It’s your birthday today, so I got you a little present. I would have just bought you a beer, but who knows where that would have ended?
So instead, I got you a bell. I think I may have had to pawn your watch to buy it, but what the hell did you need a watch for, anyway?
You’re probably asking yourself, why a bell? In fact, I’m guessing you’re going to be asking yourself that question every time you find it in your pocket. Too many of these letters now. Too many for you to dig back into every time you want to know the answer to some little question.
It’s a joke, actually. A practical joke. But think if it this way: I’m not really laughing at you so much as with you.
I’d like to think that every time you take it out of your pocket and wonder, why do I have this bell? A little part of you, a little piece of your broken brain, will remember and laugh, like I’m laughing now.
Besides, you do know the answer. It was something you learned before. So if you think abut it, you’ll know.
Back in the old days, people were obsessed with the fear of being buried alive. You remember now? Medical science not being quite what it is today, it wasn’t uncommon for people to suddenly wake up in a casket. So rich folks had their coffins outfitted with breathing tubes. Little tubes running up to the mud above so that if someone woke up when they weren’t supposed to, they wouldn’t run out of oxygen. Now, they must have tested this out and realized that you could shout yourself hoarse through the tube, but it was too narrow to carry much noise. Not enough to attract attention, at least. So a string was run up the tube to a little bell attached to the headstone. If a dead person came back to life, all he had to do was ring his little bell till someone came and dug him up again.
I’m laughing now, picturing you on a bus or maybe in a fast-food restaurant, reaching into your pocket and finding your little bell and wondering to yourself where it came from, why you have it. Maybe you’ll even ring it.
Happy birthday, buddy.
taken from Jonathan Nolans "Memento Mori"