Monitoring: Noam Sitz
Haifa, Haifa District, Israel
6:35 p.m. Israel Standard Time
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013
16:35 Coordinated Universal Time
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013
This is death: the country that every person is traveling to, one second at a time. Like an event horizon, it is a boundary past which no one returns from. There is no place for them to return from.
Death is very much on Noam’s mind right now, and it colors everything that he sees. Out of the corner of his eye is the nurse, standing beside the door like the destroying angel. Her eyes, he thinks, are the brown of graveyard earth, and her painted fingernails the blue of heaven. She says nothing to him, but, uncharacteristically, both for herself and for a destroying angel, she is willing to give him a few moments more.
“Grandfather,” he mutters. It is the first thing that he has managed to say since he came here. His grandfather has yet to wake, and Noam wonders if he should come back another day. Can he take the chance that his grandfather will be alive tomorrow?
This is death: the unrelenting clock whose tick, tick, ticking is the standard against which one may measure the activities of life. Every breath taken is a step toward death, and finally the last breath is taken and another person falls into the hungry pit. In this way, every 1.8 seconds another human life is extinguished, never to breathe or make art again.
A human male born in Israel in the year 1950 could expect to live for about sixty-nine years. At this point in time he would have four years left to him, a little over a hundred and twenty-six million seconds, and with every one of them another person dies until finally he at least becomes, just once, the tick to someone else’s unrelenting clock.
Just a few hours ago, something awoke in Noam. He doesn’t know if it has always been in him, dormant like a seed, or if it was placed there at that moment. Either way, he didn’t question the knowledge that came with this awakening: with a touch, he can pull another person’s mind into his own. Noam isn’t sure what will happen to the body, but that has to be an academic question next to what he can do. He can save the dying. Everything else is irrelevant in comparison.
Blessed is God, the true judge, he thinks. In that moment he believes again–and then it is gone. There is no justice and there is no judge. Whatever force or being caused him to have this power, it is either uncaring or cruel. If there were any benefactor responsible for his empowerment, then it would have done more: People are dying faster than he can touch them, they are dying all over the world, and if there is no way to extend his own life then this is merely a stopgap measure.
It is not enough. Death is the annihilation of value-seekers and value-makers, and so of value itself. More than this, though, Noam sees, it is the end of time. Second by second, until there are no seconds left in a life, until the universe runs down cold and empty.
“Time to go,” says the destroying angel. Her expression is severe, but her voice sympathetic.
No, he thinks. There is no time. In a better world, he would have infinite tomorrows on which he could depend. He could put off the act, wait until his grandfather woke and he could ask for consent. So far as he knows, there is no way to undo this. If he is committing some sort of atrocity, if his grandfather would have preferred annihilation to seventy years of living behind someone else’s eyes, then he will have to live with that, and the constant reminder of it, until he himself dies.
For a moment, he trembles, his fingers intertwined in each other, and then he stops himself. There is no certainty on this side of death, and even inaction is a choice. I must choose one way or another, he thinks. So he chooses a future with twenty thousand more tomorrows for his grandfather. A holding action against death.
It is not enough, but it will have to do.
The destroying angel walks toward him from the doorway, and puts her hand on his shoulder. “It’s getting late,” she says more forcefully. “You should go home.” In his thoughts, Noam rebukes death as he reaches out his hand to touch his grandfather’s arm.
Before Noam even takes his hand away, he can feel… a presence. It’s not a physical feeling, not anything he could describe with words like warmth or weight or pressure. But it has some aspects of all three, entirely within the confines of his mind.
If he had to put the sensation into words, they would be, Someone else is here.
He senses confusion, not his own and hears, inside his head, an errant thought that doesn’t belong to him: Is this heaven? No, it’s the hospital…
The nurse is still fussing over him; she hasn’t noticed anything is different. But Noam is distracted by the newness and strangeness of his grandfather’s consciousness held flush against his own thoughts, and the outer world seems to fade. He doesn’t resist as she leads him out of the room, offers to call a taxi, and—when he doesn’t respond—calls one.
It takes a moment before he is able to gather himself, unable to stop the tears running down his cheeks.
Grandfather, can you hear me? he thinks.
Surprise cuts through the confusion and fear.
It’s Noam, he continues. I saved you, Grandfather. He pauses. Are you in pain?
Noam? No, I feel better than I have in ages. What happened What did you do?
Noam’s thoughts explain for him, and his Grandfather replies.
I would not have believed it, if it wasn’t happening right now. Oh, child, I don’t know from where this came, but it is a true miracle. Sh’ma Yisra’eil Adonai Eloheinu Adonai echad!
And then, a warm glow of love.