By: L. Maksoud
“Mayflies have the saddest existence of any creature. They are born and die on the same dayin 24 hours their lifecycle is complete.”
I washed up on the beaches of a desert, the sky above me was freckled with glimmering lights and everything around me was bleached by the fluorescence of the moon. The ocean had streaks which seemed like melted platinum, and the clouds above bled silver. I was clothed in a white dress, one that had been dry even though everything implied I had been lost at sea and that I came from another shore. The desert undulated towards the horizon until a sudden surge of sand which acted as a wall and prohibited me from seeing anything but the vast nothingness of the barren land. Beside me, was a note.
“In a dying world, filled with war, there are good and there are bad, leaving those two together is what results in an existence which will cease to be. But the hard part isn’t that, it’s dividing them.”
I remembered someone saying that life was made of choices, but life can be even harder when you only have one. And I did have only one, the single option of walking through the empty, hoping to find a sign of life, other than the energy resonating from the crashing waves in the shores. And I did just that, with great struggle as my feet sinked into the sand. I had no personal details, no thoughts which humans had. I only had exact facts, I knew what everything was but I remembered nothing that made me: me. So I knew that the start of my life was probably then. That I was born in the arms of the sea, under a moonlit sky, bellow all the incandescent stars the eyes could see.
As I reached the top of the dune, sounds which I thought were from the sea were revealed as a world of chaos. Because from above that mound of sand, I overlooked like the stars, a city filled with high beige buildings, with golden windows, neighboring with pyramids. Other people jumping off roofs of hundred-story-structures and hang gliding towards the ground. I could hear distant people calling others names. I could hear screaming, laughter, gunshots, and music. It was as if every experience you can have in your life was happening right before my eyes.
I remember standing there, overwhelmed and with a burning feeling of curiosity inside me, aching until I answered all the questions I was asking myself. From the corner of my eyes I could see people looking at me, with that same look of confusion on their face while they took a leap of faith and skated down the dune to the city.
“Do it!” A young boy yelled from the top of one of the buildings, his youthful voice standing out from all the others. And so I shut my eyes and glided down like everyone else was doing. The particles of sand being thrown back from the weight of my sliding body on the hillock.
A small group of people were waiting at the bottom. And when I got there, they took my wrists and measured a dark bar on my skin. I hadn’t noticed before. It was like someone had tattooed a rectangle on me. My eyes told it all, widened and hovering from face to face, place to place, trying to absorb it all.
“Twenty three hours and twenty seven minutes. She’s been here for thirty three minutes.” A bright eyed, golden haired girl said as she let go of my wrist and placed a worn out ruby-colored fabric on my back. “The desert gets cold at night.” She said and smiled.
“Someone explain to the girl what’s going on.” A boy said, he had inky black hair and was around sixteen years old.
“You do it, you’re the one with eighty hours left.” Another girl said with a cold voice. The dark haired boy answered with only a stare, which made her look away. The same girl carried on speaking “We’re all born at midnight. You’ll die at midnight, twenty four hours from now. The mark on your wrist shows you how much time you have left.” I stared at her in perplexity.
“Then w-why does he have eighty?” I said quietly to her, trying to come up with answers in my head.
“When you take someone else’s life, you get their remaining time added to yours. So, if you’re not brave enough to do it, make the most out of your-” She paused, looked at my wrists. “Twenty three hours and twenty minutes.” I felt my insides drop to my feet. I stood up and brushed the sand off me, I made it seem as if I were calm. As I opened my mouth to ask one more question, I turned away and started to run as fast as I could. They called for me but I just kept on running. In the night sky people set fireworks, the noise bursting above me at every third step I took. I looked up and the vibrant colours etch into my mind. I feared of my short future and the past I never had, but fear is practically insanity, but one that is necessary.
I was now no longer at the border of the city but inside it. Neon lights were the main contrast from the ruins and misplaced urban buildings. People were drinking, eating food in extremely large quantities as if there were no tomorrow. Because for the good, there wasn’t. There were people hanging from the outside parts of windows, groups on motorcycles slashed beside me at the highest of speeds. There was so much going on I felt as if something inside my head was knocking all my thoughts aside. But one of them managed to stay fixed in place. The fact that I had wasted so much time running, and hadn’t even considered what I was going to do with my life.
Until the next midnight I did everything and anything I could. It started off when someone put an iridescent shirt over my dress and told me that I should hide and they’d come and find me. At first I didn’t understand the point, maybe when they found me they’d take away my life. But they never did, they were trying to have as much fun as they could before their time was over, in this case playing an epic game of hide & seek. They believed that’s all what life was about, and that a good life was not the longest but the one with the most moments which made you feel like you’d die happy and float away. They told me i’d have five minutes to hide and if they didn’t find me in ten, i’d win. Through alleyways and streets I ran through. Even wearing a bib with these luminous colors, there was no chance they’d find me.
But they did. but I felt as if I had won either way, because when they did find me they cheered on and took out fireworks from one of their bags and lit them up. So many colors illuminated the sky in a celebration of a short life.
I danced for the first time, had my first drink, flew a kite, set off my first firework, learnt about the stars, had my first piece of cake, was a bridesmaid at a wedding of two people I had never heard about, sang karaoke with them after, had my first kiss with a stranger, a smile was stained upon my lips. I felt happiness, more valuable than time or life itself.
Everything was fine until someone from the corner of the pavement started walking towards me, his smile, nefarious. His glare, odious. He raised a gun up to my head and the crowd dispersed.
I looked down on his wrists. He had ninety hours left and I had five minutes, my bar was now a simple line. The muzzle was cold on my forehead. It felt ludicrous how someone could kill another for five more minutes.
I can’t say for sure what happened at that moment, but a firework blasted through one of the opened windows from the building parallel and exploded. The noise startled the gunman and made him drop his weapon. In an instant, I had the revolver in my hands. But when I pointed it at him, it made no sense, he was now in the same position I was a few seconds ago. And I would much rather live a shorter life than take somebody else’s.
In a dying world, filled with war, there are good and there are bad, leaving those two together is what results in an existence which will cease to be. But the hard part isn’t that, it’s dividing them.
When you wake up, you have a first thought. Either it’s something in the lines of: wake up, i’m tired, I have to get up from bed… But to me it was-
I woke up inside a tube, similar to the machine you go inside if you’re having a CT scan. When I opened my eyes, it felt as if my soul returned to my body, as if my skin was weighing down on my bones but then lifted up with psyche.
“Welcome to the Foras, latin for the outside.” Said a kind voice. She was an old woman, someone who would have probably lived way over a mere twenty four hours. At her age, she should’ve probably had one foot in her grave already. I tried to imagine what she would be without that mask of wrinkles and nebulous eyes. “You passed the good test, you’re now welcome into the Foras with open arms.” She said. “We wanted to find a way of finding out if someone was good through their morals and consciousness. We took your vital force and placed it inside another dimension inside Foras. Welcome, Celeste.”
I am alive. I am Celeste. I am now part of a dying world which was saved.