Excerpt from my novel “The Paisley Soul of a Stricken Man (warning may contain time-travel)”
FOR all I tell myself that my story is about redemption, love and saving life, it sometimes feels that the whole reason for the portal is somehow linked to suicide, it has been my ever present companion through all of my experiences. It sits patiently in the corner, neither mean nor kind, loving or cold, it just sits waiting. Non-judgemental, non-calculating just present, always present. Suicide does not dress in black nor does its face look skeletal, suicide looks, dresses and acts like you and me because it is you and me, at least in some small way.
People throughout history have tried to define suicide, to understand what can make a human willingly end their own life. But like my attempts at the beginning of this text to define the rules of time-travel, it is a futile task. Suicide is ineffable and as transient as the autumn leaves. According to the World Health Organization by 2020 approximately 1.53 million people will commit suicide, this represents one death every 20 seconds. When you think about it in these stark terms, it is staggering, as impossible to comprehend as the paradoxes of time-travel.
I remembered reading For Whom the Bell Tolls at school and finding the characters unlikable in some way I could never quite explain, much to the frustration of my English teacher Mrs Joseph who insisted she knew the intent of the author and the true meaning of every text ever written. Ernest Hemingway seemed to link suicide with weakness and I carried around this idea along with those unlikable characters for a long time. I was a young Robert Jordan, whose inner strength could conquer such trifling challenges such as depression, a heroic figure who could shout “ha pull yourself together man and have another drink, there is no time for feeling sorry for yourselves”.
I am by no means alone in misunderstanding suicide and characterising it is a weakness. I think it may be ingrained in the very soil of our souls. We cannot look it in the face so it is easier to call it names from a far, to harden ourselves to those afflicted by it. But whether your view is scientific, religious, caring or unsympathetic we all fail to understand why it happens and why we cannot stop it. We cannot describe how it makes us feel when we see a loved one do it, the betrayal, the loss, the waste too huge to grapple with. I once watched a documentary where some Harvard university professor said that if you put barriers up on a high bridge then the amount of people jumping off the bridge to kill themselves would be dramatically reduced but even more significantly the numbers of people jumping at another bridge would not increase. His theory was that you could restrict people’s means of killing themselves and if you did this you could reduce suicidal behaviour. This idea intrigued me for a while and with my new found ability to travel through time I became preoccupied with the idea that I could restrict her access to the means of killing herself.
Number 4 was the worst, and even though I made sure it never happened with a re-set, for me it will always have happened and it will forever haunt me, playing out in my mind over and over again. Maybe over time it will seem like a forgotten trauma, lost in the mists of time but it doesn’t feel like that, it seems as real as when I first saw it.
A small dot descending from the top of a multi-story car park, the dot getting bigger and then realising with horror that it is not a dot but a person. Their person shape emerging from a blur of incomprehension but then the understanding comes and then the sickening realisation of what is going to happen.
No amount of time-travel could’ve stopped this perfectly terrible moment. The moment when you not only realise that the dot is a person but you realise that the person is someone you know and love. There is no greater helplessness than this, there is no greater pain or shock I have felt as when I saw the person who brought me into the world have their life extinguished so violently. My whole life at that moment became void of hope, my dreams stained in the crimson colours and shattered bones of mortal lives.
“I’m sorry sir, you can’t cross the line.”
But I had already crossed too many lines in this life and in all my others. I managed to utter something unintelligible in return and I am informed later that day by the Officer in Charge that I roughly shoved the police officer aside and ran screaming to my dear mother, my forever lost Mummy, who I cannot seem to get back, however hard I try.
Copyright John de Gruyther 2016