[…] All lines, it turns out, lead to the same place: the Weighing Room.
Timidly, Kudra slips into the room, where she is surprised to find a tall, androgynous figure, half priest and half harlequin, wielding a gleaming knife.
One by one, the dead approaches the harlequin priest. With a swift, practiced stroke, he (or she) cuts out their hearts.
Upon a stone altar, there is a set of scales. The scales are ordinary, made of brass, not gold. On the left balance, there is a single hawk-brown feather.
The harlequin priest passes each freshly rooted heart to his/her assistant, a young woman in a white tunic.The assistant lays the heart upon the right balance. If the heart is heavier than the feather – and time after time it is – the person is motioned to the rear of the room, where he or she joins another line, this one filing down steps that lead to the docks.
At regular intervals, ships moor at dockside. The ships are sleek and luminous. In fact, they seem fashioned entirely of light, a cold light, as staid and ordered as a Victorian drawing room. The heartless board the ships, which, once loaded, sail away at tremendous speeds. In a matter of seconds, they are no more than distant stars in the obsidian night of ocean.
The woman in the snowy tunic notices Kudra. She smiles. “Do you understand what is happening here?” she inquires. “We weigh their hearts. Should a person possess a heart that is as light as a feather, then that person is granted immortality.”
“Indeed? Are there many?”
“Few. Precious few, I am sorry to say. One would think that people would catch on. Those who pass the test are usually rather odd. The last was a tall black fellow with bee dung caked in his hair. The ordinary rarely beat the scales.”
“Where do they go, then, all those who fail?” Kudra pointed towards the water, where another ship of light was just whooshing away, leaving a milky wake.
“To the energy realms”
“Never to return?”
“The woman shrugs. “As energy, perhaps. As light.”
“But the ones who pass the test…?”
“The immortals? They are free to take any direction they like. Free to embark on a sea voyage, to return to your world, or to some different world.” She places yet another heart upon the balance, squealing with delight when it does not send the balance dish plummeting to the altar top. “Look,” she says to Kudra. “Look at this one. Now here is one that comes fairly close.”
This organ was ripped from the corpulent breast of a jolly-faced troubadour. he doesn’t comprehend the commotion, but he is winking at Kudra, rubbing his belly, and looking as if he’d gladly trade his butchered heart for a pint of ale.
“Had he combined his hedonism with a pinch more wisdom, had he poured slightly less into his gullet and slightly more into his soul, he might have made it,” says the weigher of hearts. “Still, he earns a pink ticket.” […]
– Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins
This may be the most marvellous piece of writing I have read all year.
A heart lighter than a feather –> immortality. It is so wonderfully poetic.
[For those of you wondering what the pink ticket means, I am afraid that you will have to read the book for yourself. 1. I am way too tired right now to type more and 2. stop being such a lazy ass and read a book.]