Friday, 27 January 2012

Afterlife Proposal no. 1: This Beautiful Death

When Ashley told me his love was no more, I thought it time to take my own life. It was something I had been considering for some while - since nursery school, in fact. And that moment, when hope had been revealed as the lie I had always known it to be, seemed to be most fitting.

Mine would be the most poetic of deaths: a painless slip into the endless sleep; my pale submerged body to be found by my dear father in the bath; a trail of rose petals, and incense in the air. Oh, very Ophelia. No doubt he would cradle me in his arms, overwhelmed with grief, yet of course understanding why this had to be; his pain instantaneously turning to happiness that my suffering was finally at an end.

My original plan was to slit my wrists, but I decided against it, as I feared that I might fail to cut a perfectly straight line, or worse, need more than one go before I got it right. Besides, although the blood would look wonderful in the water, it would stain my father’s clothes in the most unsightly way when he scooped me up and held me to his breast. So instead I decided I would swallow a cocktail of all the silly pills I had been prescribed by the medical establishment in order to counter my inextinguishable knowledge of the meaninglessness of all existence. They did nothing for me, of course; you can’t argue with the unavoidable truth.

I had no intention of taking them straight out of the bottles, needless to say. No, instead I chose to collect them in a shell, which once having placed between my pale lips and poured the pills from it into my mouth, I would let drop from my hand and over the side of the bath, making what I felt would be a rather pleasing visual symbol of being born into death: an ironic allusion, of course, to Botticelli’s pitifully hopeful Birth of Venus. Not that anyone would notice. Anyway, it would also draw attention away from the toilet seat: a most unwelcome intrusion to my tableau. Then, washing the pills down with a sip of blood-red wine from a long-stemmed glass, I would lie back in the water, waiting for death to take me in its warm embrace. Upon discovery of my beautiful demise, my father would immediately contact Ashley and inform him of what his thoughtless actions had led to. He would rush to the scene, and prostrate himself before my empty vessel, begging for a forgiveness that would never come. He would see that he was a fool for dumping me in favour of that slattern in his Communication Studies class, and my death would bring about a moral and just resolution; albeit all too late for me.

At least that was the plan.

Thing’s didn’t get off to the most perfect of starts. I made the mistake of filling up the bath first, and I hadn’t even arranged and lit half the atmospherically illuminating candles that were to cover every flat surface in the bathroom, including the toilet seat, before the temperature of the water dropped to tepid. I filled it up with more water from the hot tap, but then the bath was far too full, and I had to let a fair bit out before it was right again. By then, some of the candles had already gone out. It took a good half an hour longer than I had planned for to get all the candles alight simultaneously, along with the incense burners; not to mention the rose petals, which I wanted to have leading from the front door up the stairs, before forming a carpet in the bathroom and finally floating on the surface of the water, obscuring my still form beneath. Only, I’d underestimated how many I would need, and the rose petal carpet was decidedly threadbare. In any case, it all meant I had a half an hour less to die in before daddy came back from the bowls club.

Finally, everything was in place. I took off my silk kimono and draped it dramatically on the floor, conveniently covering a bald patch in the rose petal carpet. Then, I lowered my beautiful, pale, doomed body into the water for the last time. Or what was meant to be the last time, anyway.


I’d forgotten my seashell with the pills. It was on my dresser in the bedroom. I pulled myself out of the water; rose petals clung to my skin. I didn’t even have a towel ready. Well, I didn’t think I’d be needing one. Yet more petals stuck to the soles of my feet as I scampered to the bedroom, dripping water as I went.

I got the shell. Some of the pills rolled out as I picked it up, so I had to prize them out from between the fibres of the carpet and brush a hair off of one. Carefully, I carried it back to the bathroom and laid it on the side of my watery tomb. I pulled the rose petals off my feet and placed them back on the floor, which now had damp footmarks all over it. They looked awful, but I reasoned they would dry before my daddy got home. Again, I lowered myself down into the bath.

And there I lay, the shell beside me. Was I really going to do it? There was still time to change my mind. After all, some would heartlessly say it was just a teenage love affair gone wrong. Was it really worth dying for? Yes. Yes, it was, I knew. This was the moment that my whole life had been building up to. For it wasn’t just about Ashley, not really. He was but the final damning proof of what I had known for as long as I could remember. Living was a curse: no, a disease. The pills were the cure. And with that I opened my mouth wide and poured the pills in from the shell, the odd one or two falling into the water. I don’t think it could have looked very ladylike.

Although I struggled to pass them down my throat all at once, I had become very adept at swallowing pills over the years, even without anything to wash them down with. But why wasn’t there? I had forgotten my wine. It was down in the kitchen, all poured out into the long-stemmed glass. Oh well, never mind, I thought. I wasn’t getting up again. And perhaps it would have more symbolic meaning down in the kitchen.

So there I lay, waiting to die. Not much happened for the longest time. I had an awful feeling Daddy would come home, follow the rose petal trail, and find me in the bath, right as rain. Then I began to feel drowsy. Very suddenly, I found myself slipping away into unconsciousness. And as I began to sleep, I could feel my head slip down, down under the water. I was dimly aware that the water was filling my nose and my mouth, but then, all was dark. Death was here, at last…

But then it wasn’t. I was still underwater; my lungs were filling up, but I felt alert; wide-awake. I thought maybe I would involuntarily try to raise myself up and cough out the water, an instinctive survival mechanism taking hold, but there was none of that. Just myself in the water, the water in me. So why wasn’t I dead, or at least dying? I could see the rose petals above me, and the candles burning away all around. It all seemed so perfect. Except that I was still there to see it. Still, no doubt I would be dead soon. It would all work out.

Suddenly my arm threw itself up in the air. And stayed. My leg on the opposite side followed suit. Oh no, I thought, I’m having spasms. I had completely forgot that might happen. I knew I looked ridiculous, with one arm and one leg sticking up; the arm bent at an odd angle at the shoulder and wrist, the leg dead straight, like I was kicking a football. I tried to move them back down but they would not. In fact, I couldn’t move anything. Not even an eyelid. I was paralysed.

But that wasn’t the half of it. Things started getting really bad. I felt a strange relaxation in my groin. The water round there started to get warmer. Oh, no, it couldn’t be… I was pissing myself! This certainly wasn’t the way I wanted to be found, lying in my own yellowy piss. I wished I could reach for the plughole, empty the bath and start again. But I couldn’t move a muscle. Muscles were moving on their own however, including those in my arse. I felt them loosen. I knew what was coming. Yes, absolutely… I was doing a shit. I was shitting myself and I could not stop it. I was lying in a bath, my arms and legs sticking up, in my own piss and shit. This beautiful death could not have gone more wrong.

There was a gargling sound in my throat. I believe it was what is known as the death rattle, legendarily heard just before the moment it all ends. It was there; I heard it. That should have been it. All over. Dead. Except it wasn’t. I was still there, feeling my own excrement bob against my leg in the water.

I was half-right about Daddy’s reaction. He did scoop me out of the water when he saw me and clasped me passionately to his chest, although not after he’d got his foot caught on my kimono and skidded halfway across the bathroom floor. Unfortunately my shit had begun to disintegrate by then and some had come to rest on top of me, and that got stuck to his nice shirt. I would have preferred the blood. And then he laid me down and tried to bring me back using mouth-to-mouth CPR. It was very odd feeling my daddy’s lips on mine, not to mention his pressing down between my tits. Quite frankly, it brought up all sorts of feelings I really didn’t want to have to deal with, but being dead and incapable of movement, there was little I could do but wait it out.

After he’d tried a few times, he fumbled with his mobile and frantically called an ambulance. He had real trouble giving them the basic information; just kept on screaming to come quickly. Which they didn’t, or at least it seemed they didn’t. Maybe time was crawling because daddy was alternately blowing into my mouth and slamming on my chest whilst crying. But still, even if I had been alive when he’d called, I should have been dead by the time they arrived.

In the meantime, he was trying over and over again to revive me, and saying: ‘Don’t die, my precious, don’t leave me. It’ll be OK. Daddy’s here. Don’t die.’

It was quite moving; upsetting almost. But really, I thought, couldn’t he see the inevitability and tragic beauty of the gesture like he was meant to? It would make it so much easier on him. I love him to pieces, but it was just like Daddy to lay a guilt trip on me and ruin my big moment. And anyway, technically speaking, Daddy murdered me, along with Mummy, so he could have been a bit more dignified about it all to compensate. Well, they decided to have me, didn’t they? I mean, when you have a child, you sentence it to death, seeing as no one lives forever. And they say we should be grateful to our parents for bringing us into the world and giving us life. Well, yes, that’s all very well, but what about the burden of mortality, and the inevitability of our own demise? Should we be grateful for that too? Anyone irresponsible enough to have a child is a murderer. Although that’s just obvious, of course.

The ambulance people knew it was hopeless. They tried a bit of CPR too, and then practically fried me with those electrical pads, which wasn’t at all fun. You can feel it in your teeth, you know. But in the end, they just called the time, packed up their things, and while daddy cried into the tits of the slut from next door, who was pretending to comfort him but really just trying to cop a feel just like she’d been doing since mum scarpered, they packed me up too.

I couldn’t believe they were taking me away before Ashley had been made to see me in the tableau I had created, purely for his guilty pleasure. Although having said that, in a way I was glad he’d missed it because of, well, all the shit. Quite embarrassing, really. But still, the rose petals and the candles worked awfully well. Most of them were still going when the ambulance people came, although someone chucked a load of them in the bath to clear some space. And I was a bit annoyed absolutely no one picked up on the significance of the shell, although realistically, I suppose they don’t need to be good at art history in their line of work. But couldn’t somebody have made a bit of an effort? It would just have taken one of them to pause, and say, ‘It’s beautiful,’ and it would have made the whole thing worthwhile. Maybe the shit just ruined it for them, I don’t know.

It was pitch black in the body bag; not that I would ever see anything again because someone pushed my eyelids down and I haven’t been able to move them since, but I could hear everything that was going on in the ambulance. The cheek of those people! Actually, I’m not surprised they didn’t appreciate the effort I went to, seeing as they were so utterly insensitive to my situation. They were talking about me as if I wasn’t there: saying things like how sad it was, but also, and I couldn’t believe this, slagging me off for being so selfish to put Daddy through it all. It’s all right for them to say that, but if they knew what a terrible life I’d led, and what Ashley did to me, then I bet they would understand, like Daddy is going to, one day.

By the time of the funeral, I had been through hell. Not only was I kept in that wretched body bag, but I could tell from the slamming sound I had been shoved in a drawer somewhere. It was freezing, absolutely freezing. I would have been able to see my breath if I only had any and my eyes would open. After a while, I lost all track of time. I had no idea how long I was in for; maybe only hours, could have been days. But there, in the dark and cold, with only the odd distant noise of another drawer being opened or shut, there was nothing you could orient yourself with.

And then they pulled me out of the drawer for the autopsy. Yes, an autopsy. Because I hadn’t left any bottles conveniently lying around, they had to cut me open to work out how I died. I mean, they knew, but they had to prove it so they could fill out the death certificate.

At first, I could hear them talking about me: just about my birthmarks and tattoo and the scar on my knee from when I fell off the swing when I was five. They took some photographs, cleaned me all over, which meant I finally got that shit off me, pulled off my rings and necklace, and weighed me. And then, I felt the most incredible stabbing pain that went right from my throat to my groin. It was horrible, but strange. It wasn’t pain like I was used to. It was almost pain, without the pain, if that makes any sense. I guess it doesn’t. It was as if my body was remembering that it did once feel pain, and that it should feel pain, even though it couldn’t any more. It was the ghost of pain. And it was then that I finally realised what I was. I was a ghost, haunting my own body.

Although I couldn’t see it, I knew from the conversation I had been split right open. What happened next, with them sawing through my ribs and pulling them out in one go, and then each of my organs being removed and plopped on a plate, I really don’t want to dwell on. Suffice to say, ghost pain or not, it went a bit beyond having your tonsils out. Then, once they had finished and come to the very obvious conclusion that I had died from taking lots of pills, they filled me up with some padding, cotton wool or something, and put everything they’d taken out back, but in what I could tell from the rustling was a plastic bag! After that it was on with the chest cavity, skin sown up, in the bag and back in the freezer.

Again, I lost all track of time. I was in that drawer for god knows how long. But then I was on the move again. The drawer was opened, and I was lifted onto a trolley. I could hear some idle chitchat about the bloody football as I was pushed down some corridors and out in the fresh air and into the back of a vehicle. The football chatter went on and on as I was driven halfway across town, which was almost as bad as the freezer in its own way. Then out of the van, into somewhere else and popped into a freezer again.

I didn’t spend so much time in that one, I know it. Although with what happened next, I wish I had. They fucking embalmed me. Which means they took all the blood out of my body. I could feel myself emptying and then being pumped full of something awful and chemical. I can’t believe Daddy allowed it. He knows how I feel about that sort of thing. The only artificial thing I’d let into my body when I was alive was a cap, and all the depression meds I suppose. But now it was running through my veins, all of them. You can’t imagine how invasive that feels. And the smell, it was toxic.

To add insult to injury, once they’d finished pumping my body with crap, they started shovelling it on my face. They positively caked me in make-up, and I could tell it wasn’t exactly the simple, pale look I’d made my own. From the amount they were plastering on, I bet I looked like some council estate whore, so I suppose Ashley would like me now. Typical. You spend all your time trying to look like death when you’re alive, and when you finally get to be a corpse, they cover you in rouge.

After the wake, where everyone I half-remembered meeting in my life turned up and lied about how upset they were right in my slap-covered face, the funeral had to be the biggest insult. Daddy only went and had it in a church! He knew that I didn’t believe in anything, or at best, vampirism. The vicar gave an arsey sermon as a warning to all my friends about how I was going to Hell because I’d killed myself. But more fool him, because I hadn’t. I was right there, in the coffin, and I could hear every word. Daddy tried to say something, but he couldn’t because he was crying too much, which I suppose was very moving, but I was still seething about the church, so I couldn’t feel as sad about it as I probably would have done otherwise. Various ‘friends’ read some of my favourite poems, although some of them totally shafted me and read Bible verses. They all sounded pretty choked up too, but I knew that ’Tasha and Valerie were getting off on it really; loving all the death stuff and a bit jealous that it was me and not them. But you know what? I don’t think Ashley was even there. You’d think he’d stop by and see his handiwork at some point. He was probably so overwhelmed with guilt he just couldn’t leave the house. Yeah, right.

At least they got the music right at the end and played Song to the Siren (This Mortal Coil version, obviously) as they carried me out. I must have mentioned to ’Tasha that it’s what I wanted at least fifty times so I’m glad it sunk in.

Then it was into the back of a car and off to the graveyard. And there I was lowered as the vicar dribbled on with the ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust’ crap; some soil thrown on me and yet another bloody prayer. Finally a bit of slightly too cheery murmuring as everyone began getting on with their lives and forgetting about me and going on their way to the after-funeral buffet and stuffing themselves.

So here I am, down here. No idea how long it’s been, but the fact that there are maggots hatching under my skin suggests it’s been a while. Dear old daddy, he got a biodegradable coffin. No matter that they pumped me so full of chemicals when they embalmed me I’m probably toxic to anything in a ten-meter radius.

Was it all worth it? Well, the bathroom tableau didn’t quite work out, I admit, what with the shit and everything. I’d do it differently next time. But, looking back on it, the funeral, even though it was silly C of E, was quite an event. I expect it looked great. And even though he wasn’t there, I bet Ashley heard about it all afterwards. I’m sure I made my point anyway. Yes, life is a curse that brings only pain and despair. Of that I am still certain. The only problem is, that curse still hasn’t left me yet. It’s still down here with me in the grave: plaguing me in my rotting body.

I don’t know, for a while I actually didn’t mind being here. You’d think you’d panic, being buried in a coffin as you feel your flesh decompose, but its strange; it’s all quite calm: peaceful, almost. But even so, it’s a bit of a bore. Nothing to do, nobody to talk to. Just time to think. Time for lots of thinking. Going over things, again and again and again.

You know, sometimes I just want to die.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Richard. Next time I think about ending it all, I will remember this story and think again. You've made my Sunday.