The soil is damp and cool beneath you. Far above you, green leaves are swaying in the breeze. You cannot move as you are very tired. Maybe you need to rest.
Just a little longer then. Shadows cross your body and pass over your eyes as the sun makes its way across the sky. Soon it will be nightfall and time to drift away.
You’re a night owl, you cannot sleep yet. The darkness brings in the cold that sinks down to your bones. The animals are waking up. Will you sleep before they find you?
Your skin becomes sallow where it faces the sky and heavy where it meets the earth. In your stagnation, gravity smugly steps in where you had fought it for so long.
Tonight you were lucky. Maybe there was too much life still radiating out of you. But now the air and the earth and your body are in equilibrium. Your inability to move from your drowsiness is heightened by the stiffness that crept into you.
Your stomach aches. There’s a small tickle on your finger as a fly lands on you. If only you could swat it away.
Black eyes look into yours. It may be the circumstances, but you feel as if they understand. The crow hops off of your face and onto your chest, examining you for a perfect spot. She doesn’t stay long but the sweeping of her feathers across your skin fills you with a premonition that you’ll meet again.
Another night. Your insides are screaming but your mouth is still clamped shut. The sky is clear, and through the break in the trees you watch the crescent moon pass over you, watching you. In your newfound silence, you become aware of the distance and void between the two of you. Diana. A mythos you knew as a child returns to you all at once. You wonder if the sudden sweeping in of nostalgia happens to everyone when they get to where you are. As the moon kisses the trees, threatening to soon disappear from view, you send a prayer for her to stay.
“Diana, I am afraid.”
“I cannot stay and break my orbit,” you feel as if she responds. “But you may come with me, you know.”
Like the slow melting of ice, your body begins to release. With the stiffness gone, the ground feels more like a bed you are cradled in than firm, unyielding earth.
It’s still hours before dawn and you hear small footsteps approaching. Something warm and furry bumps into your hand, sniffing. A fox’s head, and you amuse yourself thinking it’s as if you’re petting him. You silently invite him in, perhaps somehow he hears you.
You’re still hanging on. Different areas of your body squirm as the maggots hatch. It doesn’t bother you, you’re still preoccupied with the war inside your body.
Not far off from a drooling and snotting infant, and just as helpless, you begin to ooze. The crow watches from a branch, choosing not to partake today.
The skin over your stomach is taught, straining. You dread the outcome of this. You stop watching the sky to focus on the pain, obviously not closing your eyes, but instead they seem to fog over in darkness.
You’ve been bloated before but this... this is something else. You feel like you are going to burst and you just as well may. For once it was not something you ate, but just what you are.
The sun arcs overhead bringing you warmth as if you had instead transformed into a lizard. Your skin blisters under its rays but you do not realize the welts are coming from within. Your abdomen is about to pop.
It is strange to lose the integrity of your body, all that was ever constant since you were born. Though in the time between conception and birth, you suppose you warped and shifted just as you are now. But it was a construction, not a destruction.
Your eyes are being eaten away. You start losing vision as they break down. Your perception of your surroundings becomes instead something incorporeal. You fear you’re drifting away from your body.
Your loose, dry black skin has rendered you unrecognizable. But your crow friend remembers you. She watches over you, perhaps in a thank you for becoming a part of her body, and you appreciate her prolonging the life of your body in the world.
You feel relieved you cannot see your body, you know you look as putrid as you feel.
The crow picks at the leftovers, scratching bone with her beak. She and the fox have made quick work of you along with an array of passing wildlife. You wonder how it compares to the time it takes to decay encased in wood. It’s just a curiosity, as you’re glad to have filled some stomachs.
Diana grows and shrinks, passing you by and shaking her head sadly each time. You could join her still.
This began mid-spring, but it must now be summer. As the heat and humidity increase, you feel ever more hollow.
At night you hear a cry, desperate and piercing. Despite your inability to be harmed, fear swells within your emptied chest. The fox, wandering near your feet, comes to attention. Though it is hard to reach into your memory these days, you feel something faint and reach out to it. The fox scurries off, towards the call. A vixen. You hope your friend has a successful courtship.
Apart from the flora you’ve killed with your seeping, you’re surrounded by lush green as the heat of summer begins to creep in. Between the insects and frogs at night and the birds during the day, there is no moment of silence. How quaint to be surrounded by so much life, considering the situation.
Other scavengers flock to you. You suppose you may never see a human again, but you’ve looked into more knowing sympathetic eyes these past few.... Days? Weeks? Than you did in your life.
Slowly your body returns to the earth. You know between the animals and the soil, you will do good for the life around your resting place.
In the periphery you know there are deer in these woods, though they will not approach you. They have no need to and you admit you must be a fearful sight to behold. The fact that you have not decided to rest yet probably causes a haunting around your bed of soil.
The long days and warm nights are welcome to you. With all your blood dried up, you need the sun to convince yourself you can feel warmth again.
Your seeping flesh has created a halo of death around you, nothing grows in the earth surrounding your body. A lifeless aura, a void-like speck on a bustling planet.
Some nights you sing to Diana. Soundlessly, of course. Sometimes though an owl or frog may pick up your hymn and pass it along for you. You watch her hazily surrounded by fireflies.
The pain of exposed flesh is almost pleasant compared to your new sensation of exposed bone. Your nervous system broke down so long ago but you believe you are perceiving some kind of existential horror on your spirit. Your body is your body after all.
The leaves are beginning to change, and somehow this is relieving to you. Being surrounded by so much life began to feel just like insult added to injury (though that figure of speech is quite an understatement here.)
The fox hops over you on his mission for... a meal perhaps? He must search elsewhere as you can no longer provide. He still frequents your resting place, as any old friend would do.
The wildlife scrambles frantically these days, in their autumnal preparations. And you? Holding still is an oppressive weight upon you. Time passes and you cling to it, but are nevertheless left behind.
Branches are barren around you, you feel barren too.
One day feels different. You believe it is a singular evening but time is a little hazy to you lately. You feel as if there is something like you, not so far off. Too far to reach but close enough to register. It fades again, and you do not.
Why are you still here?
Sometimes you are covered in leaves before they blow away in the fall wind. Like a blanket you throw off and pull over yourself on a restless night. You suppose it is cold but you’ve been cold for so long anyway.
With a pang you remember what this season means. You are so alone. “Diana I am woeful to leave an empty seat at so many tables and pass these months in my rot.”
Diana doesn’t answer you anymore.
Mornings pass with frost. You remember stories of beings like you passing through walls and inhabiting dolls. You just lie, staring at the blue.
The woods are so quiet now. They are all sleeping, the thing you continue to refuse to do.
You watch the first snowfall. It is heavy and the moonlight reflects off the new blanket, illuminating the empty trees. The sight is surreal, and nothing until now has looked surreal since you entered this state. Everything has been so real, too real. You almost forget. Life remains so normal and undistinguished, the occasional aura of something Other passed when you did. Now everything is just as it seems. Everything but you.
Winter is silent.
Freezing and thawing cracks your bones and you feel collapse. Sometimes the snow covers your face and you remember the dangers of avalanches and how ironically your lack of breath would make you better able to survive one. These hypotheticals are useless to you, but they pass the time.
What’s remaining of your frame has gone through all the seasons. You have waited a very long time now. Generations of insects have called you home. Have you seen and known everything you wanted?
You know you are about to have completed one cycle this way. The crow returns to you, perching. She does not stay long.
The trees are budding so it must be spring. To your surprise, growth is most vibrant around you. Plants entangle themselves with you, joyfully lapping up what melted away from you into the soil.
The moon and sun pass so quickly overhead. Days seem to be half as long as they used to be. Time passed quicker as you got older, but now time passes with a speed that scares you.
You would like a flower to grow from the cavity of your ribcage. You know it is a cliche image, but you believe you deserve some cliche. After all, when will you have another opportunity? Your narrative ended long ago.
Earth gathers on you as you wait, frozen, as the world passes. It creeps up like a blanket being knit around you. Soon you will be tucked in gently.
You’re encased. The sky and moon and trees are blocked away by several inches of soil. Part of you gives up hope you will be found but another part wonders the people you knew are gone too.
Undoubtedly, the world has forgotten you. Perhaps there are traces of you recorded, but there is no memory except what feeds this dirt.
You sense the turning of the seasons through quick shifts in temperature, as they fade into each other remarkably fast now.
There’s some kind of earthly hum in the underground, like an ancient hymn in the breath of the planet. You suppose eventually you could become ancient, if you stay awake long enough.
One day your name slips away from you, it was there one moment and gone the next.
Deep underground. The pressure is immense and you think about fossils and petroleum. How long has it been?
Around you is rocky and solidly packed. If any of your bones survived, perhaps the shape of you will be uncovered one day and put on display. Some part of you would rather stay in the earth.
You have been less than dust for some time now.
A root system has taken up residence in your phantom body. You entertain yourself for sometime considering them new veins. Imagine to have been born a plant. Although, perhaps that is what you are doing at this very moment.
It does not last. As quickly as it came it rots away. Then another. Then another. From deeply long ago you recall the length of tree life. Yet this was only a moment to you.
Something burrows through the soil that you don’t recognize. The first time is a surprise, but it becomes commonplace. Eventually every lifeform you see is unfamiliar.
You could swear it is warmer. You know you are probably quite deep into the earth but you do not think the warmth is coming from within the planet.
Are there any others who have yet to leave? You try to reach out to find anyone but you cannot stretch very far. Odd that you are bound to a place that contains no more traces of your form.
You no longer remember what you were, or what there was before your union with the dirt. Your only indication of up and down is the position of your "body" as your ability to perceive gravity slipped away.
Insects no longer crawl through the dirt. No worms. No burrowing animals. How long has it been since you saw a life? A sudden sinking feeling racks through your spirit. What is left up there? Is it all gone?
There is darkness, warmth, silence, and nothing else.
It really is much warmer. In fact it’s hot. It’s so hot. Why is it so hot?
The earth surrounding you scorches. Things begin to melt. If anything was left of you before, it certainly isn’t now.
What was solid now flows hot above you. You think this may be similar to when the earth began, but knowledge itself slips from you slowly. Truly the molten movement rushes past faster than you can understand. Its speed almost makes it stand still, time hurdles by you.
All above you turns to vapor and is stripped away. Then all below. When the layers are lifted from you, freeing your sight, you see the sun. It is all you see.
It is so very bright, you cannot perceive anything. There must be nothing left now.
It rages and does not end. There is nothing else.
You have been suspended in these fires longer than you were ever on your earth.
You realize the moon must also have been torn apart. You wish you could have been there for her final moments. You hadn’t known to say goodbye.
And yet quickly it recedes, the inferno collapsing into itself. It leaves you in nothing. With no earth beneath you and you yourself formless, you are locked in a neverending stare with the sun as it shrinks.
Except it does end. The sun is moving on and you are not going with it. You are tied to this spot in the void.
The planets pass by as they follow their star into the infinite expanses. You do not know their names anymore.
Everything is gone. Your body is so far gone you wonder if it ever existed. You lost your planet not as long ago but time has stretched so long you feel no difference between an hour or a thousand years. The very last star and its solar system drift past you, light years per second in your warped perception.
That’s it. Your galaxy has left you behind. You are alone in this void tied to a single point that no longer has meaning. You could wait longer, but waiting a moment and waiting forever are the same. You must rest now.