Last Will and Testament 
© by Ray Russell (825 words) 

* Playboy Magazine is credited with publishing this short story classic by Ray Russell, long years ago

Events having taken an unexpected and intolerable turn, I, the undersigned, sound of mind and body, having this day resolved to die by my own hand, do acknowledge the following articles as my final words and solemn legacy:

To my lovely and lovely wife, were she alive, I should have left that which is now without value to me, my worldly goods. Esteeming, as she did, material things above all else, she would have been welcome to all of my estates and possessions. I do not expect to meet her spirit in the other world: she was so much of the flesh that I am certain she ceased to be the moment I killed her. 

To my advisors, I leave the guidance and comfort of their own advice. 

To the shades of my mother, my half-brother, and my first wife, I send my greetings before me and my heartfelt apologies for having murdered their fleshly counterparts. Also these messages. 

To my first wife: my dear, I look forward to your company. In this life I never appreciated you. Your gentle wit, your graciousness, your nobility and charm of person were wasted on me. In the fever of my youth, I preferred the hot limbs of your successor to the cool wisdom of your conversation. Forgive me, my dear. My erring flesh I leave behind me. Welcome my flawless spirit, I entreat you. 

Brother, I know you were angry with me after I fed you that poison. I felt your spirit haunting me for months. Gradually, you stopped, so I assume that you have forgiven me and have reflected that, after all, one of us had to go. If you had thought of it first, I would have been the haunting spirit. See how time brings equality to everything. Soon I, too, will be a spirit and there will be no jealousy between us. I look forward to meeting you again. 

Mother, between us there need be no apologies. In this life you became an obstruction. In the realm of the spirit you will be a constant joy. Let me assure you that I have never felt shame about our intimacy, that the criticism levelled at us by moralists has neither brought a blush to my face nor regret to my heart. Man is born out of Woman. What could be more fitting, more poetic, than that she should introduce him to the mysteries of Aphrodite? I have always considered King Oedipus and exciting, but silly, play. 

It is well known that I am gifted with a poetic turn-of-mind. Perhaps, then, I may be forgiven for lapsing into verse for a brief space here. It is not, perhaps, my best, but be charitable---it is my last. To the common man, I leave these lines:

I stand apart from the ugly folk 

The ugly folk with the unbeautiful voices 

Choke the streets and arbors that I 


Obstructing beauty, filtering it 

Through literal minds and tiny souls 

And unenthusiastic appetites.

I stand apart. I may not be 

A lovely thing to hear nor yet to see; 

My soul is maybe puny, and my mind 

Is often narrower than humankind; 

My lusts, off-hand sometimes, and 

lacking heart 

No matter. I am I. I stand apart.

To my venerable tutors, both living and dead: to all philosophers and logicians in general, I leave this little jingle:

A traitor serpent sleeps below 

Who rises at a glance, a play 

Of light upon a curve, a sway 

Of flesh, deliberate and slow.

Come off it, then. Cast off your load 

Of logic, for it's all a whim 

That can be swept away by him 

Each time he hankers to explode.

Enough of that. My muse is satisfied. 

To Posterity; to the bloodhounds and scavengers of history; to that breed of men who presume to judge other men; to the shaking heads and clucking tongues and the hands thrown high in horror, I send greetings and some wisdom garnered during a relatively short but immeasurably full life: 

Turn your eyes inward. Examine mercilessly your weaknesses, your prejudices, your passions. Peer deep, deep down in the dark and airless labyrinth of unvoiced, unsated, sometimes unheard-of, almost unthought-of desires. Bring out each black lust and vengeful feeling; root out all selfish thoughts; line them up and scrutinize them in the clear unwavering light of Total Honesty. Reflect how opportunity combined with authority might have made Acts out of those hideous Caprices cowering there in the light. And then---then only---in the words of that renegade Jew of Nazareth, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone."

These articles I do most earnestly pledge to be my legacy, to which I affix my signature below, calling as witness the spirit of my foster father, Claudius, now enthroned among the gods in timeless glory.

--Nero, Emperor of Rome

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