The night had been uneventful and I was in the middle of falling asleep in my bed when a voice whispered in my ear.
“You have one wish.”
Immediately, and without thinking about it very much, I answered: “I wish for more life.”
“How much more life?” I was asked.
It was a good question. I knew I didn’t want to die the next day, but how long a life was a good life? Fifty more years? A hundred?
“Can I change my mind later?” I asked.
“Okay. I wish for you to ask me if I want to die at the end of each day. If I say yes, I’ll die. If I say no, I get to live another day.”
And that’s the way it worked. Every day, as I was nodding off to sleep, a whispering voice asked me: Do you want to die? And I said no. I couldn’t have wished for a better wish, I thought. There was no downside and there was no catch. I would decide when to die. Me and no one else. And every night, after replying ‘no’, I thought of deaths I’d read in news. People drowning in heavy rainfalls, and people burning in their sleep, as their building caught fire, and people dying of old age. None were ready. None had been given the choice. All of them died in suffering, wanting to hang on to life, clutching their bedsides as their minds slipped into oblivion. Suddenly I was aware of the fear. It permeated everyone. Every action anyone ever took was an action taken to postpone death, to avoid thinking of it or face it, and yet it surrounded them. It surrounded me.
The first forty years were good. I never hesitated in my nights. The answer to the question was so imprinted in my mind, I never learned to think on the alternative. It came one day, for sure, and I was not expecting it. I was nodding off and a voice whispered in my ear.
“Do you want to die?”
“N-no.” I stuttered.
I was not a stutterer.
I opened my eyes wide and looked across my bedroom. The hair on the back of my neck stood up like needles, and I was out breath. My heart beat fast as adrenaline was poured into my bloodstream. I began to sweat and I began to shiver, and my teeth clattered and my eyes watered. The realization that my life could be nearing its end struck me and I cried. I didn’t sleep that night, nor the night after that, instead I walked. I thought I was going to take a few a laps around the park, but when I got there an incredible sense of claustrophobia came over me and I left for the stadium. I thought I’d walk some laps around it. I had never been there, but it was disappointing, seemingly tiny and insignificant. I walked then, without a destination, attempting to free myself from the closing world and reached the sea, and even the sea was small.
It wasn’t the world that was changing. It was me. I was growing smaller, and my perspective of the world along with me. I wasn’t wrong. The world is small. I walked around it in a few years, but a year was no longer worth much to me. It made me sad because no matter how many new experiences I had, or how many people I met, their very smallness was lost in the crowded corners of my mind.
When once the birth of my children were highlights of my life, in those times, when saying no to death was a habit, they blended in with a myriad different things. The wedding and the night I killed a man competed for the spot, and the month I spent living underwater seemed to scream at me from my insides: “Look at me!”. My children were no longer easy to recall, and not as bright as I wanted them to be.
It’s been many years more. I am now alone on planet earth. Humanity has gone extinct, and when I’m nodding off atop a mountain or inside a cave, the voice still comes.
“Do you want to die?” It asks me.
I want to say yes. I want this to end, but I’m not yet ready. I’m curious and I’m hopeful, and I’m sad and torn inside. I have no real memories, you see. I have nothing to come with me to the end. I know I had kids once, but I don’t remember them. I know I had thousand exciting adventures, but I can’t quite recall the best one. What if in another million years another species reigns the Earth. I may yet see it return to its former glory. I may yet come to meet another being which I’ll love.
“Do you want to die?” It asks me.
“I want to die, but not just yet. I’m not quite ready. The end is near. I know it. Ask me again tomorrow, when I’ve loved again.”