It awoke. It rose, groaning a welcome to the new day. It rolled unceremoniously out of the bed, stumbling to the bathroom. Looking in the mirror, it appraised itself. Sunken eyes matching a world without sleep, at least, not anymore. A short beard clung to its face, not out of stylistic choice, just laziness and a nihilistic inclination towards existence. It was an aged face, perhaps 70, yet still it looked older than it was. Dark blotches covered its neck and body, marking it as one of the fallen.
It looked at itself, the single parts of its conscience piecing together its identity. Ah, that’s right. Its name was Matthew. His name was Matthew.
Today is a great day to be alive he thought with all the sarcasm he could muster at 7 O’clock in the morning. Sarcasm because for all the world’s hope for salvation, the manly quests to save the world from a terrible foe, the world was going to end. A disease was spreading, airborne and massively destructive. There was no way of stopping it. They say that with any disease, there is one percent of the population that will be naturally immune. He was not one of those people.
Yes, totally a great day to be alive. You would think that Matthew would be crowding his family, sharing a beautiful moment as humanity gasps its dying breath. That would be nice, but not an option for him.
He remembers blissfully those days where he could pretend that everything was going to be ok, that this was all some massive joke. Or at least the times where he could summon some sort of emotion. He was angry for a while. The kind of anger without direction, it just poured out of him in a haze at anybody he met.
But now all of his emotions seemed to pour into the flame that fuelled his depression, his numbness, his nothingness. He was already infected; there was no point in denying that any longer. He was going to die.
Leaning carefully on the wall, he shuffled towards the door at a crawl. This was the full extent of how he could move now. It affected his limbs, they didn’t seem to work properly any more. Matt opened the bathroom door, dread filling him at the thought of the stairs to come, but he would do it. He had to, unless he wanted to die two steps from his bathroom. Even in his depression, his pride would not allow that.
So he sat at the top of the stairs, going down one step at a time excruciatingly, each shuffle a symphony of different pains creating its very own crescendo inside his body that overwhelmed completely, leaving nothing behind. He was no longer Matt; he was Pain.
Pain finally reached the bottom of the stairs, his breathing shallow. The door was just a few steps away. He flung it open with all the strength he could muster; it opened halfway. He had meant throw the door open in a flourish, to give a sense of purpose. He realised with frown and a grunt that theatrics aren’t really an option when you’re about to die.
Eventually, Pain made it to the outside world. His quest was over. Settling down on the chair next to the door, comfort was achieved. Pain faded away and Matt returned.
They were right all along. This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper. No glorious processions of heroism and sacrifice, just some scientists in a lab failing to do what they must.
I am a hollow man indeed. 72 years old with nothing to show for it. Not anymore. He spent his life as a CEO of CPI, a company that created paper. His life was a morose cycle of document signing and reports, as if every signature took a little portion of his soul. He destroyed his competition with the apathetic nonchalance of a child and an anthill.
Needless to say his bank account was very impressive. It all amounted to nothing in the end. His wife died young and they had no children. All that was left was a bitter man at the end of his life. He had climbed far and high, his arms leaving a trail of blood on the rocks of life. He had struggled only to find that the view at the top of the societal pyramid to be empty.
But is that true? A voice inside him whispered. He may have lost a lot in the end, but was the journey as bad as he thought? He’d loved, lost, won, conquered, fought, found, laughed, hoped, and smiled. He’d fallen in love in a whirlwind romance, he’d backpacked across Europe, and he’d seen the wonders and tragedies of the world. Ran with the Bulls in Pamplona, lived with the Afar tribe in Ethiopia, dived off a cliff in New Zealand. He had done so much.
Sure, when he was 32 he was forced to take over the family company, but it’s not like he stopped enjoying life then. How had he not realised this before? He’d been thinking about this all wrong. It wasn’t about the destination of his life. No, it was about the journey and every experience good or bad added to his journey. All of the things in his life might not have been great and fun, but they meant something special. His life spread out in a ripple around him, touching and influencing the ripples of others, each interaction causing reaction upon reaction. Every day, every movement, every moment, every thought meant something.
His eyes opened wide and it was if he seeing the world for the first time. It was as if he hadn’t really been looking before. Every moment was a façade leading up this point of sudden comprehension.
His eyes closed and he felt the life leaching from his aging body. A faint whisper was heard on his lips.
“Today is a great day to be alive”.