“Come back to bed, honey.” A woman said as she lay in bed. Her husband for some odd reason was standing approximately five feet away, staring out of his second story window appearing to be in a daydream or a trance of some sort. She called out to him again, “John, I know it’s hard but we’ll get through this.” The reflection off of the glass revealed a tear trail down John’s face. He then turned towards her and lay back down. Turned away from her body and grasping a pillow near his chest, she spooned him from behind. Her arms around him gave him a slight amount of peace but did not deter his pain.
A week prior to this night, John’s only son had died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the age of seven. John’s first wife, his son’s biological mother, had died two years previous to his son’s death. He had remarried a year after her death in the hope that his heart would mend, but after his son left him, he lost the hope he had loosely held onto before.
He awoke the next morning with the affliction he had fallen asleep with. His morning routine remained unchanged: urinate, brush teeth, put on a suit/dress shoes, fix hair, grab breakfast from the kitchen that his wife had made, kiss her cheek, and proceed outside to his luxury sedan in the driveway. While pulling out of the driveway, the sun would always strike him viciously from the direction he needed to drive; however, this day (though still shining) was dimmed, almost to accommodate his emotions. In fact, the entire world appeared grey to him. When his fellow co-workers would speak to him he would retain the information but if he were to be asked later about the conversation, his recount would have been vague and lacking in any vibrant sensibility.
Each day that followed played out the same way, with the exception that each day seemed to get worse. Eventually the people around him began to catch on to his sadness. Some tried to help, only to be shot down time and time again; others just avoided him, which became the eventual outcome of everyone around him. A few months after his son’s passing, his wife left claiming he was not the man she had married. It was apparent that John Lennon was correct when he said, “One thing you can't hide - is when you're crippled inside.”
Finally, John could not stand it any longer. He packed his bags and left his house in the middle of the night. The recently furnished floorboards of the house creaked beneath John’s feet as he made his way toward his exit. A moment struck him as he reached the threshold of the front door that caused him to look back at the interior of the house. He saw the stairs first and remembered a time when his son had been so excited about a martial arts movie he had seen on television that he jumped from the fourth stair up and skinned his knee upon landing. John remembered holding him and cleaning up the wound in that same spot.
John’s eyes made their way toward the dining room where he remembered a night his first wife had served him dinner. Their son was fast asleep in an upstairs bedroom. He recalled her shining red hair against the light from the over-hanging chandelier. He could still smell the rotisserie chicken and bread she had made that beautiful night. His last remembrance came to him from the sight of his now dimly lit living room. His mind lit the room a blaze through his eyes; starting with a low flame on the floor. He could see himself projected on the floor next to the couch with his wife as they watched their son take his first steps. Their smiles contradicted the flames John had created. Each step the child took the flame grew larger, until the living room, as well as the rest of the rooms, were consumed by an unruly family of flames.
The heat caused him to close his eyes tightly and break into a hysterical mixture of crying and laughter. He collapsed onto the floor in a child’s pose: knees firmly against the ground and arms and hands extended outward. His eyes opened quickly to see that the house was not currently burning but had been burnt previously.
“Did I do this?” John pondered to himself.
John was so distraught and confused that he grabbed his stuff and left, leaving it all behind. He felt himself become dizzy as he approached his car door and got in while tossing his stuff into the passenger seat. Driving dangerously and ignoring any set speed limit, John drove aimlessly down the highway. An hour had passed and he found himself on an old dirt road that he must have exited onto at some point in his journey to nowhere. The road was dark without any public street lighting and the only thing that kept the road in front of him visible was his own headlights.
Suddenly a flurry of dark objects covered the car on all sides. As fast as they came, they left leaving John terrified and trying to catch his breathe. When his eyes met the road again he could not believe what he was seeing. He was now driving in the middle of a downtown area but it was at such a late hour of the night that the streets were empty. He immediately lost control of the vehicle and flipped, exiting his car through the windshield. To any pedestrians watching, it would have looked like a rag doll being tossed against the ground. He lay there almost motionless, unable to make any big movements but still alive. Then a man with half a face approached him.
“I died here as well and spent my life worshipping imaginary men in the sky. It won’t hurt when you go. I mean…when you truly go. I used to say the same thing day in and day out:
"If tonight I die alone, I pray and plead a light be shown; and if somehow this light shines down, smiles will replace the Devil's frown; and so a revolution teeters and totters, till all of the false teachers are vigorously bothered. They'll cry and they'll weep, 'Oh woe is we, who knew his truth, but couldn't see.' To late now, they cry, and after they die, inevitably they will suffer, as the saved eat their supper. Heed this as a warning."
I was a filthy homeless man whispering to all who passed me. Sadly, not one person cared enough to glance at me. My words fell to deaf ears and met the surrounding flow of air as the sound waves from my poetic mouth seem to drift and disappear.
Every day I stood on the corner of a busy intersection reciting these same eighty-two words, until one day, I awoke, but hadn't the strength to rise from atop a black trash bag full of my memories. I could feel death nearing. Thoughts of my life flashed before my eyes. The saddest of realizations struck me like a dagger to my heart.
"Who will remember me after I have passed?" I thought.
My heart slowed to a point of no recovery. With my last breath of the toxic city air I had inhaled most of my life, I felt the last beat of my heart and briefly remembered my first heart beat into this life. My last thought summed up the meaning of my life in its entirety. Nanoseconds until death, I used and acknowledged all five senses more in that moment than ever before. I could feel the rough edges of the shards of glass that were embedded in the dirt I grasped so tightly. I could hear the seemingly, overbearing rumblings of all the cars passing in that time frame. Although a veteran to the homeless community, the smells of the city became acutely disgusting to me. The cigarette I had panhandled from a passerby on the previous day, was the only taste residing within my taste buds. I looked to the sky for a glimpse of hope represented by a sun coinciding with a skyline. However, neither were seen due to a quickly developing thunderstorm. So perfect an accent that was to my situation… Dying was much like the fade out of a movie. When all seemed black, an array of colors filled every aspect of every sense. For the first time, colors could be felt, heard, smelled, tasted, and seen in unison. In an instant, all was dark once more and my senses transcended to nothing. You’ll see…”
The man then faded into the night; which was not a difficult task considering John’s vision was already in a state of blurriness. He could hear sirens off in the distance while feeling as if he were in a tunnel. A lot like the storm drain tunnels he used to explore as a child growing up in the city. Then, just as the man had said, John’s senses became vibrant and systematically worked in line, which all lead up to an ultimate darkness of nothing, for john had died.
“John! That room better be picked up when I get home!”
John’s eyes slowly opened, revealing his mother standing before him. He had not seen his mother in years. She had died when he was merely fifteen years old in a car accident; not surprisingly, he stood motionless, stuck in a plight resulting in confusion.
“Mom?” he questioned.
“Don’t give me that confused look. It’s not gonna work on me, buddy. Now you clean this room NOW or you’re grounded for the next week!” His mom spouted off. She then proceeded to exit the room, closing the door behind her.
John promptly ran to a nearby trophy and was astounded at what he saw in his reflection: He was eleven years old again. Before his mom died four years from this point, this was the happiest time of John’s life. It was a carefree childhood of adventuring anything within walking distance.
Stunned from his recently revelation, he backed away from the shelf his trophies sat upon and lightly fell into a sitting position on his bed. John could hear his mom talking loudly on what he assumed was the house phone. All of his attention went to this conversation and it was as if he had a heightened ability to hear. His other senses matched, but in unison, would fluctuate randomly. Her voice hit different octaves as the world around him became wavy and indiscernible to the point that all he could see were blurred images.
Suddenly he was struck with bits and pieces of sand as his vision cleared. He was no longer in his bedroom, but in the middle of a desert. Coughing and struggling to breathe, he began running toward a cave he could see in the distance for shelter. His feet felt cold as ice as he ran full speed.
“What a strange contrast…” He thought when comparing his surroundings to his body temperature. Then something even stranger occurred. As he looked down to see why his feet were as cold as they were, he discovered his feet were not human feet at all, but were hooves like a bull. The sand storm was so intense that he did not stop to ponder for an explanation but continued running toward his enclosed salvation. It seemed to John that he had been running for hours and yet always stayed the same distance from the caves opening.
John became discouraged and stopped. At the exact time that his body came to a halt, so did the wind that carried the sand particles. Johns hooves also returned to a normal temperature upon standing still. Thinking it was strange though not a coincidence, he stepped forward; the wind and sand accommodated. His movements were connected to the present state of the weather. He tested it further, validating this fact. In a split decision to try and beat the connection, he sprinted forward but the ground beneath him collapsed and he was buried in sand.
The sand dissolved around him and he found himself at his senior prom. His arms were gently locked around his future wife. He pushed her away and looked down at where the hooves had been; his feet returned to him. His girlfriend at the time, Allison, laughed and squinted her eyes.
“What’s wrong, John?”
John could not believe it. Standing in front of him was the love of his life. Ever since her death he had dreamed of the day when he could hold her once more. His eyes became watered as he joined hands with her again and responded, “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”
The night lasted with no change to his environment for over an hour. Peacefully, he was able to dance with ‘Allie’ as he called her, for the entire dance. The prom lasted until roughly 11:30pm, and then he remembered that he had reserved a hotel room for them a few blocks away.
“Ready to go?” he asked. He could not help but smile every time he spoke to her. Her eyes were more beautiful than he had remembered. Her skin was soft to the touch and her smile lit up the atmosphere in every room she entered.
“I have to freshen up. I’ll be right back.” She gave him a kiss and walked away. His senses acted up again as she was walking. Each step of hers became slower and slower to John’s perception of this moment. He fell to his knees in dizziness; his askew view of her tilted sideways. He began to cry and scream, but no one around him seemed to notice.
“Please, God, just let me stay in this moment. I can’t lose her again.” If a god existed at this moment, he ignored John’s voiced cries for help. His tears evaporated as soon as they hit the ground due to the pre-summer heat being let in by the open doors to the left of him; in this respect, it complimented the hope he held about staying in this overtly perfect moment.
After the school prom, his mind continued to experience consciousness and unconsciousness in varying circumstances and places. Some experiences were pleasant, whereas some resembled the worst nightmares imaginable; some frightening enough to keep H.P. Lovecraft up at night. The longer it went on, the stranger and mixed up the realities became. Most tended to blend bizarre variables with actual time frames from within John’s life.
This went on for what seemed like decades to John; always in a constant change. He never became tired, unless tiredness was a variable that had something to do with the reality he was in. Eventually however, the extreme variations of how he perceived things through all senses become solid and unchanging. This came as a relief to John as he found himself in a low-lit room. The four walls, roof, and ground encasing him appeared to reveal he was in some sort of shack. Odd to John, was the fact that the shack had no windows or doors. There was no point of entry or exit in sight. A low hum filled the room. He ran to peer through the cracks in the wooden walls that provided beams of soft light, but nothing could be seen outside. It was like looking at light through a wall of petroleum jelly.
Confusion was nothing new for him, but the fact that nothing truly strange was happening calmed and frightened him at the same time. The room was peaceful. There were no bleeding walls or shifts in the temperature. Nothing out of, what he considered, ‘ordinary’ long ago. He listened even more intently and could hear what sounded like structures collapsing outside of the shack in the distance. This went on for some time. So long in fact, that he eventually found himself sitting in the middle of the dilapidating shelter in a crossed-legged position.
He had no reason to move or feel uncomfortable. All was reposeful as he went into a kind of euphoric state. The shanty around him began to crack after a long period of time and dust filled the air. John remained unaffected, as he was deep into what could only be described as an intense meditation. The structural implodes he had once heard at a distance, now sounded like they were directly on the other side of the walls he was contained in. The madness could be heard from all four sides of John, though sound was irrelevant in this situation since no one was around but John, and he could hear nothing. He was within himself by this point.
The walls around him shook violently, sending wood, dust, and debris in every direction. At this moment John’s eyes opened but he was not afraid and was only aware of his neck and up. His body was unavailable to move at will. Out of his 5 senses, he could only see. Time seemed to slow down. He watched as the flying pieces of debris tore apart his body; only his head remained, fixated at the same point in the room as it was when his body was holding it up. He felt no pain as the slimy substance he once peered through on the shack, consumed him. His eyes and eyelids were the last to go. He saw everything he had known to be himself, break and fade to nothing. His eyes closed and he became unaware.