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Day 1 down, only 29 to go. Well, 28 after this one. Shall we continue? Yes, I think we shall.
‘I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory’
You would probably be right in assuming that I had some kind of obsession with death.
A preoccupation with the morbid.
If I had to pinpoint where this particular fascination first manifested itself I would say it began when my fish died, age 5.
I just came downstairs one morning and there Mr Fishy was floating upside down in his tank. Lifeless. When I asked why Mr Fishy had to die my dad flippantly replied ‘all things must die eventually’. So then that was all I could focus on.
The ants on the street scuttling from place to place were going to meet their end one day. Be it under the shoe of some impatient person who just wanted them gone or because their tiny little ant hearts gave out under the pressure of carrying an acorn on its back.
I lived in a semi permanent state of sadness because I knew that every time my mum sent my dad to dispose of a spider it was either going to be squashed or drowned. I had decided pretty early on that those were not painless ways to go. Especially if you didn’t see it coming.
The spiders never did.
And then my grandpa died, age 8 and I realised that when my dad said ‘all things must die’, he didn’t just mean species that weren’t our own.
He meant all things.
Grandpa died of a stroke. I didn’t really understand what that meant at the time, but my parents had decided that I was old enough to be told the truth. Unlike my sister who was told ‘the angels needed him back for some top secret mission for which he could never return’. I wouldn’t have bought that story, but age 8 I didn’t want the truth either.
Strokes, I learned secretly a few weeks later, were not as painless as my parents had tried to assure me. From what I gathered Grandpa would have been terrified as half of his body just shut down and he was helpless to try and do anything about it. Part of his brain would have been starved of oxygen as he slowly lost mobility. That’s what really killed him. The fact that he was brain dead. Probably not completely, I’ve never been too sure of that, but enough that he was never going to wake up. He was painfully shut into his own mind and left with the reality that he was probably not going to come out on the other side alive.
He probably would have rather had a shoe squash him unexpectedly.
Grandpa’s death sparked a curiosity for the painful. I remained convinced, age 8, that there was no such thing as a painless death, so you might as well go out in a blaze of glory.
So with that event came the nightmares.
Reams and reams of blood soaked nightmares.
Every time I got on any kind of transport I would flashback to a nightmare I’d had where it had ended anything but well. Every thing became a threat to me.
Of course my parents told me I was being silly, or that I had an overactive imagination and I should channel that into something other than concocting vivid, violent deaths for the people around me. But they also couldn’t deny it a fear founded in reality. They couldn’t claim they were immortal.
Puberty brought with it hormones that made me even more paranoid. I got lost in daydreams where they finally imbalanced me to the point that I lost it in a blaze red.
I started seeing in vivid detail the downfall of all those around me. I mean I had already started doing that, but they got more graphic the older I got.
The more books I read, the more TV I watched and video games I played, the more clarity my nightmares were given. The harder it got to look at the people in my life without having flashbacks to the gore of my nightmares.
I mean I always knew practically that the visions in my head weren’t real but they plagued me nonetheless. And a part of me wouldn’t accept that it would, or that it could, happen without some element of gore.
I guess I was kind of right.
I kind of got gore.
Just not in the way I thought it would.
No skydiving accident. No public transport disaster. No slasher movie-esque demise.
Just the words ‘inoperable tumour’.
I knew two words could be my downfall but I thought they would be more along the lines of hearing ‘thank you’ after saying I love you to a person for the first time. Not this.
I mean I’ve accepted this. I passed through the 7 stages of grief about it. Bit weird to go through that process about your own death, but I’ve done it.
I’ve reached acceptance.
I don’t really have vivid nightmares about the people I love dying anymore.
If I ever fall into a deep enough sleep to reach Dreamsville than I conjure up images of how I could have gone.
I pull out visions that I haven’t thought of in years as I become more preoccupied with how they could have affected me and not the ones that I loved and cared for. I’m no longer trying to come to terms with their death in my dreams, but they are trying to come to terms with mine.
It probably sounds crazy but they provide me with something like comfort. My imagination always made sure that everyone had come to terms with my death. That they were as fine as they could be with the situation.
I’m probably going to go in my sleep, not the million and one ways my imagination has thought up. Everyone always talked about how that was how they wanted to go. It gives the illusion of being peaceful.
And I’m probably going to get that.
Out in a blanket of hazy white, not a quick sharp jolt of red and then back with Mr Fishy.
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