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Death

People filled up the large auditorium like bees filled the hive. They moved in swarms in eager anticipation of a talk that had been talked about for a long time. There were groups of people discussing the topic enthusiastically and then there were individuals who preferred to think about the talk to themselves. Everyone was in his or her own little world.

The auditorium was almost full and buzzing with chatter when the time for the talk finally arrived. An old man with a French beard came up to the podium and in seconds the whole auditorium was silent. The man smiled and spoke "Thank you all for turning up today. I’m sure that you were all attracted by the curious topic of the talk. I won’t waste any time and let our guest start her talk. Please welcome Professor Wells"

The crowd started applauding and watched as a middle-aged woman came up to the podium confidently to talk. She looked around, took a deep breath and begun "Once again, I thank all of you for coming. I hope that you will enjoy the talk today about … Death. This is something that none of us really knows about. All that we know about is life and we are always learning about that every second. The questions about death are – What is Death? What is the meaning of Death? And why am I bothering to talk about it?

"Death is when the body cells stop functioning, to put it scientifically. On another level, death is when we stop living. This is actually more complex than it sounds. For once, you will feel no more, you will not think and you will not be alive. Of course, I have no idea if this is true or not, but these are assumptions that we have made based on the fact that nothing in the body will be working in the first place. Death is the end of what we know, or at least that is what we think.

"What is the meaning and importance of death to our lives? This question is very important. Death is the end. It is the proof that nothing is eternal. The end will come. Many of us may never want to die, but we all will die someday and that is the cold hard truth. No one likes to see death, but it comes with the gift of life. It is the price you must pay to enjoy living. From another angle, death may not be a price, but a gift. If life were to go on forever, you would live an existence that would just be another existence. It wouldn’t hold meaning. Death is that event, which gives meaning to life."

 

The talk went on. Everyone was captivated. There was something about the topic that kept people interested and that is why everyone had turned up in the first place. The talk was on two levels, of science and of philosophy. It sought to explain that which could not be explained. It was undoubted that nothing was explained or answered concisely, for every answer that was proposed about death held another question. The only way to know death is to feel it. However to feel death and return wouldn’t be death. It would lose meaning.

 

After the lecture, the auditorium emptied out as fast as it filled up. The minds of the listeners were full of philosophical thoughts about life and death and beginnings and endings. The talk was successful and that pleased both the organizers and Professor Wells. She had travelled across the country and it was good to know that her time and effort wasn’t wasted.

As the professor was packing up her papers and notes, for the flight back home, someone came up to her "Erm, professor?"

She looked up and saw a dishevelled young man. She didn’t like to judge people on the basis of what they looked like, but she made a wild assumption that he was a writer because of the folder marked "Manuscript" in his hand. "Yes" she responded.

"I had a few questions for you and was wondering if I could get a response"

She looked at her watch. She had five minutes before the cab came to turn up to take her to the airport "Sure! What do you want to know?"

"Why did you choose to talk about death?"

"Pardon me?"

"I mean, why death? Why couldn’t you talk about something about thoughts or life? You are a psychologist after all"

"Death is a part of life. It is just the end of life and it intrigues me"

"From your talk, I take it that you believe that life is all that a person lives through. You don’t believe in any after-life or reincarnation, do you?"

"No I don’t. I like to believe that death is the end. Knowing that there is an end is more comforting to know rather than thinking that there is an eternity for you to live"

The questioner raised his voice just slightly "Death is the end. It is not what life is about. Life is about living. And living is about thinking, feeling, understanding and more things than can be described by mere words. Death is just an event that marks this end. It has no significance with respect to the life a person has led. What does matter is meaning. People who are lost never find the meaning of life, but those who know the meaning, know it so well that it can hurt. You can’t imagine that you can just think about Death and understand the meaning of life. The meaning of anything never comes at the end, but at the beginning. It is a person’s job to find that meaning before Death arrives to end the search forever"

"I admit you have your opinions and I am in no mood for an argument about my beliefs. I respect that you think differently and hope that you will respect my beliefs enough not to try and convince me what I think is wrong. And besides, I have to leave now. A cab is probably waiting for me outside to take me to the airport. It’s been nice talking to you and I hope you enjoyed the talk, Mr.…"

"Goodbye" The interrogator just walked away towards the exit. He walked as if he had made his point and that he had achieved his task, but there was still something left incomplete.

The professor just stood there staring at the weird individual. She had met and seen a lot of people through her career but had never seen anyone quite like the man who she had just spoken to. He spoke as if he was against Death and that life was all that mattered. He was wrong, as far as she was concerned. Death was the end and the meaning always lied at the end.

The professor packed up the rest of her stuff and was told that her cab had arrived. She bid farewell to and thanked the organizers of the talk. She walked out and saw the cab parked on the other side of the car park. It was strange but she was in too much of a hurry to be bothered. She walked across the quiet, empty parking lot amidst the sparse lighting that there was. She reached the cab, hopped in and said "To the airport"

The driver said, "Okay"

The driver started up the cab and drove off into the night.

 

There was an almost full moon and a few clouds around. The mood shone brightly enough to actually be considered a star rather than just a dull satellite. The beauty lied in that it was there. When the moon wasn’t around the sky seemed empty and lost at night. When the moon was around, there was a leader, which shone brightly to encourage the stars to shine as good as they could.

As the professor stared out the window of the moving cab, she realised that she was hungry. She hadn’t eaten all day long. She hoped that the food on the plane would be edible. If it wasn’t, she could always complain as a first class passenger. It was expensive, but worth every penny to travel first class. She had realised that the aeroplane staff actually made the economy class passengers feel inferior. It was disgusting at times. Since she could afford better, even if it was only marginally affordable, she flew first class. It also helped her collect miles that way.

She remembered the person she met after the lecture. He seemed very angry to know that she believed that death held the meaning of life. His words made sense, in a strange way, but she couldn’t accept that the meaning of life lied in life itself. It was just too vast to find the meaning. At Death, the whole perspective of the world would be small enough to know the meaning. It would be too late to live through that meaning, but at least she would know the meaning of her life before it ended forever.

 

When her attention returned to the real world, the professor realised that she had reached the airport. She could see planes fly off into the distance. It was always an amazing sight to see such a huge object fly in the air. Every time she saw it, she felt awe-struck.

The cab stopped and she asked, "How much?"

"It’s 100 dollars"

"WHAT? It can’t be. The journey hardly took fifteen minutes"

"It is 100 dollars and if you don’t pay then I will have to report you to the authorities"

"You’ll be the one reported to the authorities", she said. She quickly picked up her bags and jumped out of the cab to find some authoritarian figure. But before she could even begin to look, she turned around and saw that the cab had driven off. That was weird. She expected the driver to create some problems. And now she had got a ride for free. Well, she didn’t mind. Money not spent was money that would be spent on something else.

 

She went to the gate she had to be at and waited for the flight to New York to be declared. She was early, very early. She had estimated that she would reach five minutes before the estimated flight time and now she had an hour left. It was strange. She didn’t understand how she had reached so quickly. Then it struck her that the journey had taken fifteen minutes. It took at least 50 minutes to get there, even late at night. It was strange, but she was happy. Fate was probably happy with her.

And the next moment the whole gate erupted into flames. Everything was burnt to a cinder. It was too quick for anyone to feel any pain. The professor, with everyone else, died. The death was too quick for her to find meaning. It was a twist of fate. Had she reached at the time she thought, she would have avoided the bomb. But she was early. She had been brought there early. She would never know how or why because the end had come … and gone, all in a second.