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The End [?]
I fell off a bridge today.
An intriguing start befitting of an intriguing story, correct? You might wonder how I arrived at this point; what began my ascension to this heart pounding climax that, in turn, reintroduced me to the marvels of gravity, ultimately air-mailing me to my soggy grave at a whopping rate of 9.80665 meters per second? (Squared, of course, acceleration is always squared; I learned that little tidbit in physics.)
While most would quite probably insist upon the essential ‘why’s and ‘how’s that brought me here, I'd say that the most interesting part was the ‘what’ that came after- and it wasn't as exciting as one might be led to believe, I assure you.
There was no white light to consume my waterlogged brain like the blinding flash of a stiff family portrait, and no hand of God to reach past the murky waves and pull me up from the flesh that anchored me amongst the silt. I found it most disappointing of all, however, that my dying moments were also robbed of the end-of-life-documentary I’d so looked forward to.
Yes; regrettably, there was no cinematic display of my life that ticked forth frame by frame before my eyes, until the sepia-toned film was cut short by a scissor’s edge, ending on the scenic snapshot of my final resting place from fifty feet above the water.
There simply Was.
And then there Wasn't.
Can one truly grasp the image of image-less-ness that is nothing? In stories, authors like to fill in this blank with the default explanation that everything fades to black in the eyes of the deceased, but what is black if not a color? If not a ‘something’?
I think the idea of ‘nothing’ is simply imperceivable to the living, because the human mind is so full of everything that, even when one’s eyes are closed, the brain will paint more colors onto the backs of their eyelids to watch at night. If nothing is the absence of what one has always known, what, then, must it look like? It doesn't.
I wouldn't waste time pondering it, though; if nothing else, that is one question that will surely be answered in due time.
Rather, for a lack of better terms to describe something description-less, I’ll just say that ‘nothing’ was most akin to a perpetual void, into which my consciousness was forced to stare during the moments that ceased my existence. It was a strange loss of self that lasted only an instant, but also an eternity.
In short, it was [ ].
I was rendered to nothingness in the face of this nihility, and then I became everything all over again. Imagine my surprise to emerge from [ ], only to find that I was still gazing up at the very same torrential congregation of H2O that first claimed my life.
Alas, The End is not the end!
How curious, I’d wondered just then, for my lungs to lack the ache for air they most certainly warranted under these circumstances. It was there, half blanketed under sediment and stray debris, where I contented myself with resting rather comfortably for the next several days. Time, I came to realize, had severed itself from the red strings that once bound us together, and now marched on to a wholly different beat than I- the beat that my heart had lost, perhaps.
There was another pint detail I took note of during my residency about the sandy bottom floor of Lake Michigan; I was indeed dead, this much was a fact I had already established in the sheer impossibility of my very oxygen-absent situation, but it seemed I could still work my lungs, if I wanted to. Much like blinking, I suppose.
Just the week before, I would not have considered breathing an option.
As an added bonus, I also did not appear to rot. For all the vacation days I spent watching schools of fish turn in mind bending patterns above me, tiny scales glinting in what impaired light could reach them, I did not bloat. Great.
At least I wasn't going to have to be dead and walk around with my skin sloughing off. I was making real progress here.
It took some deep thought to convince myself that bothering to return to my previous life was even worth it; death will truly suck the life out of you, I’ll tell you that much from experience. I simply couldn't foster forth any of the yearning I'd previously felt for the world of the living. At least, none like I recalled experiencing in my last breaths, just before being welcomed into the afterlife by a rather asphyxiating embrace.
Even upon the revelation that my most recent paycheck had been drowned alongside me, now wallowing in a crumpled heap with the rest of my wallet in my back pocket, my emotions remained unjarred. Feelings were the utmost staple in human attributes; a gift reserved only for those warmer blooded counterparts of mine who still walked forward holding the hands of time, while I was left behind to remain somewhere the seconds refused to touch.
I believe ‘third-wheeled’ would most accurately depict my relationship with Father Time.
I decided it was only suiting, after all, for me to not retain such capacities as those, when I’d already lost every warmth that had once made me one of them. I, clearly, was no longer ‘human’; or at least, not in consideration of popularly correct terms. My body was still convincingly intact, but everything else about me had gone stone-still, and equally as cold. Nonetheless, I liked to think of myself as Undead-American; maybe it would become a new racial faction someday.
Or maybe not.
Anyhow, putting philosophical standpoints aside, I’d chosen to make the most of my renewed existence, regardless of how difficult I presumed the transition would be in the course of my readjustment. And so, that was how I came to be writhing forth from the mire that sucked at my toes and fingertips, gracefully spurring massive clouds of it into the murky water around me. I noted that I seemed to have lost one of my shoes amidst the excitement of my initial collision.
A minute’s flailing revealed to me that I no longer possessed the buoyancy necessary to return myself to the surface by normal means, so I settled for a modified army crawl through the omnipresent mud and colorfully assorted litter that stood between myself and dry ground. I clawed myself to the shore after an hour or so of grueling effort, gasping unnecessarily against the foul sludge that now permeated my latent lungs. I couldn't help it; some habits simply die hard.
My first moments of sunlight were marred, and rather unattractively so, by a prolonged period of leaking; upon reaching this milestone-accomplishment of mine, my lungs took it upon themselves to make room for the air that now presented itself to me in full, dutifully purging me of the salinous liquid which previously held its place. The breath of life was not always a comfortable one, I came to learn.
It took me several minutes to completely rid my facial orifices of the majestically acclaimed Lake Michigan, and oh, how it truly did sparkle in the mid-morning sun! Perhaps it was better admired from afar, after all.
Once I had spasmed to my unbeating heart’s content, I pulled myself to my dirt-caked knees and sat back on my heels. I stared at the sun for a long while just then, unmoving with a kind of stillness that I was steadily growing accustomed to, and observed the star’s luminosity through eyes that now found no need to squint.
In a way, [ ] had been far more brilliant.
In the distant, yet brisk days ahead, I was destined to watch the sun like this for many more mornings to come, and each revolution would rise it dimmer than the last. Though, this was understandable; nothing ever feels quite as remarkable again as it does for the first time, as most initial awe tends to lose its illustrious shine in the face of ritual exposure.
The light cascaded my irises, much like the water I'd recently left underfoot, trickling over my weary shoulders in streams and casting a pool of shadow beyond my turned back. Baptized in the fire of dawn, awareness surged in lazy whorls around my ankles. What was I to do first?
A due bathing was in order, this much was a given, but what of my future? What of this second chance I'd so spontaneously been bestowed? What use was this disorder to me, if not a prompt for the rectification of what I'd so often complained to be set in stone? So numerous were the metamorphic choices before my eyes, and the only limit impairing my reach was the one I was willing to settle for. At present, my fists were lined merely with sand.
This, I decided in the wake of a moment’s consideration, would be quite worth living for.
Or dying for.
Or, perhaps both would be more appropriate.