So I've heard about the idea of having your soulmate's name tattooed on your wrist, but I've never felt the urge to write about that. However, I found myself intrigued by the idea of having to live with the day of your death inked on your wrist.
That would be awful.
Anyway, a story around that idea was born, and I hope you enjoy it!
If there's one thing I miss about old technology, it's the mystery of death. The way things used to be, you never knew when you were going to die: today, tomorrow, in sixty years – no one could tell you.
Like many things, we took the mystery of death for granted. Scientists never liked mysteries, so they spent millions of dollars and just as many hours working on a special machine that would be able to predict the exact day of your death.
At first, it wasn't perfect, and death was still shrouded by the question of "when will it happen?"
Not anymore, though.
Because now – with our current, extremely advanced technology – as soon as you are born, a machine is brought in to assess you before it promptly inks the day of your death on your wrist. As a result, you go through the rest of your life counting down the days and trying to complete everything on your bucket list before you run out of time.
Not the best way to live, if you ask me.
If you're still confused, here's an example: my mom has the numbers 5.23.2179 tattooed on her wrist, my dad's reads 10.02.2179, and my older brother's says 1.30.2204. If you're wondering, no, those dates aren't bad – if anything, they're amazing. That means my mom will die when she's eighty, my dad will make it to eighty-two, and my brother will live to be seventy-nine.
What does mine say?
So why is that a problem?
Easy: I'm seventeen, the year is 2142, and November is only two and a half months away.
It's my last year of high school, and yes, I'm actually attending, even though I'll die halfway through the fall semester. Most kids who've been in the same situation stopped their schooling so they could focus on living their life before they were torn away from it. My brother finished all four years of high school and started at a local college, but he's taking this year off. He tried to tell me it was because he wanted to focus on enjoying his "young years," before he becomes, "old, wrinkly, smelly, and boring," but I know the truth:
He wants to spend time with me before I pass on.
I humor both him and my parents, never referencing my impending demise so as not to upset them, but I'm not stupid. It will happen. I try to fool myself into thinking that I've accepted it: that I'm ready – that I will leave this earth with a smile on my face and no regrets in my past.
It is only at night, when I am lying in the dark of my bedroom, listening to my mother's muffled sobs from down the hall, that I realize the truth.
I'm not okay with this.
In fact, I'm terrified.
I walk through the halls of my plain school on the first day of September as I always have – my aviator jacket wrapped around my petite frame, curly blonde hair wrangled into a messy bun, and blue eyes trained on the floor.
I only look up when I hear people sobbing further down the hall. There is a small crowd surrounding a teary brunette dressed in black clothing, and I grimace.
Her death day must be tomorrow, if everyone is crying. I don't know her, but I send her a sad smile as I pass by, because it is rude not to acknowledge someone's imminent death, but it is even ruder to approach someone the day before their death. There aren't many things worse than having friendship dangled in your face solely because people are pitying your poor luck.
How would you feel if I went up to you and said, "Hey! I know you're going to die tomorrow, so I wanted to tell you that we should hang out sometime"?
Not so nice, is it?
It is for this reason that I cover up my left wrist with bracelets and the sleeves of my jacket; I don't want them to know, because I don't want their pity.
And though part of me wonders what it would be like to have a group of friends as a support system, I squash that thought the very next day.
The same group of people is huddled around a locker, but the brunette is no longer with them. And from the tears on their cheeks, flowers in their hands, and utterances of "car accident," I know she is no longer living.
"Hey, Melanie!" I twist around in my desk chair, eyeing my older brother curiously.
"What is it, Cam?"
He dangles his car keys in the air, his smile bright. "Let's go somewhere!"
I snort, turning back around with a mutter of, "I have homework, Cam."
"Oh, come on, Mel: let's have an adventure!" I don't have time to protest again, as Cam grabs my arms and pulls me away from my desk.
It is not until we are pulling out of our driveway that I begin to pester him with questions. "Where are we going? How long will we be gone? Do Mom and Dad know? Are-!" He slaps a hand over my face, rolling his eyes with feigned exasperation.
"Chill, Sherlock," he says flatly, before perking up once more. "Just pretend you're being kidnapped, and don't ask any questions, alright?"
"Kidnapped," I repeat blandly, and he laughs.
"No need to sound so excited, Sis, geez. Calm down, would you?" He shoots me a quick wink, and I chuckle at his antics.
While others wouldn't notice, I can tell he is trying hard not to show his true emotions. Cam's eyes have always been the easiest way to tell what he's thinking, and – regardless of his smile – I can see the sadness in his brown orbs, the heartbreak that has been lying there since I was stamped by that machine so long ago.
I pretend not to see it; I respond to his smiles with my own, but I don't have to fake my joy when he takes me to my favorite restaurant downtown, then to my favorite museum, where he tells me to buy several souvenirs with his money. I accept, not because I don't have money of my own, but because he is trying so hard to make my last two months enjoyable, and I will not spoil that for him.
It is the least he deserves, for having to grow up knowing he would only have a little sister for seventeen years.
When I step into my house on the fifth of October, my mother already has an extravagant dinner laid out on the table.
Do we need this much food?
Of course not.
Do we always eat together as a family?
However, as of last month, we have been eating together every night: laughing, talking, getting to know each other a little bit better, and ignoring the calendar on the far wall that has the twelfth of November marked with a small star.
I go along with their faux ignorance, even though I don't want to. In fact, I want nothing more than to yell, "I'm going to die next month!" and tell them how much I love them.
How much I will miss them.
But I do not want to ruin the mood, and so I do what I've always done; I retreat to my room after dinner, where I slip out an old, banged-up journal that contains every single one of my thoughts, hopes, dreams, and wishes for those I will be leaving behind.
The night before my death day, I plan to leave this on my desk, where they will eventually find it and – hopefully – read it.
Cam hasn't dressed up for Halloween since he was fourteen, but this year he insisted we take part in trick or treating, and how could I say no?
So here we are, moving onto our tenth house of the night; Cam is dressed as a mail man, and I pulled out my uniform from when I worked at a local diner so I could pass as a waitress.
When we have made it through our neighborhood (surprisingly without any rude comments about how we are far too old to be doing this), I stop Cam on the stairs leading to our front door with a hug.
He returns it without pause, "What's this for?" he asks, and I don't have to be looking at him to know he is smiling widely.
"Thank you," I murmur, "For everything." He tenses immediately, and releases me as if I have burned him.
In a way, that is exactly what I have done.
"Don't talk like that," he snaps, "Now grab your candy and let's go get a ton of cavities." I grin, following after him and ignoring the tears that have fallen down my cheeks.
Inside, our parents our waiting for us, the empty bags of candy in the trashcan the only sign that they've taken part of tonight's festivities. "Hey guys," I say, holding up my overflowing bag, "We brought back the goods."
My dad chuckles heartily and asks for anything that has peanut butter, while my mom disappears to the bathroom in an effort to hide the fact that she's crying again.
With less than two weeks left, they are finally beginning to understand the reality of this situation.
In less than two weeks, I will no longer walk through the front door, a twinkle in my eyes and a story on my lips.
In less than two weeks, Mom and I won't be able to cook together, gossiping about the latest news in our relatively small city.
In less than two weeks, I won't be sitting out in the garage, talking with my dad as he gives his car a tune-up.
In less than two weeks, I will no longer be able to tease Cam about girls, or go on unexpected adventures with him.
In less than two weeks . . .
I won't be here.
On November eighth, we celebrate Thanksgiving. I won't be here on the actual day, and I know my family won't have the heart to celebrate when I am gone, so I suggested we do it early.
My mom's lips had trembled as she held back tears, my dad's jaw had clenched, and Cam had crossed his arms, his eyes spitting fire, but they had all agreed, and so here we are.
It is my last Thanksgiving, and I don't miss that all of my favorite dishes surround the turkey on our table.
Just like we always do, we take turns going around the table to say what we are most thankful for. When it is my turn, I squeeze my mother's hand and say softly, "I'm thankful for my life, and that I got to spend it with all of you. Thank you . . . so much."
It isn't the best thing to say, and it isn't even everything I want to tell them, but they can't handle anymore and so it will have to do for now.
My dad mutters out a terse, "Amen," and the tension does not lift until my brother manages to crack a stupid joke.
Even then, as we sit around the table laughing, I notice the tension in their shoulders, and I wonder briefly if they are taking this worse than I am.
I almost laugh at that thought.
Of course they are.
I may be the one leaving, but they are being left behind.
Today is November eleventh, or so my calendar says.
I gaze numbly at the numbers on my wrist, wondering how I will go.
A car accident?
A sudden disease?
There are so many different possibilities, and it is only now that I realize this is the only part the machine will never be able to figure out: how we will die. It can tell you the exact day of your death, but it is up to you to fret over how it will happen.
Will it be painful?
Will I be able to see my family one last time?
Why does it have to be this way?
There are no answers to my questions, and I move robotically off my bed to go face my family. They will want to spend all day with me, I know, and I don't want to waste any time.
"Good morning," I murmur softly once I am downstairs, not too surprised when my mom drops the pan she'd been washing to crush me in her embrace.
"I love you," she cries against my shoulder. "I love you so much, sweet girl. I love you." I whisper similar things in her ear, and together we sink to the ground, a sobbing mess of people who have just been hit by the reality of death.
For the rest of the day, I am sad. I am heartbroken and filled with mourning – not for myself, but for my poor family, who have done nothing to deserve this.
But, as I sit with my family around our table, I become angry.
I become furious.
What right do scientists have to do this to us?
How dare they take away the beautiful ignorance of death – one thing no one had ever been so sure of until now?
It isn't fair!
I stand abruptly, slamming my fork down against my plate. "I hate this!" I spit, and my family looks at me with surprise.
"What?" Cam asks slowly.
"This!" I gesture around frantically, "It's not fair! I don't want to die tomorrow!" and then the tears begin to run down my face, "I don't want to die! They . . . they can't tell me when to die: that's my decision, not theirs! You know what, I won't die tomorrow; I will be just fine, from now until I'm in my eighties. And that is that." I turn from the table and march upstairs, barely making it inside my room before I begin to sob uncontrollably. Through my blurry eyes, I stumble to where my journal sits under my bed, moving it to my desk before collapsing onto the floor as anguish washes over me.
I don't want to die, but if I can't escape this . . . I want them to find that journal.
Cam comes in to my room several minutes later and pulls me into our parent's bedroom, where we all curl up together like we did when Cam and I got nightmares as kids. Together, we cry late into the night, our tears soaking the sheets.
And while Mom, Dad, and Cam fall into a restless sleep, I stay awake, blinking crusty, tear-stained eyes at the clock while the digital numbers on its screen continue to flip.
I don't want to die.
I am up before the sun on my death day, and the irony doesn't escape me. After all, I will most likely be dead before the sun sets.
The day itself doesn't feel any different, but I feel different, as I meander to the back porch just in time for the sun to rise over the trees, enraptured by the beauty of it all.
Who knew that all you needed to truly appreciate life, was death?
Staring at the clouds speckling the blue sky, I lose track of time, only snapping back to reality when I hear my mother's shrill scream from inside.
I race inside, panic filling my mind, when I skid to a stop in the doorway to my parent's bedroom. My mom has her head in her hands, my dad is trying (and failing) to console her, and my brother stands by a new hole in the wall that could have only been made by his fist.
Even though it is a ridiculous question at this point, I ask, "What's wrong?" and it is as if a switch has been flipped. Cam's shoulder's sag in relief, my dad manages a broken smile, and my mom races to pull me into her arms.
"We thought . . .we thought . . ." She can't get the words out, but she doesn't have to, because I hear what she hasn't said.
We thought you were already gone.
We thought you left without saying goodbye.
And now I feel like a jerk, because I forgot to consider their feelings when I disappeared from the room. Of course they thought I had somehow already died. What were they supposed to think?
I shake my head. "I'm still here."
We all hear the "For now," that lingers in the air.
Ten o'clock at night, and I'm still here. I'm not sure what kind of sick joke this is, but I don't appreciate it. My family has been struggling enough, the last thing they need is the false hope that maybe, somehow, I will make it through my death day without actually dying.
"Will you sleep with us again?" My mom asks me softly from her place next to me on the couch. She hasn't left my side all day, and I don't blame her. I can only imagine the pain of knowing that your child will die before you do.
No one deserves that.
"Of course," I tell her, squeezing her hand in reassurance that, even though things probably won't be okay, they are right now, and that's all that matters.
So, when eleven o'clock hits, we all return to my parent's bedroom, where they curl around me, as if it will somehow stop death from stealing me away. Unlike last night, none of us sleep.
Instead, we all watch the clock on the bedside table as it ticks away.
Will I actually make it?
No, there is no way. I'm going to die.
Somehow, someway, it will happen.
It always does.
Three minutes to midnight, and I am still here.
We all suck in deep breaths, watching with disbelief as the time on the clock changes once more.
And with it, the date has changed too:
November 13th, 2142
But I'm still here . . . so the question is: why?
I untangle myself from my family, standing on shaky legs and walking to the master bathroom, where I flick on the light and look at my wrist.
I don't believe it.
The numbers have changed.
I rub my thumb over my wrist, then sink to the floor when the tattoo on my wrist continues to bleed away.
And then it is blank.
"Mom," I croak, "Cam, Dad!" They burst through the door, eyes wide, no doubt expecting to see me half-dead on the floor.
But I am not. I'm perfectly fine, and that's the strange thing.
"Look," I hold up my wrist, barely able to contain my excitement, "Look!"
There are tears of joy, hugs, laughter, and celebratory pancakes the morning after my supposed death day.
And, even as we go about our day with happiness bleeding through our every movement, I know none of us have been able to erase the question in the back of our minds.
Years later, and I think I know the answer.
The scientists never really solved the mystery of death, they only claimed to do so. The thing about humans is that we – whether we mean to or not – believe almost everything we hear. So, when a scientist who is much smart than us tells us that we will die on a specific day, we can't help but believe that as the truth.
What we don't realize is that, when we agree to this made-up fate even a little bit, we are sealing it forever.
In other words, we were unintentionally creating our own death days by trusting the words of those we thought knew everything.
The real truth?
No one controls death. It is an unstoppable force, and we will never be able to change that.
All we can do is enjoy every day we have on this earth, spend time with the people we love, and do our best to leave behind no regrets.
Wow. That was fun, wasn't it? It had a happy ending and everything, which I bet you weren't expecting.
Hope you enjoyed!
Until next time,