If You're Gonna Die, Die With Style
I am Li Shen, female, 23. It’s been one year and 13 days since I’ve died.
That’s right, you didn’t misread that. What I’m saying is that I’ve been dead for more than a year.
One year ago, I was just a very ordinary schizophrenia patient staying at a psychiatric hospital. Today, one year later, I was another kind of thing.
Calling me a bloody witch wouldn’t be undue. Like the sexy, flirty enchantresses in the online games that guys liked playing, my blood-red, floor-length dress perfectly outlined my figure. The long, red skirt flowed down to my ankles, swaying every which way as I moved. There was always a pair of red, 10cm heels on my feet, but still, I was able to run effortlessly under the night sky. Even without any wind, my red, wavy hair danced behind me.
On nights like these, I often ran through the streets, like an out of control cheetah. Sometimes, when I was very fast, it looked like a streak of red light flying by.
I’d grown used to using this type of passionate, wild running. Every night, I used this seemingly cruel yet beautiful method to release all the stifling feelings pressing down on me. Even though I wanted to escape, I’ve been unable to make sense of it all. But after a year in this place, deep down, I knew that I was no longer human. I might not be any kind of creature for that matter, not even the ones that only existed in myths and stories. I’d simply become a lonely, misty presence.
Every time I recalled that, a trace of helplessness and sadness passed over me.
On this day, as on days before, I ran crazily through the dark streets of the city. But in my mind, I couldn’t help reflecting back on the scene one year ago, when I first arrived here.
One year ago, I was an ordinary third-year college student. If I had to give a reason for how I was different from everyone else, then it would be that I suffered from double identity schizophrenia. Though my personality had always been a bit out of the ordinary, my mental illness wasn’t very serious. There were times when I was a bit strange, a bit obsessive-compulsive, or slightly more emotional than others, but these things didn’t greatly affect my day to day life.
But one day, this illness that I’d mostly left on its own, suddenly turned my world upside down, like an evildoer who’d been plotting away in the dark.
That day, through whatever stimulus, my second identity suddenly erupted. In just one night, my person was taken over by this other identity, and I plunged a knife into the chest of a fourth-year student that I’d been crushing on for many years. Regarding what happened before and after the incident, I don’t remember a thing. All I knew was that right after the knife in my hand stabbed my senior, I fainted. When I regained consciousness, I was lying down inside a psychiatric hospital.
My doctor was an explosively handsome biracial man, Chinese and American mixed though his features were a bit more Chinese. His hair was black, and his eyes weren’t entirely blue, but because he was mixed, he still stood out against other people. As I admired his appearance, he told me that I’d personally killed my beloved senior. And then, I closed my eyes and everything seemed to go dark.
I’d loved him so much, and yet, because of my schizophrenia, I plunged a knife into his heart. Before I could tell him sweet words like, “I’ll love you until the end of time, and we’ll be together ’til death do we part,” my mind decided to prove that “I’d love you even after your death.”
My memory of reality st
opped around there. The two well-endowed nurses held me down in my frantic seizing, as the handsome doctor jabbed into my slender, pale arm with a large needle.
After the needle kissed my skin, I quickly lost consciousness. And some unknown time later, when I woke up, I was already in this ghastly place that I’m now stuck in.
I remember that when I woke up, I was standing in the middle of the city. I was standing up, just as I am now, and then I suddenly woke up.
The sky in this city wasn’t blue, but gray. There was no sun, but the sky appeared to be lit up by some unknown source.
When I opened my eyes, all I could see was that there were people walking to and fro around me. The first person to walk into my line of vision was an old man.
He was an ordinary old man, except when it came to his head.
My eyes were on his head, and they slowly widened. A fear suddenly rushed into my heart, the kind of fear you’d feel if you woke up to see a monster in front of you.
My fear stemmed from the fact that he was missing the top of his skull.
That’s right, his head was missing a piece, just like the Japanese woman who had her head chopped off in Kill Bill or like the man who had his head cut off by Hannibal in Hannibal. Because the man was shorter than me, I could even see the squirming brain inside of his exposed skull. There was blood too.
And so, naturally, I shrieked out, “Ah——!!” From my abdomen up to the top of my head, the sound quickly morphed into a dolphin’s squeal, echoing through the street. Even I was alarmed by the sound. I felt the top of my head start trembling, and I suddenly had the impulse to reach up, to check if my head was still intact.
My dolphin shriek was accompanied by another similar, but slightly deeper, shout, “Ah——!!” It was the old man screaming. Because his voice wasn’t as high-pitched as mine, my scream mostly drowned him out.
He seemed even more alarmed than me, like he’d seen a ghost while looking at me.
“Why are you screaming?! I should be the one screaming!” My whole body was shaking as I extended my hand, my trembling finger pointing to his head.
“No, no. I just haven’t seen a living person here in a long time, so I was a bit surprised. Young lady, don’t be afraid…” The old man’s eyes suddenly started to leak with, what appeared to be, tears as he looked at me pitifully.
My lips twitched and my entire body felt unwell. I didn’t know how I should have been interpreting his words.
As my body trembled and thoughts swirled around my mind, I seemed to suddenly realize something. Panicked, I raised my head to look around me. At the passing figures. The people.
And then I was overcome with a disorienting feeling of wanting to face-plant onto the ground.
They were various shapes, with various types of dress. Some were in period garb, others in modern clothing. Some looked like superhuman beings, and others looked like groups of zombies. There were even creatures that looked like human-animal hybrids. And were those vampires? Was that a large Avatar-like creature? There were many other things that I couldn’t have even imagined.
How should I say this? It’s really impossible to describe everything. Everything that I could have imagined, and things that I would never have imagined, all existed here. It seemed like this was the intersection of various times and spaces, something formed under just the right conditions, a place full of strange things. But these creatures walked down the street like ordinary humans, some of them even looking at me with startled eyes as they passed.
Compared to the other creatures, this crown-less old man wasn’t all that frightening. One might even call him a bit cute.
As my mind conjured up that adjective, I looked back at the old man’s open skull, and a vomitous feeling climbed up my throat.
But I was able to suppress the sudden nausea. As I took a look around at the unexplainable scene before me, I reacted as any normal person would have.
I raised up my left hand and gave my cheek a strong smack. The crisp sound rang in my ears and I cried out, “Fuck, that hurts!”
So, I wasn’t dreaming.
But if I wasn’t dreaming, what did this mean? I stared blankly at the old man as my mind tried to decide whether or not I should just drop to the ground.
“When people first arrive here, their bodies will glow. We haven’t seen a living person here in awhile, so when I first saw you, I was just startled. It’s nothing else, young lady. Don’t be afraid. The leader will arrive soon to explain everything to you.” The old man seemed to be trying to comfort me as he reached out a hand, and then I noticed that the top of his head started to slowly regenerate. By the time he finished speaking, his head had already grown back, and he looked just like an ordinary old man.
But that didn’t comfort me. Rather, I was frozen in spot and my face was full of shock.
As the old man was about to say something else, a large sphere of light appeared. The light came from all around me and then it began to envelop me.
The sphere of light seemed to give me a sense of security in this strange place. I thought things over quickly and decided that either: (1) I was about to be transported home, (2) I was going to wake up, or (3) I must have died, and now I was being resurrected.
My imagination really was a testament to my intelligence. Regardless of the outcome, I couldn’t help but laugh at the situation. Even the halo of light was so cliche. And then, in just a second, my surroundings had entirely changed.