Dark Fiction – The First
Written By Casey Douglass
|Image used freely courtesy of Gratisography|
As a coroner, you get to see more than your fair amount of death. Some think you need a macabre sense of humour to deal with things, and in that respect, they’re right. After awhile, you don’t mentally see your human boss any more, well at least I didn’t; you begin to feel like you’re working directly for death. It sounds silly reading that back to myself but none the less, that’s how I feel.
Many authors have written about the personification of death, my own personal favourite being the deep-voiced blue-eyed version from the late great Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. A skeleton stalking around with hour-glass style timers beneath his robe, appearing to take the recently dead away to what next awaits them.
Suicide is personified too, and I think I’ve seen her.
Technology has a lot to answer for, both good and bad. Some things, you just never got to see before the advent of the internet and of course, smartphones being attached to someone’s hip twentyfour-seven. It didn’t take that long after the emergence of YouTube for other, darker websites to appear. Roll on a few more months and the first suicide videos began to be posted. As part of the legal system, it fell to me to watch these if they related to a case I happened to be working on.
It didn’t take long for me to wistfully mourn the passing of the time in which you couldn’t see what happened to someone. Yes it might help procedurally; those among you wondering how a suicide posts a video, you’d be surprised how easy it is to automate this process. It just leaves its mark on your mind and, dare I say, soul.
My interest in suicide as a personification began with a dark smear on the video of a teenage boy hanging himself from his ceiling light. Just at the moment his struggles ceased, a movement caught my eye. It looked like someone leaving the room, but only if you strained very hard to see it. My colleagues didn’t agree and put it down to some digital fuzz from the encoding used on the camera. I let the issue drop until I witnessed it again. Many times.
Sometimes, it appeared a little more clearly, giving the impression of a woman standing and watching. Other times it was just a limb, an arm or leg seen vanishing into nothingness. It was at about this time that I began to struggle with my sleep.
Nights were filled with dreams of death and misery. It might surprise you to know that this is something I had never really been troubled with in the past. Death held no real fear for me so why would it? During this period though, my word! I had to change the sheets every night as my body poured with sweat. My wife told me that I screamed out many times, clutching the pillows, even clinging to her and holding my face, eyes closed, inches from hers while I muttered some litany of fear. Thankfully, my doctor granted me a measure of tranquilizers which at the least, kept me still all night. The dreams continued unabated though.
The last dream I had on the matter, they stopped quite suddenly you see, was the most startling and clear that I think I’ve ever experienced. A young woman stood over a fresh tiny grave, tears streaking down her muddy face. Something roared from a nearby forest but she barely flinched. She walked very slowly, her feet shuffling more than lifting, making her way to a cliff edge that had been behind my dream self. Without breaking step she tilted forward and vanished from sight, a loud crack sounding from below a number of seconds later. As I woke, the words “The First” ran through my mind.
If the above doesn’t make me sound crazy, I don’t know what will. As part of my occupational health assessment, I was advised to write all of this down in the hope that it would give me some distance and clarity from the jumble of thoughts going on in my head. I don’t feel it’s all make believe, but why I feel that, I couldn’t say... it’s just a feeling. Maybe she was the first suicide and so has been condemned to walk the earth while humanity still lives here. Is she driving people to their deaths or is she there to help and offer companionship? Does she talk to them in their last moments?
I know one way to find out, but that path definitely isn't for me.