The Living and the Dying (short story)

Lying on the bed next to the girl that I love, I think of the transience of life. This lovely girl, a flower just blooming, the treasure of the garden of my soul, is going to die. Soon. She lies next to me, seeming fine, yet we both know wasting on the inside. We don’t talk, some languages are more powerful then speech, and death requires the most perfect communication. Yet, she is scared, and I am scared for her, and she looks me in the eye, lying next to her, counting each finite minute. She wants to talk, and I am foreboding what she will say but I am ready.

The Dying: Do you believe in god?

The Living: Yes, I believe in god, I pray every night.

The Dying: Do you believe in an afterlife?

                Ahhh, those gentle lies we want to caress the world with, to give false promises that the world will be perfect, that things will get better. That life will be that dream we all fantasize about. That there is no reason for fear, since there is nothing to fear. Oh, ghouls, you eat my soul.

The Living: Yes, I believe in an afterlife. I believe that this world is just a test, a dream, for the perfect life that will come after.

The Dying: Please. Please. I don’t want you to say what I want to hear. I want in my last days of life to live honestly. To deal with the realities of life while it is still my reality. You’ve told me many times when I wasn’t…sick…that you don’t believe in an afterlife. You’ve said you don’t believe in god. Me, yes, of course, I want to believe in an afterlife, I want to think that my mind isn’t about to disappear, that all my memories will just cease to mean anything and the universes of my consciousness will cease. I am so scared, so scared. But, to be scared is honest, death is something to be feared. What is worse is a lie, to accept the sweet nothing you’re whispering to me while that last bastion of my soul, my heart, knows the secret fallacies of the reality you have constructed for me. So please, please, be honest. Do you believe in god, do you believe in an afterlife. And why, why, why?

The Living: I don’t believe in God, the god who lives on a cloud or the god who will one day talk to you or shake your hand. I don’t believe in an afterlife, I don’t believe in reincarnation. I don’t want to hurt you, my beliefs have made me choke with fear at the thought of death and I am not dying. Please, please, lovely love, just appreciate the beauty of the universe and trust whatever it is your heart says. Belief is belief, and the hollowness of my holiness is something whose contagion need not blanket you.

The Dying: No, please, please, in my heart I feel that there is no god. That worms will eat the last remnants of my spirit. But I know you to hold little fear in those things you have just said. Please, explain life to me. Share your vision and maybe there will be something that will fill this void, this abyss, in the plains of my peaceless dissonance.

The Living: …..Well……I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to tell you. You are right, I am at peace. If I was to die with you, so soon, I would be afraid, I would be sad, because I have enjoyed this plain of existence enormously, but I think I would be at peace. I think that there is no god, but I believe in holiness, I believe in the pleasure of existence. I think rather than dwell on what could be, no matter how bitter a topic that might be, it is better to confront what has been. We have existed with consciousness. Of all the things in the universe, from trees to stars to electrons to deer to grains of sand, these things may be great of small, live for a few seconds or live for billions of generations of the lives of men, yet, out of all this wonder, it is only us, these little fragile human beings, who have had the pleasure of consciousness. We have not just been alive, but appreciated the fact we have been alive. I think this is a wonderful privilege. I think it is like winning the lottery of the entire universe, and it is selfish enough to demand this existence, to demand it perpetually would be demanding more than is fair from the universe. When I die, I will not stop existing, I will continue on as before, as some molecule of dust, some flower that will never make it past the seed form, perhaps even make up the parts of another human being, but my consciousness will be over, this fantastic chapter of the eternal building blocks that make me, me, will be finished. But that does not mean it did not happen. Much like someone lives a life where he can only do certain things at certain times: graduate once, make love for the first time, be born, hear music for the first time, we get only one life; yet, much like with the things in life that we do for the first time, after losing the virgin encounter with the complexities of life the action does not disappear but rather lives in memory forever. True, when you die, you don’t have your memories anymore, your consciousness does not exist, but in the memory of the world you were real. Every molecule you shed changed the entire course of the universe, its slightness in no way affecting the causality since truly everything is about perspective. To the atoms that make up your body you are a dying god, a burning out universe whose death will forever alter the future of trillions of individual entities. To a star, it will never know you lived or died, yet, one day, our sun will supernova, eat the Earth, absorb all the molecules that were once a part of you, and use you as fuel to generate light that will be transmitted across the entire universe. Death is horrifying, it is taboo, but we will all die. I beg you, truly, to not fear death, or, perhaps, yes, fear death, but in that same way a man fears a wedding or a child fears that first day at school: be apprehensive about the unknown, since truly everything is going to change, but do not think that the book of your existence is ending, rather, it is just the evolution of a new chapter, one written by the same author that created you, just, maybe, the new chapter is from a different perspective, a different point of view.

The Dying: I know what you are saying, and thank-you for your honesty. But this does not quell the qualms of my heart. You are right, I am just one facet of my infinite life. Yet, what does this mean to my waking mind. Perhaps it is nice to know that some faint residue of my resonance will remain, but what makes my mind mournful is my loss of memories, that disappearance of mind, that eternal shutting of the radiant sun in my mind. I will disappear. I am going to disappear. That sunshine which you say I have the privilege to appreciate, I do appreciate, I’m crying with its sublime beauty and I want to spent a thousand more days, a thousand more lives just staring in rapture at such perfection. Why do we have to die? Why can’t we appreciate that infinite which you claim is all around us. What a cruel temptress nature is, to provide such a perfect paradise and we get no more than the faint light of candle to illuminate nothing but a few dismal shadows. To truly appreciate life! Yes, I know, this is nonsensical, that if I was to live for another fifty years I would still have these same intangible fears, haunting the full extent of my transitory mind. But most people can hide this fear, stare at the ground because they know the sun of the truth will destroy their mental sanguine; but, I have no luxury. I don’t want you to feel the horror of my mind. You can stay asleep. But I ask you to just lie here next to me, to hold me, to touch me, to let me feel the full pleasure of existence in this dwindling twilight of my mind. Death is coming for me like a freight train, and I am not ready, but, I am going to shut my eyes, pray to a god I don’t believe in, and ignore death as she wraps me in her embrace. If I want to enjoy these last few moments, I am going to have to be ignorant. I am just not going to think of an afterlife. I am just going to try to exist, for just a few more moments.

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