By Tali Berg
As the little girl lays in her bed, her blanket pulled up to her neck, she begins to wonder. She can never fall asleep so easily. She knows there are monsters, hiding in the dark. She’s aware that they are only biding their time. She hasn’t been hurt yet, but she will. She won’t fall asleep, she refuses to. She feels her eyelids closing, her mind drifting off to sleep. But she won’t let herself. She stays in her position, eyes half-open, mind half-aware. Even in her sleepy state, she can sense them. She can hear the creaks as they walk across the room. She can almost convince herself it’s just be a windstorm, but she can hear them plotting her demise. Just a few minutes now...she’s beginning to fall asleep. She can feel their hands when they push her out of the haven she’s built up around her. Without her blanket, the chill from the open window hits her, and she starts to shiver. She shuts her eyelids tight, not wanting to see what they do to her. Suddenly, she is jarred awake. Her eyes open wide, and her heart rate slows.
It was only a dream.
Between Life and Death
By Brooke Kohl
Imagine the time between life and death. I imagine it would be peaceful. Quiet. Calm. Bittersweet. Imagine holding on to that final thread of life, trying to cling to the world, but also slowly relinquishing your soul. Feeling your soul separate from your body. Where do you go? Down with your body? Up with your soul, up through the gates of Heaven, to live there eternally? Or will you be free, free to do anything, and yet a purposeless being forever wishing for the life you could have had?
Imagine the time between life and death. I imagine it would be sad. Heartbreaking. But joyful. Imagine the crying, the mourning, back on Earth. Imagine the sadness of never seeing your friends or family again. Of never getting a chance to complete your heart’s desires. Of past regrets, and of unspoken apologies. Of leaving everything you know behind. But imagine the joy of finally going back to the place you came from. Of allowing yourself to break free from your life, of having no worries, no stress, no pain. Of having only peace.
Imagine the time between life and death. I imagine it would be like stepping into a motionless swimming pool. With your final breaths you create ripples in the water, tentatively touching it, until you submerge yourself forever. Imagine the moment where you finally let go, finally allow yourself to fly. Imagine the heartbreak. The sadness. But also the joy. Leaving the pain of life behind. The peacefulness that would engulf your body as it is swallowed up by the water.
By Chava Nagel
How can one know what is missed when never having experienced it? How can a person see what has never been there? Life turned its back on me without a second glance. All I have ever known is this small room. I have spent countless nights staring through the same window. These walls have tormented me my entire life.
It’s like waiting to resurface from the drowning waters without knowing what awaits on dry land. My life ended before it even started. All the air I breathe is tainted with confinement. I long for the leisure of freedom. I live for the hope of breaking the walls that have restrained me for as long as time itself. With each passing day I fall deeper into isolation. Emptiness fills my untouched skin yearning for a warm embrace out of my grasp.
Every day constricted to this confined room where I’m known by my surroundings. Some find comfort in familiarity, I find it repulsive. I have never left this room but the room has never felt my presence. Sight is a funny thing that can not be imagined. My walls may be white but who is to say others do not paint walls other colors I long to discover. Beyond this prison there may be foreign concepts.
Inanimate objects exist without ever absorbing what happens around them. There is bliss where thoughts dissolve. This room refuses to let me out yet feels no guilt. Holds me prisoner yet doesn’t comprehend the atrocity. The true crime is the overlooked life held captive. The world has forgotten me and I have never lived…….yet.
By Rochel Leah Itzkowitz
I lived in my brother’s shadows. As each moment passed, the shadow grew. Each glare, each disappointed face, shattered my frail heart. My heart shrunk and slowly concealed itself deeper into my body. It yearned for recognition, or, at the least, an ounce of acknowledgement. However, it recognized that any love was virtually impossible. I sympathized with my tormented heart, pitying it more and more that with every move I made, I fell deeper and deeper into my growing shadow.
I lived in my brother’s shadows. The growing shadow controlled me. Shadows so restraining that my passion and hope was scarce. If only I had a drop of ambition, these restraining shadows would vanish.
I lived in my brother’s shadows. Restraining my identity and passions is a minimization of the truth. My passion was music. The downside of having a close relationship with a talented musician such as your brother was my lack of attention. Regardless, it was expected. You know, one sibling trapped in the other’s restraining shadows.
I lived in my brother’s shadows. The way the piano keys felt on my relaxed fingers had a powerful effect on my soul. The piano keys diminished my growing shadow. For a brief moment, I felt unrestrained. As if I had more musical talent than my brother. My growing shadow soon vanished. I lifted my trembling fingers from the piano keys. Then reality struck. Instantly, my growing shadow restrained not only my music passion, but also my mental desire to advance it.
I lived in my brother’s shadows. My aunt was blessed with a baby boy, obliging me and my relatives to attend the celebration. My brother returned from his music tour the day before the party. Obviously, I understood what was going to happen at this family party: my presence would be disregarded and my brother’s would be worshipped. Later, we arrived to the celebration and all eyes were planted on me. This was unsettling. What changed, Aunt Ora? Why was I important all of a sudden?
I wasn’t certain if I lived in my brother’s shadows anymore. My brother had recorded my piano songs, as I played the instrument. My famous brother sent this recording to my family and friends. Why? Why would he expose my passion like this? How could he bring himself to take me out of my restraining shadow?
I was never in my brother’s shadow. My restraining shadow was all in my head. I perceived my restraining circumstances as my brother’s fault. My brother wanted to see my success unfold and much recognition from my loved ones. I was wrong to despise my dear brother. He is my flesh and blood.
I am hiding in my own restraining shadows. My own thoughts control my lack of musical passion. My brother did not. My thoughts make me resent someone who wants the best for me. My brother is innocent. I am to blame. I now recognize my misconception and deeply pray I will never fall deep into a similar restraining shadow.
I look over to the right and glimpse at my sister. Ugh, my sister...such a talented artist...
By Annabel Kermaier
I walk as if in a daze. The roaring crowds, the flashing lights, the jostling and screaming— they reach me through a tunnel: blurry, quiet, and disconnected. It’s good, I think, to feel this detached. You might think I would hold on, like a screaming child clinging to their parent, but this way, it will be easier to let go when the time comes.
Yes, I know what to expect. Yes, I know what I’m getting into. I’ve always known what I would be willing to do, from the moment I signed up for this journey, even if I didn’t know the details. It’s hard for you to believe that I ever would have expected this, but I’ve been training my entire life. I’ve learned how to expect things no one else ever would. That’s the reason it’s even come to this, the reason they want me.
You accuse them of forcing us, of coercing us, lying to us. It’s not true. And anyways, I don’t know why you would want to stop us. After all, we’re doing this for you. So you don’t have to.
I blink, and against my eyelids I see a blue light. I close my eyes again, and the image resolves into a tank full of glowing blue liquid. It’s the tank they showed us yesterday on the tour of the facilities, burned into my mind.
I reach the doors, steel and solid, and push through them, closing out the crowds. Quiet. Peace. I stand silently, breathing softly in a dark room. A man approaches.
Yes, I’m one of them. Yes, I know what to expect. Here are my papers, signed and approved. He seems unwilling to refer to it exactly, using strange general words, but I know what he’s talking about. He makes a note on his clipboard and motions me forward through a doorway in the back of the room.
A hallway stretches forward, windowless doors at even intervals placed on either side. The man leads me to one of the first doors on the left, and then leaves. I hesitate for the first time since joining the program. Is this really what I want? I tell myself not to go down that line of thinking. I reach forward, turn the doorknob, and push gently. The door opens silently, and swings shut behind me as I step in. I hear the latch click, the only sound in the room.
And it’s right in front of me, the glowing blue tank. It’s not as bright as I remember, just enough to hint that its contents aren’t entirely natural. Even so, the light seems harsh, and I turn away to avoid looking at it directly.
The door opens again, and a man in uniform walks in. He moves to stand against the wall and clasps his hands behind his back. When I’m ready, I may proceed.
Am I ready? Can I ever be ready? I’m ready for after, for the new sensations, the new body, the new mind. I’m as ready as anyone could be for the new planet, the new way of life– or at least I will be after the transformation. I have memorized every procedure, planned for every contingency. After this, I know just what to expect. But my time in the tank is a mystery.
What will I feel, as my limbs stretch and my thought processes change? Will it feel long, or pass in a blink? When I begin to forget, will I let go, glad to be rid of myself, or will I cling to a past I have already signed over? So, yes, I suppose I am ready— for the after.
It’s the in between I’m worried about.