"It's not that I was afraid of dying,

it's just that I wanted to live; to enjoy life in all its fullness."

Rowan Yew, age 43, a first class dilettante and entrepreneur, lay in his bed, covered up to his chin, in his darkened bedroom. Attending him were his friends, Dr. Jason Reselda, the eminent pathologist, and Gabriel Malachi, the no less distinguished geneticist. While all three were super-achievers, Rowan led the pack; his power, opulence and extravagance a testament to his ability to seize opportunities and profit from them. He did nothing by half measures and never considered failure as a possible outcome.

"That's good to hear, because dying is just what you are doing", said Jason.

"Are you sure?"

"I see no other outcome. The last sample I examined continues to show an expanding infection. In fact, you are more pathogen than man. You should have been dead long ago."

"Then perhaps I am not dying."

"You're dying alright. Shortly you will cease to be a living, breathing man."

"But I shall continue."

"We all continue after death. Our atoms disperse and become part of new life, new things - none of which will be recognizable as Rowan Yew."

"I am so cold. Is it day yet? I so wish to see the sun, to feel its warmth on my skin."

Gabriel shifted toward the patio door. It was south facing window with heavy drapes that admitted no light. He looked toward Jason.

Jason said, "It is 10:24, the sun rose about four and a half hours ago at 5:58. So, yes, it is day outside. However, I don't think in your condition, especially in your condition, you should be exposed to the light."

"Indulge a dying man one of his last requests. If you are right, then what difference does it make if we hasten my death in the next hour or prolong it another day?"

Gabriel pulled back the drapes and Rowan gasped, "The light!" He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply. His friends, thinking he had breathed his last, came to his bedside. And he breathed again. "I must have more. I want so to feel it on my face."

"Rest still", Jason said.

"No! I will not wither in this bed. If I am to die, then I shall die enjoying the sun on my face. Bring the wheelchair." Rowan's face was white, his nose and cheeks were sunken in. His eyes too were white, the iris had lost all its colour, but instead of pink there was only white. His pupils looked like two small cavities into his skull..

Gabriel looked at Jason who gave him a small nod and Gabriel proceeded to fetch the wheelchair.

"All right", said Jason, "we will grant you your last request. God knows this death watch has taken its toll on us. Perhaps it is better we get it over with sooner rather than later." He peeled back the covers, revealing an emaciated and bleached white body underneath. It was covered with find white hairs which rubbed off as Jason and Gabriel moved Rowan into the wheelchair. It didn't seem to bother him because he did not complain or wince. He seemed eager to get into the chair and seemed to find some strength in himself to assist his two friends.

Gabriel wheeled him toward the window and into the light. As the rays of the sun touched Rowan's body, he closed his eyes, tilted back his head, swayed it from side to side and sighed. The two friends observed his intimate encounter with the sunlight. His ardour was uncomfortable to watch and they turned their eyes away. The friends stood in silence, avoiding each others eyes and avoiding looking at him. The time passed without end and they seemed condemned to forever be witness to this macabre scene of the wasted cadaver of their friend, covered in white tendrils, moaning and writhing in the sunlight.

After 10 minutes Rowan said, "I am thirsty". Gabriel brought him a glass of water and held it to his lips. No matter how carefully he held it, how gently he tipped it, Rowan seemed insistent on dribbling it down his chin and onto his chest. "More water", he would repeat. This continued until he was well soaked.

The wetness brought out a dank, earthy smell from Rowan. "Take me outside. I don't want to be separated from the sun by this pane of glass.

He was wheeled outside onto the patio and he sat there. Grinning, happy and fully indulgent in the sun and the air. He rolled his head in the direction of Jason and parted his white lips in a unsettling smile, revealing white teeth set in white gums, "I feel a new man. It was the asphyxiating darkness of the room you deemed to make my crypt that aggravated my infirmity."

He rolled his head with their sunken closed eyes toward the sun, "No one should be denied the sun. Its gentle rays are so loving and so tenderly they warm and caress my body. I feel its restorative powers flowing through my veins."

He straightened his head and stared through his closed eyes, "The sun is the source of life. It is the goodness which drives all the processes on this Earth. No one should ever be denied its life-giving goodness."

Moments passed into minutes. And minutes passed into an hour. The two friends stayed close, but said nothing.

After a little more than an hour, Rowan cried out, "The sun is so beautiful." and pushed himself up and stretched out toward the sun.

This is the first part of a short story I am writing, inspired from the opening line. The opening begins with the final discourse of a dying man. A man who is dying because a life prolongation experiment has gone wrong.

The second part (of which I have written a little, but am in the process of rewriting) takes place 3 days earlier, when Rowan invites his friends over. It will be a debate on life, death, and the ethics and consequences of extended life. It will be revealed that he has taken matters into his own hands and is changing.

I expect the conclusion to be a short, tight summary. Something along the lines of: He didn't die. Not that day. He just changed. His friends planted him in the garden where he thrived, alone, the only one of his kind. When the wind blows and the leaves rustle, it is said you can hear Rowan whisper.

I would like to end with a powerful word or phrase (something akin to 'Rosebud' from Citizen Cane).

I like the opening. I think the next paragraph summarily introduces the actors and sets the scene.

I am also reasonably pleased with the rest of the dialogue, except ... that I don't think it flows well. I think it is too abrupt. I am struggling with how to indicate the passage of periods of silence in a darkened room as a man dies. My narrative needs work. But I don't want to pad it, I want it to flow better.

I try to indicate the passage of time to some extent with The time passed without end and they seemed condemned to forever be witness to this macabre scene..., but I am not sure if it works well or if it is too much author intrusion. (A good piece of writing engages the reader and makes them forget that there is an author.)

Suggestions, comments and criticisms are welcomed and, indeed, encouraged.


ingrid said…
this is beautiful richard. what is the time period? currently the diction is very formal, so i was wondering.

vivid lovely images. it's wonderful.
Richard said…
ingrid: thanks! Although, it was your criticism I wanted :P

It is set now, though it could be any time. The men are wealthy, powerful, and well educated - particularly Rowan. The second scene (flashback) takes place in a study furnished and fashioned in expensive and ornate wood and leather. The formality is probably my speech mannerisms coming through. Think of a Lord Black or some other pretentious and arrogant person who deems themselves ordained to a life of privilege.

I think their status will come out more in the second scene, since the discussion will begin somewhere along the lines of:

"What would people do with more life?"

"They couldn't afford it. And if they could, they would just squander it on watching TV or some other consumptive, indulgent, non-productive existence."

I see it as a two scene classic Twilight Zone episode.

Blackness. The sound of a clock ticking. Fade from black onto an ornate clock on a mantle in a dimmed room. Pull back and pan to two men with solemn expressions and countenances. The camera follows their gaze to a bed in this dim room. Close in to the bed. Only a head on a pillow is scene, the rest of the body is under the covers. The head speaks: "It is not that I was afraid of dying ..."

I guess one of the problems with the first scene is that I have forced it to be static. A dying man cannot exactly be animate (although, for reasons to be explained later) the sun does animate him to a degree.
ingrid said…
i will reread it tomorrow and give you some more specific feedback
Ancilla said…
i guess it is only the beginning? or you want it be a short story richard?
Richard said…
ingrid: That will be great! Thanks.

ancilla: yes, this is the first part. The second part will be more of a philosophical / ethical discussion (what else is new from the author of this blog?)
KayMac said…
intriguing. made me want more
Richard said…
kaymac: Thanks. It is good to hear (definitely better than, "Good grief! How long is this?")
Sweetiepie said…
This is a touching story.Made me want more too.I do enjoy reading it.I added your link in my blog I hope you don't mind.I am not a story teller and I donno how to give comment but overall this is very good.:)will be bcak to read the next part.
ingrid said…
have you ever read the death if ivan illych (sp?) by tolstoy? it reminded me a bit of it.
Ancilla said…
good.. tell me then how it would going.

philosophical or ethical discussion are great, just like what i am expecting the story will continues with
Wow! I got pulled in right away. I knew you'd written it because of the name Jason used. I don't have specific ideas as I'm mostly a short poetry writer, but keep re-working it. You could even emphasise more the description of the sun streaming in and the warmth infusing him with a bit more life. The reader wants to feel it and see it..or maybe that's because I am freezing right now as I'm watching freezing rain out my window!
Richard said…
sweetiepie: thanks! I will be writing more (I have to before my writing group meets the next time).

ingrid: sorry, I am not so well read. It reminds me somewhat of this passage from Dostoevsky's, 'Notes from the Underground' (which I haven't read either), "I am forty years old now, and you know forty years is a whole lifetime; you know it is extreme old age. To live longer than forty years is bad manners, is vulgar, immoral. Who does live beyond forty? Answer that, sincerely and honestly I will tell you who do: fools and worthless fellows."

ancilla: great! But I make no promises when the second part will come.

MOI: that is good to hear. I Will see what I can do about the sun animating him. A constant struggle between saying too much and saying too little. I still think it is a little too choppy, perhaps expanding on the sun will smooth it out.
freckled-one said…
bfWell you asked for critisism... but there is little to criticize. Although I will agree with Ingrid that at least in the first paragraph it was very formal and maybe not as easy to read as the rest. I personally find that I prefer reading things that are "easy" for a lack of a better word. I certainly enjoyed reading it though and I got lost within the words as though I was sitting in the room along side them. I'd love to read more.
Richard said…
freckled-one: thanks. I'll see what I can do about making it less formal and getting the second part posted.

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