The Life in Dying — Writing - Flash Fiction
The gold ring her grandmother had given her shone brilliantly in the morning sun. It reminded her of how bright the sand got at the beach in the middle of summer. So blinding that you had to look away, but so beautiful that you could not. Samantha stared at her ring. It sat on her left index finger, always, but where she was seeing it now, though still on her hand, seemed unfamiliar. She tried to move her arm to bring her hand into a clearer line of sight, but it was too heavy. In fact, now that she thought about it, her entire body seemed impossibly leaden. As though she was never an upright being, instead, born to the pavement, flat, solid, immobile.
The bone from her wrist poked through her torn skin and she thought, that’s mine. What a strange feeling, to see something for the first time, something so intimately yours, and to be terrified of it. And then she remembered.
At first the only thing she remembered was the regret. Never before had regret felt so pure. As though she would give anything, literally anything - her swanky SoHo apartment complete with imported Italian furniture and marble accents; her coveted career as Senior Consultant at the world’s most prestigious fashion magazine; her high profile celebrity relationships; her face--her beautiful, striking face that was the key to any door. Give it all away, trade it all in for anything else, anything but this. The regret. Oh god, please, no.
The second thing she remembered was the hope. Maybe there’s a way. Miracles happen all the time. And for a moment she couldn’t imagine what the worst would be like. There are just no words, no images, no experience to draw from that would adequately prepare her for what was to come, so it was easy to hope, pray, think that everything would somehow work out. Because, hadn’t it always? It was the only way she knew.
Freedom was the third thing she remembered. And it was the hardest of all to come to terms with. It was elation, spiritual, thrilling, and it was over before it had begun. Samantha wished that had been her last physical sensation. There had been a peacefulness to it, even through the terror, and in that moment that she had hit the ground, she’d been smiling.
But the regret was back now, and it was all there was. Like a wave that was in an endless loop of crashing into the same spot for eternity, heavy and consuming. It had come at her the moment her foot had lost contact with the ledge, her weight shifted and gravity became a force that could not be argued with. She tried to twist around, to grab the edge of the building, but it was like trying to stop a freight train with your hand. And so she fell. In reality it was over in seconds, but those seconds were packed with life. The wind that rushed at her, pushing her hair back, giving her goosebumps, like that time her father had taken her sailing when she was seven. Wind was an exhilarating element, it cleared the fogginess of life from the corners of you in which it dwelled. In its place sprang flowers of optimism and joy. But it never lasted. The fog was too thick, too expansive, and it always returned.
Samantha’s head was twisted to the right and yet her left shoulder, torn from its socket and yet still in the confines of her skin, lay practically flat in front of her. A doll that she had received for Christmas one year came to mind. Its limbs hung loosely by thick rubber bands, each one in its own orbit of the body when in motion. She could see the bottom of her right foot, or what was left of it--half of her heel seemed to be carved out like a tiny meteor had fallen from the sky and left a crater. Her ribs were broken. It was hard to breathe. A sensation last felt on a day-long hike up the side of Mount Curwood. She and Christian had climbed in the spring and the wisteria triggered her allergies, making her weeze. Christian. He would wonder where she was. He would call her, irritated, maybe concerned, and ask when she’d be home, that he was hungry and waiting for her.
They would all wonder why she did it. They might even think it was an accident, or possibly foul play. They would say things like, “Everyone loved her, she was so beautiful, she had her whole life ahead of her.” She hadn’t left a note. Hadn’t been acting suspicious or unsettled. But here she was anyways. Broken. Dying. Wondering why she was still alive.
The truth was that Samantha had been dead for years.
There was a darkness that had bloomed inside of her when she was a girl. She had been its host for most of her life, barely containing it as it inched closer to the surface as the years went by. It was getting harder to feel joy or love. It was getting harder to feel anything, really. Aside from a guilt that she had once had so much life in her, and now, she was a voided, empty ghost of her former self.
Samantha had been walking home after work when a bird flew into a window in front of her, snapped its neck, and fell heavily to the ground. She’d knelt beside it and picked it up, cradling it in the cup of her hand. It was warm and soft and peaceful. Walking back to her office she carried the bird with her, stroking it tenderly, its head lolling back and forth as she moved. Using her keycard she rode the elevator to the top floor and used to the stair access to the roof. She’d put the dead bird inside of her purse and rested the purse on the ledge. Oddly, she didn’t want to break her phone or powder compact in the fall. She stood there, gazing out on the city, the buildings busying her view, and felt sad for everything that was lost - trees; indigenous tribes; childhood; dead pets; her grandmother; her favorite Manolos. Taking that unsupported step was the easiest thing she’d ever done. It was just, right. She’d been so sure. And in a split second, everything changed.
Samantha’s vision became filtered with red, staining the world. Through the sticky blur she saw her wrist bone poking out again and thought, Put it back.
“Put it back Samantha, you’ll spoil your appetite! I mean it young lady, no cookies before supper!” Her father’s voice rang and rose on the soft sirens in the distance.
“Oh my god, she’s still alive! She’s breathing! Somebody help!”
“No honey, she’s not, I’m sorry Sam, Lucy is dead. She was hit by a car, she didn’t suffer, I swear to you. Shhh, it’s alright, let it all out, it’s alright, mommy is here.”
Samantha tried to say the word, she tried to cry for her mother, but her jaw bones grinded on themselves when she tried to speak. She felt a sharp pain in the cheek that faced the sky. She could feel a tooth laying on her tongue, freed from the prison of her gums.