Tunnel

You know it will be over soon. Your thoughts are running through your head, almost like they always say, about your memories passing through your head before the end. They blur, running together. But they aren't memories, just thoughts. And all of a sudden, one stands out.

It's her, of course. It's always her, you think. You aren't surprised. In your mind, it's a vast muddle of thoughts, like one of those photographs of someone moving that was exposed for too long and everything's flowing together. It's just images, no pictures. But the only thing, the only thought, the only picture that stands out is her. She always does. You wonder what it is about her. All you can think is everything.

You try to clear your head. You open your eyes, look around. Everything's white. But it's not scary, mental hospital, padded walls kind of white. It's not even comforting, soft, homey white. It's that painful, sterilized, gleaming, hospital white, where you know everything is about as clean as it can possibly be but in an hour they are going to clean it all over again because of germs. Never mind that cancer isn't contagious, they're probably more worried about you catching something. Not that it would matter anyway, you know it's only a matter of time and so do they. Only a miracle would save you now, and you wonder if you even want a miracle. You're tired. They tell you, you're seventeen, keep fighting. When they don't think you're listening, they whisper, saying poor thing, he's too young. You don't care anymore. Not much worth living for anyway.

Never was, actually. But now you're tired. Everything has its time. You're not afraid of the end. You're not even afraid of what may or may not come next. The only thing that could possibly frighten you is losing her. Not just for you, but also because you worry that just for a minute it might make her just a little bit sad. And you feel guilty, because even though you don't want her to be sad, at the same time, just a little, you do, because it would mean she cared, maybe just the way one cares for people who are lost in war, or an epidemic, or a natural disaster, or even the way one cares for someone who a friend cares about, or maybe, just maybe, the way someone cares for a friend. You doubt even the final one is possible. Never have you even considered the possibility that she might feel more. You never had a reason to.

And then there she is, suddenly, a bold image of pure black against the all-white room. Black hair, black clothes, black shoes. Immediately striking. But she would have been striking anyway, to you. You could pick her out by the back of her head in a crowded room. If it was just the top of her head, or even just her arm, in a crowded, blurry photograph, you'd know it was her. If you heard her voice or laughter, even from three rooms away, you'd immediately recognize it, and get the same sinking feeling in the bottom of your stomach you got whenever you thought of her. You'd never told anyone, you knew you never would. Not that you would have had a chance, not now. But she was here.

You didn't know why. It didn't matter. All that mattered was her. That she was there. You had been afraid you wouldn't get to see her again. You were glad you had. Now you could let go, go to sleep. But something stops you. You can wait a little longer.

She walks in, sits down next to you, not uttering a word, making a sound. You can't even hear her feet going across the floor; if you didn't see her chest moving you wouldn't know she was breathing. You don't make any sound either. You don't need to.

You can't take your eyes off her, staring deeply at her, trying to hold her image forever, even if you're not quite sure what forever means anymore. But she doesn't seem to mind, and rests her eyes on yours.

You're sinking, into what you don't know. Perhaps her eyes, perhaps your thoughts, perhaps oblivion. It doesn't matter. You wonder why you ever thought anything mattered. Your still body is just like everything else in the room, clean, empty, pure. But even though your body is still, your mind is anything but. Your spirit wanders and your soul floats—but down instead of up. The room is the only thing not moving.

Now you fall. Deeper, farther, until you're looking up at your empty body through your bed, breathing peacefully, even connected to heart monitors and emergency buttons. You've never seen anything like this before. You wish you could have. Here, everything is different. No color is the same, all perspectives are new and strange, not just physical images, but mental as well. All you can think is that it is beautiful.

You don't even stop to wonder what is going on. All you know is that it isn't the end. You don't know how you know, you just do. Your gut's never failed you before, and in this state, everything is heightened, even your intuition. All you can feel is a sense of perfection. This is right, this is what is supposed to happen, this is good. And it's not over yet.

You wonder what will happen at the end, what it will feel like. You have no fear, just simple curiosity. You feel the way they say a child feels; simple pure innocent curiosity. You've always wondered if a child actually feels that way, you doubt it. You don't remember feeling that, and especially now that you finally feel this detached curiosity, you doubt you ever did before. You wish you had though; you feel completely at peace, no loose ends, no worries, no fear, no mask. You are more relaxed than you ever were in life. The irony amuses you rather than being annoying. Nothing is annoying now. Nothing can stir your peace.

It has been an hour since she came. You are jolted back to the real world, not losing your sense of peace, of wonder. You can't believe how fast time is going. Or is it slow? You are not sure, but you realize you don't care.
She speaks. The silence shatters in an infinite number of pieces, falling on the ground with a painful high-pitched sound. The floor is covered with them, with the shards of silence, shards of dreams.

You listen with a blend of horrified curiosity and joyful illumination. No, she couldn't! It must be impossible. But your intuition tells you it's true. Why did you never notice? You've both lost your chance. She says you're wrong, that you're still alive, so there must be a chance. You realize she's as oblivious as you, neither knowing about the other. It's too late, but you know she won't acknowledge that. You haven't spoken yet.

She's nearly in tears now, not expecting you to listen, not expecting you to care. She doesn't know how much you care. But she fights, and her eyes stay dry. She always was strong. She's worried that these might be your last hours, that she's burdening them with something you don't want to hear. She doesn't know how wrong she is. You still haven't spoken.

She continues her confession, and somewhere in the back of your mind you wish it could have happened earlier. You throat is contracting, your mind is going in a billion directions at once, dreaming of all the could-have-beens. But they aren't could-bes, so you try to focus on your present and very short future, which you can feel slipping away faster.

But suddenly you're not ready to let go, suddenly you have a reason to keep going. You feel yourself grasping on, but at that moment you know it's too late. Perhaps it was always too late. It's too late to know even that.

Your euphoria is fading, as is her voice. Finally they both stutter like the last birthday candle, the one that holds on until it has no choice but to give in, ending at the same moment. She looks at you, waiting for a response, a pleading expression in her eyes. But your voice is lost, your throat tight. You gesture for her to come near, trying to show her some other way.

She approaches. As soon as you can reach, you touch her, pulling her into an embrace which takes all of your little remaining strength. You can feel everything slipping away. You want to make this moment last, as they say, forever.

But you know forever don't exist, it's just a concept made up in some psychotic scientist's brain as a way to torture the rest of humanity. So you make the moment last as long as you can, until there's no way to continue and you can feel the path.

She seems to sense this, and you aren't surprised. She would. She sits next to you, grasping your hand and staring into your eyes. It's all you can do to keep your eyes open. You can feel you slow movement, towards where you don't know. You have entered the 'tunnel', you suppose.

But where is the light? Isn't there supposed to be light? You suppose maybe you aren't quite that far, or maybe they were wrong. After all, they'd never died if they were alive to say it. With what you know is one of your last thoughts, you wonder who 'they' are. It doesn't matter, you decide. They were wrong anyway. 'They' usually are.

You've finally reached the end; staring into her eyes, you can feel your eyes slowly close. You don't dare turn your head; she deserves to be the last thing you see. And you know she will be. You eyes are almost closed, and you still don't see the light. But you realize you don't miss it. The dark is comforting, just like her eyes. You always loved dark eyes, because she had them. The harsh light would have hurt anyway, blinded you. You slowly descend, and finally your eyes fully close. At that moment, your last thought passes, somewhere not in your brain, somewhere else.

There is no light at the end. There's something better.