He was becoming unstuck, he was sure of that – his bones were no longer wrapped in flesh but in clouds of dust, in hummingbirds, dragonflies, and luminous moths – but so perfect was his equilibrium that he felt no fear. He was vast, he was many, he was dynamic, he was eternal.
To be, or not to be: that is the question:Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to sufferThe slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;No more; and by a sleep to say we endThe heart-ache and the thousand natural shocksThat flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummationDevoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;For in that sleep of death what dreams may comeWhen we have shuffled off this mortal coil,Must give us pause: there's the respectThat makes calamity of so long life;For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,The insolence of office and the spurnsThat patient merit of the unworthy takes,When he himself might his quietus makeWith a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,To grunt and sweat under a weary life,But that the dread of something after death,The undiscover'd country from whose bournNo traveller returns, puzzles the willAnd makes us rather bear those ills we haveThan fly to others that we know not of?Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;And thus the native hue of resolutionIs sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,And enterprises of great pith and momentWith this regard their currents turn awry,And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisonsBe all my sins remember'd!
There seemed no answer. He wasn't resigned to anything, he hadn't accepted or adjusted to the life he'd been forced into. Yet here he was, eight months after the plague's last victim, nine since he's spoken to another human being, ten since Virginia had died. Here he was with no future and a virtually hopeless present. Still plodding on.Instinct? Or was he just stupid? Too unimaginative to destroy himself? Why hadn't he done it in the beginning when he was in the very depths? What had impelled him to enclose the house, install a freezer, a generator, an electric stove, a water tank, build a hothouse, a workbench, burn down the houses on each side of his, collect records and books and mountains of canned supplies, even - it was fantastic when you thought about it - even put a fancy mural on the wall?Was the life force something more than words, a tangible, mind-controlling potency? Was nature somehow, in him, maintaining its spark against its own encroachments?He closed his eyes. Why think, why reason? There was no answer. His continuance was an accident and an attendant bovinity. He was just too dumb to end it all, and that was about the size of it.
He saw two stars collapse against one another and a nova form; it flared up and then, as he watched, it began to die out. He saw it turn from a furiously blazing ring into a dim core of dead iron and then he saw it cool into darkness. More stars cooled with it; he saw the force of entropy, the method of the Destroyer of Forms, retract the stars into dull reddish coals and then into dust-like silence. A shroud of thermal energy hung uniformly over the world,over this strange and little world for which he had no love or use.It's dying, he realized. The universe. The thermal haze spread on and on until it became only a disturbance, nothing more; the sky glowed weakly with it and then flickered. Even the uniform thermal disbursement was expiring. How strange and goddamn awful, he thought. He got to his feet, moved a step toward the door.And there, on his feet, he died.They found him an hour later. Seth Morley stood with his wife at the far end of the knot of people jammed into the small room and said to himself, "to keep him from helping with the prayer". "The same force that shut down the transmitter," Ignatz Thugg said. "They knew; they knew if he phrased the prayer it would go through. Even without the relay." He looked gray and frightened. All of them did, Seth Morley noticed. Their faces, in the light of the room, had a leaden, stone-like cast. Like, he thought, thousand-year-old idols.Time, he thought, is shutting down around us. It is as if the future is gone, for all of us.
but as he plodded along a vague and almost hallucinatory pall hazed over his mind; he found himself at one point, with no notion of how it could be, a step from an almost certain fatal cliffside fall—falling humiliatingly and helplessly, he thought; on and on, with no one even to witness it. Here there existed no one to record his or anyone else's degradation, and any courage or pride which might manifest itself here at the end would go unmarked: the dead stones, the dust-stricken weeds dry and dying, perceived nothing, recollected nothing, about him or themselves.
He drew her into his arms, gathering her close, and dusted kisses over her cheek, her hair. Wrapped in his embrace, Laurien closed her eyes, murmuring a sigh of exquisite satisfaction. A delightful drowsiness overtook her and she gave in to it, snuggled securely against Darach's chest, lying on a stolen wolf pelt, in the hold on a ship of thieves.
[When asked what he wants for his tombstone epitaph]Since I'm an atheist, and have no belief whatsoever in life after death, I couldn't care less -- it's not like it'll have any impact on me, since by definition I will be completely extinguished. I guess if someone twisted my arm and forced me to provide an epitaph, it would be 'Don't forget.' Sound advice...
He comes down next to me, and when I hold out my hand, he takes it. Our fingers lace together. And in that feeling, that perfect feeling of our hands and fingers pressed together, I want to tell him everything. I want to tell him about Josh, and his sister, Emily. I want to tell him about tall, crazy Gert. I want to tell him about bridges and funerals, and most of all, maps. More than anything else, I want to tell him about myself. I want to tell him that I know what things look like from above now. There's so much I want to tell him, because I know he'll understand.
He who becomes the slave of habit,who follows the same routes every day,who never changes pace,who does not risk and change the color of his clothes,who does not speak and does not experience,dies slowly.He or she who shuns passion,who prefers black on white,dotting ones "it’s" rather than a bundle of emotions, the kind that make your eyes glimmer,that turn a yawn into a smile,that make the heart pound in the face of mistakes and feelings,dies slowly.He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy,who is unhappy at work,who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,to thus follow a dream,those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives,die slowly.He who does not travel, who does not read,who does not listen to music,who does not find grace in himself,she who does not find grace in herself,dies slowly.He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem,who does not allow himself to be helped,who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck, about the rain that never stops,dies slowly.He or she who abandon a project before starting it, who fail to ask questions on subjects he doesn't know, he or she who don't reply when they are asked something they do know,die slowly.Let's try and avoid death in small doses,reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.Only a burning patience will leadto the attainment of a splendid happiness.
Die slowlyHe who becomes the slave of habit,who follows the same routes every day,who never changes pace,who does not risk and change the color of his clothes,who does not speak and does not experience,dies slowly.He or she who shuns passion,who prefers black on white,dotting ones "it’s" rather than a bundle of emotions, the kind that make your eyes glimmer,that turn a yawn into a smile,that make the heart pound in the face of mistakes and feelings,dies slowly.He or she who does not turn things topsy-turvy,who is unhappy at work,who does not risk certainty for uncertainty,to thus follow a dream,those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives,die slowly.He who does not travel, who does not read,who does not listen to music,who does not find grace in himself,she who does not find grace in herself,dies slowly.He who slowly destroys his own self-esteem,who does not allow himself to be helped,who spends days on end complaining about his own bad luck, about the rain that never stops,dies slowly.He or she who abandon a project before starting it, who fail to ask questions on subjects he doesn't know, he or she who don't reply when they are asked something they do know,die slowly.Let's try and avoid death in small doses,reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.Only a burning patience will leadto the attainment of a splendid happiness.
It was as if he'd suddenly become intimately aware of the fragility of life and how precious time really was. As a result, he made a conscious effort to simplify his life, with the goal of eliminating unnecessary stress. No longer interested in society's definition of success, he began purging his life of material things. Life, he decided, was for living, not for having, and he wanted to experience every moment that he could. At the deepest level, he'd come to understand that life could end at any moment, and it was better to be be happy than busy.
You just want to give up, he said when he was able to speak. Only you keep going. You still have to get up in the morning and pour the cereal in the bowls. You keep on breathing, whether you want to or not. Nobody's around to tell you how it's supposed to work. The usual rules just don't apply anymore. He was still talking, but she wasn't even sure if it was to her. When it started, he said, I thought nothing could be worse than those first days. And it wasn't only us, but everyone else you'd see, wandering around like they'd landed on a whole different planet. Instead of just dealing with your own heart getting ripped into pieces, wherever you looked you knew there were other people dealing with the same thing. You couldn't even be alone with it. Like you're out in the ocean and the undertow catches you and you start yelling for help, but then you look around, and all around you in the water for as far as you can see, there's all these other people flailing too. He sat there for a moment, shaking his head. You keep getting up in the morning and knowing this will continue maybe ten thousand more mornings. You wish you were the one who died. How much better would that be?
He could almost taste the tang of that swampy air right here in his own desert parking lot and hear the calls of the heavily beating flock, sorrowing and apologizing and making plans for some other time. Time. He realized that crows had always reminded him of time, dark time. He gazed at the backs of his hands, at the plummy dark repellent veins.
He parked his car carefully, made sure he'd set all the locks and the alarm. On the steps he kept looking behind him, snapping glances into shadows like he expected this to be a set-up with my gang waiting to roll him. Nervous. But I got this feeling the possibility of danger was all part of it for him. What he wanted was something with an edge to it, something stamped as unmistakable bad. Welcome to the club, dude.
In spite of death, he felt the need of life and love. He felt that love saved him from despair, and that this love, under the menace of despair, had become still stronger and purer. The one mystery of death, still unsolved, had scarcely passed before his eyes, when another mystery had arisen, as insoluble, urging him to love and to life.
He swore by all that he ever had loved and reverenced that he would try, try with all his might in the short time that might remain to him...he would forget himself, he would put his own pain and chagrin and disappointment, his own feeling of defeat and uselessness, his own craving for love and intellectual companionship in the background, and he would see if the more than six feet of bone and muscle that contained his being could do any small service that might come his way for God and his fellow man before he went. Maybe if he could accomplish some little thing, something that would ease the ache of even one heart that ached as his was aching at that minute, just maybe that knowledge would be the secret that he might carry in his breast that would set the stamp of an indelible smile on his face, so that even a child could discern the majesty of the impulse and he would not be ashamed when the end came.
...Wrapped in the overcoat, he dropped on the seat and faced the eternal verities of sky and sea. No land was intruding. It was the bowl of the sky closing down; the smooth wash of the sea rolling in; and away in the distance a faint red glow marked the spot where the sun threw its light on a world that was steadily turning from it.There Jamie did some more thinking. He was having plenty of mental exercise in those days. He still thought Death, but at least he had a manlier thought in facing it. And when he thought Life he did not think of himself, or upbraid his government, or pity other wounded men. He thought merely of that one thing he might possibly do and what it might possibly be that would give him some justification, when he faced his Maker, for the spending of his latter days.
Dying was nothing and he had no picture of it nor fear of it in his mind. But living was a field of grain blowing in the wind on the side of a hill. Living was a hawk in the sky. Living was an earthen jar of water in the dust of the threshing with the grain flailed out and the chaff blowing. Living was a horse between your legs and a carbine under one leg and a hill and a valley and a stream with trees along it and the far side of the valley and the hills beyond.
He was going to die soon, you knew when you saw those eyes. There was no sign of life in his flesh, just the barest traces of what had once been a life. His body was like a dilapidated old house from which all furniture and fixtures have been removed and which awaited now only its final demolition.