By Michelle Xin
Over 150,000 faces join me each day – yet another member of the infinite audience spectating the arena; my arena.
I watch and I wait, for I am always surprised by those who enter my realm, and I will never know who might be next.
There have been moments in time where I have speculated and predicted. Even moments where I have hedged my bets, because it was clear that this next individual inflicted with the plague will soon succumb, as did their predecessors. When they arrive here, they are lost and aghast. They fight and they rebel, for this was not the outcome that they deserved, nor the fate which their beliefs promised. They ask me for more years, for more cures to the maladies of their time, for another chance in another world. Their presence in the audience is begrudging and initially disruptive, but they take their seats eventually when time wears away at their mortal fire within.
However, in the recent years, I have hesitated to extend my foresight into the living as the care in which the mortals have now devised add sand to their depleting hourglasses. Their medicines and machines have stretched the boundaries of time and have challenged nature’s course and equilibrium. There have been many who I have expected sooner, and yet they continue to occupy their thrones of dialysis chairs with defiance and calm etched into their faces. There are endings which I have not yet witnessed because instead, I have witnessed the life jackets of tablets and transfusions and operations assisting individuals to remain afloat.
In centuries past, I longed for the stories of mortals; their earnest spontaneity inspired me, their unbridled suffering intrigued me, and each youthful emergence into my arena invigorated me – for their arrival in my arena allowed me to hear of their tales and their memories, both freshly made and freshly severed. When the floods of individuals crowded my realm during the eras of living brutality, I sought out the faces with age written on them and found too few. Their stories were bloodied, undeserved and chilling. I could not wish for those vivid recollections, despite how heartless the mortals may perceive me to be.
Even today, there are those with many projected years who have their hourglasses tragically and prematurely broken. Their faces should not be in the audience, although the mortal world is fickle and chaotic, and chaos brews unpredictability and sorrow in its darkest moments.
Now instead, I wish for time. For more sand to be poured into their hourglasses. For their living reality to last, because only time will prepare them for the finite.
There are fewer individuals who are lost and aghast when they arrive here. Instead, I am the one who is lost in the gratitude and peace I am confronted by. The mortals’ medicines and machines have taught them what I have seen but have yet to experience – that life is a fragile creature, but nonetheless worth nurturing and treasuring. That there is strength in belief, in humanity, in the comforting reassurance of words and arms. That encountering the end can be hopeful and uplifting, as all that has preceded it is a chance worth taking and living for.
The only request that I dare to issue is for these medicines and machines to persist and to evolve and to expand, in order to afford as many individuals with this chance to live before they discover my arena. Even though these medicines and machines are fighting me, I am sorry that I must win in the end. Know that the victories gained when the extra grains of sand find their way back into mortals’ hourglasses is worth the fight, the celebration and the memory, even if it fades into the mind’s recesses one day soon.
It is your victory to possess the treasured time of mortality. It is my loss that I, Death, must take that away.