I once had a full-blown existential crisis because a character died in a Doctor Who book I was reading.
When time begins to skip by tens and my heart rate by twenties, of course the first thing I remember is that I’m mortal.
It’s like fear has been injected into my blood, gathering in the center of my chest, and my heart is burning, and I can feel the lining of my soul ripping outward, bursting my veins open.
“You’re dying,” my own voice says to me, somewhere back below my brain, and my bed is not beneath me anymore. Satan is down there, too, with my voice. He’s taking me away. To hell. How could hell be worse than this? This, for all eternity. I’m already in hell.
I’m opening my bedroom door. There’s an earthquake again. No, wait, no there’s not.
“I think I’m dying.” This time it’s me, my fingers clutching Mom’s arms. “I didn’t mean for this to happen.” It’s taken me several minutes to get these out, though — or several seconds. Maybe I haven’t said it at all. I realize I’m repeating one word over and over and over and over and over and over and over. Trying to complete a thought I never had.
“I don’t think you’re going to die, Em.”
I think Dad’s hand is curling around mine, now, behind Mom’s back where it’s resting.
My eyes are contour lines — pain traveling through them in strings of beads like Christmas lights. I close them and put my fingers over them. Do they feel normal? I don’t know.
I’m holding Oswin. Something is mumbling ceaselessly behind me. I’m afraid I might snap Oswin’s neck because I can’t control the movements of my own body, so I put her down, and I think I’m crying but I can’t feel anything coming down my face, and I’m not making any noises. I’m not wearing my glasses anymore. I think I put them down in Mom and Dad’s room.
“I think I need to sleep,” I’m saying. “No, I don’t think I can sleep.”
A hand, and I’m walking, and I’m laying down, and a body is against my back, it’s Mom, she’s talking, I think. In my mind, things are growing into bulbous shapes, sharp parts shooting out of them, and I can’t stop the movement in my head, I can’t stop anything from happening. I start talking to Mom. In Doctor Who, Craig kept from becoming a Cyberman by clinging to his humanity, by recalling things that mattered. I tell Mom about Devon getting mad during Art. “Am I going to die?” I ask her. “I don’t think so,” she says. “I hope not.” My head is drowning in tears, they’re clogging up my throat — no, I can breathe, I can breathe if I try. What if I don’t try? “I’ll die if I go to sleep,” I tell her. “No, you won’t,” she says. I wish she believed it. I’m not going to die. I’m not going to die. I’m not going to die. But maybe I am. Maybe I am. I ask Mom if I’m going to heaven, and she says I will if I believe Jesus is my Savior. I believe in Jesus. I just don’t like him very much. I hate him. Will he forgive me for that?
I won’t die if I think about Azaria, and Karina, and Marie and Rachel and John Barrowman. John Barrowman. John Barrowman. “I want to be with John Barrowman,” I tell Mom. “You don’t want to meet him now,” she says, “or you’ll forget.”