To Die Is To Know Survival

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Despite how much thought or fantasy humans have over the notion of death, the nature of it is interestingly one of the very few things we may not learn too much about in our journey in life. It's a puzzling and perplexing notion indeed - to see it happen all around us, to hear about it from the news or your next-door neighbor; to perhaps even witnessing it yourself: in natural disasters, wars or just from illness and more... the possibilities are endless. While we consume ourselves with questions of "what would dying feel like?", "does the afterlife exist?" and so on, we are often overwhelmed by the pragmatic side of the whole venture, and fail to see the more philosophical side of it that might provide us with some comfort whilst we deal with the uncertainty of death, especially when it is most immediate to us.
Regardless, the idea of death still often seems very far-fetched. In this story, a pair of unquestioning sisters who have never been near the reaper find themselves trapped as they encounter a car accident where they take their final journeys in their lives - to the land of death. But what they don't realize, is that the answer to what death is lies closer to them than they have ever expected; in fact, it almost lies right beside them, just out of reach, waiting to be found out. And perhaps the answer they come across will offer the comfort they so need and desire in their turbulent adventures away from the land of the living.

A blinding light sparked off in the distance. It flashed, feverently in the dimming of the daylight. Following it, a large crash sounded, and cars began honking. Then came a whirlwind of camera-clicking, people screaming, sirens wailing as chaos twisted its snake-like body through the air.

Two cars had crashed. A black and a white car, sitting at the heart of the crossroads, both engines fuming, the flames engulfing the souls seated in the cars.

My sister and I, just so happened to be two of them.

Outside the car was a huge commotion of frantic passer-bys, accompanied by the quarreling of the two drivers involved. They were miraculously spared from any major injuries, but were both bruised badly in different parts of their bodies, each carelessly nursing a wound on their arms that bled steadily through its bandages, while the rest of the world watched on.

But our eyes serve only as much as to observe the crust, the exterior, the coating that hid what was not wanted to be seen inside - never once have our eyes been able to penetrate the layers beneath, and come to see the obsence buried within.

My siser and I, just so happened to be drowning in a pool of blood that had begun to flood the insides of the car. In our seats we sat, hastily bounded by our broken seat-belts that had failed to serve its purpose, as we witnessed our blood pour out of our skulls. Claustrophobic, suffocating air filled the insides of the car as we struggled to breathe, struggled against our fate, and struggled to retain what little we had of our lives. And as I groggily propped myself up from the fragmented window where shards of glass had found their way into my brain, I reached towards my sister's hand as she stirred lifelessly, her face devoid of color and her lips as dry as sand. In her fingers, was the receipt of our booking at the diner we had plans to have supper in with our parents tonight. But now, with our circumstances, that little slip of paper meant nothing less than another reunion missed. Empty chairs and empty tables, expectant for visitors that would only fall ill in disappointment at the attendance of our ghosts. And under the flashing red and white lights, all I could do was sigh, as everything we had, everything we were concerned for fell away from care. For none of it mattered anymore. Nothing mattered, in the dawn of our demise, where all the world could see was the heated disagreement that caught the eyes of broadcasts and cameras, and not the gory remnants of negligence that somehow managed to escape the prying eyes of humanity. To the by-standers, we were out of sight, out of mind.

But to us, we were battling meaninglessly to cling onto a lifeline as thin as a rake. We were dangling onto the last means of survival. A fight that seemed of such higher meaning, yet so absurd at the same time; for we knew clearly that we were the last ones to decide what our fate would be, where our lives would lead up to. But what did it matter? We had nothing to cling onto but our childish hopes of surviving, and what was left of what we had of each other. And as time ticked itself away and our blood continued to flow, all that was left was nothing, but the thin remainders of memories we had. Of ourselves, of our family, our friends, of one another. 

I wracked my head for any memory I had that might be of any help, that might serve any purpose. Yet all I could find was a murky remembrance of the words of a song that had once offered a definition to my life. "But it flows like a river, and floods into the head. / And no place is safe, not even the bed; / How tiring it is, to be dangling / on half-heartedly to a lifeline as thin as thread." Lyrics that had once offered me a sense of comfort as the melancholic melody filled my uncertainty, my misery. But to me, all of what I had experienced, what I had once felt mattered no more. What I once thought was my first step to a sense of direction was now a complete absurdity to me; all the difficulties meant little in the imminent threat of death, where nothing was guaranteed, where any regrets were too late. And as I remembered how helpless I once felt, how desolate it all felt to everyone around me, given our turbulent world where nothing could be predicted; I thought of how similar it all felt, where everything rendered out of my grasp, out of my control... to simply want to cling onto something, some thing; to have something to hold onto while the world slipped away through the cracks between my fingers, just like how my life was now draining away between the bloody quarts of my palms... Yet while death held me tightly in its grasp, lowering its ghastly face as it placed its lips on mine, sucking all vitality out of me hungrily, my previous cries of desolation seem so minute, so trivial; and as I faced death square in the face, the loneliness, the misery that had once held me captive seemed to have vanished, for I realized that even in my impending doom, at the end of the day, I wanted to survive.

But my realization was too little, and too late.

The only thing I could hang onto was my sister's fingers. My sister's ice-cold fingers that were rigid as rock, that was my only company in the dawning of our demise. My sister, whose face now yielded a sick pale green, whose chest heaved up and down as the minutes, the seconds ticked by; as her heavy eyelids fought against the dimming of her consciousness, terrified of what sleep would bring... The little she could do was return the pressure in her fingers weakly... This was all that I could hold on to, as the reaper only came nearer and nearer. 

The engines ceased to stop fuming. The heat, the tension both inside and out boiled like a kettle did on a stove. Its scorching heat raged as the sirens and children who bore witness to this tragedy wailed all the louder... but it was too late. It was all too late. 

The world seemed to move by in slow motion as ravenous flames licked the edge of an exposed oil tank lying on the ground. As the metal melted like wax on a candle, everything seemed to freeze for a moment, and come into a standstill as everyone took in what was about to happen. It was the black car's oil tank, but the dark background did little to obscure the looming threat and fright. I tried to close my eyes to block out the imminent dangers, just like a few children did on the sidewalk, burying their faces in their mothers' shirts, trying to spare themselves from what was about to happen; but it was useless. Of course it would be. For fire only burned brighter in the darkness.

"Run!" erupted a voice in all too much of a sudden. At the sound of the warning after the silence, at the canary in the mine, blood-curling screaming and screeching resumed, and -

The remnants of the metal parts lit up like a thousand torches, all feeding a hungry fire that only grew. The cars had blown up. Into pieces. Into ashes.

And the world faded from our eyes only more.

In the gloom, lights had begun to flash again. Only this time, the lights seemed to be a million puzzle pieces; and with each time they flashed, a few pieces seemed to come together. And the flashing continued, more frequent and feverent, until they rendered as bright as the sun. The light blinded our tired eyes, as we faded from the world only more. Until we both lay face down, motionless, hidden from the rest of the world, as the fretful ensemble of rage and danger gradually dulled into an eerie silence. 

Only now that when everything was finally still, were we aware of our existence. As we slowly came to our senses, the thought that we were disembodied overcame us, as we roused each other in concern, only to find ourselves full and whole. But our completeness did little to bring us to a calmity. Looking into each other's eyes, everything around us felt so surreal - we lay in a thin white mist where everything was covered in a veil of silver, so that our surroundings seemed so immediate to us, yet so distant. We seemed to be covered in bedclothes that were soothing against our skin; yet when we turned our attention to our bodies, the chilly breeze that swam through our skin into our veins seemed to suggest that we were indeed, naked. As we slowly came to our bearings, the question of our existence puzzled us yet again. In each other, we saw a hint of life among the weary marks death had left upon our bodies; but as we reached for each other, just as we had in the car only earlier, confusion ate away at us as we collapsed into a muddle of whether we existed. Was what we saw merely a reflection of ourselves? Or was it the ghost of each other that we saw? We knew not of where we were, of who we were, of what we were to do... and with all the contradiction that wrapped itself around the place we were apparently in, what could we be sure of? We knew not of whether we were even alive or dead, alone or accompanied, injured or unscathed, present or nonexistent...

The mist finally settled into clouds that hovered around us as our surroundings cleared. Yet our confusion remained thick and impenetrable. As we ventured further into the place we were apparently in, a low rumbling registered in the atmosphere. Under a bright white light that had formed, a locomotive train was revealed as it hurried forward, its colors blazing brightly in radiance -

Then it all went black. A dark tunnel had devoured us.

To survive is to live. And to live, is to be alive. In your flesh, in your skin, in your body. But what could any living creature make of my sister and I? Despite the looming darkness, what we had become of was clear as day - bundled cluelessly in a heap on the train, were our hollow, empty corpses that spoke of definite death. And beside them, were us; our lifeless souls stared into the depths of the remnants of what once appeared to have been us, as we weeped and cried till we shook, yet our voices offered no volume.

And the train took off, running speedily ahead on its iron rails. It raced further into the desolate darkness, into the tunnel that swallowed every piece of happiness the living experienced. A recurring echo bounced around the icy stone walls of the tunnel that seemed to lead to nowhere, resonating the words of the greatest irony we could ever know of: "for life goes on".

Life. The very thing that we kept fighting to retain in our grasps tonight.

It was now the bone-rattling wind's turn to speak.

While my sister and I fought to return into our lifeless bodies, the wind stroked us, embraced us, as if she were our mother. A forceful, vengeful mother, who silenced her children by clasping their mouths shut, making them gasp for air. For that's what the wind did. And as she slithered slyly to our sides, she pressed her chilly lips against our ears, and whispered ferociously to us our previous past - the other thing that we simply couldn't let go off. Of what our lives had been, all of what they were, and what they used to be... all that we could only dream of living again, for all those instants had passed before our eyes even quicker than lightning; but we had to live, we had to go on, we couldn't leave what we had behind, we couldn't just let go... 

In that moment, all we had in our minds was the fantasy of survival. A fantasy so surreal for we had once lived it, but without our knowing we had let it go loose, let it run off into the wild, as we ventured on what could only be a wild goose chase.

But we now knew the surreality of reality. 

The howling wind suddenly disappeared from sight, rather too quickly, as everything seemed to come to a momentary stop. But only for a moment. Then all hell broke loose.

The tunnel had led us to a sharp downfall as the rails turned into a river. A river that eventually became an ocean, its current stirring up to a boil inside the tunnel. When fish tired, they could always snuggle up beside the corals to rest. But currents waited for no one; and surely not for us, such a pair of foolish sisters, who did not know better to not challenge death in our refusal to let our lives slip by. In our defiance, the current only grew stronger and mightier, as it challenged the waves to perform a deathly dance, driving them up sky-high, having them shatter everything they fell upon. They pulled us and the broken remains of the train closer and closer to the center of the whirlpool that had begun to form, where our memories of life played one by one. Again, our friends, family all appeared in the waves that crashed down into the depths of the bottomless ocean, the way our hearts did helplessly, panicked, in feelings of fear, numbness, and surreality where everythnig was out of control. Memories of both pleasantness and distaste washed us over, drowning us, depleting our desperate cries, for both life and for help....

We were held hostage in the thrashing sea. As I held on all the more tightly to my sister's hand, the only thing I could barely hold onto as the world around me changed and formed new frightening patterns that appeared to only suffocate us; tears flooded my eyes as I watched the memories play one after another... How ironic it was, to be tearful in an ocean of waves that threatened to drown me? To drown me both physically and emotionally as I hyperventilated, gasping for air, for space, for shelter... And as I was held captive in it all, I allowed myself to take in my current fretful state of being; my eyes darted desperately around the place, and as I failed to find anything else to hang onto, I discovered that my sister did: she clung onto an inundated rockpool where the core of our memories were playing - memories that defined the heart of our beings, our upbringing, our growth, our relations, our everything... she clung onto them as if her whole being depended upon it. And in my confusion, as I myself tried to look for something else to cling onto... I realized that it did. It did. Of course it did. 

To be able to experience and comprehend death, one would first have to understand the essence of living. To die, was to know survival. To know that survival meant to live in the present, to cherish every moment; and that death meant to accept the past with a grateful heart, and understand the surreality of reality. To know that in order to face death, one had to accept that what had passed had passed, embrace the fact that all that happened had happened, and finally... to let go.

Realizing this tore me apart. I felt the two sides of my body splitting involuntarily, as my left arm treaded the violent waters desperately, while my right sunk deeper and deeper into the depths of the ocean, along with what was left of the rockpool and my sister... Time was running short. As I felt my flesh disintegrating under the great power of the deadly waves, I finally, for the first time ever tonight, knew what I, what we had to do. My heart tried to lead me away from it, but I knew that it had to be done. Mustering up all the strength I had left in my battered body, I yelled to my sister, "let go!"

In spite of the fact that we were surrounded by waves, tears rained down my cheeks as I shouted the two words that would be the only way to change my fate, our fate tonight. "Let go!" I repeated loudly, trying to drag my sister away from the rocks and the swirling pool of memories that were growing only the more vivid. But it had my sister captured too well. Her fingers were trapped in the rocks' firm grip, and every muscle in her body was forced to contort in a way that suggested resignation. That spoke of succumbing. She shook her head madly, her chest still heaving, just like it had in the car. And from her lips, formed one single word, that told me she was far from help. That she was beyond rescue. Her voice came out in a strangled cry that seemed against her will, yet of a nature that she could not control. "No!"

And with a final shriek of desperation and fright we were separated forever as the waves swallowed her whole, leaving her to the mercy of the tornado of waves that brought her down into a bottomless pit once and for all. I began to sob uncontrollably, overcome by the sorrow of losing the last thing I had clung onto tonight, the person that had spent her entire life by my side as we grew up, my dear sister; yet I knew, I understood - that what was gone was gone. What had passed has passed. I forced myself to let go of every memory I had of her, everything she meant to me, as the current finally began to slow. The final bit of regret I had towards her drifted away in bits of foam carried along by the waves, as the waters finally came to a still. The rails resurfaced as the train rebuilt itself piece by piece, this time leading me up, on my final journey.

Sodden with grief, sorrow and a newfound sense of relief, I heaved a sigh of relief when I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I knew that whatever was waiting for me on the other end was worth the struggle, worth the wait, and worth the sacrifice.

For I knew now - that once you learned how to die, you learn how to live.

And I had nothing to lose.

All I had was brightness ahead of me, inviting me,

to live my life. 


Submitted: February 23, 2021

© Copyright 2021 kiddo.beans. All rights reserved.

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