The original idea for the "I Died" vignette belongs to that god of short stories: the one, the only, the superlative Harlan Ellison. I offer these vignettes, most of them particular only to my own life and of no significance whatsoever. On another note, the first and third settings are based on reality; on October 15, 1994, I did indeed go downtown with five friends, for Homecoming; the night before the graduation breakfast at our high school, I and two others did indeed climb to the top of our domed gym to adorn it with a large black plastic "95" (the mannequin never came to fruition, a victim of apathy and insufficient resources). The twelth is also grounded in reality; March 19 is indeed the birthday of my best friend, whom I love dearly. And so, allow me to share with you

How I Died

"Human beings are afraid of dying. They are always running after something: money, honor, pleasure. But if you had to die now, what would you want?"
--Taisen Deshimaru
I died on October 15, 1994, when the car in which I and five friends were driving downtown plowed into the median. Ironically, the song we were listening to was the Act One Finale from Les Miserables--"One more day." Sitting in the middle seat without a seat belt, I was flung forward into the cab of the Jeep Cherokee and plunged into the windshield. Seat backs and air bags saved the other occupants of the car.

I died on December 16, 1994, driving home from school in my rusty old Ford Escort on Lake Avenue. The sun had barely set when an ill timed yellow light sent the car next to me, a beat up Chevy Impala with more miles on it than an average airplane, swerving on the ice into my lane--causing my car in turn to swerve directly into the path of an oncoming Mack truck.

I died on the night of June 1, 1995, slipping off the top of the one-story high Titan Dome of Glenbrook South as two friends and I were erecting, as a senior prank, a large mannequin holding a giant banner bearing the words "Class of '95 Forever." After a warning call from our lookout stationed on Pfingsten Avenue, we jumped off the dome in preparation to hightail it to the pre-planned escape route. I slipped shortly before I flopped over the side, flipped a half turn in the air, and came down on my top vertebrae. The school used the opportunity to publish a tasteless article on the dangers of vandalism; my friends used this opportunity in turn to publish a scathing attack on the middle-class moralities which could exploit death in such a manner.

I died on August 31, 1995, when the plane in which I was flying to Cambridge, Massachusetts, experienced a temporary depressurization. The oxygen mask for my seat malfunctioned, and I died of asphyxiation just before the surprised flight attendant, whose knowledge of first aid and resuscitation was confined to coffee, tea, or milk, managed to pry the panel off the broken oxygen system. Lawsuits raged for five years as different lawyers blamed different companies for the equipment failure. In the end, it made no difference at all to me.

I died on April 1, 1996, when carbon monoxide fumes overwhelmed an entire floorful of MIT students in our poorly constructed dormitory. Only two students on the floor, both up at five in the morning playing Internet "Doom IV," escaped; I had been studying calculus with a friend when we had both fallen asleep over our papers. Quite ironically, we had both already willed our bodies to the MIT laboratories, and neither of our cadavers had to be transported farther than down two hallways and a small stretch of lawn.

I died on December 21, 1997, when the pro-Democracy demonstration in which I had been marching was viciously repressed by the newly hard-line Hong Kong Communist government. The Hong Kong University students never recognized me in their official memorial plaque in the Hong Kong University foyer; I was a foreigner, not one of them. The soldier who shot me in the leg while I was holding up the third attempt at a plaster-of-Paris statue of liberty died the same night when my brother burned down his barracks with a makeshift Molotov cocktail.

I died on December 31, 1999, when I foolishly drove down Fifth Avenue after a particularly wild 'Millennium' party. Heavily drunk on a few shots, I careened into the window of a boutique; the air bag malfunctioned--I hadn't even been wearing my seat belt. Two friends with me, both heavily drunk, were also killed.

I died on June 3, 2001, two days after having married the girl I had pursued since high school. En route to Stratford-on-the-Avon, our rented Citroen convertible plunged off a beautiful green English cliff after being run off the road by a drunken anarchist driving a rusty old Porsche. The car crashed down five yards onto a steep ledge; while pulling my wife from the wreck, the rocks on which I were standing shifted and I fell thirty yards further to my death. My wife survived to write a wildly successful book about the experience.

I died on September 23, 2007, when--while addressing the board of trustees of Hewlett-Packard in my usual capacity as CEO--a tragic heart attack abruptly cut short what Time magazine had called, just the week before, "the most promising career since Ragged Dick." Under my replacement, an unscrupulous businessman with no clue about technology, Hewlett-Packard lost its decades-long reputation for technological advancement and legendary reliability. Texas Instruments would eventually execute a hostile takeover, as the new CEO fretted about employee self-esteem programs.

I died on October 31, 2017, wearing an "Anamaniacs" costume (posing as Brain from Pinky and the Brain), when one of the children I was escorting on a trick-or-treat excursion ran out into the street. The car which would have hit the six-year-old hit me instead, leaving me in a sickbed and a coma for three weeks, by which time the hospital, under the terms of my living will, switched off the tubing which was keeping my already derelict body functioning.

I died on December 25, 2027, when the house in which I, my wife, and my three children lived burned to the ground. The Christmas tree we had put up a week before finally short-circuited itself; our freshly painted living room walls let off fumes which killed most of the family while we were asleep. My seventeen-year-old daughter Caitlin escaped out her window, carrying with her nothing but a small brown Gund bear I had given her when she was eight.

I died on March 19, 2037, coming home from having celebrated the sixtieth birthday of my best friend. As I walked from the parking garage to my apartment in Pasadena, three burglars surprised me, stole my wallet and Rolex watch, and--discovering the computer uplink on my watch which had been assiduously sending out a silent alarm all the while--stabbed me in the back with a k-bar before escaping by foot. Two were later caught; the third was never found.

I died on November 18, 2047, sailing on the North Sea on my annual three-week paid vacation. My boat ran into an uncharted sand bar, which tore a gaping hole in its side and caused it to sink just minutes later. I swam for two hours before drowning in sheer exhaustion; it was not a pleasant death. The wax dummy in the coffin did not resemble me in the least.

I died on February 14, 2057, as a nuclear meltdown in the super large-scale power plant three miles from my condominium vaporized the surrounding countryside for five miles and released enough toxic radiation to condemn the entire city for thirty years; the "worst peacetime disaster in recorded history" was only the more tragic because the chief engineer tending the plant at the time of the meltdown was my eldest son.

I died on July 26, 2067, at the ripe old age of ninety. I was neither invalid nor senile; I was not in a hospital or a nursing home. I was tending my garden, taking quite for granted another ten years of life, when a squirrel hopped across the yard, studiously grabbed an acorn from under a large oak tree, and scurried away in surprise when the giant bipedal creature just yards away fell over, victim to a quick and painless cerebral hemorrhage.

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