Ode to Joy or: the Time he died and that was it

He was staring at the ceiling. For how long? He didn’t know. Maybe it was hours, maybe he just woke up. Yes, it felt like that, like he just woke up, from a deep slumber. How long was he asleep again? Days? No, it’s absurd. But he couldn’t remember sleeping. Also, he couldn’t remember any dream.

Actually, it felt like a dream, like he suddenly emerged out of nowhere, to a new story. “Well, whatever”, he thought and tried to get up. But he couldn’t, he couldn’t move. He wasn’t able to move his hands, to lift his legs, to close his eyes… naturally, he panicked and tried to draw in giant, panicked breaths. But he couldn’t. What? He wasn’t breathing, he didn’t feel the need to. It was a strange feeling, he could smell, but he couldn’t breathe. He could feel, but he couldn’t move. He could see the ceiling, but he couldn’t move his eyes. It felt like… he was dead.

No, this is absurd, he couldn’t be dead, how could he be? He was still there, in the world of the living. But he wasn’t breathing. He could see, feel, hear. But he wasn’t breathing. He could smell, taste, think. BUT HE WASN’T BREATHING.

He was panicked beyond his wits, surely his heart must be beating fast enough for him to feel it throbbing in his chest. But no, it wasn’t. He was dead. He was as lifeless as the room that entombed him. He wanted to cry, but his eyes wouldn’t tear up. He was definitely dead.

“Why me”, he thought, “I was so young, I had so many dreams, so many stuff to do before dying. I can’t just die like that. I’m just… wait a minute, how old am I?”. He couldn’t remember how old he was, or where he was. This room seemed familiar. He remembered his roommate. His roommate, when will he return? How will he react? He knew his roommate perfectly, he was afraid of ghosts. Will he leave this room then, scared of his ghost? His roommate said yesterday that he felt safe here. Now he has to leave this place. This amused him, he wanted to smile, but again, he couldn’t. Yesterday, yes, he said that yesterday, he remembered now, he lived with his roommate, both of them worked at a nearby office of a large company. Their job was boring. He had decided that he would leave his job one day.

He wished someone would discover him. He wished someone would close his eyes. The ceiling made him sad. However, he realized that he may never see anything again once his eyes are closed.

Hours passed, uneventful. He could feel his body stiffen. Then, somebody knocked a door somewhere, then he heard the knock again, and again, and again until he could hear a nervous crowd of people calling his name. His phone rang, several times. After a while, he heard a loud crack, somebody entered the room and screamed. It was his roommate. The scream wasn’t how he imagined. It wasn’t a concerned high pitched one. It almost sounded like he was disgusted, or annoyed. Someone checked his pulse, and he heard a voice, “He’s dead.”, and then the silence grew again.

They’d probably left the room. Why? Why did they leave him alone? Were they repelled by the sight of him? Because he was no longer alive, he was just a… thing? A lifeless thing.

About an hour later, he heard some footsteps. Somebody entered. Two people grabbed him and lowered him on a stretcher. They weren’t gentle, but then, should they be? As a result, his head was now tilted towards the left. He could see his room’s wall. It had a poster of a popular tv character. This was definitely better than the ceiling.

As he was carried outside, he could see the expressions of the crowd that has gathered there. Almost all of them looked at him with pity. One neighbour tried to stop her son from seeing him. He couldn’t see his roommate. Perhaps he was towards his right. As they carried him outside, he felt a light breeze on his face. For some reason, it calmed him down.

He was placed inside an ambulance, and not long after, it began to move. As they moved, his thoughts dwelled on the breeze that touched his face earlier. Coincidentally, he had once thought about how he wanted to die, ideally. With a light breeze on his face, the smell of freshly wet ground after the rain and Beethoven’s Symphony no. nine playing in his ears. It felt extremely stupid when he first thought about it, but now he wished it would have happened.

The ambulance stopped soon. He was placed back on a stretcher and carried inside a hospital. Some people were shocked to see him, others looked as they accidentally saw something gross. His body was placed in the morgue. Unfortunately, his head was still tilted to his left and he was now forced to look at another dead body. The other body was scary, disgusting. Its skin was greenish, its eyes were horrifying. It was impossible to know its gender.

Is that why people were disgusted by him? Because he looked like that? With bloated skin and falling nails. Maybe not right now, but sooner or later he would look like this, he was dead after all. But why was he still there, is his soul unable to leave his body for some reason? Or maybe his soul has left a part of it behind? Does he have a soul? Or is there still something left in his brain? Is the dead man or woman in front of him pondering the same questions right now? Should he be afraid of it, they were the same, two dead things, here for each other in this living world. All dead things were his friends, for in death, finally, everything was equal. “I am equal to the vast empires of the ancient times, countries that perished, great works that were lost. We’re all dead.”

This optimism, however, didn’t last long. After some time, he was transported to another room. A doctor in a mask with gentle yet old eyes finally adjusted his head back. The doctor gave him a long sorrowful look and closed his eyes. This was it, his eyes were finally shut, and the old man’s eyes were the last thing he would ever see. It could have been something better but thankfully it wasn’t something bad either. It could have been something with lots of holes, he never liked objects with clusters of holes, like holes of lotus or honeycombs. But before he had the chance to think of anything else, he felt a sharp pain in his abdomen. He realized, that he was here for an autopsy. Needles and knives stabbed him from all sides, each bringing more pain than the last one.

He never knew how long it took for the autopsy to complete, his thoughts went numb sometimes after it started. Now, his body felt as if it was torn apart, he could no longer feel several parts of his body. He guessed he was back at the mortuary, but he had no way to know if he was near his ‘friend’. He felt cold, but there was no way to warm up. He remembered the warm embraces of his mother. Surely, she would hug him. For some reason, he didn’t feel it earlier with his eyes open, but now he finally realized that he was dead. And there was a finality in this death. There was no afterlife or rebirth. The living dies to become the non-living. This was what he was now, non-living.

After some hours, he felt his body was moved again. Then it was placed somewhere again. Then he felt motion again to realize he is in a vehicle, most probably in an ambulance. His mind was blank, he didn’t want to think anything. It was strange, meditation never did that to him. Death never did that to him. Did they remove parts of his brain?

The ambulance stopped. He was ready for rough handling, but this time it was surprisingly gentle. And then he heard sobs. They grew louder. People were crying. Were they crying for him? Someone warm hugged him and cried near his ears. He recognized that voice. It was his mother. Soon he recognized other voices around him, his father, his sister, his grandmother, his aunt, his uncle… some were sobbing, some were crying hysterically. Then he heard some familiar voices trying to console his father, his roommate and other friends. They were there too. Although there weren’t many of them, there were people who cared about him. There were alive people who cared about a dead thing. He was lucky.

Although it didn’t really make him feel happy, he did feel a bit better now. He was dead, nothing can change that. As much as he wished he was alive, he was still lucky. At least he wasn’t alone like his friend back at the morgue.

He was still afraid of the funeral pyre though. Burning was painful. Also, he had heard somewhere that your skull explodes when you are cremated. That, he hoped, would finally be the key to his freedom, if not, how exactly would it feel? No part of his body has exploded before. How painful would that feel?

As his body was placed on the pyre, he thought about his life. It definitely wasn’t complete, but it wasn’t incomplete either. There were still some dreams that remain unfulfilled. “Well, next time, if next time exists,” he thought as someone lit the pyre.

It was warm, but it didn’t hurt him. Instead, he felt as if he was rising. He could a feel a light breeze on his face. He could smell fresh wet ground. He could hear Beethoven’s Symphony no. nine, distant at first, but loud soon. He realized. He realized that nothing mattered. As he was slowly erased from existence, he could feel all the memories disappear, good and bad. Well, life did end soon, but what the hell, it was bound to end one day. It will be fine. He never noticed the billions of years before him, he would never notice the billions after him. “I loved living”, he thought as he vanished from the universe.

______________

I left my job earlier, it was boring. There were some things I wanted to do, so I was doing them. For some reason, I feel like I’m on a tight schedule, a lifetime is too small to experience everything. So, I am trying to do as many things as I can, hoping that I live long enough to see Saturn’s Rings from a space colony orbiting it or… something similar.

Also, I have some strange memories, staring at a dirty ceiling for too long and feeling my head explode. As these vague memories go, I felt a sharp pain when my head exploded. But it stopped, the pain stopped, and my head felt a lot lighter after that.

-Deepansh Bhargava