The horror of extended life is a theme I often write about, but I think I gave this one an original twist. It came to me in a roundabout way when I was standing on a twenty first floor balcony and imagined what it would be like to jump off, because that’s just the kind of dark stuff I think about all the time. Enjoy!
By Ben Pienaar
It was the middle of another cold winter when Reginald Hays decided the time had come to end his life. It wasn’t that there was nothing left to live for – it was just that there was no longer any time. He was losing his mind, and quickly. A matter of months, he was told, before he’d be a confused old man, with no memory or notion of who he was or what he’d done in his life.
He’d written his memoirs and left them on the desk for his son to find the next day. Along with his will, those pages contained a solid record of his life and left no mad adventure omitted, and there were plenty of those, too. It was because of them, and because they were written down at last, that he could consider suicide.
The last lines of his memoir were a note to his family that said: If you mourn me, or shed a tear, I’ll consider it an insult to my memory and haunt you once I’m dead. I’m happy: I’ve lived a better life than anyone could hope for and lived far longer than I deserved, as you’ll read here. Now get on with your own lives and forget about mine – my book is written, get to yours. Love you all.
It was cold but honest, like him. His book was written alright, and at times he thought it had far too many pages. He was tired.
He pushed aside the sliding door of his apartment and stepped out onto the balcony. The wind was ice cold here. Too long exposed and your fingers would turn numb. He took his last cigar out of his mouth and dropped it off the side. He leaned over the glass barrier and watched the red spark diminish as it blew down thirty three floors. He tried to make his final thoughts deep and meaningful, but in the end all he came up with was: people are mad, and good riddance to all of them.
He leaned a little further and saw cars the size of his fingernails. The sight gave his heart a kick, but nothing he couldn’t handle. Even when he pulled himself over so he was practically upside down and then let go, the terror was just a backdrop to the anticipation of peace, pure and simple. Reginald was not a religious man, and all he wanted was a nice long sleep and some quiet. The darkness was in his mind as he fell, and the street opened its arms to him like an old friend.
He hit hard and felt not a thing.
Between that moment, and the moment of his rebirth, there stood an eternity. Reginald saw only white at first, and even had time to ask himself why, if he was dead, he was still thinking. Then memories began to return to him.
Reginald was not really Reginald at all. Or rather, he was, but he was also billions and billions of others. In the life before, he had been Kjorn Harolson, a Danish Vikiking in the tenth century. In the life before that he was a nameless woman living before the invention of the wheel. Before that he was a weevil. All of these lives came to him in a storm, a wild hurricane of emotion and memory.
He was, in short, experiencing an identity crisis beyond anything anyone had ever felt before. This consciousness, that until a space of time too small to mention had believed it was Reginald Hays, was in fact everything that had ever lived. He’d been every human being, animal, insect and bacteria that ever existed. In a split second he experienced every memory he’d ever had. The murderers and the victims, the tortured and the sadists, the holy and the evil: He was life itself, and everything it consisted of.
A voice cried out in the whiteness: ‘NO! Not again, please! Let it be over now, I cannot live again!’
But the voice went unheard, and then his time in the void was over.
Somewhere far away, hundreds of years later, the consciousness that was once Reginald Hays opened his eyes on a new world. There was another minute or so in which he still had his own mind, and a part of those memories he’d seen in the white. He saw the nurse lay him on a soft bed and tell the mother she’d just had a baby girl. A feeling of terrible exhaustion stayed with him, one that came from living so many billions of consecutive lives and knowing that he had many more billions remaining.
He opened his mouth and squalled and wailed and cried with everything he had left, and then he was delivered into his mother’s arms and the memories faded slowly.
And so, baby is born.