Blessed Shall Be Thy Demise
A society in which Death is anticipated, glorified, and celebrated. On a Friday afternoon, East Hampton enters his house adorned in party decorations.
Black and white balloons are swarming his house. There are figures of skeletons dancing on his lawn and fake blood splattered in deep crimson on the white brick wall of his home that had been him and his family’s for more than 20 years. All his life, he had worked the shit out of himself to ensure as much financial support as possible for their daily survival, feed his sweet little child, please his lovely wife and prepare for death to arrive at his doorstep.
Ah, death. Beautiful death. Toxic, effacing and asphyxiating, yet beautiful nonetheless. The most anticipated event of one’s lifetime, and the point where one’s bliss of the highest significance sees its zenith. It is worthy of celebration, the most lavish kind.
East Hampton pulls the door open and flinches when the sound of champagne bottles being popped assails the placidity which had settled itself down within his heart. Gregarious guffaw reverberates around his home. He isn’t startled, but a little numb. Still, he puts on a wide smile and hugs his old friend who has opened her arms wide for him.
“Congratulations, East!” Frida cackles as she taps his back proudly. “You must be excited.”
“Thanks, Frid. It’s an honorable day, of course.”
“Well we were trying to surprise you, but you don’t seem surprised at all!” A hint of disappointment can be detected in her tone.
“It’s a special day, so I can’t say I wasn’t expecting some kind of a surprise party. Sorry if I offended you all,” he waves his hand at the guests each holding a bottle of fizzling champagne in their hands. He lets out a hearty laugh and they all reciprocate the good-hearted laughter.
“Oh, East, dear,” the familiar voice of his beloved wife spins him around. Deirdre darts up to him and wraps her dainty arms around his neck, giggling with evident merry air hanging about her. East gently squeezes her once in his bosom and then grabbing both sides of her flushed cheeks, pulls her into a short, affectionate kiss. The crowd around them erupts into oh’s and aw’s which the two relish with a content smile on their lips. “You arrived just in time,” she whispers.
East checks his wristwatch. It reads 7:35pm. So there’s only five minutes left before the designated time. His heart beats wildly against his ribcage and an incomprehensible sensation snakes around in his empty stomach. What is this feeling? East shakes it off; it must be just excessive happiness that his heart cannot possibly process. After all, this is a special moment for him.
“Come on, East. There’s no time,” his frail old aunt tugs at his sleeves and urges him further into the house. There are black balloons and banners even inside his home; they must have put in considerable work for this memorable event while he was off at work.
‘Blessed Shall Be Thy Demise’
Every banner has the same slogan printed in fancy italics. Something twists in his heart. It doesn’t feel right, but he carries on.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for such a long time, East,” Deirdre chitters beside him, hanging onto his arm and breathing in his scent as she rubs her small face into the fabric of his black suit.
“What a blessing!” Frida sighs behind him. East chooses to neglect the comment because it doesn’t sound like she expects an answer.
And, there is a voice in the back of his head that denies it. A tiny, infinitesimal traces of an echoing voice scrubs his neurons and sends an uncanny susurrus of denial down his spine. East shudders for a moment, nearly stumbling on his own feet.
Deirdre’s expression suddenly changes. “What’s wrong, honey?”
“Nothing,” he answers. But there is a lump he cannot get rid of in his throat.
Yet they walk on. Walk on until they open the back door and step into the backyard. It is a sultry evening, the sun barely hanging above the line of great mountains decorating the orange horizon. People chatter in excitement behind him.
“Why, it’s 7:38!” his friend, Gerard, exclaims. East turns around to face him and nods. But his expression is rigid for some reason. He couldn’t smile even if he wanted to. East faces forward again before Gerard notices. He is afraid. He cannot tell what this exotic feeling is.
Before him, a child sits. Not any child. His child. His baby boy, his beloved son, West. And he has a gun in his hands, ready to fire. The safety is off. East frowns but no one can see his expression as West is closing his eyes and the people are crowded behind his back. Deirdre weeps out of uncontrollable elation and leans on his shoulder as she wipes away her tears.
“Stand back, now, Deirdre. It’s nearly time,” Deirdre’s mother tenderly calls her daughter. True. It is East and West’s personal moment, though displayed in front of a dozen. This is a designated death, designated fate ever since the day he received his statement the moment of his birth.
The giant clock on the clock tower behind West hits 7:39. East’s breath hitches. There is less than one minute left.
Wait, something is off.
This isn’t right.
Why are we celebrating death?
Why are we glorifying the eternal termination of a priceless life that was crafted with infinite love and care?
What is wrong with this phenomenon?
What is wrong with them?
Doubt attacks his soul and penetrates his heart. He finally understands what this feeling is. He finally understands what is niggling at his conscience. It is doubt, no, it is grief. A heart-wrenching, tear-ripping, brain-shattering grief. Misery plummets into his mind from the above and makes his legs wobble. He cannot do this. He cannot take this. This is a special moment for him, but there is no spare room in his heart to appreciate how amazing and special this is for him. He doesn’t want to do this.
“…I can’t,” he suddenly breathes out in a broken voice. It is barely audible. There is a momentary silence vibrating in the air.
“What are you talking about?”
“What did he say?”
“How could you?”
“Is he out of his mind?”
“Take the gun from the boy and shoot!”
As expected, a ruckus ensues. People’s arms harshly grip his shoulders, hands and neck. They turn horrendously hostile in mere seconds, but East only sheds tears. He sheds tears, unable to control his burning emotions that sear his skin to the bones and all the way to his veins. The blood rushing in his blood vessels feels like lethal acid running and deteriorating. Still he cannot move.
“What the hell are you doing?” Deirdre slaps him in the face. “DO IT, BASTARD!”
They force him to take the gun from West’s hand. They lock his index finger on the trigger, and forces his arm up.
“I don’t! I don’t want to! Don’t make me!” he wails and wails, but they are stronger.
“Shut up! You’re ruining a perfectly perfect day!” comes back their malicious response.
“Please don’t make me! Please---,” his pleading, engulfed in inexplicable sorrow, gets muted as a hand is clasped over his mouth. East thrashes in panic but also in vain. He cannot do this. He cannot celebrate death. He’s a mere businessman, who had worked his ass off all his life to gather money, feed his child, and please his lovely wife. He doesn’t deserve this, but he must.
The clock hits 7:40.
So it happens.
A cold body falls to the ground. The blunt thump resounds softly in the backyard, and a silence visits. No one speaks. A wave of shock, be it from bliss or sadness, blows them all.
West Hampton is dead.