By Hannah Lee.
“In the seconds, minutes before I died, I remember shutting my eyes. I didn’t have the courage. I squeezed them so tightly, I thought my face was going to fold in half. I remember the man pressing the gun cold against my feverish forehead. I sensed his sweaty fingers readjusting themselves in a tighter grip.
He pulled the trigger.
And instead of the tense, panic-stricken black behind my eyelids, I saw white – the light of death. It was as though someone had changed the slides in the projector of my eyes.
With the white came a high pitched wail. It was thin, piercing, like the agonizing scream of a damaged ear drum.
This went on for several moments, but I don’t remember anything after that.”
The man in the grey jots something down on his notepad. He writes in a language I don’t understand, so there’s no point trying to sneak a read. I’m sure he’s recording everything I’m saying. Not on the notepad, but with hidden ears.
“And… is that all you remember from your first life?”
“I need you to answer yes or no.” For his hidden ears, no doubt.
“What do you remember about your rebirth?” he asks, pen poised to write again.
“I remember a lot of water. The first thing I felt was … a tickling in my ear… as though a small agitated insect had mistaken my ear for its home. I then realized it was escaping my ear. Water was being drained around me. I could hear it once the water level lowered in the tube. I felt the cold on my bare body. I lay in the empty tube for a long time before anyone came to check up on me. I thought I was going to spend the rest of my waking hours in there.”
“And how long has it been since your rebirth?”
“Do you remember your name? Who are you? Where you come from?”
“I’m not sure this is my first rebirth.”
This isn’t the answer he wants. All of his features are suddenly harder, rigid, unmoving. In a fraction of a second, the smoothness of his face has frozen with severity. He looks like a different person.
“I think I’ve been recycled.” I say. A small voice inside me tells me to be cautious with my words, but I have lost all timidity, all fear. My soul will simply enter another body if they wish to exterminate this one. It’s a guess, a conjecture, a hope.
“What makes you say that?” the man asks.
“My dreams. I see the light of death in multiple shades. I see the moments before I die, and they’re different every time. I’ve become so… accustomed to dying. I’m not sure what living is like.”
I’ve offended him. The man picks up his notepad and rises from his chair. Desperation weeps in my voice.
“Please don’t leave!” I plead. “Please!”
That night I dream of a snake. It is emerald green, calm on the surface, but seething in its tangled body. I kill it. I bury it. But it returns. I kill it again. I burn it. And thought it shrieks in the flames, it comes back as though nothing has happened. Time restarts and restarts in an endless loop.
I wake in a sweat. I don’t know where I am. My heart drops to my stomach. I don’t even know who I am.
I push myself out of a bed, bathed in the cold light of morning and find a door left slightly ajar.
A man stands in the center of the room, dressed all in grey with a gun hanging heavily from his hand. I taste a mixture of bile and dejavu in the back of my throat. He walks toward me.
I shut my eyes.
I don’t have the courage.