Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Death On The Rocks - The End and Beginning Of A Fallen Life

This is the beginning of a story.  Today I have no time or energy to complete it.  I promise you, it has a happy ending.  I know where it's going.  And it's going to be positive.  It just begins in an unhappy place.  I realise I'm collecting lots of unfinished projects.  I want to write more about Oxford Brookes.  I want to write more about the stranger on my bed.  Much more.  And I want to finish this tale.

I apologise that what I've written this morning - a shade more than 1500 words - ends at a difficult moment.  That couldn't be helped.  This person is telling me their story and that's the point they reached.  They've told me more but haven't given the details.  I know the destination.  I don't know the journey.

Okay, okay, you've convinced me.  Or rather Babylon 5 convinced me.  Joe Staczynski, the creator of that series, talked of the journey and the destination.  Episodes early on gave away parts of the destination.  We knew big parts of the fates of some of the characters.  We didn't know how they got there.  So I'm going to tell you one thing now about the character in this story.  One thing only:

They do not attempt suicide.

I think perhaps I should leave behind writing prompts much of the time.  I'm meant to be writing from a prompt on a list every day this year.  At it turns out I have only written from one of those prompts on one day in the last week.  I honestly believe it's the worst post out of the seven days.  Perhaps I should use the prompt only when I have nothing else to write about.  Not look at the prompt as my first priority for writing.

It is now the end of February.  I have posted every day for two months.  The blog is not what I had imagined it would be.  It is something more.  I've been pleasantly surprised by the experience.  Two months down.  Ten months to go.  I believe I can make it.

Rock under a cliff. Unlike the story.

To begin at the beginning.

No!  I'm not going to do that.  Other writers, more brilliant than I and with a dozen best-selling novels to their name might start their stories in a sensible place but I am known for being awkward, argumentative and just plain difficult.  So I'm going to begin at the end.

It hurt.  Everything hurt.  I can't begin to describe to you the pain.  As a life choice I wouldn't recommend jumping from a cliff, landing on rocks, breaking most of the bones in your body, getting impaled in two places on a spike and slowly bleeding out.  It's not something you might find in one of those books with names like "1001 Stupid Things You Must Do Before You Die."  If a book of methods of death was ever written, with the methods ranks in order of unpleasantness my choice of actions that day would have been somewhere on the unpleasant end.  Somewhere in between crucifixion and bathing in acid.

I couldn't move.  Screamed for help for a while although I knew there wasn't much of a chance of being heard.  I hadn't chosen my place of death for its publicity value.  Not for me the very visible statement of jumping from a skyscraper or leaping from the Pennine Way onto the M62.  If only I had.  Then perhaps the landing would have led to an instant end to my miserable being.  Or perhaps I was just as unlucky in death as I was in life.  Perhaps no matter how I'd decided to kill myself things wouldn't have gone as planned.

By all rights I should have been killed outright.  Four hundred foot sheer drop.  Onto the rocks.  No chance of surviving that.  And then the sea would wash in on the tide and carry my corpse away.  I'd studied the currents.  I wasn't going to be washing up on any beach.  Let my body be food for the ocean and do more good in death than it did in life.  That's what I'd thought of course.  Now I know better.

My death was slow.  Agonising.  And as I lay dying, in moments of clarity, I got to thinking about my choices and asked myself whether there might have been a better way.  A better way of dying.  Yes, that.  Even as blood seeped from my wounds I chastised myself for not killing myself properly.  Then another thought appeared.  I wondered whether there might have been a better way of living.  Or some reason why carrying on living might have been a good idea.  It was too late by then of course but I couldn't help but regret that I would never see the sunset again or the view from the top of the cliff.

I watched the sea.  It was getting closer and my dying was taking too long, without the pain ever diminishing.  I wondered whether it would be a lapse into unconsciousness that would take away my suffering.  Or whether it would be the sea, stealing me away and drowning me.  Drowning seemed infinitely more preferable to carrying on suffering.  I couldn't even move.  A seal on nearby rocks watched me curiously.

And then I died.  I felt myself sink away from the world.  The last I knew was the sound of the gulls and the waves that would soon claim me.  Death, when it finally came, was a relief.  Peaceful.  Death was a smile and I welcomed it.

That's the end of the story.  The very end.  Or at least it should have been.  I woke up again.  I found myself lying on the rocks under the cliff.  I wasn't in pain any more so that was something.  I lifted up my arms to check them, realising in the process that my right arm was no longer pinned on that spike.  There was no blood.  No sign of injury.  I sat myself up and looked around.

My first thought was to wonder how the heck I was going to get off the rock ledge I sat on.  The sea would cover it soon and there wasn't any way I'd be able to climb far enough to avoid it.  My second thought became clear when I turned round and saw myself.  I was dead.  Covered in blood.  A spike through my arm and side.  My body was a mess.  I walked over to it and examined it further.  Yes.  A mess.  But I looked peaceful.  Even after the torture I'd just experienced and the hurts and uncontrollable urges of the life I'd lived before.  After my hell, my loneliness, after all those years in which hope just kept being disappointed, I finally had a beatific look of peace on my face.  I was glad.

"Death, where is thy victory?  Where is thy sting?"  Okay.  I was dead.  But here I was, up and walking and with a body that made me feel fitter and stronger than I had since my teens.  I was a keen swimmer back then but hadn't even been in a pool in twenty years.  That reminded me.  The sea.  The cliff.  Perhaps I could swim out.  Maybe I'd get there.  Wouldn't drown or get caught too badly in the current.  Start walking now and I could cut down the distance I'd have to manage in the water.

I turned my back on my corpse.  Good riddance to it.  I had a new body now and it felt much better.  I began walking, as fast as I could manage without risking falling on the rocks.  As I walked, the obvious fact came to mind.  I was dead.  Wasn't I?  I didn't feel dead but I must be because I'd seen myself.  Was I some kind of ghost?  Surely not.  I had a physical body not some airy, half-believed amorphous form.  I pinched myself to make sure.  Yes.  Physical.  Definitely.  And I felt good.  Mentally too.  It was as if suffering so much on the rocks and then giving in to dying had cleared a lot of my problems away.  I wanted to live.  Found myself seeing living as a gift and this second chance as a miracle.  I stopped to catch my breath.  Before starting again I screamed out in joy.  I don't think I ever did that before.

The sea continued to advance until it washed over the rock shelf, covering my feet, my shins, my ankles.  A sudden rush of water, and how the hell did that happen?, and it covered my hips and I could hardly see the rocks below.  Walking further was going to be impossible.  I just hoped my swimming technique would come back to me and I'd be able to make it.  I knew I had to swim a couple of miles at least.  I didn't want to die.  Not now.

I swam.  Steady strokes.  It didn't take long until I was swimming like a champion again and in this new body I felt I would be able to swim the Channel.  A few miles would be simple.  I made good progress.  Fighting for new life, for the miracle, with each stroke.  It was all very exciting and under the circumstances I knew I wouldn't be overly embarrassed to climb out of the sea naked.  Even though it was the middle of the afternoon.  And I would be emerging onto a tourist beach.  Hopefully someone would lend me a towel.  After that I could work out what to do.

I worried for a moment that I'd been wrong about the currents.  That my dead body would wash up on the beach in a few days.  Complete with my ID and phone.  It would be far more embarrassing than a thousand tourists seeing my very healthy new body in all its glory.  I'd be there living my life and then I'd show up dead.  I didn't know what would happen then.

Unfortunately I was right.  I had been wrong.  But wrong in a different way.  I'd obviously made an error somewhere because the sea started to tug at me more than I'd expected.  I thought as I swam that I'd be able to stay close to the rocks.  I couldn't.  As the current strengthened I was pulled further and further from the shore.  There was no way back.  If I'd been an Olympic champion it wouldn't have changed a thing.  I grew weaker.  And weaker.  Until I had to stop and lie on my back and float.

And then I couldn't even do that.  I fought it for as long as I could.  But it was inevitable.  I had to give in at some point.  I despaired.  Just when I'd found an excitement about life it was being stolen away from me again.  I wanted to live.  Desperately.  I wanted to grow old, marry someone, make my life so extraordinary people would write books and poems about me.  It was all so unfair.  Why should I have this miraculous second life if it wasn't going to continue?

I gave myself to the water.  Sank.  Allowed the sea to fill my lungs.  It wasn't so bad.  Much better than the pain I'd felt on the rocks.  I would be food for the ocean after all.  Twice.  It didn't take long.  I died.  Again.

[1548 words]

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