This is a piece taken from my writing portfolio, And Leaves Remain.
Death is painful, even when dying isn’t. Synapses needn’t fire in blood-red despair; neurons needn’t stretch and convulse in terrible panic. Death is painful alone.
Has a masochist ever chased the thrill of the blackened void when pliers and electricity began to disappoint? The suicidal hides in pain. Pain numbs pain.
I’ve lost a friend to pain. Pain never brought her to the blackened room, pain cannot do that. Carbon monoxide. Painless death. Painful death.
“Darling play your violin, I know it’s what you live for.”
Strings, chords, and tension. That is life. Mostly tension. Sometimes, strings snap and chords echo in dissonance. Painful dissonance. Dissonance is not death.
Music is music to my ears. Joy. Pain. Anguish. Truth. That is life. Mostly pain. Sometimes, pain mutates and forewarns of something more painful. Painful death. Pain is not death.
“And then the gradual and dual blue // As night unites the viewer and the view” (Shade, 1959). There’s a beautiful subtlety to the fading of the day. As a child, I tried to record the exact time when I’d fall asleep every night. I never succeeded, but I did learn to lucid dream.
We flew once, amongst clouds, as we always do, under the stars. On a good day, they would be all that you could see, and the landscape would fade softly against the dark. Death is different from dusk. There is no “tomorrow’s sunrise” for the girl who left.
Do you dream of death? Do you dream of living? Do you dream at all? Are those who don’t dream, dead?
Perhaps death isn’t real after all. The panpsychists and their sentient corpses. The gardeners and their forking paths. The death that isn’t; the death that never comes.
Corpses don’t dream. Or maybe they do. In my dreams, they dream alongside androids and sheep. But speaking of death is painful. Even when dreaming, they’re painful dreams. The end of death is painful too, it is another death all on its own.
Julian Barbour argues that time, as a concept, is illusory. History is a shortest-path through a configuration-space. Memories are not too different from imagination. And the future is just dreams.
Hopes and dreams are different. Hopes are fake, dreams are real. Dreams can be scary or happy or sexy or sad. Hopes are only ever sad.
Growing up, I never knew when to say “wish” and when to say “hope”. In papers, I pompously declare that I “anticipate” performance improvements and “eagerly await” further studies. Are those hopes or dreams? I’m not sure.
In my dreams, I resuscitate drowning children and overcome brutal occupying armies. There, I never worry about death.
Dreams are a funny thing. I dream of many things. I dream of landscapes and troubles and picnics and love. Sometimes, I feel that I only live so that I can dream. It makes me wonder: can the dead dream too?
Grief is painful. Death brings grief. So death is painful too.
Is death majestic or simple? Is it cold like stone or crisp like leaves? Is death the same for all who leave?
I’m a storyteller. I tell tales of fantasy worlds. Tales of romance and joy and happiness and mystery and gloom and loss. When I leave, I wonder if I would see the mountain that I crafted in my world, with its trees and grass and lakes and all.
The world of my stories is not what you picture to me, no matter how meticulous I am in sharing it with you. Perhaps death will be the same. Subjective. Exciting. Different.
Trees fall. Lives end. Even weeds, as resilient as they are, succumb to the waves that carry us all. In science class, we learned about biodegradation. After we depart, we’ll be absorbed and regrow as something unrecognizably different. Our souls are reprocessed, and our bodies reused.
Life leaves and leaves remain.