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.