The original idea for the "I Died" vignette belongs to that god
of short stories: the one, the only, the superlative
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
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
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
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
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.
total accesses since 2:00pm February 4, 1996.