01 Feb I Want to Keep Falling
Lung cancer, stage three, inoperable. Those were the words that spelled out my ultimate fate, and while it wouldn’t be a particularly original way to die, the irony wasn’t lost on me.
I’d never touched a cigarette during my short lifespan, despite growing up in a household where pretty much everyone inhaled those toxic fumes, including my own parents. Of course, they are both alive and healthy, even to this day they never suffered any consequences for any of their unhealthy habits, not even a dent put in their lung capacity.
Destiny truly is a fickle bitch…
There I sat at the doctor’s office, speechless after hearing the diagnosis. I’d just gone in for a persistent cough, from what I thought would be nothing more than a common cold. In all honesty, I didn’t feel that sick, but my wife had convinced me to go for a checkup regardless, and because of that checkup, I’d just been told that in less than a year, I would be dead.
I’ve never been much of a religious person. If asked, I’d put myself somewhere on the agnostic spectrum of not knowing what the hell is going on. That being said, I didn’t fear death; I had spent one too many nights thinking about my eventual departure from this world, and had accepted that life was a precious resource that would inevitably expire.
I just didn’t think it would be so soon.
My one true quarrel with death was leaving my family behind, at the not so, ripe old age of forty-two, I still hadn’t saved up enough money to keep us afloat in case of emergency, and while my wife still worked, neither of us made enough to support a child on our own, and it just so happened we had a ten year old son together.
That’s why I started praying, begging, bargaining for a second chance. Each night I tried a different God, desperately looking for otherworldly answers regardless of religion or relevance in modern society.
I was desperate.
The doctors offered a combo-treatment of radiation and chemotherapy. Of course, none would extend my life in any meaningful way, but I started the treatment nonetheless, hoping that maybe someone could offer a miracle cure.
But, of course, my hopes were left unanswered…
In the beginning of this year, my body had deteriorated to the point where I was nothing but a loose sack of skin draped over a malformed set of bones. I knew I only had a few weeks left before the cancer that had gestated within me, growing with each passing day, finally won the battle.
When breathing became little more than an agonising chore, serving only to initiate a cascade of painful coughs, I ended up bedridden next to an oxygen tank.
Then, finally, on July 29th, 2019, as I tried to get dressed and make the short journey from my bed to the little breakfast table down the hall in my hospital, everything suddenly disappeared beneath my feet.
I started falling…
One second I was traversing the hospital hallway, oxygen tank dragging on behind me, and with a final gasp, my pain was simply erased from existence. The memory of my disease was nothing more than a faint dream, and my life became a part of a very distant past.
I had died, I realised that much, but the concepts of life and death themselves meant little to me in the grand scheme of things. Yes, I had been a part of society on earth, a note in the everlasting symphony of life, but my part had passed and the song continued on without me, while I moved on to the next stage.
I floated, or sank, it was hard to tell directions apart in my new, weightless state. It almost seemed like an ocean. The deep blue hues surrounding me on all sides with bubbles of flickering light floating by, delightfully circling around me as I moved towards the brightest thing I’d ever seen.
Though the light was blinding, I could sense other beings surrounding me. I turned to look at them, squinting my eyes to get a better grasp of what they were. They didn’t resemble any creature ever walking upon earth’s surface, but I could tell they had once been human just like myself. They were happy, smiling without having faces, voicelessly laughing.
I waved at them, and they greeted me using nothing more than the warmth of their souls. I still had my body, not yet processed by the afterlife, but I felt healthy, no longer ravaged by the tumours within my chest.
Once I got close enough to feel the heat of the light, my periphery darkened, and the joyful creatures dancing around me had been replaced by shadows staring intently at my passing.
The new creatures weren’t people, but beings emitting the most dreadful sense of sadness and anger. They hated me for being able to touch the light, while they were forever trapped in the shadows.
One of them reached out for me, its arms stretching impossibly far beyond its confinement. It grabbed onto my leg, pitch black nails digging deep into my flesh, tearing muscles from bone as I silently cried in agony.
Before I could get a grasp of my situation, another pair of hands grabbed my arm, tearing it straight from its socket. A third pair wrapped around my chest, digging deep into my lungs, rummaging around where the tumours had once lived.
More hands joined in, and before long, I was enveloped by hundreds of shadows, all tearing away at my limbs and organs, but as all meat was stripped from my body, the hands had nothing more to hold onto, and I was let go.
I was jolted awake, back in the hospital, gasping pathetically for air as the cancer once more inhabited most of my lung tissue.
My family stood close by, sobbing at my demise. I really had died, but only for about a minute.
Silence quickly filled the room as they noticed I was still alive, doctors wearing shocked expressions and horrified stares from my son. They were surprised, confused, as no attempt had been made to resuscitate me. My death had been expected for so long that keeping me alive would be nothing more than a cruel joke.
Yet, once again, I lived. I had been so close to eternal salvation, but something had pulled me away, denied my entrance to whatever lay beyond.
Of course, with the cancer relentlessly spreading throughout my body, I wasn’t meant to stay. Despite the bittersweet taste of my revival, the locals hailed it as a miracle, and multiple news stations wanted to share my story, profit from it; I promptly declined. I didn’t want to tell anyone what I saw on the other side, and I was in too much pain to accept it as a miracle.
As I stabilised, they moved me to a hospice care facility. Death was still lingering around the corner, but they said I might have a couple of more weeks to spend with my family if nothing more. They’d already said goodbye once, and now that cruel trick of nature made them do it twice.
My wife didn’t smile once in the following days. She wore a tired expression on her face, her eyes were sunken, but I couldn’t blame her. Taking care of a dying man is no easy task, much less for someone that has to do it twice. My son, on the other hand, would not stop crying, he was too young to understand, but he knew I wouldn’t stay for much longer.
Two weeks came and went in the blink of an eye, each day spent in misery, dreading what awaited on the other side.
Then, one morning, I simply didn’t wake up…
Once again, the world was done with me. I had been tossed away from existence, and just like before I started falling through time and space, into an infinite void.
The shapeless beings still floated in the peripheries, lights that once wandered the earth, but this time, there were no smiles to greet me, no joy filling my soul to the brim.
They were angry at me, I had returned to a place I didn’t belong, and now my journey was one no longer welcome.
I was pushed further towards the light, away from the once blissful companions, and it wasn’t long before I saw the shadows again.
There the light lingered, just out of reach, so close I could almost touch it, when a pair of twisted hands grabbed onto me, digging into my flesh.
This time they didn’t settle with violence. They started whispering, begging for me to pull them out of their prisons, to take them with me. Millions of voices rushed through my head, promising it was all a misunderstanding, that they had not meant to hurt me, they wanted nothing more than the warmth of the light.
Yet, with their pleas for salvation, they tore into me, ripping me apart from within.
I couldn’t help them, I didn’t know how, and with that, their voices turned from prayers to anger. They shouted obscenities from within my head, filling it with hatred, while telling me what would happen to my family once I truly perished.
In a split second, a vision of my family’s future became burned into my memory, as if it had already happened. Depression would force my wife out of her job and into a battle with drug addiction, which eventually melted over to our son as he grew up. Unable to escape, my son would get expelled from school after school, ruined by the death of his father and his absent minded mother, at the age of sixteen, my son would get into drugs himself and ultimately die in a horrific car crash.
That was the summery, cascade of events that followed my death, but the shadows didn’t stop there…
They promised a way out. That they could save me, and my family if I only took them with me towards the light, but I could never reach the light. As desperately as I longed to just move on, I could never quite get there, always torn to shreds long before I touched it.
Each brief visit to the promised afterlife left me nothing more than a barren fragment of thought, alone in a world that didn’t belong to me.
No matter what they did, nothing happened, and suddenly I was once again dragged away from the light, back to a excruciating life.
Since my diagnosis, I’ve died a total of sixteen times, each time I’m further ripped apart by the shadows, each time rejected by the light and flung back to my cancer riddled body.
My family has grown tired of my presence. My once loving wife loathes my very existence, and my son is beyond traumatised. I can barely move, I can’t feed myself and I need help just getting from bed to the toilet.
Because, by now the cancer has spread everywhere. The doctors say I couldn’t possibly be alive, yet here I am. It is even starting to eat away at my brain as well, taking away not only my physical body, but the memory of what I used to be along with it.
I prayed, begged and bargained for more time with my family, and I guess something answered; As a result, I was given infinite life, just not a functioning body to go with it.
But, infinite agony isn’t what truly haunts me, nor the fact that I’ve been rejected by the afterlife itself, because soon I won’t have a mind to worry with.
What truly frightens me, is that I now see the shadows while I’m awake. I hear their whispers at night as the pain medication slowly lulls me to sleep. They’re thanking me, because in their whispers of lies and deceit, their false desires of entering the light, what they really wanted was our world, and by returning to life, I’ve brought them here.
They needed me to survive, they needed a vessel, to come here and extinguish the light we live in, to take away the small amount of happiness that still exists on earth.
They’ve already taken mine, infecting my family with their horrific purpose and desires.
I thought my wife had simply suffered one too many days due to my disease, but it’s the shadow within her that has turned her to the hateful creature she’s become. She went from a loving spouse, taking care of me in my darkest days, to spewing vile hatred in my direction for each time I returned from death.
She hated me, and she hated my son for being a part of me. Every day she would laugh at my agony, telling me that I hadn’t done anything right, I couldn’t even die properly. In between the barrages, she’d let it slip who she had really become. She thanked me for releasing her from the dark abyss, smiling wide as she did. It wasn’t her talking, it was the creatures.
Of course, my son had been infected too, he quickly followed after my wife, when he stopped speaking and eating, only rotting away in his room, neglected by his sick mother. Once he had become as emaciated and weak as myself, he finally spoke, telling me this would only be the beginning, soon the rest would come through, another shadow for each trip I take to the beyond.
I’m stuck in my broken body, watching everything I love fade away, so I’m writing all of this down in an attempt at warning everyone, of what exists beyond the boundaries of life. I need my last deed to be something remotely useful before my mind vanishes with the rest of my decaying body.
Perhaps my only hope is to destroy my body, break down everything I am, so that no shadow can infest me, but I’m too weak, too frail to even leave my bed.
Please don’t let the darkness spread, I’m sorry for bringing it here, and my punishment is to stay alive and watch, half-witted and broken… when all I want, is to simply leave this place.