You have always been smaller and slighter than the rest. Delicate, fragile, breakable, the adults who look after you always say. You have beaten the odds so far – they had once wondered if you would live past infancy, and you obviously have by now. Yet here, with you in the hospital, sicker than ever before, the odds aren't in your favor at all this time.
You are worse with each passing day; every slight movement hurts, even breathing. Days go by, and then weeks, and you do not get better.
You begin to wonder what it would be like to die.
Well, and who hasn't wondered this before? Death is so vague, so mysterious – you see it, hear about it, all the time. It's a concept that seems so surrounding, so close, and sometimes you wonder, with all these others who have been ensnared by it, why haven't you been as well? Is it luck of the draw? Or is there some bigger picture to it all? What makes you different from them? You are just as sick and weak, if not more so, than the rest; why have you been spared thus far?
Then there are times when death seems as far away as the moon. When you are away from the hospital, the hospital that is nothing but death – or at least, when you have kind visitors who make you forget that you are still at the hospital. When you are with your companions, partners, friends. When you feel safe, secure, protected . . . loved.
Death? That can surely never touch you, you think during those times – not now, not ever. Not when you have never been so happy, so content, so perfect.
(Not when you have never felt more alive.)
Still, you wonder about death. You have seen many pass away in your lifetime. You sometimes wonder where they have gone. You wonder if you will see them again some day.
You wonder about a good many things. There isn't much else to do in the hospital. There are not many toys or books. Sometimes they let you have a radio. Once in a while a nurse will give you a small sweet or piece of chocolate, but food isn't exactly a form of amusement. Sometimes you get tired of thinking, but for the most part, you don't mind. You have much to think about. There is so much you do not know, so much you do not understand.
You do not want to die.
The nurses and doctors act strangely around you now. They look at you with large, scared eyes; they come to see you with these big masks covering their noses and mouths. You never get any sweets or chocolate from them anymore.
(Then again, you wouldn't want to eat the candy even if you did receive any; you can barely eat anything these days. But for some reason, you still miss holding the sweet in the palm of your hand, as you murmur thank you to the gentle nurse.)
You are scared. Scared because you don't know what is happening to you, scared because you do not know what will happen to you. Scared because no one will tell you either of these things. Scared because you do not understand.
So young, they whisper around you, so young to die. And you do not want to die, but there are some days when you begin to wish that you would die. Then all the pain would go away. You are scared of dying, but you are also scared of living. You do not know which is more painful at this point.
You are in your bed one dark night, thinking many things as you look out your window, when a strange shadow flits past the panes. You think briefly that perhaps it is death, come to embrace you in its arms at last, and are torn between fear and anticipation as you wait for the mysterious phantom to reappear. But it does not.
You somehow manage to fall asleep, and when you awake, there is something different about you. You do not entirely understand what. You feel . . . healthy. It's such a foreign feeling that you do not recognize it for what it is at first, and even when you do recognize it, you do not believe it.
The nurses and doctors say it is a miracle.
(You do not know if it's a miracle, but whatever it is, you like it.)
There is a ring in your hand, a beautiful ring, with a silver band and a large dark stone set in the middle of it. You have never seen this ring before. You do not know who it belongs to. You wonder if a nurse gave it to you – perhaps they ran out of sweets.
Your attention is drawn towards your window. A raven is sitting there. It appears to be looking at you, and it stays like that for a long moment before cawing at you and flying off.
The sun rises a little higher in the sky, and then one of the nurses pokes her head in your room, saying that you have a visitor. The nurse seems very excited.
Your visitor enters, a smartly dressed woman who looks down at you fondly; the nurse stands behind her, still beaming. The new woman asks how you are feeling; you have never been better. There is some more small talk between the both of you, and then she turns more serious. She says that she was recently at the orphanage because she was interested in adopting a child, and the masters there gave her your name. They told her you were ill, but she says that you sounded like such a sweet boy, she had to come and see for herself if there was any chance at all that she could take you on as her own.
You are feeling very well now, you tell her.
She smiles at you.
(She has a nice smile.)
A few days later, after the doctor has decided that your fever will not be returning, you are released from the hospital and adopted by the woman. It is then that you learn there is more to her story than just a lonely lady who wanted to have a child around her home.
You learn of territories, many different territories; you learn of flumes, the passages between them; you learn of the people who live on these territories, people, people, so many people.
She tells you all of this is called Halla. She tells you that Halla needs guidance. She tells you that you are the person who shall lead Halla to a prosperous and united entity.
You grow up under her warm, mentoring hand. She may have adopted you, but you do not view her as a mother. She is so much more than a mother; she is your teacher, your counselor, your sage. She knows so much, and you readily absorb all the truths she presents you; never before has anyone been so open with you. You learn all that she has to give you; and thus, you learn about her, and also come to love her.
(Your love for her is so depthless, so unrelenting, so blind, that you unconsciously delude yourself into thinking that she loves you too.)
As happens with time, you turn from a young boy to an adult man – and that is when your life's work truly starts. You begin to share all that she has taught you with the rest of the world. You show them what she showed you, teach them what she taught you.
At first, many are skeptical of what you present. You are discouraged. You return to your sage, upset and confused. Do not be impatient, she tells you softly. The truth sometimes takes a long while to be accepted, but in the end, none shall be able to deny what is completely real. You have always believed her, always trusted her, and so even though you are impatient for these people to trust you, you set back out there with your miracles and truths and try again. Again. Again. Again.
They will appreciate you one day, she says. When they see the magnificent world that you have created for them, when they truly can visualize the wonderful things you can provide. Remember, you are doing this for them.
You are doing this for them. Those words echo longer than the others; stay with you as yet another face ridicules your ideas, hold fast beside you as one more person scoffs and turns their back on you. Once, you were a small boy who depended on everyone else to keep him alive. Now you are a grown man who everyone else will one day depend on. This marks you deeply, and you suddenly see the vision for the future clearer than ever before.
And slowly, they, the people, the special ones, begin to believe you. Only a few of them at first. Gradually they persuade a few of their elite friends and family members. They in turn go to others, who in turn beseech more, and before you know it, there is an entire following. And they are following you.
When others follow you, there is nothing to do but lead. So that is what you do. You guide them along the right path, sharing all that you have to share. They soak it up. They adore it. They believe it. They believe in you.
(Didn't I tell you not to be impatient, dear? she says with a smile.)
As your following grows, so, naturally, does your opposition. The people who disagree – the ones who are not elite, mostly – become louder. Angrier. Stronger. You find it funny at first when one of your supporters suggests that you hire body guards, but you soon take the idea after an attempted mob scene at one of your gatherings.
The following grows bigger; you grow older – thus is the cycle of time. You cannot imagine a better way to spend your life though, despite the fact that your limbs are not as strong as they used to be. This is the truth, this is what the future is supposed to be – this is what the future is going to be. Nothing could make you prouder, to know that your life's work has done so much, has made an impact of such magnitude.
You wonder what it would be like to die.
You have wondered this your whole life, and as the world rushes up around you, you wonder about it now too. You know that you are about to die. You know that no one could possibly survive a fall like this. You are, in part, ready to die: you have lived a long and fulfilling life. You have done much. And you know that she will take over what you started and were not able to finish.
Still, now, with colors and shapes blurring in front of your stinging eyes, you cannot entirely hold back the old feelings. You are scared. You are scared of dying. The ground keeps coming closer and closer, and the fragile seven-year-old in you has returned.
(Then again, perhaps the fragile seven-year-old in you was never gone, but merely chose this moment to reappear.)
You do not want to die.
You know, of course, that all of Halla is united. There is no beginning or ending to a life, merely different phases, fading and passing into one another. You will live on in whatever place you are headed to next. You are not about to die, you are about to continue on living – just in a different form than before.
(The seven-year-old in you doesn't listen to this. The seven-year-old in you is still scared.)
The colors still fuzz and merge together in a dizzy blend as you fall, fall, fall – and then everything is black.
Death has come to embrace you at last.