Life/Limbo/Death: A Michael Jackson story

A short story to mark the day…


1. Life

Sometimes I feel them now, the millions, licking at my heart. I am the god-king of their pagan sacristy, the one they worship to soothe their own pain, boredom, loneliness. Their prayers are vague and ill-defined, and if you asked them, they might deny wanting anything at all; yet they come, wanting to taste me. Singing my own songs to me, dancing my dance, they come; gazing into my mirrored lenses, they come. With flashbulbs and tears, with professions of love, with ancient gestures of praise and great wails, they come. I shelter myself with acres and magical beasts, with the innocence of children and of mothers; yet they come.

And how can I resist them? Every god needs devotees, craves their touch as a boy his father’s love. I never learned how to be just a man. I am the sacrifice they bite at with their small, human teeth. With their love, they are eating me alive, hollowing me out, and I say yes. Come; oh dance, oh come, yes.

Devoured, I will live forever on their lips.



2. Limbo

How pale the moon looked, from below. But here, up close, it is dark and pocked, shadowed, purplish brown like a bruised cheekbone. I am walking all its surfaces while I wait. Down there they are teasing my body and stories apart, dissecting me under glass, under scalpel, under spotlights. It is all familiar; nothing’s changed except that now, I am the space between the out-breath and the in-breath. I have chosen not to inhale again.

I am waiting to be buried, so that I can fly.


3. Death

God is opening the gate with one pearl-gloved hand, and angels sing like happy rainbow children, I’ll Be There. I see Mahalia and Eartha and my grandfathers, two old men leaning into each other like melody and harmony. If I had known death was only music, I would not have dreaded it so much. Do we each create the heaven we need? Still, despite the sequins and sweetmeats, the cloud-dolphins, the wings, I know already I will be restless here. I want to sink to my knees and beg, I want to say I didn’t mean it, that last great mistake. I don’t want to live forever as this porcelain boy. Let me go back, o god, let me touch the brown soil, let me try one more time to be a man.



Thanks to Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, and VONA (Voices of Our Nations Arts) for the “assignment.”
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Life/Limbo/Death: A Michael Jackson Story by Minal Hajratwala is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.  You may quote from or re-post this work with attribution and a link back to this web page; please click on the icon above for full copyright and url information.

6 thoughts on “Life/Limbo/Death: A Michael Jackson story

  1. some things i wanted to note about this passing that your blog gave me space to do. he and i were born on in the same year, so each in-breath i take feels like one more chance to be a woman, he was born in the month of my children and my mother, so their aliveness and her visits to me as a colibrí are more consciously precious. Auspiciously, i am in LA the day of his memorial.

  2. So lovely to read about Michael Jackson as imagined, away from the sales figures and the breathless questions from cable commentators for anyone-who-seemed-to-have-mattered-and-has-something-Michael-to-say (or the now ubiquitous Toure, doing his all Michael, all the time routine). It would be impossible to know Michael Jackson—which one? Besides, they were all so inscrutable once he grew out of the voice of pure innovence and the dance of unmitigated precociousness.

    And what if he actually was a great father to that girl?

    Why not imagine him anew and however you want? By the end he didn’t exist at all anyway.

    Minal, you win for best Moonwalk reference.


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