Moving On

"Death is the wish of some, the relief of many, and the end of all."

*trigger warning: death, self-harm, car crash*


1. Between Two Worlds

Eyes open.

I struggle for breath with lungs that aren’t really there, gulping in mouthfuls of searing cold night, stabbing at my throat, tears creeping down familiar paths. It takes me a moment to recognise this world, but I do. Sometimes if I close my eyes for long enough and try to forget, I can. For a while, at least. But the chance of escape fades with each awakening, and it frightens me to try.

I’m by the roadside. Flashing blues and engine smoke cannot hide the devastation here. Grit and gravel mix with blood that crunches underfoot of people in uniforms, their lights bright but their hearts harder than their faces will ever show. The regret from this day will be felt for years to come.

Four flickering lights call out to me from within the crumpled metal. They don’t want to go, and they shouldn’t have to. If only the lorry driver had slept more in his bed than at the wheel. The sun is rising and his light is fading but for a different reason; he will not be long for this world, and that shall be his choice. But for now, I know what must be done.

I pass over the shattered glass that is scattered everywhere. Approaching their broken bodies and scared faces, I touch their foreheads, beckoning them away from this cold, grey morning and to where they can be warm and safe. Their lights fade out but they arise and embrace with a hold stronger than I’ve ever seen. Unlike so many, they leave together.

I blink and the scene changes. So many souls scurrying, pleading, lost. Silence permeates the halls. The bleached walls sting at my eyes and the faces of slate recognise me without seeing. I’ve been to this place many times before.

I’m at the foot of his bed. His daughter sits beside him, eyes wet and red. She isn’t ready to be alone, but they never are. She speaks gently and always to him; her words surround us in the air, heavy and unheard by either of us.

I’m by his bedside. He’s not even propped up like so many of them usually are; he lies with his gown half exposing him, waxen and yellow against the taught white sheets, mottled skin almost hanging off his bones. Wires and plastic are scrambled everywhere, like a child colouring outside the lines. His light is dim, flickering, crying out to be extinguished. His time has been long coming.

I stare at his face. He peers through me with glassy eyes. He is curled up on his side, wanting to fade away, ready to leave it all behind. I tell him silently that he’ll be alright. Reaching out, I cup his cheek in my hand and his eyelids droop and at last his light goes out. The machine starts beeping wildly and his daughter jumps up, howling for the nurse, fresh tears falling fast. But he is climbing out of bed and his tired material frame, monochrome but burning brighter than he’s ever been.

I stare at him and he stares back. He has so many questions but no time to ask them. I tell him that she’s been waiting for him for a long time, that she’s sorry she had to leave him so soon, that she’s missed him terribly. He knows he’d wait forever for her, but this has felt like an eternity, and he’s ready. His face unfolds into the first smile he can remember truly feeling, and he fades into the bright; it dissipates before I can reach for it too.

I turn away and I’m in a bedroom. Her bedroom. She’s sitting on her bed again; I wonder, not for the first time, if she ever leaves it. It must be mid-afternoon but the curtains block out the sun, and the posters are peeling off the walls which echo the sad songs she slowly lost the effort to listen to. She hasn’t eaten for days and is far from the chubby girl with rosy freckled cheeks her parents once knew. Her light is the dimmest blue I’ve ever seen.

I have visited her often. I don’t choose who I go to, but I seem to go to whoever needs me most. People who can’t let go, clinging to the scraps of what they think they have in this dusty world, or those who have tried and tried to leave, too impatient to wait for their time. No matter what, they all move on, some with more help than others. I watch them fade away to where I long to go, reunited with the ones who stitch up their wounds with their smiles and banish all the pain they never thought they’d lose. I watch wistfully, tired, alone.

I move closer to her. Her dark bangs fall across her face, smeared with smudged eyeliner and despair. Her light weakens with every visit, but I can’t stop it: she needs her light more than she wants it to go out, but she’s given up trying to reignite it. Her skin is thick with scars, a little light evaporating with each stroke of the razor, too coarse to feel the touch of any fire she comes near. I see myself reflected within her. It makes me hope… She might be the one who stays, to relieve my isolation, to smile at me rather than smiling right through me…

I notice the blade in her hand. All I want is for her to stop hurting. Every tear shed and drop of blood rips right through me. She is hesitating, thoughts of her little brother fill her mind but they are cloudy with distortions of pain and she just wants it to stop. This shouldn’t be happening; I throw myself at the walls and scream and almost explode trying to leave, so she can have one more chance. Maybe if I left, her light would strengthen again. But quick vertical slashes and blood spilling thick and fast signs her death certificate for her. She collapses and can’t stop crying, scared that death will fail her as much as life did, but I promise her that it won’t.

I gently take hold of her arms. My fingers brush against her cuts and her pain vanishes, finally soothing her tears. As she exhales, her light goes out at last. She sits up slowly with smooth untouched skin and big eyes and I’ve never seen anything more tragically beautiful. She takes my hand and we’re standing face to face, eye to eye, and without a word her arms are around me and I can’t ever remember an embrace like this. I’m warm for the first time. I hold onto her with everything I have, and I know I was brought into being for this very moment.

I hear her whisper but she is shining brighter and brighter, and suddenly she’s nothing but a dazzling light, encompassing me and everything around us until there’s only her. There’s a blinding flash and before I know it she’s passed over. The ghost of her thank you hangs in the air and I will never be the same. But I don’t want to be.

Eyes closed.

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