Dying is a pain in the ass and everywhere else too. I've died so often that perhaps I shouldn't mind it so much but I do.
It's frequently messy, inconvenient and I'm so very tired of having to disappear.
I try not to leave anyone behind for whom my disappearance may cause distress. My own constant sorrow I do my best to hide. That's not to say I don't form relationships―I do. I'm a not a loner by any means. Like everyone else, I need human contact to keep me sane but I have the good sense to sever all ties with those I care about, before my time comes.
What am I you ask? I'm not really sure. I'm not a vampire or a god, or any kind of angel. That much I know. I'm flesh and blood with all the familiar moving parts and appearance of a human being. Still, something extraordinary happens to me, every twenty-five years or so.
My body consumes itself, not unlike spontaneous combustion. Only the process is a lot more gradual.
It begins with a faint blue-tinged radiance, noticeable in my eyes then it spreads to my skin and hair. Soon my hair will become as crisp as old parchment before crumbling to literal ash. My skin will crack and peel, erupting in fissures that seep light and heat. I grow lethargic, unable to eat or drink or sleep, unable to do anything but burn, brighter and brighter, hotter and hotter every day, till I am consumed from the inside out.
Every death is excruciatingly painful, especially to the last and nothing I do, or experiment I've yet tried, can prevent the burn. I feel my body disintegrate; I become weightless, formless ―a hot, suspended breeze. Throughout it all, I retain some form of consciousness, caught in a nameless void between existences where for a time, I cannot see or smell or hear.
Aside from the agony of the burning, that is the most awful aspect of the thing. To be deprived of senses on which I once relied. It's a shock that I have yet to become accustomed to.
As for my new body, I do not know how it is formed. I only know that I 'awaken' from my sense-less, dreaming state, encased in new flesh.
It itches, this new flesh, for the first few days or so. Sometimes the itching is so bad that I am tempted to claw it away, to tear at it with whatever sharp implement I can find. But what would be the point? The flesh would simply grow back and my itchy torment would resume.
A wise old woman, who knew of my condition, once told me that I was like the mythical phoenix; dying when my life cycle and purpose was complete then rising anew to begin the process all over again. I don't know if she's right, I really don't. I don't want to be like this, I don't want to be anything more than human but I am.
There is however, one aspect of my rebirth that I do appreciate. When my body reforms, it looks the same as it did before but always with one or two subtle differences. Somehow, my new body seems to incorporate little physical attributes of those that I have loved and lost over time.
Like Sarah's freckles, sprinkled across my right shoulder in the shape of the Andromeda constellation, precisely where hers used to be. There's a streak of gold in my dark curls, reminiscent of dear Ian's, lovely wheat coloured hair. Something that looks like a birthmark snakes along one thigh. It looks exactly like my friend Kerina's, once proudly borne scar.
I've got a fair collection of these odd mementos, about a dozen in all I'd say. They comfort me. They are my only comfort.
* * * *
My time is almost here again. I can feel the heat building in the blood that rushes more quickly through my veins. I tire more easily. My bones ache and I can feel their growing brittleness in every movement that I make. The bathroom mirror shows that my eyes are starting to glow.
Seth thinks my eyes are beautiful. He says they're the kindest, wisest eyes he's ever seen but he senses my sadness and tries his best to erase it with his fierce, no-holds barred love.
I've thought of telling him my secret;enacted the scene in my head a thousand times or more. I know him well enough to know that he would not judge me insane. But I also know he's stubborn enough to want to stay by my side and I cannot risk having him near when I burn. He called me fire-cracker once, in the middle of post-coitus bliss and I was at a loss to explain why I burst into tears.
Lord knows I tried not to love him, he's the first person in sixty years that I've let get this close but I was so lonely, he was patient and had the most irresistible smile.
I'm cuddled next to him now on the ugliest couch you've ever seen, praying for the strength to break our hearts, to drive him away. He's shirtless, as he almost always is when he's at home. My fingers are making lazy spirals on his chest as we watch TV.
He strokes my hair, laughs at something the Tech-TV guy says. My fingers trail lower, circle his adorable belly button, it's one of my favourite places to stick my tongue. Were I able to choose what aspect of him my new body manifests, this is the memento I'd choose. But I don't get to choose.
Dying is a pain in the ass and everywhere else too. I've died so often that perhaps I shouldn't mind it so much but oh dear God, I do.