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I'm sure many of you are well aware of the famous idea that when a person is at the cusp of death, they see memories of their life flash before their eyes. According to those who have survived this phenomenon, the flashes are slow enough for them to recognize each individual memory and evaluate it. It can often lead to epiphanies where one realizes the morality of their life as good or evil, and decides to change it.
In my youth, I was known to dream infrequently and had trouble keeping tabs on my dream journal in my psychology class. The few dreams I did have, were so mild of temperament and experience that I often forgot they occurred at all. I realized at some point this coincided with the fact that I suffered ongoing insomnia, and I often stayed up for multiple days at a time. My attitude was that life was too short for sleep; there were too many things to explore and appreciate to watch them pass idly by in ignorant bliss.
The only dream I do remember having was one that still terrifies me with every waking moment; the one that sends shivers down my spine with every eyelid I see closed. I remember waking up in an amorphous environment, nothing was memorable except that there was just nothing there. Oily shadows which ebbed and flowed in the vast infinity of this abyss before me. The experience was in first person as I looked down and saw my hands, feet, and body just as how they were in the real world. The sheer quality of my vision and perception in this place was like that of a lucid dream mixed with all the governing laws of reality.
I began to walk aimlessly about, hoping to find something or anything in the inky blackness that so completely enveloped me. I wandered for what seemed like eternities, until finally I came across a single door. It was very odd, because I sat down to rest my tired legs, I looked about again I saw it as plain as day. Like it had always been there.
Suddenly, a startling clarification encroached my mind. You're not supposed to feel fatigue in a dream, not supposed to feel the burden of time. I felt the creeping sensation of dread crawl through every fiber of my being as I thought to myself, "I may never make it out of here, or at least not the same."
What was this place, I thought? Was it purgatory, hell, heaven, something in between? Was I even still dreaming? Was this a just punishment for my actions, or was this where I must prove myself in some unknown test of character? Time would have driven me insane had I not again had the fortune to bring the door into my gaze again.
Where had it come from? What was its purpose? Should I enter? So many variables to a single, constant element in this place.
Thankfully, I had the luxury of time to ponder my decision. I decided if I waited long enough, I would wake up back in my old familiar house and bed, and I would wake up safe.
I felt instead, the previous awe and mystique I saw in the flowing shadows; a sense of imminent danger about them. I felt there to be an element of malice, of hate in there, as though it consumed them. They were everywhere and there was only one of me. Panicked, I ran towards the door and thrust it open with all my might, leading with my shoulder.
I was very confused when I arrived on the other side. I saw the same overwhelming darkness, and looked behind me to see if the door was there, so I might escape again. It was gone. I was right back where I started. Alone, hungry, tired, thirsty, and altogether desperate. I felt myself getting weaker as my will slowly ebbed away, as if it was absorbed by this damned oblivion. Right then is when I saw it.
Like a mirage, I didn't know if my eyes truly saw it, but far in the distance, beyond the haze of shadows was a vaguely man-shaped figure. I called out to it, waved at it; each eccentric motion more exacerbated than the last. Eventually, I ran to it until I got close, then I saw just exactly what this figure was.
It was me. My view was from behind, but I still knew the exact same head of hair, body type, length of arms and legs, and same musculature as my own. I stopped dead in my tracks, and froze every nerve in my body. He looked around, and stared me dead in the eye and a look of the most honest and real shock I have ever seen swept over his face. His jaw gaped wide open. His eyes larger than a sinkhole, they locked with mine for the briefest of moments. And then he ran.
He ran away from me with all the speed of a bat out of hell. I pursued him but with great difficulty, as I felt a pulsating pain in my chest that intensified the closer I got to him. When I was just out of arms reach, I felt a crushing exhaustion throughout all of my body. By some miraculous feat of strength, I was able to actually outrun him.
I wasted no time in leaping on him, and tackling him to the ground. I felt a shock in me that resounded with more force than if I had been hit with a thunderclap. Time seemed to slow as we both fell to the ground and collapsed into it. The last thing I saw was his face.
I only glimpsed it before I woke up, but what I saw haunts my every waking moment. His flesh was already cold - colder than even dry ice to the touch. His skin was pale - beyond pale and closer to being an unnatural shade of white unbeknownst to human vision. His eyes stared lifelessly - dead, blank, expressionless in no particular direction. Yet I felt as though they peered into my very soul. His lips were crimson red - the exact color of the very blood that runs in my veins. I saw this, and I felt like a part of me had died when he did.
I woke up in my bed, and threw myself into an upright position upon doing so. I looked around the room, and made absolutely sure everything was as it should be before letting my resolute guard down. It was then that I felt the same overwhelming sense of fatigue and exhaustion I had felt in my dream.
I was starving and insatiably thirsty. Moving any part of my body was met instantly with excruciating pain. I looked at my clock to see if it was morning and it read 8:37 am. Satisfied, I slowly moved downstairs and cooked a savory meal of bacon and eggs and carried on my day as if nothing had happened. Until I looked at the messages on my answering machine.
There were hundreds of them; so many that the answering machine had deleted some of the old ones. One was from work, informing me that they had fired me from the company after three consecutive no call-no shows on the job. Another was from my parents wondering if I had got their package, requesting that I call them back upon receiving it. One was a startled message from my girlfriend, wondering if anything was wrong as I missed our date and hadn't communicated with her in three days. I listened to all of them and became more and more confused about the situation.
I looked at the calendar to confirm my suspicions and they proved to be true. The current date was indeed three days from when I had fallen asleep before that terrible dream. My mind was fucked. This meant that not only was it the most realistic, and coincidentally the only dream I remembered having, but it took place in real time, simultaneous to real life.
The fact raised questions of if I was suffering from the exhaustion because the dream was real? Was the man I killed a version of me in another dimension or universe? Was the life I was living now even real? Or, was I just another version of him in that universe; a mystery to be uncovered or a shocking discovery?
Thoughts raced through my mind as I simply stood there contemplating everything I had ever come to know and understand. Should I be alive? What's waiting there on the other side?
Is death really the end?
This last question burned and lingered in my mind, and I couldn't erase it no matter how hard I tried. It consumed me to the point where I had to kill myself to find out for sure.
I walked slowly, deliberately, and with a definite purpose over to the knife rack in the kitchen and picked out the large serrated butcher knife from it. I placed it in my hand and envied the feel of the cold steel against my rough, calloused palms. The feel of the handle, and the power to decide life and death at my fingertips. I raised it smoothly in the air, and placed the blade against my throat. A smile creased my face as I took a deep breath and prepared for the unknown.
Suddenly, in a flash he appeared before me and alarmed me to such a degree that I dropped the knife and it clattered ear-piercingly on the floor. The silence in that room was absolute, and his presence so dominating that the only thing my eyes could focus on were him. This was an impossibility though; wasn't he dead? Hadn't I felt his life force cease to be just as I felt the connection between us cease? How is any of this making sense and how could any of this happen in real life?
He stood there, solemn and unwavering in his posture. His face showed not the slightest trace of emotion as he raised an outstretched arm and pointed a long finger in my direction. His voice was calm, yet boomed in the deafening silence. He said four simple words which chilled my bones more than the dream ever could. Four simple words that confirmed my worst fears and suspicions which lurked at the bottom of my subconscious mind.
He said simply, "Was I not enough?"
He vanished after that. He didn't fade from existence, or blink into nothingness, he simply vanished. One moment I was looking right at him, and the next he was gone. I couldn't believe anything that had happened; this had to be a nightmare.
I pinched myself. I cut myself to see if I still bled. I screamed. I clawed at the walls and begged to a merciful God, in earnest, to not let this be real. Eventually, I conceded defeat and laid on the floor with eyes transfixed on the ceiling.
I closed my eyes, but this time, I never woke up...