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One Life
One Life

© Pradita Kapahi


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In the end there was darkness. Pain, white hot pain, and hopelessness. So much so that they swamped me completely. Till I finally succumbed…


Let there be light… and light there was. Warm, welcoming, pure, ethereal.

When that moment passed, I floated up, weightless like a feather. The pins and tubes stuck to my body, the pain of my failing organs, it was there no more and I was free, devoid of every human ailment or frailty. It was a moment of immense lightness and strength. I felt renewed.

In the room though, the mood was different.

“Flatline…”, the Doctor pronounced with resignation in his eyes and tone as he looked at my family. Guilty eyes pleading sorry, as if he had let them down. One by one everyone but my family moved out.

That’s when it started -the mourning. It was grey. Did you know emotions have colors too? I saw it for the first time that night.

My wife was the grayest, “Oh God, what have you done? Why have you left us alone, Arun? My poor, poor husband…” She splayed herself across my body and gave way to her grief. My son and daughter followed suit. The buoyancy I had felt but moments ago was replaced by a leadenness. I felt their grey pain. I felt their hearts contorting from it like their faces. I felt weighed down by their grief.

Then I noticed him.

Standing at the far end of the room, the silent spectator. Garbed in black like night itself, but luminous like the sun.

“Who are you?” I asked him.

“You know who I am”, he answered simply. He walked, nay, floated to me, his black cape swishing on the floor yet not catching dust.

“It's time”, he spoke to me.

My eyes grew large as the finality of his words sunk in. Was I to leave it all behind then? This world that I knew as my only home for so many years? These faces that I held so dear? Those memories that made my heart beat? Those things that made me who I am…was?

“No, please. Give me another chance… One more day with them,” I begged him but he shook his head.

“The longer you stay the harder it will get. You must come with me now. It is not for me to grant you time or life. Besides, there is nothing you can do even if you stay back. You’re formless now. Energy. You can’t interact with anyone. You can’t talk to them, touch them, feel them…”

“I can observe them!”

He chuckled, “So what if you can observe them? For how long do you just want to observe? Will that be enough? Will you not want to do more with them?”

I nodded in mute assent and he continued, “To want, to desire, to wish, is not for you anymore. You are not one of them anymore.”

That’s when I realized that the bond that tied me to the world – my human manifestation, was lost. It was represented by my body, even if I animated it from within. So while my body would return to dust, I myself would return to ether, whence I came. But still I clutched to a wispy hope, “Just one more day…”

“You had 47 years. What did you not achieve in those years that you can achieve in just one day?” he rhetoric cut me to the core and I flashed back to the times when I should have been there for them. Missed anniversaries, missed parent-teacher meetings, missed festivals and get-togethers, missed adventures, missed experiences… missed moments being missed now when all was lost to me. Suddenly, I was flooded by things I should have said, things I should have done – the sorries, the thank you’s, the I love you’s and the I miss you’s that should have punctuated each of the 365 days of each of those 47 years of my life. But did not.

He knew what I was about to say so he interjected –

“You only live once”

A pregnant pause, while I looked at my family longingly and then he continued, “Now, I’m going to give you a choice… Stay and roam the earth like a cipher – formless, faceless, homeless, anguished. So that while you may be forgotten by the ones for who you tarry, you may never forget them and never move on…. Or come with me and do your penance, where after you may return in another form, to do your duty by your loved ones and by mankind. You know the right answer, don’t you Wayward One?”

I gulped, an act born out of habit, a vestige of my former self, my humanness, and entirely useless for my new self.

He could see the answer forming in my eyes. Then, He forsook all patience. He transformed into black anger. His luminescence burst forth in flames and his eyes were ablaze with it. He grew up to fill the room with his presence, his incandescence scorching me. I tried to back away from him, “Nooooo, I have so much left to do…”, but he threw an inflamed noose at me that caught my neck, and he thundered –

“Death and Time wait for no one!”

And then it was dark again.

Death Life Regrets Live

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