Ad Finem

by Saniya Doshi
Art by Advait Patil
Issue: Ataraxia (Spring 2018)

A flower without its petals is put in shallow focus.

Nora’s Diary: January 1st
I am rich with joy! Abundant with happiness! It is another new year, and everyone is drunk with euphoria. I am still giddy from last night—I didn’t drink (much), but the sweet agony of anticipation and the infectious laughter sent my mind whirling. As the excitement wears off and I settle back into routine, I’m anxious to see what the new year brings.

Nora’s Diary: January 7th
The new year has been kind to me so far. I finally got to see Mama again. I just wish she wouldn’t worry so much about me. Yes, the cancer has come back, but I’m fine. I have her, and Tom, and Becca and Patrick and little Quinn. Just having them with me is enough.

Nora’s Diary: February 9th
My, it has been a while. I’ve just been so busy—Tom and I moved into a new apartment just outside the city, and I love it. It’s so much more peaceful here, and the people are much nicer. I’ve become friends with Marie from across the street. She even asked me to join the book club she runs with some of the other neighborhood ladies. I think I’ll join.

Nora’s Diary: February 12th
I’ve always believed in fate. Some things are just so perfect, how could they not be meant to be? But this … I’m not sure. On the news today, they said that since the new year, no one has died. No death records, no funerals, no … anything, not here in our little community or anywhere else in the world. I can hear people dancing and cheering out in the streets at the news. I’m not sure if I should join them or succumb to the sticky feeling in my stomach that tells me something is horribly wrong.

Nora’s Diary: February 14th
I spent Valentine’s Day in the hospital, going through yet another round of chemo. Tom brought me roses, a dozen of them, and I look to them as the spot of brightness in this otherwise dark place. Even Mama came by to visit. She and Tom are overjoyed—if no one else is dying, it means I won’t either. On the other hand, I feel like I haven’t fully grasped it yet. Since I was diagnosed, I’ve become so used to death lurking in the shadows. To have it disappear so suddenly is … well, it’s peculiar, to say the least.

Nora’s Diary: February 22nd
One thing I find odd is that while no one has died, injuries persist. Broken bones remain shattered, and open wounds never heal. Diseases, even the common cold, linger like unwanted guests. As a result, pain has become stagnant and eternal. The monster of anxiety in my chest thrives off this confusion and eats away at my mind constantly. Surely, this can’t last forever.

Nora’s Diary: March 13th
Becca, Patrick, and Quinn came to visit today. Inevitably, the topic of immortality came up. Patrick suggested that this “situation” might be God’s will, that it might be a good thing after all, but Becca disagrees. I do, too. “God has abandoned us,” I murmured in reply to Patrick. The thing is, I’m not quite sure what possessed me to say that.

Nora’s Diary: April 7th
The celebrations begin! Becca just called me and told me she’s pregnant again! I’m excited, of course, but this got me thinking—with happy couples continually having babies, and no one making space for them on this earth, overpopulation is destined. I want to pretend that this isn’t inevitable and be happy for Becca and Patrick, but the thought keeps gnawing at my mind.

Nora’s Diary: May 30th
As Becca’s stomach swells with new life, Tom proposed that we try for a child, too. We couldn’t before because of my chemotherapy, but it seems that’s no longer an issue. I told Tom that this is not the right time for us, but he brushed me off, blinded by the possibility of our own  baby. I, too, want a child so bad, but not like this. Not now, when one can’t even be sure of death—of staying grounded—anymore.

Nora’s Diary: June 13th
The absence of death makes me wonder what dying truly means. Is it simply the cessation of living? If so, many of us have already died. We go through our routines like zombies, no need to do anything because there’s all the time in the world to do it.

Meanwhile, Tom is still pushing for a baby. I don’t want my child to be born in a world like this, where they are essentially immortal. I want them to know the fleetingness of life, and the pain of death. I want them to know that things aren’t always eternal, and learn to cherish them before they’re gone. Still, I can see the dismayed want in Tom’s eyes whenever I refuse, and it hurts.

Nora’s Diary: June 30th
Tom and I fought about the baby today. He said I’m being selfish, not creating new life when I finally have the chance to. How do I explain to him that I feel like I’m drowning in my own immortality, that a child will make things so much more worse?

Nora’s Diary: August 6th
I haven’t written in ages! I guess I’ll update you—Tom apologized. Things are still tense, but he’s avoided talking about a baby for now.

Meanwhile, Marie from across the street contracted the flu from God knows where. Because her body is frozen in immortality and time, the cures don’t work anymore. Due to all the sicknesses going around, I’ve taken to staying in the house most of the time. Being outside feels dangerous, now.

Nora’s Diary: August 22nd
I’ve given in to Tom’s pleadings. I can’t see him so heartbroken, knowing that I now have eternity to be a mother and am refusing. I don’t think it’s a good idea, but … we’re going to have a baby.

Nora’s Diary: September 1st
I’ve been taking pregnancy tests since the 22nd. This morning, unexpectedly, one came back positive. I left it on the bathroom counter, where Tom would see it. He ran out yelling, swept me up in his arms and kissed me like when we were younger.

I’ve already broken the news to Mama and Becca. I smiled and laughed with them, but inside, my heart was sinking.

Nora’s Diary: September 22nd
When I went to use the restroom this morning, my underwear was stained with red.

After I told Tom, he sat down on the sofa, head in his hands, for a long time. Then he stood up, mustered a smile, and told me we could always try again. Is it bad that I don’t want to try again? My miscarriage was a sign; I know it was. We are not supposed to have a child; not right now. If only Tom could see that.

Nora’s Diary: September 31st
Reality feels like a neverending dream, and I am becoming unhinged. How can it be that death—something that was once inescapable—has simply ceased to exist? I don’t think I can live like this anymore, waiting for death each day like a twisted game of Russian roulette.

Nora’s Diary: October 3rd
There’s news that a woman, Evelyn Chao, has discovered a way to die. A lethal mix of chemicals, injected directly into the heart. A “glitch in the program of immortality,” they call it. There’s buzz about Chao being up for a Nobel prize. What a backwards world we live in now.

Nora’s Diary: October 5th
Death, I learned, is incredibly expensive. People are clamoring for Evelyn Chao’s creation, dubbed “Chao’s Cure,” but it comes with a hefty price tag. Many are not deterred. I checked online, and the waitlist already includes thousands of names—people in pain, people who are sick, who want to escape. After a moment of hesitance, I added my name, too. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I’m tired, diary—tired of living, knowing that this will never end.

Nora’s Diary: October 31st
Yesterday, Tom and I were having dinner with the family when Becca went into labor. Tom drove like a madman to the hospital, while Mama, Patrick, and I tried to keep Becca calm.

We sat anxiously in the waiting room all night while Becca gave birth to a beautiful little boy. Three months premature, he was a tiny little thing, all wrinkly and pink-faced, but so weak they had to put him in an incubator. The doctors said he will survive, and we celebrated with hugs and chimes of congratulations.

Now, back home, when the miracle has worn off, I’m wondering what kind of sick world my nephew will have to live in.

Nora’s Diary: November 30th
I’ve avoided writing this down, but I don’t have anyone to tell and keeping it in is driving me mad. Last week, I got an email. Chao’s Cure has been sent out to hospitals all around the world, and my local hospital contacted me about going forward with the procedure. I’d truthfully forgotten about signing up completely. But … I did it. I set up my appointment for Chao’s Cure. The truth is, I’m not even completely sure why. I just know this is not the world I want to live in any more—a world of famine, of crime, of immortality and waiting. I want my life to have meaning, and for that, I must die.

Nora’s Diary: December 31st
It is currently 11:17 PM. I have a little less than an hour before I will drive myself to the hospital and they will inject me with Chao’s Cure.

After I told Tom, he sat seething for a while before standing and quietly asking me to leave. I reached out to him, to take his hand, but he brushed me off and let his head fall into his hands. In silence, I took the barest of my belongings and stayed in a hotel for a few weeks.

Meanwhile, Becca and Mama have been calling me nonstop. I didn’t answer, and eventually, I took out my SIM card. I emailed them instead, telling them I loved them—really— and to pass it on to Patrick and the kids.

It’s nearing midnight, now. So … I guess this is my end. If anyone ends up finding this, just know this—I am happy. I am content. I am mortal, and I am satisfied.