(published 22nd January 2018)
I have a vague recollection of someone once telling me that when they died they hoped the first thing that happened was that they were presented with a DVD of their entire life. Overwrapped – waiting for them to reminisce in full HD – an agreeable concept. Sugar-coated.
In all honesty, they were not too far from the truth. At least that was the case for me, and that (of course) is all the evidence I have to go on. The experience itself is more spasmodic; less obvious I guess: a balloon burst of innumerable images left to marinate the inside of what remained of my head. To settle, and filter – one at a time – through the two blank exit holes with which I had once been privy to a weird little thing called life.
My eyes were cameras, the pinholes of the dead. I witnessed everything, and everything I had forgotten I had ever witnessed – a deluge of images in no particular order. Every moment which had once meant something (whatever that might mean) and everything which had once existed in between – the chaff of life; the mundanity of the everyday sway if you will. My life through a saltshaker.
And there, sandwiched in between hung a wordless constant, a reminder of the irrelevance, the discontinuity of time – for there was no ticking clock, no numbered slide-counter. No purported purpose as such. Simply frame upon frame upon frame upon frame for almost ever (and yet not quite) – like the constant through which life must appear to those who have never experienced the actuality of death; all they have known is life, and so that is all they have with which to go on (or so it goes).
I had no control over any of it, that much was clear. And I had no sense of physicality – that was one of the first things I acknowledged once I had accepted and awoken (for want of a better word) from my death – just some latent lapse of not quite nothingness as the images continued to pass. And pass.
The strangest part of all was this: within this scattershot streaming of what I had previously presumed to be my memories, I began to see fissures forming; unfulfilled aspirations churning themselves into the tumult of my life story. I began to be presented with images of myself in scenarios which, in reality (whatever that word now means) had never – could never have – occurred. My brain doctoring the reel of truth, attempting to convince myself that I had lived an altogether alternate life to that of which I had actually lived. My subconscious rebelling, painting myself as a martyr; a hubristic remake on an otherwise docile original.
And in amongst this all I began to view myself from afar, from different angles, through the eyes of others: I seemingly lost and gained teeth and hair and years (and looks) as each scrambled image filtered over and out onto the next, rupturing the dam of my dwindling subconscious. The walls creaking and splintering. The framework rotten beneath their mass. A sea of triviality and fabrication bursting forth, interspersed with brief images of moments which might, genuinely, once have meant something to me (or perhaps to someone else). It’s difficult to tell now – my mind is not as it once was. I drift.
The images flowed. Unreality and subconscious; oil and water. All the things I could have achieved (to what end) – manifesting all puffy and real and raw like the raised throb of a scratched rash – perhaps.
Or, perhaps, this was some spoiled response to my brain being mashed by the impact from the train. I digress.
How long this botched display lasted and how many still-frames I viewed in total I cannot even begin to estimate (for within this mess, among other things, I have lost the ability to count). I guess I might once have tried to describe it as endless (for that is how it appeared, how it felt at the time (for want of a better word)) and yet eventually, and without warning, someone remembered to put the lens cap back on. Or the DVD back in its case. And my synapses shrank; coiling up among themselves like old Christmas lights inside a plastic bag. And my eyes flopped off.
Just like that.
Richard Alexander studied Creative Writing at Winchester University and now lives in Norwich, UK with his wife and cat. He is currently working on his debut novel but also enjoys experimenting with shorter varieties of fiction when time allows (under the watchful eye of Quentin… his cat).