Congratulations to Brigit, winner of this month's writing contest!!
We actually had another entry this month too, by Becca, or Sol Over Vodka as she is known on the proboards ;) She did a very good job as well! :D
Great job, both of you!!
Here's Brigit's story.
Death Before Life
I squeeze my eyes shut.
I open my mouth and taste the humid air.
I inhale it.
Why am I sitting here?
27 seconds left.
I should be doing something--
Anything but sitting here--
I need to get up.
I need to leave.
I agreed to this.
I agreed with myself.
I wouldn’t fight it.
I would be quiet.
I would be serene.
It would be honorable.
And I will not run.
As others have done.
I take a deep breath.
Death is coming.
DEATH IS COMING
A black ant crawls along a shiny, black surface. It is alone. The view widens. The black mirror surface stretches on, and on, and on…
Time stretches, on, and on, and on…
It has barely moved, and the shiny black expanse has no end. The ant is stuck, a miniscule black creature on endless black glass. Beneath the glass is emptiness. Above the ant is darkness.
All in all it is very dismal.
The view changes, like a tiny shift in a kaleidoscope.
Billions of ants come into view. They stretch far away, but I can see them all.
I can see them.
I am conscious.
My view slips backwards, farther and farther away from the mass of ants.
Somehow I can see the black glass. It seems to be reflecting something, but there is no light, so I do not how that can be.
I look for the ants, but I am so far away from them that all I see is a small bump on the otherwise smooth surface of black glass.
A ripple runs through the glass, rising higher as it reaches the center, where tiny lump of ants are. The wave rises, pulling the glass in front of it down. Now it looks more like oil. In an instant the billions of ants are sucked into the wave, and all is still.
Then, without a sound, the center caves inwards, rapidly forming a massive whirlpool. The oil drains painfully quickly until every last molecule is gone.
Time stretches again, and I wait in the darkness.
The utter blackness.
I marvel at the suffocation. I marvel at the blackness, and how it looks oddly like the world I lived in.
All that is here is my consciousness. I have no body. No soul.
Finally, I notice a speck of light in the distance, like that one star not hidden by clouds.
I rush towards it, wishing for a second I could feel the wind in my face as I reach alarming speeds.
Suddenly the memory hits me.
I remember sitting on the plane, clutching the fake leather seat, and breathing the stale, processed air.
I remember looking down at the tattoo on my arm.
Today. The date on my arm is today.
I remember getting on the plane, knowing I was walking on the plane to my death, but also knowing that if I didn’t get on the plane, feeding the hope that I wouldn’t die today, I would never forgive myself.
My husband was terminally ill. We had been married for two weeks when he learned that the cancer that gripped his brain was the latest strain of chemo-resistant cancer cells. After years of searching for a cure they had finally found one. That is, until cancer adapted.
I remember taking off, unable to shake off the feeling that it would be I who would not survive this, and not my husband. With any luck, perhaps we would both die, and neither of us would have to live without the other.
I remember the stewardess handing me a cup of water, and my hand shook until it spilled water as I recalled that my husband had always refused to allow me to look at the date on his arm. And I never showed him the date on my arm either. But death had seemed pretty inevitable for both of us. Tough world.
The light draws closer, almost feeling like it’s sucking me in with its gravity.
I begin to notice something coming from the light. I can’t quite pinpoint it, but I think it’s a feeling, and it makes me feel good, and safe.
I realize that the light is a being, and the figure is slowly being suffocated by the darkness.
I try to reach out for the light being, but something darker than the blackness lunges for me, and I move backwards.
Hello, my pretty one, says a smooth, seductive voice that I cannot pinpoint.
Another gravity pulls on me, and my consciousness starts to give into it. Then I look back at the light, and it manages to keep me grounded.
As I watch the ensuing battle, I realize that the light is losing. Although it is hard to distinguish, I notice blacker than black shapes lurking nearby. Soon the shapes meld and slip away so that they begin to surround me.
When I try to move away to escape the disturbing creatures, they creep even closer to me, and don’t move away until I inch back to where I stood before.
I look closer at the calm white fighter, and I slowly realize that it’s an angel.
But if the white light is an angel, then what does that makes the blackness?
I feel the evil presence surrounding me, and I scream.
Both the light and dark turn to me. I see the shining angel’s body, and I can feel the demon’s dark figure pulsing some terrible feeling that gets worse as it nears me.
Soon they stand side by side in front of me. I am both awed by the presence of the angel, and terrified by the presence of the demon.
The demon stares at me, and I can feel its lifeless, malicious eyes boring into me.
“Do you know who I am?” asks the demon.
I tremble, not wanting to speak, and not even knowing how to respond, literally. I have no body; how can I talk?
“I am darkness. I am irresistible. I am fearlessness. I am restlessness. I am the night,” his voice is deep, but empty, like a deep, hollow pit. “I am invisible. I am a seed of a weed. Plant me, and in the morning I tower high above the ground, demanding attention from all that surrounds me. I am the thing that haunts you constantly, that you can never get rid of. I haunt you in your sleep, seeping into your dreams, and tainting your waking thoughts, urging you to do my bidding, until I consume your every living second.”
I move away from the dark being, and instantly feel the other ones close in on me, so I move closer to the fight.
The angel throws off the dark being, and I can feel a pained vibration spread through the air.
Before the demon can get back up, the angel turns to me, and says, “I am your Guardian Angel. I am fighting for your soul.”
The demon lets out a hair raising yowl, and flings itself at the angel.
All thoughts of the fight flee from my consciousness.
Instead, I am brought back to my world. My horrible, seductive, ensnaring world. I tried not to be part of that world, but it was impossible to escape it completely, and at times, I had wanted to just fall into the fray. In fact, I had fallen into the fray, at one point, but that was past now. I thought, anyway. Ever since that time I had given in, temptation had washed over me like a tsunami.
I remember a time when my body had gone through the same tug that my soul had felt.
I was walking. I stepped into the street. I had been looking down, only paying attention to what was right in front of me. When I raised my eyes to the street, I had found myself in a sea of people, all flowing in the same direction. I tried to push through to the other side, but the crowd seemed to stretch on like the waves of a desert.
I felt myself being pulled with the crowd. My feet moved automatically in the direction of the pushing people, as if my head was the only thing trying to pull me to the other side. Terrified, and overcome by claustrophobia, I stumbled in the direction that the people were moving, even though it was opposite of where I needed to be. I felt myself being pushed down until I was pinned to the ground. Tears formed in my eyes. People towered over me, paying me no heed, and the crowd didn’t lessen or slow for me. Gasping for breath, I threw a hand up into the hair, hoping someone would see it and pull me up. Soon my hand was knocked to the side and stepped upon. I cried out, feeling bones shatter under some woman’s high heel. I threw up my other hand, unable to put it anywhere but up.
Then I felt something thick, warm, and lively grab my upright hand. I glimpsed a strip of black tattoo numbers on the wrist. The arm of the stranger pulled on mine, pushing firmly and unafraid against the current of bodies until I stood upright.
“I was trying to go that way,” said the young man, pointing in the same direction I needed to go, “and I stumbled. If your hand hadn’t been there my momentum would have carried me too far and I would have fallen.” He quickly let go of my hand.
After a few awkwards moments of just standing in the pulsing crowd, I tentatively took the man’s hand, and without another word we pulled each other to the safety of the other side of the street.
It was at that moment, when we stepped up onto the nearly empty sidewalk, that I realized that this man would be the hand that caught me when I stumbled, and I would be his hand for the times when he stumbled. I glanced back down at the tattooed numbers, and the man quickly covered them with his rolled-up sleeve. Then I knew that I wasn’t alone. That I was not the only one who had sinned. And that I was not the only one seeking redemption.
The demon caught my attention with an angry screech. The black figure loomed up in front of my face.
“Didn’t I help?! Didn’t I take the away the years of unknowing, the years of never knowing when it was going to end? I solved the mystery! I solved the puzzle! And I did it all for you! Isn’t that enough? What more do you need?!”
If I could I would be crying, “You made us hurt. You lied to us. You never knew when we were going to die.”
“I did! Where do you think you are now? And don’t you know what today is?!” screeched the demon.
“I’m not dead,” I said, terror coursing through my voice.
“You are, you are, you are!” cried the demon.
I took a deep breath. Even though fear screamed at me to just take what the demon said for granted, I knew I couldn’t. I remembered how I had woken up screaming at myself after reliving the nightmare where I had gone to get that tattoo in the first place, and I remembered how my husband had wrapped me in his arms and given me his hand just like he had on that first day, and told me how it wasn’t real.
I remember sobbing on his shoulder as he ran his fingers through my hair.
“It’s not real,” he said.
“Yes it is!” I yelled in protest, “There are so many stories, of how they all died on that date, and the ones that didn’t, the stories of how they cheated death…”
“No,” said my husband, confident, “It’s not real. I know it.”
“Then tell me, how isn’t it?” I said.
“It’s all statistics. Math. Science. Call it what you will. A genius created an equation that tells you the day when you are most likely to die. It calculates family history, location, creativity level, IQ level, everything, and it throws it all into the equation, and at the other end of the equal sign is the numbers of the day that you are most likely to die. It’s that simple. The media only pipes up about the times it’s right. You never hear about the times it’s wrong, and if you do, then the people cheated death. But they don’t. How could so many people cheat death? If you really believe that the person giving out the dates is God, then why is he wrong so many times? God wouldn’t need an equation to tell. He would know, which is why that man is a man. A smart man, yes, but a man.”
“Then why don’t more people know about this?” I asked.
I could feel the shift in my husband’s mood as he responded, “Because it is late, and evil has nearly overrun the world.”
“It’s not real!” I cry, my voice echoing throughout the darkness, pulling the frenzy in front of me to a stop.
“What?!” hisses the demon.
“Everything you do is fake. Second hand. You don’t know the time of death. You only guess it.” I proudly realize that I sound as confident as my husband did that day he made me realize there is only one God.
I think the demon can feel that honesty and assuredness inside of me as I speak. He screeches one last, final cry, before being sucked down into something even blacker than himself.
The angel stands, tired, but unbeaten.
I try to thank him, but suddenly the world turns to nothing.
It’s not until the world turns to emptiness instead of nothingness that I feel confusion, which pushes away both the feeling of nothingness and emptiness.
Still confused, I realize that I feel warm, but one part of me is warmer than the rest, warmer because of human contact. I pry open my eyes, but everything is fuzzy, and all I can make out are blotches of color. I open my hands, and found that one of them had been holding someone else’s hand.
I reach my other hand over to the palm resting in my hand, and finger the back of the hand, doing my best to determine the owner.
Suddenly I remember all that happened, and I let go of my husband’s hand to clutch the place on my left arm where there is a tattoo.
“I saw,” says my husband hoarsely. He clears his throat and speaks again, and this time his voice is much clearer. “I saw it.”
“What day is it?” I ask, my voice even more hoarse than his.
“June tenth,” says my husband.
My breath catches. I was supposed to die on the fifth.
“You were right,” I say.
“Of course I was,” my husband scoffs.
My vision begins to clear, and I look around, half expecting my Guardian Angel to be standing by my bed. Perhaps the angel is there, but I am unable to see if it is.
“What happened to me?” I ask my husband.
He squeezes my hand, and says, “You were in plane crash. You were the only survivor.”
“I was?” I say, my voice breaking, thinking of how many were on the plane.
“Protocol calls for the pilot to tell everyone to stay on the plane. It wasn’t always that way, but now it is. You were the only one that jumped,” says my husband.
Then suddenly I remember why I was on that plane.
I was on my way to see my dying husband. He was given no more than a week to live.
I throw myself into a hug, and try to squeeze him. That’s when I feel something excruciating shoot through my upper body. I scream, and clamp my hands down on my husband’s hands so hard that he cries out.
When I finally calm down, my husband says, “Apparently you jumped out of that plane, but you somehow managed to land on your chest or something. I don’t know if you remember or not, so they think you jumped and tried to retain whatever position would slow you down, but you never managed to get out of that position. They say it’s a miracle that your back didn’t break and your head wasn’t split open, let alone the fact that you only have a minor concussion.”
I nod. “But what about you?” My voice breaks, “They said you...you didn’t have very long to live. That’s why I came over.”
My husband smiles, “Well that’s the other good news. It appears, that we’re both going to live.”
“What?!” I say, sounding like I am about to reprimand him. “You going to live?!” I can hear what he’s saying, but some part of me is refusing to allow hope back into my life.
“Yes, God wasn’t done with us, apparently. The treatment worked. It will be completely gone in a few weeks; a couple of months at most,” says my husband.
I try to take huge, heaving breaths of joy, but my shattered rib cage prevented anything but a cry of pain.
My husband hurries to tell me to relax, so instead I content myself with holding his hand, and not letting go.
After a lot of sitting still and letting doctors and nurses fuss over me, I was still clutching onto my husband.
I ran a finger over my husbands strong arm, capable of pulling a woman up off of the ground. I glanced at the writing on my own wrist.
Five days ago.
I turn over my husband’s hand, until the pale skin of his wrist is visible. He glances up at me, but doesn’t protest as I survey the stark black ink.
I run a finger, unable to believe it.
I read over the date for the third time.