The Day I Died

This story was inspired by an article by Harlan Ellison of a similar name in which he mused about mortality.

I died on July 5, 2006.

It was a Monday morning right after a long holiday weekend. Excesses of alcohol, fireworks and hilarity had finally pushed my middle aged body to the limits. I guess I should have stuck to my New Year’s resolution to start working out regularly.

Traffic was a bitch and I shouted myself hoarse at lunatics who changed lanes with inches to spare without signaling and little old ladies who think that twenty-five miles an hour is a good speed for a highway. The tension in my chest was written off to anger and muscular tension.

The morning Mountain Dew and junk food snack from the first floor cafeteria was a great energy boost and I decided that the sugar high was sufficient to let me trot up the stairs to my cube – bad plan.

Somewhere around the second flight of stairs the tightness in my chest became worse. I could feel every pulsation of my heart as it tried to force enough blood through my clogged arteries to keep my body running. The door to my floor was a vision of heaven and I staggered into the hallway gasping like a fish pulled from the sea.

My breathing refused to slow as I wound my way through the labyrinth of the office cube farm. Spots in my vision covered the faces of people to whom I would normally toss a jaunty good morning.

Logging into the computer was as agonizing as running a marathon. The darkness continued to creep in from the sides as numbness spread down my left arm. Then the pain stopped, darkness descended and I slumped back in my chair.

My co-worker Nita found me later that morning; she had assumed I was asleep at my desk. They needed to sedate the poor woman to stop the screaming once she realized I was dead.

I died on April 29, 2028.

I was distracted as I always was. The older I got the more I let my attention drift. I wasn’t senile or suffering a mental disease, I was just too lazy and preoccupied to really focus. When I did focus it was always on the wrong, inconsequential, thing. My demise was laughable – after all, crystalline memory units were everywhere, you’d think I’d be used to them by now.

Sarah was having a big family get together, four generations under one roof. My stepson’s son had a daughter and had come to visit Granny and – what do you call a step parent several generations removed – Grandpa will just have to do I guess. Kids being kids, anything not nailed down was a toy. Flowers littered one corner of the living room, my bed pillows were an impromptu fort, and everything was fun and wonderful in the Walker household.

I never noticed that little Mary had gotten in to my movie collection. Ancient DVDs were everywhere and my rather impressive volume of crystalline matrix recordings were being used as marbles in the center of the living room.

So there we are, Nate and I shooting the shit about the old days and impressing upon his son Jacob how far he has to go to ever match such stalwart paragons of humanity such as we elder gentlemen when I step on a memory core. Those little suckers are slippery and not as fragile as their crystalline appearance implies. My foot flies out from beneath me just as I’m launching into my best “Back in my day” story. With a flip worthy of an Olympic hopeful I fly into the air and come down on my head, snapping my neck.

Yup, one hell of an anniversary present I gave Sarah, an insurance policy to support her the rest of her life and a corpse to bury the following day.

I died on July 27, 2053

I was attending Pennsic LXXXII with the Society for Creative Anachronism. It was my sixty-second Pennsic and I was one of the few remaining old timers who had attended during the twentieth century. The fact that I had not actively participated in any combat arts for nearly 40 years didn’t matter to me. Seeing the youngsters follow in the footsteps of those of us that came before warmed my heart.

My android Page had erected my tent in my traditional spot and then helped me to the opening ceremonies. My only regret was that my dear Sarah was no longer able to come to the war, but her doctor had ordered her to not leave the arcology again as her allergies had so grown with age that they could kill her if she ventured out into the fields where the battles occurred.

The procession of Kings and Queens and their attendant followers was breathtaking as always. Banners snapped in the breeze and crowns reflected the sunlight in rainbow hues over the crowd. Speeches were given, each strangely more quiet than the one before. At last, the gauntlet was thrown and the King of the East broke the arrow declaring the start of the war.

The crowd’s roaring approval receded from me as the warmth of the sun made me sleepy. Content that the traditions of the war continued I nodded off in my chair and was gone.

I died on October 5, 2462.

I was bored with the near immortality that the nano-bots had brought to humanity. After five hundred years you find yourself repeating the same old activities. Human nature does not change but age brings on a lack of flexibility in granting leniency to those who repeat the same mistakes you’ve already seen a thousand times in the past.

Sarah was much braver than I. She had shut down the bots and begun the ultimate journey into the unknown thirty years ago. I admit now that I was just a coward and was not ready to believe that life was no longer worth living. Eternal life is boring, life without her became Hell. So for my birthday I poured myself a stiff drink of Nectar, toasted my love and gave the mental command to the bots to terminate.

Eternal dark fell. I only hope that Nate remembers to pour that shot of alcohol on my ashes before launching his mother and I off toward Andromeda as I requested.

I died on October 5, 1962.

Forty-eight hours of labor nearly killed my mother, it did kill me. I was never born. The doctors tried to sooth the distraught twenty-one year old who would have been my mother but what words can console a woman when her child is delivered to her as a corpse.

My death changed her life. She was inconsolable for years and in her grief allowed herself to remain the punching bag of my bastard of a father longer than she would have had she had an infant to protect.

The woman who would have been my wife continued her course from one bad relationship to another. The cycle of mentally abusive men who never made her stand up for herself and admit that she was smart, beautiful and worthy of a life of love and happiness continued.

My stepson sank into a miasma of drugs and alcohol and finally died in a car crash while racing a stolen Ford under the influence of a near toxic mix of anti-depressants, designer drugs and alcohol.

Animals I cared for never found loving homes, stories were never written. My carefully tended home passed from one white trash owner to the next never rising above the status of unkempt mountain shack.

People who I brought together never met and their lives were lessened. A bug I found in some software went unnoticed and cost a major corporation hundreds of billions and millions of homeowners their life savings.

I never existed; it actually mattered.

I defeated death April 10, 2073.

I was old. Old to the point that death seemed a welcome thing. I was afraid to let go though and grasped at the new technology being touted in the press. The great grandkids thought I was nuts.

“It’s not you,” they lamented. “You just make a cheap copy that thinks it’s you.”

I was desperate so in my normal manner, I ignored them.Universal Vision Inc. hooked me to the machines as the scientists reiterated again how the energy patterns of my consciousness would be mapped into the subtle energy patterns of what they described as the eleventh dimension. Parallel worlds, membrane space, it all made sense in a sort of high level, layers of an onion, sort of way but I really didn’t care. I wanted to continue my existence. They hooked me up and threw the switch.

I was everywhere and no where. All reality spread out before me. Universes of stars. Realities of strange matter and parallel worlds where I beheld myself as a black, an asian, a woman and a dog. Everything everwhere was at my fingertips. I wondered if I could change something. I reached out and tried.

I have not died, I may no longer have form but as I said to the primitive man I managed to contact, I AM.

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