Wednesday 7 October 2020

in the midst of life...

A spot of fiction for a change of pace? I wrote this last month for the little writing group I'm in. You'll have to do your own accent....


Life is a sexually transmitted disease, so they say. Invariably fatal. Well, I suppose that all depends upon your definition of life...and your definition of death. In a world where gender is no longer binary, it’s curious that people remain so stubbornly binary about something as fundamental as life and death. It’s not as though the undead are easy to avoid, either: vampires are everywhere. In fiction, anyway. I can’t speak with any certainty beyond that. Dracula was published in 1897 and the undead have been in vogue more or less ever since, up to and including an honest-to-goodness, glittering-in-the-sunshine Edward Cullen. Lazarus, of course, was raised up some time before that. How does that work? One minute your friends are all wailing and gnashing their teeth at your passing, and the next you’re back up and about. Where do you go from there? Can you go back to life as it was before? It’s got to be more than just a talking point, hasn’t it? Being brought back from the dead? You can hardly blame people for wanting to talk about it, can you? Alive one day, dead the next, alive again the day after and then back to the office as though nothing has happened? I’d imagine that might make some people a bit stand-offish. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” I mean, that’s quite a lot to take in, isn’t it? What’s in the small print? 

Could you be alive and identify as dead? You’d imagine it’s easier that way around than to be dead and identify as alive, but who can say for sure? People talk about the will to live, but could your will be stronger than your actual death? 

What about the Grim Reaper? Death himself. Does he come to collect you at the moment of your death? Does he play an active part in your demise, or is he just a voyeur, waiting for it to happen so that he can show you what happens next? What’s that scythe for, if not for cutting that mortal thread? Perhaps it’s just for show, like all those hourglasses he must have squirrelled away in his robes. 

You might think that I’m unusually preoccupied with these matters, but these are strange times and death is all around us. The world is getting hotter, wars are raging and disease stalks the land. But, if you think about it, when isn’t death all around us? Is there really anything all that strange about spending your life preoccupied with your death? Do you smoke? Do you drink? Do you avoid saturated fats and wear a seatbelt? Isn’t that really part of the same thing? The same fascination? Another cliché: you’re dying from the moment you’re born; your thread is spooling out from the very beginning. You can take all the supplements you want and spend a fortune on face creams and cosmetic surgery, but simple fact of the matter is that you’re decaying from the very beginning; rotting away in plain sight. 

You’re pulling a face. I’m sorry if you find this distasteful, but there we are. We used to be more connected to death than this; we used to put the effigies of rotting corpses into the carvings on our tombs; we used to have skulls as momento mori in our houses to remind us that to live was to die. When did we forget this? Is that progress? We might live for longer now, but we’re just as likely to die. Have you heard about those rich people who have themselves frozen so that they can be brought back to life at some point in the future when we have the technology. Have they really thought this through, do you think? Do they get frozen before they die, or do they think that we’re going to develop a cure for death at some point? Can you imagine? Would you like to wake up at some point in the future, thawing out on a table somewhere, to find that you’ve been returned to a world you no longer recognise and where everyone and everything you’ve ever know is long dead? No thanks. I don’t like being cold, for one thing. And no, I don’t fancy being uploaded into a computer either. I’ve seen too much sci-fi to ever believe that can turn out well. Better to die sooner and decrease the surplus population. 

Anyway. Here we are. Yeah. Contactless, if you don’t mind. There’s some hand sanitiser there too, just to your right. Yeah, that’s it. Thanks for wearing your mask too. They get a bit hot, don’t they? Still, what can you do? Bye now. Have a nice day and stay safe!

1 comment:

  1. Death. The biggest of big ones. As a child it terrified me, as a young adult it troubled me from time to time. Now, as a reasonably contented middle aged member of the middle classes in our technologically advanced, pretty much as good as it gets western democracies I find myself thinking "What does it matter how many more summers/Christmases I see?". Through thoroughly indoctrinating myself with the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius I think I'd talked myself into contentment, but I recently read a quote from Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles that really did the trick: Life is its own answer.