Postcard from the Void

Hello everyone,

Death here. Just thought I’d remind you that I am here, because some of you may have forgotten, and I know a few of you are giving me the cold shoulder. It’s really not doing either of us any good.

What happened between us? It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when we lived together, when you depicted me as walking with you through your life, dancing even, but slowly you pushed me out of the picture, until you had me just wafting in at the end, hovering over your death bed and clocking you out at the end of your shift.

Ha! ‘Death bed’… as if there’s only one!

Yes, these days you find me morbid, depressing. You never have time for the darkness now; yet I know you know I’m here. I know when you feel an odd pain in your chest, when your old mum doesn’t call for a few days (not like her!), when you glance over the edge of a cliff, when you lose your favourite scarf, when you read about the polar bears wasting away and the great barrier reef expiring and oh dear the future — I know then that you can feel me… but how quick you are to push me away! I’ve got feelings too you know! Morbid! Depressing! You don’t call me ‘morbid’ and ‘depressing’ when you’re intoxicated with joy, dancing wildly, at the point of a phenomenal, unbelievable orgasm, when you sink into the depths of dreamless sleep, when your mind shatters at spectacular natural majesty or when an achingly, longingly, beautiful work of art stills you, and makes you cry. Oh no! Someone else it was that killed you then was it?

Yes, killed you — don’t you see? in those moments of clarity, and release, and blended intimacy with the present moment that you — the ordinary thinking, wanting, worrying self you carry around all day — dies?

And who else, I ask, could be killing you but me?

Look, please, don’t be afraid — I know, I know, total obliteration, the end of the world, the annihilation of everything you hold dear, all your values, memories, possessions and valuable position in the world gone forever, yes, I know that gives you the willies. I know it makes you cling to the known, fall in line with anyone who says they’ll protect you, do terrible things to keep the fear away. It would me if I were mortal. And I’m not saying it’s not painful to let me completely into your life, of course it is — but sooner or later you’ll have no choice, and the longer you wait, the worse it gets.

So come on, let me in. I’m sitting next to you even now; drifting through the space between things, strolling slowly through the crowds and smashing my bass drum in the library. I’m behind the slebs, gurning on the cat-walk, I’m dancing with the freshest and sexiest young things and I’m laughing my bony arse off at all the awards ceremonies. I set a table for you, amidst your enemies, and my rod and my staff are here to comfort you; at the most surprising moments. Stung by weirdly unfair criticism from a colleague? Lost chance through foot-in-mouth-micro-catastrophe? Nothing but artistic excrement coming from your brush? Can’t stop worrying-wanting-worrying-wanting? In a big blousy state of ‘not faaaair, don’t liiiike it’ or ‘that’s so offensive!’?

Let go and let me in.

I’m surprisingly good at sorting out relationship problems too, if you’ll both acknowledge I’m here and if you’d be a bit more honest about me collectively, not sweeping me out of sight the minute I appear in the flesh (so to speak), not putting on that ‘serious respectful’ face you do when I appear in conversation (I can see you you know), not pretending I don’t exist or that nothing dies (What? He died? Thought he was going to live forever did you?)… If you’d face up to me I can bring such strange delight to your lives, do wonders for the old ‘we-feeling’ — the sense of togetherness you’ve long, long forgotten. And you won’t believe what peace I can bring, what confidence, what glories of creative inspiration. Pretty much everything your heart yearns for in fact.

So anyway, I must be off — there’s always someone to kill you know — but I’m never far away.

Don’t be a stranger!

All my love,


Rethel, Alfred. Der Tod Als Erwürger ©Trustees of the British Museum.