A Glimmer of Death in the Darkness

Everyone dreams of their own death. It is the last thing we see before sleep takes us, not only that final time, but every night of our lives. We live perpetually haunted by death. For some, this glimmer of death takes the form of a vision. They see some, or part of the exact date and time of their inevitable death. For others, this glimmer–vision is the last thing they will recall seeing as the light leaves their eyes, or the last person they will ever see. Others feel their death with a different sense, the last words they will hear, last taste in their mouth, last smell in their nose, last chill in their bones. A smaller group have a knowledge simply of where they will die – at home, on a train, in Lyon. Everyone knows part of their story, but only a glimmer of its final page.Some people spend their lives awaiting this moment with bated breath, or live a risky life until the year they know they will succumb. Others choose to simply dull their awareness of their own mortality, filling their heads and lungs and veins with substances that distort their glimmer of death, or that delay their decent into sleep. Some go out of their way to avoid the circumstances of their death, whatever they may be. There are those who do not believe that death will find them, or at least believe that they can avoid the particular circumstances of their destined death. They never can. For others, they have a measure of peace in knowing that whatever they do, this at least will remain unaltered.

Depending on the culture, the period, and the individual, glimmers can be intensely personal and private, whispered as the ultimate sign of trust between lovers, or public knowledge, a matter of destiny, so what does it matter if people know? In most modern cultures, it is customary for children to be given a small, lockable book in which the child writes their glimmer. As they age, their understanding of the experience improves, as does their vocabulary and handwriting, and so it is written again and again within this book. The location and method of opening it is usually denoted in wills. This enables both the deceased’ loved-ones and researchers to ensure that no one has somehow managed to cheat their destined death. No one has.

But this experience, this knowledge, this enactment of our demise, this glimmer, while perfectly unique, is utterly universal. Since humans have roamed the earth we have had glimmers of death. The earliest cave drawings are believed to represent them. In all cultures and all religions, Death and Destiny – the two practically synonymous for most – have played, and continue to play, a central role. As far as scientists have ascertained, humans are the only creatures who experience these glimmers. Knowledge of death is what separates us from animals, it is what makes us human, it is an unalterable part of our DNA, or our souls, or at least something within our consciousness. Yet everyone both experiences it, and reacts to their knowledge, uniquely.

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