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What does dying feel like?

(This entry is not finely tuned or heavily edited. Just a few things I’m thinking about that I couldn’t seem to stop thinking about until they were written down.)

“Each heart beat is death’s punctual answer to the fearful question of the heart and life’s evasive answer to the enigmatic question of death.” -Edmond Jabes

Robert Wallace Blair

This is Robert Wallace Blair.
(I want you to know who the world will be losing.)

My grandpa says it feels like flying through space.

The trigger is coughing—just coughing, really—and then there’s this scattered look in his eyes. He can’t feel his body, he says (describing it after), and he feels like he’s floating through the clouds. “I don’t think I’m dying,” he says. And it’s almost a joke. Almost a joke, like the way he casually responds “cancer” when I ask what the new bandage is for (emergency surgery removed two malignant growths yesterday). Almost a joke, like the way he says, “I wonder if you’ll be here when I die. I wonder if you’ll hear my last words. I think my last words might be, ‘Darn it!‘”

Almost a joke, and almost beautiful: Like flying through space.

My theory is oxygen. Based on what a few different nurses have said, the cause of the problem is either the lack of air from coughing or the way his blood-pressure changes when he coughs. Either (or both) would prevent as much oxygen from reaching his brain, which would cause the least vital parts of his brain to shut down, bit by bit. The frontal lobe, where conscious thought takes place, is much less vital than the part of the brain that controls all the details of breathing and heart rate and so on, so the gradual spin as parts of conscious experience shut off could create an experience like the one he described.

“I wonder if that will be what dying feels like,” he says.

Yeah. Probably. To speculate, the body would shut down gradually, not all at once, in cases like his. The most likely causes of his death will be related to these blood-pressure issues. The experience will probably shut his brain shut part by part, starting at the pre-frontal cortex and moving backward. The floating sensation will become a sort of dream unconsciousness, which will then move into a shutdown of the emotional systems. Based on description from those who have experienced this gradual shutdown of the emotional centers, this may well be characterized by a sense of euphoria.


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On the Connecticut Shooting: Stop feeling, start doing. You can help.

connecticut-massacre

The world is reeling with the news of the Connecticut massacre. That these children have died is a tragedy that leaves so many of us speechless. Children, and the innocence of children, remain—despite all that’s changed in the modern world—something we, with nearly universal clarity and voice, recognize as sacred.

But let me be clear. I am not sad. I am angry. Sadness, too often, calls for something to be felt. Anger calls for something to be done. And something needs to be done. Something beyond these abstract cries of solidarity. We live in a world where every great tragedy can become global, but in that broadening the depth is lost. We shout anonymously from all parts of the country to say our hearts are with the victims.

Our hearts are not. Our hearts are pinned inside our own chests. We mourn an imaginary child who reminds us of our own loved children. We are not sending our support. We are sending our words, and we are feeling very deeply and very uselessly in our efforts at an imaginary but feeble community. Our words and feelings are flimsy at times like these. What is needed is action.

Here are a few of  the non-profit organizations that are getting involved. Please check out these resources and, if you really want to show support, solidarity, and community, then do so with actions. Your words alone are not enough.

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BCF #1: “Gone”

 Attention fellow flash-fictioneers! A new (and awesome) project called “Business Card Fiction” is prompting people to create stories that could fit on the back of your—you guessed it—business card. Check out their website for the details. More important to this entry, though, is my own contribution to the first official, non-beta prompt.

Into the Sunset

Business Card Fiction: Gone

 Write on,

Rob D Young


FSF: Joy

For those of you who have missed my previous contributions, this is my contribution to Lillie McFerrin‘s Five Sentence Friday. In this exercise, participants write five sentences based on a prompt. Today’s prompt is “Joy.”

Funeral Skies

Image courtesy of Flickr by Enric Martinez

 Joy

At Grandfather’s funeral, she didn’t say a word. Then, as the air hummed down to the creak of pulleys that stopped and started the coffin’s fall, my grandmother flung out her arms and kissed the air, gasping in passionate phantom kisses as if to swallow the sky whole.


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Broken Glass Launch Week

Broken Glass

Broken Glass has been sent to a couple dozen reviewers, feedback (both enthusiastic and critical) has started to trickle in. Now the book is in the launch phase, with the official launch party taking place on December 1st.

You can buy your copy for Kindle at my store page.

Cheers, and write on,

Rob D Young


White Silk: Excerpt 2

List of Chapters
Previous Part

White Silk - banner

Segments from the Saga

V.S.T., 7th Part, verses 9 to 14

9. And verily, thereafter, in the days of woe, when nary a tear was spared amongste all the armies of Gillean and Ventius, the lands of waste began to cloud and thunder. And there the heavens did join in with the holy tears of its most holy knights, and for an hundred hours the rain beat against the earth unceasingly.

10. So did EZERIAN cleanse the wounds of many and sanctify the dead, for all to see that he had ordained these legions of Sacredness and Might. And there amongst the stones, some cracked and unraveled by thunder, and when the rain did cease, the bodies of men and soldiers and knights were laid up to rest.

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White Silk: Part Six

List of Chapters
Previous Part

White Silk - banner

 6.

At the front of the lodge building, just behind where Waypoint sells its fare and brews, Daddy stops in front of the door. We’ve already loaded up my horse. I’ll be ready to go, as planned, before the sun rises.

“Do you want me to … to be up in the morning, Liddy? See you off?”

“Oh, you’ve done that plenty,” I say. “No need to burden yourself.”

He nods, but I can see this bulge at his lower lip, like he’s got his tongue pressed against the back of it. “Okay, then. I suppose this is it.”

I nod. He just stands there, hesitating for a moment longer. The big, brass lodge key he got handed, he’s playing with that in his hand, spinning it around. “Daddy,” I say, slow and sure. “I’ll be back. I’ll be back in just a few weeks, okay? Won’t be long at all.”

He raises his eyes up at me, eyebrows pushing toward the archways.

“Really, Daddy, I’ll be fine.”

“I know,” he says.

“Then what are you so worried on? I’ll be back soon. It’ll be the same as always.”

For a fraction of a second, I see his teeth clench together and his eyes narrow on me, but then the look clears off his face. “Of course you’re right,” he says. “Of course. We’ll keep your wool clean.” He leans in for a hug, awkward-like, like he’s not real sure how it’s done or if he has permission. Of course I just step in, put my arms around him. His free hand that’s gripping the key is still off to the side. For the most of it he’s hugging me with one hand at the top of my back. He pats me a couple times, then steps back brushes himself off some. Not the sort of man to hug much, that’s for sure. “Spine straight,” he says to me. So I stand tall. He smiles, then turns and unlocks the door. As he walks he straight in and I walk to the stairs on the right, he just keeps ambling on, saying over his shoulder, “Good night.”

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