Monday, 7 May 2012

The Death Review ( A Short Story)

I am drowning in a sea of blood. Gasping for air, kicking and splashing, I am going under. Hands beneath the surface are grabbing at my feet, pulling me downwards. A whole universe of flies is buzzing on my face and I feel like I’m being eaten alive. The sea is everywhere, there is no land, I am dying. I am going under.

Now I have found myself hanging by my feet on a tree that smells like coffee. I have a ball in my hands and it is spinning and it looks like a small planet but how could I be holding a planet? All around me is nothing. Nothing but me hanging on a tree with a whole world in my hands. I realise that I am the one doing the spinning and I am turning the planet over and over in its own orbit. Does that make me God or am I also on a small planet and somebody is holding my planet just like I am holding this one? I am slipping. The tree is getting thinner and is folding in on itself. I’ve dropped my planet.

I don’t like this place. It isn’t normal.

Pleasecomeinpeacebutifyoudon’twearequitecapableofdefendingourselves is a bit of a mouthful as far as planetary names are concerned but long names are very fashionable in this segment of the universe. My colleague works as a press photographer on Youmustcomeheretosampleourdelightfulandexquisiteselectionofcakes just next door which is only a short shuttle ride away.

The problem is that Pleasecomeinepeacebutifyoudon’twearequitecapableofdefendingourselves is in a constant state of flux. It is never the same for more than a few moments. Which makes it difficult for any journalist like myself who is just trying to go about their work.

I am now flying through some kind of an aluminium tube at twice the speed of light. My head seems to be tucked in neatly between my buttocks and my right foot is in my mouth.

They should rename this planet Don’tevercomehereifyouknowwhatisgoodforyoujustgohomeanddon’teverlookback. I think I was sick or am about to be sick. Time is all mixed up in this tube and I am getting on and getting off at the same time as I was hoping it would stop.

I am now lying in a bathtub and the water is beautiful and just at the right temperature. I am in the biggest room in the universe and all around me are thousands and thousands of bathtubs. They are occupied by humanoid creatures with different colours of skin. I myself am a lovely shade of orange. I feel wonderful and relaxed and I am hoping that this current manifestation of Pleasecomeinpeacebutifyoudon’twearequitecapableofdefendingourselves stays around for a while. My modesty is protected by an array of bubbles and all around me there is a pleasant chorus of sighs and the cracking of knuckles.

This is Heaven. I have been lying here for almost half an hour and as soon as the water temperature starts to fall it is reheated. I am being paid to lie in a bath and all thoughts about my latest review have disappeared.

Bath planet has gone and I am now in a yellow dinghy, floating towards my latest death. I know this because my dictaphone has appeared. In a few moments I have to focus on the job at hand. A Death review is just the same as a book review or a restaurant review only your subject is normally screaming in agony or garbling his last words. My job is to report it as accurately as it happens in time for Wednesday morning’s deadline. On a good week I can have up to twenty reviews, on a bad week I can find myself in hospital. Death reporting can be a dangerous occupation, depending of course on the circumstances.

I am still on my dinghy and it is an unusual kind of water. The dinghy is not moving, the water is moving instead. Everything is in reverse. Strange birds are in the sky but the sky is flying and the birds are stationary.

There is nobody around, just me in my dinghy and the birds. Death has never kept me waiting before, this is highly unusual. My dictaphone is at the ready, I just need my death to arrive.

An arm comes out of the water and lunges at me, I am caught off guard and lose my balance. Before I know it I am in the freezing water and I can’t catch my breath. The arm becomes a torso and the torso becomes a thin scarecrow of a man. Things are changing again but this time more quickly. The man is water and the sea is a long stretch of skin. I am no longer in the water, I am in him, I am falling into him. Drowning into him.

I am in the bathtub again but the bathtub is made of water and I am skin. I am stretching and stretching and now I am a bird and I am flying once again through the aluminium tube. I have arrived on the planet at the same time as I have left, I am aluminium and the scarecrow man is flying through me. Now I am back on the dinghy and an arm comes out of the water and lunges at me, I am caught off balance and I lose my guard. Wait no, that’s wrong. I think I am caught off guard and have lost my dictaphone. I think this is called a loop and I am caught in the loop.

I am exhausted. I am drowning in the water and I throw out my arm and it lands on a dinghy. I pull myself up and there is a young man sat with a small black device and he helps me up. I am heavy and I feel dull all over, I think I’ve stopped breathing. This young man is talking into his device, what is he doing that for?

I am lifeless. I can hear him talking into his device. I think I once knew what it is called and I think I was once this man or I was a bathtub, it’s all messed up.

He is speaking very slowly and very carefully.

“It all happened very fast, I don’t think he suffered. He is extremely emaciated, I think he’s been in the water for a long time. Probably hyperthermia, has taken in a lot of water.”

I think I am dead but why can I still hear this voice?

“There’s nothing more I can say, I just want to get out of this place. It gives me the creeps. Full stop. I think I’ve seen him before somewhere.”

I am dead. I am water. I am lying in a bathtub. I am aluminium.


Ally Atherton 2012

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