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I've often wondered what death would feel like. I suppose that would all depend on how you died, but I imagined that once you left your physical body, with all its sensitivities to the environment around you' to its own internal hell'well, I'd always imagined you'd finally be free. Free of feeling. Hot, cold, pressure, pain' gone. Just a soul floating upwards, invisible and intangible.
Death, I discovered, was not like anything I'd ever thought up. And I'd had plenty of time to think about it, morbid a subject as it was. Being restricted to a bed and subjected to cheap cable that only provided game shows and reruns of old, plot less shows tends to do that to you. Oh, and the knowledge of imminent death.
I was never one for the optimistic side of things. I wasn't one of those graceful, inspiring invalids. You know, the ones who insist their experience with disease has made them better people, the ones who astonish everyone with their will to live, to beat the disease. I resented the disease. I was bitter. I didn't think I deserved it. It didn't make me a better person. It turned me from an innocent, healthy, ambitious young girl to'this: a worn out body on a bed, washed out under fluorescent hospital lighting and standard white cotton sheets. I'd lost even the strength to be actively bored; annoying the nurses with requests for magazines or a proper TV. That saddened them, I saw, before I closed my eyes out of weariness. I knew the end was coming. I'd known for months now.
I supposed that wasn't anywhere near as much as others suffered. I was glad, in a way, that it was going to be over soon. I was never one to bear pain in peace.
But oh, god, I'd take the pain I'd felt before over this. Death. Death I'd wished for, longed for, welcomed and it is here. Oh, it's here. It is everywhere. It is cold and hot, ice and fire and it is raging in me. It hurts. Oh, god, it hurts! It's beyond pain. It sears through limbs, though skin and muscle and vein and tendon and bone, it pierces my very core, tearing at the threads of my existence. Snap, snap, snap. One by one it slices and bites and rips at me, and I cannot not cry out or move even the slightest inch because the disease is still there, weakening me, reducing me to a limp pile of bones and skin. I want to laugh, on the brink, if not off the deep end, of insanity, I am sure. I want to laugh because never had I ever thought death would be so painful. That it would last so long. That the bloody disease would still be ravaging my body.
Unless this is the disease. That there is no relief in death yet. Part of me is relieved ' maybe there's a hope for a pain-free existence yet! But part of me ' the greater part of me ' is too occupied with the current pain. This cannot be life. This is death.
'It is.' I hear a soft voice, musical call out to me.
And I can't answer, can't even open my eyes to see who it is.
'You can't see me.'
I know! I want to scream.
'No, you can't see me yet. You will. Just a little longer, sweetheart. Not long now. Hang on.'
My mind reels under a fresh wave of death's assault, and from the words of the voice so very near to me. It is warm and comforting and vaguely familiar.
The pain is receding. I can think more clearly. I can open my eyes. I can open my mouth to scream. And I do.
Because I do not see the white-and-grey splotched ceiling I was so familiar with, the one I'd created countless pictures out of. A mother holding her child, a horse, a pear on a plate'
I see myself. My disease-wracked body lying limp on the hospital bed. The monitor beside me a flat, grainy line. My nurses rush in, too late.
'Yes, you are.' The voice is amused.
I whip around, somehow, in my bodiless state, and search for the source. A boy. No, a man. All light skin and fair hair and clear eyes and gentle mouth twisted into a smile. The very clich' of an angel is floating just in front of me.
'Hi.' I whisper, and my voice is clear. My old voice.
He reaches out a hand. I take it; unthinkingly, and then marvel at my strength'the colouring of my skin' the absence of the disease.
'But of course. It's gone forever. Now, come with me.'
'It's over?' I whisper.
He nods once, and the walls of the hospital room fade out...