She’s whispering in my ear now, my lovely Harvester. It must be close to that time.
My entire life has lead up to this one moment and a moment like this makes you relive everything you have done up until now. And as I listen to Her, I know why I’ve been chosen. I am one of the few who understands. The meaning of life, the meaning of creation and death…these things were always obvious to me.
It is why I became a psychiatrist so many years ago. I’ve always been able to shepherd people through the toughest of times and my understanding began early as an adolescent girl. Watching your younger sibling die in front of you tends to create more difficult questions than it offers answers. And I’ve never been one to not seek answers. I wanted to know why God wanted me to watch my little sister die in front of me without giving me the tools to be able to help her. What was it that I saw in her eyes as she floated away into the dark? What was the pain I felt billowing from my mother when I watched her pull my sister’s body from the pool? I needed to know why God would allow, if not will, the innocent to die. Why are we all mortal? What was it about human beings that allowed the greatest kindnesses only to be matched by unimaginable horrors? My curiosity would prove insatiable. I always needed to know.
Through my search for answers I came to realize what separates us from other living things; what makes us important to the universe is our perception-if not understanding-of the metaphysical. It’s from this understanding that I realized that there is one crucial thing that both connects everyone we come in contact with but also gives us our own individuality and soul: emotion. Emotion is the energy that is created and shared between souls. It’s what molds us. Eventually, it’s what defines us as it helps create our character. The concept of evil and good, while necessary means to an end, are ultimately irrelevant since they are both interconnected through emotion. And it is emotion, I learned early on, that is the meaning of life…
And death. Death…her death…I could not escape it. Her face and that last flicker in her eyes gave me nightmares for years. I researched the moment of death extensively: life flashing before your eyes; out of body experiences; bright light; the sense of an invisible presence. It all seemed obviously interconnected but I had to test it. The couch in my office would eventually become my laboratory.
After years of research on the moment of death and more importantly emotion, I came to believe that all emotions fit into one of 6 categories and if I were to test my theories I needed to find people within these emotional throws at their precise moment of death…their moment of eternity. With this in mind, I decided to specialize in serving the terminally ill. As I helped guide them through their final days, finding peace where it could be sought, I was able to extensively study my theories.
I started my research as an “exit guide” for an assisted suicide underground network. It is here where I learned the emotional reasons that lead many to choose their own death, their “plan” as it was often referred. Dignity, escape (both physical and mental), and the refusal to burden loved ones were the most popular reasons given. After being around dozens of these finished “plans,” you could start to sense when Death was near. At first I just thought it was a general eeriness to the situation at hand. It’s hard for your mind to not get invested when finality is near. You tend to empathize with these individuals and the coming sadness for their friends and loved ones. I thought the eeriness could also be attributed to the tools that were used: the box the candy apple red helium tanks came in, depicting happy children running around a yard with balloons in their hands; the fish tank air bubble tubes used to administer the gas; the Thanksgiving turkey bag turned executioners hood that would seal in gas that was always 100% effective. The helium…the same gas we would swallow when we grew up as kids to make funny voices…tricks the brain into thinking it is oxygen like a clowns’ gag at a birthday party. I thought the innocence of the death method was what caused the eeriness every time. But I now realize it wasn’t.
After serving as an “exit guide” on 18 cases I realized that this turkey bag was an inconvenience for testing my theories. We would always remove the bags from the individuals head and remove all of the evidence of the assisted suicide. The coroners would have no choice but to categorize it as “natural causes” since the helium is hard to detect and, of course, being that most of our clients were elderly, no one would really question otherwise. Every time I would pull off the bag (usually after 10-12 minutes), I would miss out on the moment of actual death, because of the wrinkling and bodily fluids that would drape the plastic, I could not clearly see through the bag in order to watch the eyes…I must always see the eyes…when the time came.
So the decision was made to move to Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal and it wound up being a large part of the reason why I was so successful in my studies. One of my theories, I felt, was proven right away when I noticed the flicker. There is always a flicker in the eyes. The moment when you know it is over and the face contorts as though the air has been let out of the balloon, the eyes lose focus, and you can sense the denseness in the room. If you are in the room, you cannot only see it but feel it. It is why your body aches and weeps when it recognizes it. But the flicker was always different and the intensity of that moment seemed to be determined by the strength of the emotion at the time of death.
The first time I noticed the intensity difference was during my 12th assisted suicide in Oregon. He was a 65-year-old father of two sons; divorced, lymphoma and alone. During one of our sessions, this one in particular being hypnosis, he shared how he molested his youngest boy and how this was the reason he lost his wife and children. After convincing his sons to be there to witness his death and shortly after he took the correct pill combinations, he made his final apologies and confessions and said, “This is not my escape but rather my gift to you for all I have done.” You can sense that his moment was not one of sadness or anger, but rather one of sacrifice and intense love and peace that only comes with giving and forgiveness…or at least in his mind, repaying a great debt. While his sons had a different take on the matter after the deed was done, this father’s moment of eternity had been decided, and more importantly was chosen by him.
Which meant the moment could be manipulated. And so with each patient in which I felt I could garner their unyielding trust, I expressed my theories. Theories on how when your life flashes before your eyes it’s your minds way of condensing all of your emotional experiences into one file, your soul, and how that is what carries on to God, the Source, the Creator, the Universe, whatever you may believe. How the bright light you see is your soul as it moves on; how out of body experiences are your body’s way of rejecting death; how the presence that those in the room feel may be an unknown physical or metaphysical psychopomp of some sort.
And then I gave them a choice: will your gift for eternity be random in nature or do you want it to be the most powerful emotion you had in your life? When they made the choice what they did not realize is that this emotion could be anything. We would not know until it revealed itself through our therapy and hypnosis sessions. To ensure their commitment to my project, they could not know what it was either. And so we constantly trained when we could. I had to teach their body and mind, through hypnosis, to recognize a pattern of sounds and words that would instantly bring them back to their most intense emotional experience quick enough to be there at their dying moment. This had to be done, not only to ensure no outside influences would interrupt, but to protect against the legal ramifications of such actions. Thankfully, we were always successful.
I understood that this was my duty…my compassion and understanding to those in the greatest of need for both…to shepherd them out of this world. They were always thankful and there was always emotion…and it always one of my 6 emotional triggers. There was the love of the delusional pedophile. There was the joy that Joan felt when her pregnancy test came back positive after 8 years of trying to conceive with her husband. There was the rage that Bill felt in that courtroom as the drunken driver, who killed his wife and 2 children, asked the prosecutor, “What was that stupid bitch doing on the road at 2am anyway?” There was the surprise and astonishment Ellen felt when, 6 years after declared killed in action, her son calls to say hello as a former prisoner of war. There was the fear…that fear in my sisters’ eyes as I watched her drown many years ago, looking up at me without understanding and even worse, without hope.
And now here I am with my great contribution to the Universe…my eternal sadness. The sorrow I felt for my mother as I watched a part of her die as she lovingly stroke the hair of my cold, pale sister. The suffering and anguish I felt for my parents as they dealt with the effects of the tragedy which I am sure ended their life sooner than was expected. But most of all, my 43 years of unquenchable and unburdened guilt and remorse for nudging her into that pool; a jealous reaction to the affection my mother gave to her that was unprovoked and unshared. Yes, this shall be my contribution.
I hear my Reaper’s whispers louder now, my lovely Shepherd, explaining to me that I am Her and always have been and how I have been preparing for this moment for years. I hear the throaty screams of my train’s whistle. A train…how befitting…the vehicle I’ve chosen to move on from this life…more dramatic of course but equally as effective as a turkey bag but without the fanfare of sniffling loved ones. It is a vessel that brings souls onto future destinations with a conductor who is responsible to get them there…steadfast, true and always punctual. This choice of mine could not have been coincidence.
As the cold and rusty tracks begin to rumble under my ear, the force of Her continued words strike me harder than this train ever could. Before my contribution can be given to the Source, my usher explains, I must continue my life’s work until the next one like me, one who understands the meaning of life and death as eloquently as I have, comes to pass.
At what would be my moment of eternity, She explains, “The answers you have sought are here, my dear, and with them come your prize. As you have done impeccably well for all these years you must withstand your misery for much longer. You see, my beautiful replacement, there is no escape with death. For you now must become…Death.”