Archive for October 5th, 2009

A recent Facebook app offers to tell you how you’re going to die. Unfortunately, it is nothing more than a fortune-telling application. That seems a wasted opportunity to me – not that I expect any predictive accuracy from such a thing, but more personalized answers might tell you a bit about your character and habits.

So, in that spirit, here’s a list of the ways I might expect to die:

I will die at 64, after going on a long jog on a cold and rainy day in late October. Like I always do, I failed to notice that summer was ending and I went out dressed in only shorts and a singlet. Needless to say, I was soaked and shivering when I returned three hours later, but I no longer had the physical strength to fight the fever that sent me immediately to bed.

I will die at 78, senile and in a nursing home. The nurses thought I was cheerful enough, even if I talked too fast and was ungodly energetic for a person of my age.

I will die at 92 while on an exercise bike. I might have been all right if I had stopped when the first pains hit my chest, or called the gym attendant over. But I always was stubborn about finishing my intervals when exercising, and I still had another ninety seconds to go.

At 57, I am out for a late night walk when a couple of teenagers pull a gun on me and demand my money. Unfortunately, I am not carrying any money, and my determination not to be a victim makes me try to stand up to them verbally. The trouble is, what I really needed to do was to stand up to them physically and keep my mouth shut.

I will die at 81, of no particular cause except that every organ in my body is worn out. Since I maintained a remarkably heavy exercise program for a person of my age, I was deeply asleep at the time, dreaming of high school, and felt no pain whatsoever.

I will die in bed at the age of 109. I was smiling, because I had filled the promise I had made to myself when I was 9 of living to see Canada’s bi-centennial. Of course, there wasn’t much left of the environment by then, and the country had long ago proved ungovernable, but I was pleased all the same.

I will die at 61, choking on a piece of meat that I tried to swallow too fast. My last thought is how Earl Godwin died the same way in 11th century England, and of how at least nobody can draw a moral from my death the way they tried to do with his.

When I am 86, I am found at the keyboard of my computer, finishing my sixth novel. I was very late in publishing, but my small output of fiction enjoys minor cult status for a few decades before being forgotten then rediscovered a couple of centuries later.

I die at the age of 4,365 due to a clerical error that delayed the transfer of my consciousness to its newest artificial brain. It would have been my 134th transfer, counting clone bodies and temporary holding tanks. My last words are, “What’s next?”

Okay, maybe I am whistling past the graveyard with these scenarios. The truth is, like many people, I don’t really believe in a world without me. So, regardless of whether Death is Terry Pratchett’s skeleton or Neil Gaiman’s Goth chick, I’m going to be surprised when we finally meet.

But, should Death try to schedule an appointment, I plan on being busy with something else, no matter how old I am. And that, I think, tells more about me than any scenario I can imagine.

(With an acknowledgement to Harlan Ellison)

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