Frederick Ducasse was a grasping old man. Before he became a grasping old man, Frederick was a grasping young man. This world was all there is, so he squeezed every last drop from the tangerine. He made his fortune through cunning and treachery. Making friends to betray friends. He was widely hated, but that didn’t bother him as long as he was rich. He had everything money could buy.
Yet there was one thing he couldn’t buy–immortality. He saw his body age. Felt his body age. Despite diet, exercise, and the best medical care, he was helpless to halt the advance of time.
And now he lay on his deathbed, gasping for every breath. On a ventilator. With a heart monitor. And a live-in physician. Once a man of the world, with a private jet, a gigayacht, and mansions in Newport, Bel Air, and the Côte d'Azur, his cosmopolitan existence had contracted to an antique royal bed in his cavernous, curtained bedroom. Big, empty, and dark–except for flashing, beeping monitors.
He clung to life with every effortful breath. Clung to the fading light. Clung to fading memories.
He felt a great weight pressing down on his chest. He tried to reach for the call button, but he was too weak.
He felt his soul slipping away. Exiting the shell. Hovering above his lifeless body. Then passing through the ceiling.
For a moment he saw this world for what it was–a shadowgram. A shadow cast by the shadower. A shadow foreshadowing the shadower.
His fond old world suddenly looked so flat and colorless. Now he longed for the shadower. For the world above. The world to come. He caught a glimpse of heaven. New Eden. New Jerusalem. Joy unspeakable.
Yet he felt his soul falling rather than rising. Heaven grew distant. The music faded. A receding speck of light as he continued his descent. The air grew darker and colder. Then silence.