The idea of dying broke on her too suddenly and killed her. Her mother, ever the watchful guardian, had been careful to keep it from her for fear of the weak heart. As the girl’s health declined, the task of explaining the Eventual was deemed irrelevant and the girl went on dying unaware.
Great pains were taken to shield her. There would be no free exploring of her surroundings. All trips required accompaniment, for often in that place the dead were taken away through hallways. If by chance she might see one, it was promptly explained the canvas covered body, with a hand or toe sticking out of the cloth shroud, was only sleeping. And so she never learned of dying.
Lacking strength, the girl often felt a sense of breathlessness, which she attributed to her condition. At times, she couldn’t breath at all and the doctors puzzled at her seemingly arbitrary attacks. As a young child she couldn’t vocalise her thoughts, having nothing to compare the feelings with, but it was the sensation of suffocating or drowning.
She further believed that she was the only child in the world, having never seen another. She lived so shortly and changed so little in appearance, she did not understand that children grow. She was encouraged to believe that one day the illness would leave her, but she didn’t know what its absence would mean. The world outside her walls was mysterious, more unknown than the eventual was to her mother.
Having no peer company nor media (her mother was afraid she might learn of the Eventual) she was given poetry carefully screened for mention of death. In this medium of words, the girl found solace and comfort. She had never drowned, but she understood what the poet described when his hero struggled against the overbearing sea. She didn’t know why the hero feared drowning so, past it being unpleasant, but she feared it, too.
Toward the end, she took to writing her own poetry. She had never seen nature save the goldfish on her windowsill and the weekly flowers, but she could write in imitation of her favorite poems, speaking of beauty she had never witnessed. Despite her age and isolation, she wrote movingly.
One day she wrote of the sunrise, a spectacle she had witnessed through her window. When finished, the desire to see the sunset overtook her. Her mother had never heard the child ask for anything with such ardor and passion, and although a worrisome woman, pleaded for her daughter’s wish. And so, one afternoon, the girl was taken to the other side of the building to watch the sunset. And there she felt a bliss which she would try to recreated until she was introduced to death.
The idea of death, when it came, made sense to her. Her life, always a breath away from the Eventual, was clawed by a the intuition that knowledge was missing. She always felt that there was something not being told to her, something she wasn’t permitted to understand. When it was revealed, she found what those who already know can never find.
Waking feverishly in the warm bed she glanced at the windowsill soaked in the rays of the early morning sun. The heart monitor beeped strongly and outside the closed doors, the girl could hear the night workers hustle home as the morning staff arrived. Breakfast would come in an hour. Then her mother. Then the doctors. Then lunch. Then treatment.
She knew the treatment to be “experimental.” There were no guarantees, but she could be sure that the pain would be immense. Her mother, eyes wrinkled in the corners, coarse brown hair frayed at the ends and grey at the roots, would commend her bravery.
“My little trooper,” she would whisper before kissing the girl’s head gently. Her mother would smile as she pulled away, and the nurses would take the little girl to a room where everything was white and smelled of cleanliness.
The girl felt a sense of calm that morning, awake a full hour early. She felt herself engulfed by the sunlight, lifted slightly from the bed. She rubbed her fingers together, sensing the distance between molecules, the distances between herself and everything else.
She looked around the room, eyes open. It was warm and glowing, a celestial chamber apart from everything outside the window, outside the door. She smiled. And then, while looking about her room, her eyes fell on the fish bowl, ruddy slime building on its walls, murky water still, goldfish belly-up. Suddenly, with no need for prompting, the girl knew the goldfish wasn’t sleeping.
The idea of dying broke on her too suddenly and, some may contest, killed her. The heart monitor broke into a single, screaming pitch sending the attendants running in a flurry of needles and electric energy. The doctors tried to revive her, but death would not relent. The girl’s mother was heartbroken, but would later admit she was glad her trooper was in a better place. None would know that a nanosecond before dying, when the realization first hit her heart, the girl not only understood death–she understood the sunrise’s glow, the breeze, the birds, the poems. The girl stopped drowning and smiled. There, in that room, she found for the first time in her life, there was no pain.