Choosing a Way to Die
The idea of death is not something I like to think about. I have a fear – almost irrational – of death, which is something that has developed only over the past 10 years or so – right around the time I turned 43. Why then, why at all, I can't answer that. Before then, I'd never really thought about it. I obviously wanted to live – and live a long time! – but I never dwelled on it, never got obsessive about it. Now, however, I hate the thought of dying. Maybe it's because I've hit middle age, and the years ahead of me are statistically fewer than the years behind me. Maybe it's because I see the illnesses of people my age and older, and know that soon I'll be on meds, I'll succumb to the inevitable physical degradation that comes with aging. All I know is, if a cure for death comes around – be it a serum or a surgery to put my brain into a robot – I will spend everything to obtain it. I would love to live another one hundred, two hundred years. I enjoy life. I don't want it to end.
However, we all know it has to at some point. And with that in mind, we're here to talk about the best way to die. You hear people say things all the time about choosing how to go or not to. "I want to die peacefully in my sleep." "I don't want to linger on with a terrible illness." "I don't want to spend my last days soiling myself in an old age home."
One of my professors in college always said, "I want to die instantly and painlessly from a heart attack as I sip a glass of scotch and smoke a cigar right after having sex with Raquel Welch." (For those of you who might not know, Raquel Welch was a movie star and sex symbol of the 1960s and 70s. Google her.)
Sure, that sounds great, but there's always the risk of having a moment or ten of agony during that heart attack. Heck, scientists have shown that the brain can live on for seconds or even minutes after the heart stops pumping and you're 'clinically' dead. Who knows what it experiences during that brief period of time? Do you want to take the chance that it's unpleasant? I don't! So, I've come up with a much better way to die, one that appears to offer no bad side effects.
Years ago, I read a story by a zookeeper who got bit by a cobra. He survived, and afterwards wrote down his description of the experience. This was in the 1930s or 40s, and back then not many people lived after a bite like that. He stated that there was no pain at any point. He remembered holding his hand and sitting down while someone put a tourniquet around his arm and people ran to get antivenin. His thought process became cloudy, the way it does when you're really drunk or half-asleep or under anesthesia. He tried to speak, tried to reassure everyone that he felt fine, no problems at all, in fact everything was wonderful. He experienced tunnel vision and enhanced colors all around the furniture and people. He felt extremely mellow and wished he could go on like that forever. Then, the next thing he knew, he was getting loaded into an ambulance and getting rushed to the hospital.
Later, after he recovered, his associates told a much different story: After sitting for a bit and babbling incoherently, he fell over and went into convulsions. He bled from his nose and mouth. He screamed in agony. His arm swelled to three times its normal size. He passed out on several occasions. His blood pressure plummeted and they thought they'd lost him in the ambulance.
So, how crazy is that? The snake venom apparently acted like a potent drug, like LSD or heroin, and created an entirely false reality for the man. Had he died, he'd have died experiencing something wonderful.
Which brings us to my idea for death. I'll take my old professor's final sexual interlude and tasty drink (I'll skip the cigar, thank you, but perhaps a second glass...) and then instead of a heart attack, I'll get bit by a cobra. And dream/hallucinate my way into the next life. With apologies to anyone near me at the time!
JG Faherty is the author of six novels, eight novellas, and more than 50 short stories. His latest novel is THE CURE. He has been a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award® and the ITW Thriller Award. He has also studied snakes and other reptiles for many years and maintained university collections. Follow him at www.twitter.com/jgfaherty, www.facebook.com/jgfaherty, and www.jgfaherty.com.