Tag Archives: life

2014 – A Year In Stories: Week 20 – A Day in the Life

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Posted on May 25, 2014 by

Well, my utter and fulsome apologies if this one is a bit crap. I’ve had a few (four) drinks and honesty I didn’t know what to say in this pseudo commentary about life other than ‘it’s a bit shit really isn’t it but you have to make the best of a bad lot I suppose’ and it was difficult to stretch that out to 1500 words.

A true fact about this story is that the title was recycled from earlier story ‘Thijs is the Life’, after I was provided with a much more punworthy title at the last minute.

Anyway, I hope it is a lot easier to read than it was to write. I present unto you, dear reader, Jonathan S Cromie’s suggestion: ‘A mayfly, minutes away from death, reflects on its life.’

2014 – A Year In Stories
Week 20
A Day in the Life

The mayfly fought as hard as it could to stay in the air, but its tired old wings were simply no longer up to the task. Reluctantly it began its descent, the water of the stream rushing towards it at alarming speed.

Clumsily it landed on a lily pad at the water’s edge and brought its wings to rest. They had served the mayfly well, but now it had flown its last, and they would be used no longer.

It rested on the lily pad and awaited its final outcome. The inevitability of death was one the mayfly had come to accept during its naiad stages, as it had witnessed the long transformation and quick ending of so many of its brothers and sisters, with only a short, busy life interjected in between.

And now its time had come too. The naiad period seemed so long ago now, although compared to the length of the transformational period the mayfly had only been in this form for a fraction of the time it took to reach maturity.

It considered the futility of its existence. All that time spent gestating in the stream, trapped until it had achieved full maturity, only to experience the freedom of the world for such a short period of time.

The whole thing felt cruel, as if it had been released in to the world after a long imprisonment to find that it had no time at all to truly experience it. To lie there and long to be free, to really exist, and then to have it all taken away again so suddenly, and so finally, was the most grievous injustice.

The mayfly watched as the next generation of its species spread their wings for the first time. He could feel the hope radiating from them as they buzzed away in to the distance, the wonder at finally being able to explore outside their world, which until this point had been so confined and small.

In a way the mayfly envied them their naïveté. The same naïveté it had itself experienced upon bursting from the water for the first time such a short time ago. The belief that it would be different this time, that what happened to all of its ancestors that it had seen go before it wouldn’t happen again.

Not this time.

But, equally, it pitied them. It pitied them for the simple reason that, likes its own hopes, they would be dashed very quickly indeed.

It wondered why. As far as the mayfly could tell it had only existed in this final form to mate. There had been no time for anything else. No time to explore the world or to even help move forward the march of nature. In a way that was even crueller than the brevity of its lifespan. Its sole reason for existing was to propagate more of the species. If that wasn’t the focus then at least it might have had the time to do something else.

Even sadder was that more of the species who would simply go on to do the same and then, themselves, die. Millions, if not billions of lives and dreams unfulfilled, simply to keep a species alive that had no reason for existence in the first place.

No reason to be, no reason to continue, no reason to even live in the first place. But by the time any individual mayfly realised this it was too late. By the time they realised the utter futility of their existence the deed had been done. The mating process was complete and the new larvae safely tucked away in the stream before the inevitable decline set in.

How desperately the mayfly wanted to beat its wings again, fly up to the newly matured mayflies that flittered about above the water and tell them not to bother. That the whole enterprise wasn’t worth it. To let the species die out. To finally put the mayfly out of its collective misery.

But it couldn’t. It tested its wings and found that, while they still had some movement in them, that they had stiffened up. It was surprised they hadn’t disintegrated already. To try and fly now would be foolish.

Despondent, it moved slowly across the lily pad on rapidly aging legs. Every movement was difficult and painful. Eventually it reached the other side and gazed out over the water. It witnessed a family of frogs splashing happily in the shallows amongst a bed of reeds on the other bank.

For the entirety of its naiad period it had watched the family of frogs grow, prosper, and enjoy their lives together. It had watched the millions of his brethren reach such an early crescendo and wither away to nothing while this small family had blossomed in front of its very eyes.

It was unfair. Watching those creatures, now and then, had simply been a reminder that it would never truly get to experience the wonders of the world. Perhaps, it thought, that was why it had been so keen to defy the inevitable. All it had wanted was a real chance at life.

It turned away from the frogs and back to its solitude. It began to wonder how long it would be before it died. Surely it couldn’t be long now. What was next? Was there something after this life for it to move on to? Something beyond the realm of life that offered some sort of explanation for the emptiness it felt at this moment. It suspected not.

It paused for a moment to reflect. Perhaps it was taking the wrong outlook on the situation. After all, it imagined that it was a privilege to have existed at all, even for such a brief period, in a world as glorious and beautiful as this. The surroundings of the stream were magnificent, and it could only wonder at the realms beyond that which it had witnessed on its first flight up above the tree line.

For that brief second it had witnessed the golden fields, and the green of the rolling hills beyond, spreading out in all directions as far as it could see. In that one moment it had felt more alive than it imagined any other creature could possibly have done so before.

Its time on this earth, at the least the meaningful time afforded to it after its final transformation, was so fleeting that every moment was important. It had to cherish the thugs it had experience, however briefly, and celebrate its own existence, for no one else would. It would be dead long before any of its children were even old enough to be aware of their own existence.

It turned back to face the family of frogs. Every movement was more difficult than the last, and it felt that its final moments were drawing near. It looked at the family in a new light as it swam around in the shallows.

They were creatures entirely untroubled by the problems of life. They did not care that at some point they would be separated, or that their existence was short-lived. Rather they merely enjoyed the time they had together, and cherished it for what it was, rather than what it could, or perhaps should have been.

The mayfly was finding it hard to breathe now. Every breath was laboured and it felt its thin legs begin to collapse underneath it as they could no longer hold up the weight of its body.

It longed to see the view above the tree tops one final time, but consoled itself simply with the memory as its vision began to first blur and then fade away as the icy fingers of death crept across it.

It simply lay there, allowing death to come to it slowly but surely. It had lived its life as fully as was possible under the circumstances and it was content that it’s short time on the earth had been worthwhile.

Around the mayfly the world went on. Nobody, not even the other mayflies, in the midst of experiencing their own elation at the wonder of life, noticed the lonely creature dying on the lily pad. The march of time paid it no heed.
As death finally claimed the mayfly, it left the world with a single final thought: I’m glad I have had the chance to exist.

The world kept on turning, and a million more mayflies burst forth from the water along the stream, ready to begin their brief journeys, just as had happened a million times before, and would happen a million times more.

What had seemed initially to be the futility of its existence had, in the mayfly’s final moments, given it its greatest revelation: it was not creating life simply for the furthering of what was essentially a doomed species, it was giving millions of creatures a chance at life; a chance to exist.

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Infinite Improbability

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Posted on November 20, 2013 by

Hello everyone. Apologies for the delay between updates. A number of factors have been getting in the way of my ability to write stuff to put up here recently, most notably National Novel Writing Month, which I intend to write about at greater length at some point.

One of the factors is that I have been going through a bit of a rough patch lately, and I have found it difficult to motivate myself to write anything at all, let alone blog posts.

I was given a piece of advice a while ago, and that if you are struggling with depression it can often help to look to the positives in your life as a means of beginning to drag yourself up out of the doldrums to help get you to a place where you can be happy about yourself again.

With this in mind a thought came to me the other day. Most of the people reading this will likely know that in 2005 I was diagnosed with and treated for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia. I’ve never been one to use my illness as a crutch or an excuse except in circumstances where an after effect of the illness or treatment (which was, in many ways, worse than the condition) were genuinely the cause of my inability to meet a commitment.

In fact I’ve always tried to have the most positive attitude possible regarding the whole thing and, besides having joints that an 80 year old would be ashamed of, I’ve not come out of the whole thing too badly really. Honestly I am mostly just glad to be alive.

This wasn’t always necessarily guaranteed however, as, at some point at the end of June/beginning of July 2005 I was put under sedation, which is one or two steps short of being placed in an artificial coma.

The previous week I had undergone total body irradiation as the final major. part of my treatment programme. Nuking the whole body like that does rather put paid to the immune system, and I was warned that I would, while it recovered, be very susceptible to infection.

Despite the best efforts of the hospital staff I rather inevitably caught pneumonia. My temperature went well over 40 degrees, and let me tell you, when that happens you start to hallucinate some weird shit, like seven hour episodes of Emmerdale.

I don’t remember any of this, hence why I am a bit sketchy about the exact dates it all happened, but I can only assume I went full Exorcist, speaking in tongues, rotating my head 360 degrees and floating several feet above the bed, so they made the decision to sedate me for my own safety. Or so I didn’t possess any of the doctors or something. Let’s go with the second one.

Those of you that have had pneumonia, or know someone that has, will know that it can really just gut your body, so you can imagine how dangerous it is for someone whose natural defences have decided to do one. At some point during my two weeks of sedation my lungs failed and for a while stubbornly refused to get their shit together and work again.

A little known statistic that a doctor told me is that if one of your organs fails then you have a 95% chance of it recovering and surviving. If its compatriots start coming out in solidarity, however, your chances of pulling through drop to 5%.

At one point during this time my parents were told by one of the doctors in the ICU that if my lungs didn’t recover within two days it would pretty much be curtains, and no encore.

Obviously this didn’t happen as I am here to tell the tale, but waking up to be told that you had effectively been given two days to live is a bit of an eye opening moment in your life.

This fact came up in a conversation at work the other day (we’re a sickly bunch) and it got me wondering how long exactly it had been.

Well, I can’t be 100% certain due to the ambiguity of dates and the fact that I was basically in a coma when this call was made, but I can say with absolute certainty that within the last month it passed the 3000 day mark.

3000 odd days ago death came knocking, and rather than go along willingly I told him his shoe was untied and kicked him in the knackers when he wasn’t paying attention.

I recall someone once getting outraged at the suggestion that cancer is a ‘fight’ because it implied that the people that didn’t make it, the ones that just couldn’t beat the thing, hadn’t tried hard enough or something.

As anyone who has had cancer, or has seen someone they love go through cancer treatment will know, it is a fight. You have to fight every day because if you give up you can be damn certain that it will eat you alive, quite literally.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with giving up. Some people just do not have the energy to do it, or they feel that their lives are fulfilled enough that they can go to their end satisfied. For some people the horrors of going through radiotherapy or chemotherapy to potentially tack another couple of years of poor quality life isn’t worth it.

But fighting gives people a chance. Not everyone that fights will win, because after all no-one said it was a fair fight. But some will survive, against all the odds, and live on to fight another day. I am fortunate enough to be one of those people, but there are those who were close to me that weren’t, including my own mother.

So from now on when I can only see the negatives in life I’ll turn to the one positive that, as long as I am alive will only become more and more amazing. If you are in a similar situation I can only advise you to do the same. Because if death comes calling for me again, and he will, I’ll be ready this time, because I’ve already lived 1500 times longer than I should have. And he can fucking bring it.

Finally, I would like to finish this post with the words of Julian Dreyer of La Dispute:

“And sing for all your friends and family; sing for those who didn’t survive.
But sing not for their final outcome; sing a song of how they tried.
We live amidst a violent storm; leaves us unsatisfied at best,
So fill your heart with what’s important, and be done with all the rest.”

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