Imagine if life never had to end. Think of all the things you could do, all the things that you could see and all the things you could learn. Sounds pretty great right? Yeah, you would think that. Everyone thinks eternal life is something brilliant until they experience it for themselves.
Fortunately, almost everyone that passes through the world will do so seamlessly from the hospital to the funeral. They will live a perfect linear life, enjoy their youth, fall in love, grow old with their spouse before eventually dying off around the age of 80 or so. Oh what I would give for a life like that…
My life began to change at age 19. I was happily in a relationship and soon to be married to my girlfriend of 9 years Dana. The year was 1939 and the threat of WWII was felt heavily amongst everyone. Fearing the worst, I popped the question to my girlfriend and hoped to marry her before anything bad happened. I remember thinking to myself “life is too short” just moments before asking her to marry me. Oh how wrong I was.
December 1940 came and I was conscripted to fight the Nazi threat. I was always the type to shy away from a fight and simply appease my attacker instead. But unable to object, I was placed on board a Halifax Bomber as a technician due to my previous experience as a mechanic. Years went by without a hitch, I got to know my squadron and we all became good friends and a well-functioning team. I got married in the summer of 1941 and everything seemed to be going smoothly.
However, during November 1944, this normal linear and simple life that I had come to enjoy, took a horrifying turn for the worst. Returning from a bombing run as dusk fell on November 14th, our plane found itself lost in a strange haze above Manchester. Our equipment began to fail. Despite my best attempts to repair the faulty instruments, my efforts were to no avail. We agreed to try and navigate and fly our way down to an airfield just outside my hometown of Tingley. As we descended through the clouds, a huge wave of turbulence hit our plane, detaching a propeller from one of the wings. The propeller set off a chain reaction, causing the engine to explode, thus in turn causing the explosion of another engine. This is the last thing I can remember before everything went dark.
I awoke in a field soon after, soaked in a burning orange light, feeling nothing but an overwhelming numbness in my body. I remember being unable to move and just staring at the sky, while pieces of tin foil rained down upon me like pieces of snow. This was the tinfoil from our plane, used to hide the craft from German radar. The moon above me was soon eclipsed by a shadowy figure who stared down at me. I never saw his face, but he appeared to be wearing a soldier’s uniform. He sat down next to me and explained to me what happened. He told me we had crashed into a row of cottages. I managed to pull together enough energy to lift my head, what I saw chilled me to the bone…
My plane, brought to a standstill in a row of houses, six charred bodies, hanging lifelessly from the shattered panes of glass that were once the portholes of the craft. My crewmates. I only caught a glimpse before my head gave way and collapsed back down into the field. The soldier then spoke:
“You’re the only one left.”
“Why me?” I asked. “Why didn’t I die in the plane?”
“Because you have a whole life ahead of you.”
“Oh thank God,” I praised. “I don’t want to die.”
With that, the soldier picked me up, I suddenly felt renewed, full of energy. Like after a long night's sleep.
“Be careful what you wish for,” the soldier said as he turned his back to me, before vanishing into the darkness.
The feeling of numbness had gone, and I was aware of everything in my surroundings. The flames of the burning debris, billowing out a choking smog. The white hot shreds of tin foil and ash falling on the cold November ground like a fresh sheet of snow. I barely had enough time to come to my senses and understand what had just happened before falling to the ground again.
The next time I opened my eyes it was daylight, a large group of shocked locals circled around me. I picked myself up off the ground to be met with the arms of my wife, wrapping round me tight enough to squeeze the air from my lungs.
“I thought you were dead,” she cried, as I lifted her off the ground.
“I’m fine sweetheart, everything is fine,” I replied.
But everything wasn’t fine. I was just too young and stupid to realise it.
Years passed and everything was as normal, my wife gave birth to two healthy children. A boy called Kenneth and a girl named Annabel Lee. We got day jobs after the war. I worked as a factory technician and my wife worked in a supermarket. Eventually we settled down, our children left home and we retired to an old pub in Wales that had been converted to a house. Annabel had a beautiful baby girl who made me a proud grandfather. Kenneth got a job working as a marine biologist. It was not until I reached my 70’s that anything started to seem out of place.
I began having a recurring dream, taking me back to that fateful night in 1944. Except in this dream I never awoke in the field. In the dream I remained on the plane, conscious as it went down. I saw my crew die before my very eyes as the plane collided with the row of houses. I saw the flames engulf their bodies one by one, forcing them against the sides of the craft and partially out through the glass. This dream occurred around three times a week, and eventually it stopped bringing the trauma that it initially did. But there was always one small detail that unsettled me. On board the plane, seven of the crew died before my eyes.
On the night that the plane crashed, I was accompanied by six crewmates. Not seven. As time passed, I trained myself to recognise the features of each of the crew in my dream. Six of them I could identify. One I could not. His face would always be covered by shadow. It was the soldier I met in the field in the moments after the crash.
After a while I simply brushed it off as a blurring of memories, a few things had become hazy in my old age so I assumed that all the events of the night had merged in my mind to form this dream. Although I still had the dream, I managed to get over the extra soldier aboard the aircraft. Life proceeded as normal once more, for around ten years.
Then came the night that changed everything. I awoke to the sound of heavy panting. It was my wife, she was dying. I threw myself out of bed as fast as my aging body would allow and called 999 on the landline. I was informed that an ambulance would soon arrive, but living on a quiet road in the middle of nowhere, the ambulance was unable to arrive on time. My wife was pronounced dead when the paramedics arrived. It was the worst night of my life.
I sat in the back of the ambulance with her as the ambulance drove her body to the hospital for post mortem examination. I remember holding onto her cold lifeless hand and sobbing into one of her cardigans that I had wrapped around myself for comfort.
I was told to leave the hospital after the post-mortem examination. I was kindly offered a lift home by another man in the hospital who took pity upon me. He dropped me off at my door and I stumbled inside, laid in our empty bed and wept until I fell asleep. The dream I had that night shattered any comfort that I had found in the last ten years…
I was sat alone in the hospital corridor, just as I had that evening. All of a sudden, I heard the sound of footsteps from one end of the corridor. It was the same faceless soldier. He took a seat next to me and spoke. His voice was just as I remembered it, just as it was back in that field all those years ago.
“Be careful what you wish for,” he said once more.
I awoke, startled by this dream. I told myself it was just shock. I was bound to suffer some form of unease given the night's events. Over time, my wounds were healed, my sadness began to fade as I took comfort in the wonderful life my wife had had. Her possessions slowly faded from our home, into various charity shops and car boot stalls as I reached my early 90’s. I never fell in love again, it was impossible after having my soul touched by someone so truly perfect. There wasn’t a day that would go by where I wouldn’t think of her.
It was the day of my 95th birthday when my life was turned upside down again. There had been a comfortable air of eventlessness until this day. My son, on his way to see me had found himself in a nasty car accident involving a head on collision with a lorry driving the wrong way down a quiet motorway lane. He was killed on impact.
This tragedy was met with another nightmare. This time I was stood on the hard shoulder as I watched the crash happen before my eyes. And just as normal, the soldier was there. Standing at the other side of the road. Seconds before the crash, he uttered the same chilling words…
“Be careful what you wish for.”
I began to question what he meant. This had happened far too many times to be coincidence. I pondered on the meaning of the words as my life carried on, seemingly limitlessly. I hit 100. My daughter, her husband and my granddaughter were all killed in a tragic homicide, victims of a notorious serial killer. Once again, another dream involving the soldier. I stood at the murder scene, my feet at the foot of a chalk outline around my daughter. The faceless soldier sat staring down at her mutilated body.
“Be careful what you wish for.”
120, my body began to deteriorate far more rapidly. I lost the ability to use my legs. A care worker suggested I move into a care home. I had no choice but to oblige. This really was the end for me. Days on end spent laid in a bed, drifting in and out of sleep. Of course with sleep, more dreams of the soldier came. This time though my dreams became much more simplistic, most likely due to my slowly decaying mind. But one thing always remained. The same six words.
“Be careful what you wish for.”
I would tell the nurses but they would just medicate me with various pills. I carried on to age without death.
One hundred and thirty, my kidneys failed. I was hooked up to a dialysis machine and left alone in my room, the only company arriving when it was time for me to eat. Most of my time was taken up by sleeping, dreaming of the same soldier and the same old words.
One hundred and fifty, the care home fell into bankruptcy. I was placed into another home. My dreams persisted on.
And now we come to the present. Age 200. I think I’m finally clear about the meaning of the words. I’m cursed with immortality. I am going to continue decaying forever. It is never going to stop. It won’t be long before my hands are completely destroyed by arthritis. Which is why I’m writing this for you now, as a cautionary tale. If ever you are offered a chance to live forever. Deny it. If ever you meet this soldier, do everything in your power to escape him. If he ever finds you, the life that you know will change forever. If he walks into your life then I’m afraid that, well. It never ends.
Be careful what you wish for.