I do not have any wise words to say about death.
I think that, before I experienced it, I would have been able to write so many pretty words, so many desperate phrases justifying its cruelty. Something to comfort the mothers who have lost their daughters, the children who have watched their parents fade away. In the past, I was naïve enough to think that I could spin words like these.
So what CAN I tell you about death? That it is only as extraordinary and strange as life. Dying did not hurt, not for me. The cancer? That hurt. But slipping away into another existence was as natural as swimming. And slowly coming into a new consciousness, that wasn’t painful, either. It wasn’t scary or strange. It was all very natural.
Death itself was kind of blissful, actually. Does that make you feel better? I imagine it doesn’t. Because the real pain is felt by those who are left behind. It is strange that there is no pain or grief in death. Grief doesn’t make sense in the afterlife. The afterlife is mostly just waiting. What pain is there in waiting when the outcome is certain?
So there you have it. Death isn’t that bad. At least not if I’m to be believed. But how do you know that you can trust me? After all, dead girls don’t use the Internet.
But I’m not dead anymore.
You see, when I got cancer, I was only 28. I lasted until 32. I was unlucky, you know. They say that pretty soon people won’t die of cancer anymore, but “pretty soon” didn’t come fast enough for me. In the papers, they probably said something like:
“Anastasia Richards passed away last Sunday, leaving behind a husband, Thomas Richards, 36, and two daughters, Amanda, 8, and Grace, 4.”
I wish obituaries wouldn’t use terms like “leaving behind.” It doesn’t seem quite fair to say that we’ve left people behind. It’s not like we wanted to do it, at least not in most cases.
I’m sorry. Everything is kind of jumbled up in my head and I’m in so, so much pain. It’s hard to put this down into words that actually make sense.
When I got sick, I knew how hard this would be on my family. I knew that they would suffer. And I really, really wished they didn’t have to. But there was nothing I could do. I was going to hurt them, and that was how the story ended.
But there was something I didn’t expect. See, I hoped that Thomas, my Thomas, would stay strong. I liked to imagine that he would find the strength to carry on. He’d get married again, probably, and the girls would have another mother, someone to take care of them while I was gone. Those thoughts didn’t make me happy but they did give me peace.
So I didn’t expect that Thomas would break down. Now, mind you, the dead can’t see the living. But when I started feeling that awful pain, I knew something was wrong.
It is hard to describe that pain because I didn’t have a body anymore. But imagine this: you’re sleeping, very peacefully, when you start to feel a fire spreading out through your veins. It spreads down to your stomach and up to your head. The heat becomes even more intense and it feels like you’re cooking alive. And just when you think you can’t bear it anymore, everything splits open, like a thousand knives are raking through your skin.
And you can’t even scream.
The pain just never ended. And then all of a sudden, there was air. And there were lungs and hands clutching at a chest, and I could feel them all, and they were MINE. I was screaming and it was my own voice.
And there was an awful sinking feeling that I was ALIVE.
I opened my eyes and saw the ruins of my own house. Everything was dark and filthy. There was an awful smell saturating the air, like the trash hadn’t been taken out in weeks. Dust motes swirled through the dank air as I coughed myself back to life.
Sitting to the right was my husband. The way he was, I almost didn’t recognize him. He hadn’t shaved since I’d died, that much was clear, although you couldn’t say he’d managed to grow a beard. There was just a wild tangle of hair covering his face. His eyes were far off and milky, like something had been spilled in them. He was holding a ragged book in his hand with a leathery surface. I didn’t want to know what that was or why he appeared to be reading from it. My eyes drifted to the corner of the room, where my two daughters cowered. They looked like they hadn’t eaten in months. My oldest was covered in bumps and scrapes. Her eyes were wild like her father’s, but still more present, more aware. My youngest was on the verge of fainting, her body limp against her sister’s.
And through all this, the pain still writhed. As I looked down at my own body, I was horrified to see the rot settled in my own skin. It looked as though the rot was slowly healing, falling away. But in exchange I was enduring the most dreadful pain I’d ever felt.
The pain was maddening – I would have done anything to end it. No, dying didn’t hurt…but being dragged back into life was torture.
I sat up. Every movement was dreadful, but I was fueled by confusion and fear and this burning anger…this rage.
“Thomas.” My voice was gravelly and shaky, but it was my own.
Thomas stopped his reading and stared at me with wide, trembling eyes.
“It worked… oh, oh, it worked, you… you’re alive!”
Maybe you’ll think I should have felt love for him. After all, he was my husband ‘til death did us part. But at that moment, he didn’t seem like my husband at all. My husband wasn’t there any more…and I felt nothing for this beast. I felt only that boiling anger at the pain I was experiencing.
“Thomas. What did you do?” I continued to pull air into my lungs, but I wished I would stop. I wished everything would just stop.
“I brought you back, sweetie. I brought you home. Now we can be happy again, right girls?” Thomas’s voice carried the tone of a threat and I saw my oldest wince.
I can’t really explain what happened next. Thomas tried to put his arms around me. The smell of my own rot reached into my nostrils. I heard my youngest daughter start coughing. I heard my oldest trying to shush her.
I felt my rage boil over.
I don’t know where I got my strength, but I jumped against Thomas, pushing him down to the ground. He was surprised but not resisting: he wasn’t Thomas anymore, he was something else entirely. So I didn’t feel particularly plagued with guilt when I felt my hands grasp the sides of his head and wrench hard to the left. I was shocked at the strength in my limbs: I’d been so weak when I died. But my husband’s neck had all the resistance of a straw. He was alive one moment and dead the next.
Killing him helped a little, but that burning, searing pain still ripped through my body, and now my rage had no outlet. Not until I saw Amanda strike Grace for whimpering a little too loudly.
I lunged. Amanda screamed but she was too weak to really do anything. My anger was burning bright and hot. She’d already been ruined by her father. What had he done to them? I bashed her frail body against the wall. It only took one good hit to kill her. She struggled a little, but in the end, she went easily.
The pain was still terrible, but my anger was starting to abate. I had one moment of horrible realization, one second of insane guilt, before the rational side of my mind took over. I’d done what any sane person would do in this situation, hadn’t I? They were suffering and nothing could repair the damage that my death had done. Just because my death was reversed doesn’t mean their pain could be. I’d delivered them to a place of peace, a place with no suffering.
My little Grace was still shaking in the corner, but I could see that she was on the verge of death even without my murderous rage. I picked up her tiny body, struggling against the fire in my veins, and stared at her wide, blurred eyes.
I tried to block out that lilting question as I snapped her neck like her father’s. I felt like crying, but I held my tears back: I’d be joining them soon enough.
I’m planning on dying now, too. I scoured the house and found my husband’s pistol. He’d left my computer alone, too. In fact, he’d left everything of mine as it was when I passed. As soon as it had enough charge, I opened up to one of the most popular sites on the Internet, where you’re reading this now, no doubt.
You all need to know. This is not a joke, this is not a game. Life is not a game. Everyone in this world has lost somebody…somebody they desperately want back. But as this pain whips through my body and I eye that pistol like candy, I can tell you at least this: if you bring us back, you bring us back to pain and suffering. The dead are better off where they are.
Don’t bring us back.