This story isn't about a car chase or a foot chase. It is about our chase toward death or death's chase of us. Just thought you should be prepared.
Lingering near death, I’d grown threadbare, a damaged plastic sack swirling in the wind, devoid of use. Indeed, I’d become a problematic mechanism demanding repurposing. I expected death even welcomed death; although I’d not expected death to be a woman.
Death floated through the wall of my hospice room. Her white hair was swept into a French-Twist secured with a diamond comb, which aggrandized her black sequined gown pooling at the floor, as she glided to a hovering stop. I shuttered, but just then Death’s appearance evoked the reverence of a starry night sky over a darkened ocean. Fear turned to wonderment.
Deaths elongated arms reached toward me. I was inexplicitly drawn to her. Her hourglass figure, her chic neckline accenting alluring breasts leading to a graceful neck and a face delicate with inviting color. Death’s features and empathizing eyes held my trance. How could death look so beautiful, so desirable? I pondered. Of course—how else would we surrender all we know for the unknown so willingly, unless seduced to do so?
It was the intrigue of her that piqued my curiosity and lessened my defenses. I’d almost forgotten why I was holding on to life.
“No, I can’t die today,” I whispered, though I had no reason to stay. Perhaps, better me than some innocent. A veiled smile overcame death. Gracefully, she took a seat.
Struggling to sit up, I became winded. An alarm sounded. The beeping made my heart skip and pound harder. Pounding filled my ears. Antiseptic scented air irritated the lining of my nose. I stared at death wondering what would come next.
A nurse entered, forestalled the beeping, then turned to me, gently taking my hand.
“Your oxygen levels are dropping. I’m going to call your sons per our plan.” She looked at me waiting for recognition of what she was really saying. I blinked and nodded. A single tear for the inevitable silently slipped down my cheek acknowledging recognition of her meaning.
She straightened my pillows, helped me to sit and adjust my laptop. After putting a tissue to my tear, she adjusted my oxygen mask. I felt her concern and tried to send her gratitude through kind eyes. She exited with a kind smile in return.
I quickly glanced at Death through tear-brimmed eyes. Death waited.
My bargaining stage highlighted two needs. I wanted my family here and to finish my novel—my deadline was today. Perhaps someone else would finish the last chapter.
I wiped the sweat from my brow. I could see my heart pounding through the thin t-shirt they allowed me to wear since the do not resuscitate order was signed. My emaciated body knew all hope was gone; trembling from just sitting up. I wished I hadn’t signed the DNR. I inhaled. Unable to exhale, panic hit.
Breathe, just breathe.
Mesmerized, I scrutinized death. Death waited fumbling with a parchment of words, checking the time, smiling at me. She pushed my keyboard on the hospital tray toward me. I wrote and sent the file. I sighed. The corner of Death’s lip raised in a reminiscent smile. She seemed pleased as she pulled the tray back to its original place.
My IV fought off the physical pain, but there were no drugs for the emotions. This partitioning of body and emotion was my proof. Indeed, my body and spirit were separate entities.
A heaviness settled on my chest. Struggling, I forced breaths in and pushed breaths out. My body burned, on fire from the inside out, had drenched itself in sweat. My wheezing became incessant. My moments here on this planet, a planet untraveled by me, was almost gone. Sadness echoed within my hollowed heart as loss hammered my chest. I wanted to live, to change it all, to start earlier, to finish more, to travel, to love harder—deeper, to hang on damn it. I wanted more fucking time—but it was too late. All undone would remain undone. All done would stand. I squirmed with the uncomfortableness of the thought; of all the opportunities wasted. The deadline was here—drop-dead gorgeous and waiting—death wouldn’t be denied.
Death rose and stroked my hair with her long fingernails of silver. My family would not make it in time. I thought about my unremarkable life. With each stroke Death took through my hair, memories flowed. It was like watching as strands of life uploaded to somewhere more expansive. Then all grew a foggy gray. Disheartened, I gasped in my last breath, defying exhalation. I wondered, would I float out of my body like a feather rising? I wondered, was I finished, did I accomplish anything? Did I do enough? Was there a God? Despite my resistance, my final breath left me. My eyes closed. I’d finished, leaving behind me, my words, and my family. To me, they were everything imaginable gigantic, and immeasurable. But in the scope of the universe and time, my contributions to this world were tiny grains of sand.
Silence surrounded me. I listened; no swooshing of blood, no heartbeat, quiescence—repose. My body had died.
I waited inside the cadaver. Pushing myself, I worked hard moving against the flesh above me. I shoved against the viscid gelatinous goo peeling from me as I slipped in, out, and through my internal structure. I moved with each internal contraction, working myself free, as fluids contracted organs and expanded organs forcing me one way or another at its will. I reached a pliable glowing barrier. My skin? Extruded through a pore, I was delivered into the waiting palm of Death.
Death appeared enormous, her head a full moon to her night-sky gown. Dripping wet with organic sludge, I realized, it was I who was small.
“There, there. No worries. You’ll dry, and as you desiccate, you’ll expand,” Death said, lifting me. Her lips sent welcomed warm wisps of wind over my tired drenched spirit. I grew into a wispy figure floating in an incandescent gown akin to my twenty-year-old self with all my life-long memories and faculties.
My family entered wiping tears away holding onto my bodies’ hands.
“I’m going to them. They need me, I need them, I can’t be dead, I’m not finished.”
My voice went unheard as nurses busied themselves verifying the known, consoling my family.
Death sighed. Releasing me, she sat like a pouting child.
“All beings have free will. You can stay here a ghost of your former self and end your progression, haunt your loved ones or you can choose to discover your next potential,” Death said.
I looked at the two choices that appeared from nowhere just behind death. One looked like a hurricane white and blue turning counter-clockwise. The other was white on black, the black velvet strings moving slightly like fine carpet strands. The white swirled like the hurricane only clockwise. It resembled a wormhole.
“Is light better than dark? Is one heaven?” I asked.
“Neither is better, both are different. I find heaven and hell are independent of which path we choose. Change is all that matters in the end,” Death said.
I paused. The more she talked the more I recognized her—her pull on me. We studied one another.
“Yes, I’m the image of the you, which you’ll one day become,” Death answered my unspoken question. I couldn’t imagine being an elegant woman, but Death had spoken.
“Are you ready to finish, to evolve to a higher, stronger force? Will you work to accept and create an unknown future? Are you ready to change?” Death asked.
A vague thought, an ancient memory of signing a contract with the Universe came to me. My color lightened and I turned to Death. My journey was over.
Death checked the time and held a contract before me. Printed across the yellowed parchment stretched the title--Lessons Intended For Everyone. I put my thumbprint on the contract. A watermark appeared. Complete. I’d accomplished the contract the Universe had lain before me. I’d learned to survive, I’d learned to fight, I’d learned to speak, I’d learned to love.
My L.I.F.E.--Lessons Intended For Everyone was done. “I’m finished,” I said, moving toward Death. I turned for a moment and stared back at the hospice room where my body lay and my family grieved. It wasn’t what I did, it was that I did. I’d readied myself for what lay ahead. I
“Follow me,” Death said. We stepped into the winds of the hurricane which flowed through us, leaving us unharmed like wind through trees, then we dove into the eye of the storm. We free-fell upward toward the wormhole. Death encircled her arms around me.
“We’re entering the maelstrom you call a wormhole, hold tight, scream if you must,” Death said.
I did both. Bright light came from every direction, pressure nearly ripped me apart, we turned endlessly in a whirlpool of strobing light and dark. Violent unworldly sounds screeched. We expanded, shrank, and shook until the light turned to a cyclone of color. We accelerated then slowed, as if spat out, skidding to a halt. Dark velvet tentacles latched on to me. Death was nowhere to be found. I was held in a ball of light by the strands of dark velvet energy looking down on my planet. I stayed in the star cue waiting for my next life to start. I only hoped that my light gave comfort the way the stars had always comforted me.
Seven years later, I heard my family’s whispers. I whispered back the Desiderata to calm their storms and tribulations and let them know they were not alone.
“You are a child of the Universe, no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here.” Then I thanked Max Ehrmann five stars up and to the left of me.