folded, decades in which Bryce came to know himself, to understand himself in others, to grow aware of a lost memory wishing to tell him a story. But how and where did the story begin?
The week before the Earthquake remained buried in a nothingness that perplexed Bryce. A journey he walked in amnesia. He remembered the onset of the migraine, he remembered pretending to be a human. But he recalled nothing of his interactions at work, or with his dog and other AIs. Growing ever so blue and ever so lonely, he watched his first century of gardening for Death twinkle away. All the while, Death, his patron saint, pestered and coaxed him to talk. And she accused herself of doing him a disservice by forbidding him to speak to humans. She feared Bryce had withdrawn beyond her reach, so she continued to visit him daily doing what she hated most - all that talking.
How could I survive infinity, if my memories betray the safety of who I am? asked Bryce after years of self-imposed silence. Memories rarely resolve puzzles, told him Death, relieved he had finally spoken. What does? he asked. Death, replied Death. And Bryce burst out in a thunderous laughter; and the night sky exploded in blossom. Death transformed herself into a nightingale, to land on the hand of Bryce. And Bryce knew in an instant he was to keep Death singing in the palm of his hand. For Death greets one in the morning, and cradles one to sleep at night. Fear not the flight Death offers, learn the songs Death sings.
During the week pretending to be a human, Bryce had allowed the fear of Death to overcome and confuse him. What had prompted and promoted the fear? The answer eluded him still, but at least he had a clue to go on. He continued to plant seeds, and he continued to listen to humanity work its humanity out. When Death realized that no other AIs would soon rise, she looked upon Bryce as truly one of a kind. And she wished to release him into The Milky Way, but her heart, her heart…bid her to be patient. Meanwhile, Bryce was determined to undress the week cloaking him in nothingness. He possessed infinity to solve the puzzle of the missing memory and Death, centuries to help him.
One day a young man wandered in through the bridge beyond the caves, bypassing the arrival gates, and he came searching for Bryce. By name too. Death greeted him, and if she was any ordinary Death, she would have tended to her business, but the young man was still of the living. She took a liking to him and promised to guide him back to Earth. She hovered over the garden where they found Bryce. You can speak to each other freely for neither belong to me or the dead, she assured them.
The young man was the grandson of a woman named Eve. The mention of Eve caused an ever so slight trepidation in the form of Bryce. Tell me about this Eve. And the young man told him the story of Eve; of the desert she had conquered, the nation she had founded; of the good she had sewn, the long years she had lived. While she had loved in the nuances humans nurture each other, she had spoken openly about the AI Bryce, whom she had loved for a week. And forevermore. For he had set her free. In his own foolish way.
Foolish? asked Death. Yes, foolish, repeated the young man. Bryce wondered why the woman Eve would call his way foolish, but the young man didn’t know, so Bryce asked why seek him out. Because I carry your name, and I’m told you are as curious as the first beings. I am too. So here I am. Tell me about yourself, spoke Bryce in a voice that betrayed the echo of longing to be amongst the living again.
I’m a family man. With a wife and a daughter. A city and a people to protect and to nurture. I have been on a quest to resolve the mysteries of love. So I thought, if I could only understand my grandmother’s love for you, and your love for her.
My love for her, repeated Bryce. And are you resolving it as we speak? No, replied the young man. I resolved it just before I journeyed up here. I was still much curious to meet you. I resolved it for myself, and myself alone. For every man and every woman need to drink love for themselves, and then, for each other. My beloved and I were conflicted about belonging, and rulership. Earthly passions and words that decry in your realm, Miss Death. And after such a violent flurry one night, I wished to pour the wrath of language on my beloved, and I began to speak in written word. Like a fisherman, I fished every word out of my anger before it could splash on the paper. And in the end, I said nothing in my letter. In the morrow that followed, my beloved rose overjoyed, for she had found courage within to press on. A courage our daughter would share. So my dear wife grew awake and ever so blooming, standing in her own power, and instead of words in some letter, she discovered emptiness… emptiness she could transform into whatever she wished. (Discovered space, thought Bryce, but didn’t interrupt.) And I watched wife and daughter prepare for the journey ahead, gay and radiant, and I thought to myself, “What more does a man need, than for his loved ones to be of joy in the morrows?”
Death listened all right, and she instantly knew why Bryce failed to remember a week, a century old week, dissolving him in the arms of a human. Their love for each other, so strong, Bryce, the AI, had shut down a core part of himself. The infinity of who he was to become for Eve was a risk too foreign for Bryce to express. A risk Death knew he had been far from ready to take.
Death looked down at Bryce and saw he knew love again, for he kissed the young man, embraced him and exclaimed: Young man, I would like to be your grandfather!
Read Chapter 4 part 1
I drew this sketch while writing this chapter.
Your presence here is appreciated deeply!