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Red Shelves

It is amazing how alive you can feel while contemplating death.

By Matthew CurtisPublished 7 days ago 3 min read
Top Story - May 2024
Red Shelves
Photo by Justin Aikin on Unsplash

Death is a black hole.

Think about it. A black hole is the corpse of a star, something once warm and bright, now come to the end of its life cycle. But some will argue that the cycle of life does not end with death. That death is merely another path we must walk once our bodies expire and our souls ascend. In that moment, when the fuel in the star’s chemical tank hits empty and the shiny matte coat explodes into supernova, the mass left behind – the corpse – becomes a black hole. We understand that, around such a vast cadaver, dimensions work a little differently in death to the way we’re used to in life. For example, light cannot escape the pull of a black hole when it hits the point of no return. That’s where it gets its colour. Space itself is contorted by a black hole. That’s where it gets its funny shape. Even time. Time slows right down the closer you get to it. The closer you get to a black hole. The closer you get to death.

We’ve all heard the saying before – that in the moments before you die you see the entirety of your life flash before your eyes. Unfortunately, we cannot ask a person who has died about what they saw. Time doesn’t work that way. But there are those who have brushed closely with death and survived, who argue they did indeed see their lives play out before them, like flicking through a picture book. Let us for a moment dare to believe it is true. That right before we die – a moment coming for all of us – we will see the story of our lives played out to us. But what if this moment isn’t a flash, not in the way we understand from our biased perspectives of life. What if it is instead a moment stretched out by the enormity of looming death? What if, in the very moment of your own impending supernova, the life you have lived comes again, but slowed down by proximity to death. Your whole life, again, agonisingly, beautifully slow.

There is an image I cannot get out of my head. Rays from the sun paint squares of light on withered wood. Red shelves stacked with books new and old are caught in the warm glow. The smell of plants flourishing in the love of a doting father. A breeze so sharp it must have been carried from the waves of an ocean. My name is written in chalk on a black street-sign outside. It is a memory I have not yet lived. Something I daydream about – a location of significant importance to me, but the same place I cannot recall ever having encountered. It is the inexplicable thing the grants me the vitality to write. An unshakable assurance that one day my writing will bring me to that shop. I know it, perhaps because I am old man, laid on my back, my bed surrounded by loved ones, seeing glimpses out of order in the theatre of the mind that takes place moments before my eyes will shut forever. That one last path I walk.

Anyone with aspirations has been granted the same peek behind the curtain. The painting of the landscape they have not yet found. The laughter from the speech they have not yet written. The sound of that song not yet performed. The days at the park with the kids not yet born. Perhaps in truth they’re merely daydreams after all and none of it will come to pass. But that is a reality more depressing than that of my own death – that I’ll never find that shop with the red shelves and that I will never launch my book. Others might argue the opposite – that mine is a bitter-sweet faith. To believe that you really can do it and your dreams lie before you, but to know it is all already done and behind you at the same time.

Death is a black hole. It is another path to tread. What you choose to believe and in which direction you walk is up to you. Just try to make it towards that blur you’ve seen zooming around your head.

Stream of Consciousnesshumanityadvice

About the Creator

Matthew Curtis

Queen Margaret University graduate (Theatre and Film studies).

Currently trying to write a book.

Lilywhite, Pokemon master, time-lord, vampire with a soul, Virgo.

Likes space and dinosaurs. And Binturongs. I'm very cool.

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Comments (2)

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  • Ariel Joseph7 days ago

    This was a fascinating take, really enjoyed this. I hope you do find this place and realize your dream. Some would argue even if it wasn't already set to come to pass, with that kind of vivid imagery you are sure to manifest it!

  • angela hepworth7 days ago

    Super thought provoking piece.

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