The sun was slowly sinking into the sea, painting the waves orange while the bench at the edge of the cliff was patiently waiting for the arrival of its usual visitors. It was a hot day and a light wind was gently disturbing the leaves of the trees in the forest. It was yet another quite autumn evening, there, between the two kingdoms, far away from the confusion of people and their everyday life, right in the stillness and peacefulness of nature.
Pretty soon, one of the two friends made his appearance. He came out of the forest, walking softly on the grass, making no sound, proud and delicate, as always. He sat on the bench, on the left side, and stared at the ocean while the wind was caressing his long, silk, blonde hair. The people of his tribe were all like that, light, beautiful and calm. Just like… like elves! Yes, like the ones you read about in Tolkien’s books, such charming and charismatic creatures! And the other one, the friend that he was waiting for to see next to him on the bench… can you really guess how did the friend of the elf look like? Yes you guested it right! He was a dwarf! A dwarf just like it should be.Chumpy with a red beard and a round nose. Not much later, he arrived as well, gasping and panting. In his hand was his faithful axe, upon which he was leaning while he was climbing up the hill, stepping heavily on grass and flowers. A pair of magpies flew away as soon as they realized the dwarf approaching. Hearing the noise his friend was making, the elf smiled.
– You are already here, my friend? the elf said. If I hadn’t seen the magpies flying away, I wouldn’t know.
– Mmmfff, mumbled the dwarf, cut the crap. Your ears are so big, you would even hear a needle falling in the middle of this forest, he said and sat comfortably next to the elf.
He put his axe next to his friend’s bow (yes, of course the elf has a bow, this story won’t break any stereotype) and caressed his thick beard while enjoying the magnificent view of the sunset.
– I know that I often complain about our meeting spot, he said, so far and so high, but, damn, every time I see this, I forget all the rest.
The elf smiled once again.
– Well, my friend, the elf finally said when the three quarters of the sun had sunk into the sea, what worries you today? What do you want to talk about?
– Mmmff, I don’t know, my mind is distressed. My father’s big brother, my uncle, Meryl the Last Forger, is dying. One hundred and sixty five years old. That’s a lot of years.
– Yes, smiled the elf, a lot of years indeed, he said and made the dwarf smile as well.
– It got me thinking, you know, said the dwarf. His wife, my aunt Fontaria, left us thirty five years ago… it’s been a long time, I hardly remember her face anymore and… I wonder if they will be able to find each other after.
– After? asked the elf and looked at the dwarf with curiosity. After what?
– After life of course! We call it the “After”. You know, after death, when the souls are united.
– I am so sorry, said the elf confused, but I am afraid I do not understand what you are talking about, my friend.
Indeed, it was impossible for the elf to understand the “After” of which the dwarf was talking about.
Elves as we know live for many years; so many that even they themselves do not worry about the end. Free from the fear of death, they never had to believe in anything after life. Elves believe that their last breath to be drawn will be also their redemption, it will lift the weight of the centuries they lived off their shoulders and relieve them. And then they will just become dust. One with the universe again. And with that, elves are satisfied. Elves are intelligent creatures, reasonable but at the same time sensitive and compassionate. Don’t ask me how they do it, years and years I try to combine reason and emotion but it seems that always one of the two will prevail. But the elves have managed it. They love nature and animals, they sympathize with people but they approach everything thoughtfully and logically. Therefore, elves never exaggerate, misbehave or get into troubles. How I envy them… I think. On the other hand, dwarfs… dwarfs are irascible, in the best case moody; they are dreamers, impulsive and unpredictable. They mainly follow their feelings, even though they have plenty of mind. They live a bit longer than us, usually up till one hundred years, though there are dwarfs that have reached at one hudrend and thirty – one hudrend and fifty years old as well. And they believe in the “After”. Ah, the “After” of the dwarves is so wonderful that even I wish to be true.
– But, the dwarf replied, what do you elves think that happens after you close your eyes forever?
– We become stardust, everybody knows.
– Stardust? the dwarf wondered.
– Yes, the elf answered naturally. We go back where we belong, he said and waved his hand around. Into the trees, the rivers, the sea, the sky and the sun. Into the universe.
– You mean, the dwarf said whispering, that when you reach to the end of your days you will become… dust? You will be lost in the wind? A simple nothing?
– Yes and no. I will become dust, but I won’t be nothing, I will be everything, I will be everywhere. I won’t be lost in the wind, I will be the wind.
– Grrmmff, mumbled the dwarf and moved into his place. Wind, water and dirt, what is the point? Why become everything if… if you can feel nothing? You elves are foolish! Grimla the RavenEye, my great grandfather, was right about you.
– Tell me then dwarf, what do your people believe? What is the “After” of which you talk about?
– The “After”. The “After” is the best thing you can ever imagine, my friend. When dwarves leave this world, they become whole. For in the “After” we find our other half, which we might already met it during our lives, but we might not. And it can be anyone, your mother, your brother, your friend, your companion or a stranger. And we become one.
He tightened the fingers of his both hands into one fist and raised them in front of the elf’s eyes.
– Here, like this. One entity. One fills the gaps of the other and completes him or her. Two persons into one. Nobody knows how this feels like because something like that does not exist in this world, only in the “After”. They say that you feel what your other half feels and you know all of his/ her thoughts. You are two, but one, the dwarf repeated. And you won’t be alone ever again. There is no loneliness in the “After”. Only fulfillment. That is the “After”.
For a while, the two friends stayed silent, staring at the purple sky and the dark sea that had now swallowed the entire sun.
– It is pretty, your “After”, said the elf finally. I do envy you for being able to believe in it.
– It is real, the dwarf whispered while still holding his hands together tightly.
The elf smiled melancholically.
– To me, the “After” does not exist, he said. My reasoning denies it and for that I am sorry. But I will tell you the only thing I would like before I become stardust. I would love to sit on a comfortable armchair and watch a play, a theatrical play.
– A play? The dwarf wondered.
If you ask my opinion, I would say that if the elf knew about cinema, he would actually like to sit in a dark cinema room and watch a movie – the movie of his life.
– A play, yes, the elf responded. The last play. With me as the protagonist. I want to see me when I was born, when I was a child and how I grew old. See my mother, my father and my brothers and friends that I grew up with. I want to see and hear everything again, with every detail. Laugh with my mistakes and nonsense, curse me for my wrong decisions, agree and disagree with myself, wonder why I did what I did. I want to watch me fall in love again for the first time. Take my life in my hands for the first time. Do crazy things that now would surprise me. Be young, reckless and fearless. And then banging my head against the wall. And learn. Learn to appreciate and truly love. See the people that stayed in my life but also those I left behind me. And maybe… maybe there I would like to leave the script of my life for a while and follow theirs. What happened to those people after we parted and never saw each other again? What did they think of me and never told me, what they felt and they kept it hidden? I want to see everything, the beginning, the middle and the ending of my life. And when the play ends and the curtains fall, I want to be able to say that it was a good play and I would gladly watch it again. Or live it again. Exactly as it was, exactly as it was written the first time. I would only want this and then let me be stardust.
A few moments of silence followed again. The magpies that were scared by the arrival of the dwarf flew back to the branches of the tree behind them.
– A play then, the dwarf said. A last play, the play of your life. Your wish is beautiful and I am glad you shared it with me because now it is also mine. And I‘ll tell you something my friend and believe me in that. The play of your life and the play of my life will be so good that we won’t be the only audience. People will line up outside the theater and our plays will go on for days, the dwarf said pompously and caressed proudly his beard.
The elf laughed loudly this time.
– I wish that my friend, I wish, he said and patted his friend on the back.
The sky was now dark and the lights of the two kingdoms on the opposite sites of the hill had already started burning in the night. The elf took his bow while the dwarf got up from the bench as well, with his axe in his hand.
– Thank you once more for an afternoon to remember my friend, said the elf. Your company is precious. Let’s go and write the next page of the script of our play now and take care to be good enough to keep the audience on their seats.
– That is for sure, the dwarf said and raised his axe gloriously in the air while he was walking away from the bench, heading towards the Kingdom of the Dwarves. See you tomorrow, my friend, and don’t be late this time!
The elf smiled and went down the hill on the opposite side, towards the Kingdom of the Elves.