Breath of Death


A month ago I was writing about a dying person.

His health, or rather, ‘unhealth’ peeled away his character, till there was nothing left of this once blooming person, as the wind tears the flag he has dissolved between our visits to him. This ‘unhealth’ shaved his muscles, the tissue, layer by layer in front of everybody’s eyes. Remorselessly and helplessly he completely disappeared.

 It was hard to watch his relationship with death, because there is no guarantee that the same death won’t knock at my own door. None of us have this guarantee. We all felt on us a death’s shadow.

That death, colored our faces like a light from the stain glass window.

He is gone. Finally. All the moral torments are over. Stinking breath of the  lady in black retreats, leaving a long bitter aftertaste. I don’t cry. Almost. As has been said: “Everything great in me I owe to death”. Because only limitation of a lifetime strives us to be bigger and greater than we are.


Месяц назад я писала об умирающем человеке.

Я писала о ком-то, кого я знаю. О ком-то, кого я видела почти каждый день. Его здоровье, а вернее сказать, нездоровье изъело его до тончайшей просвечиваемой кожаной маски, оставляя прорехи в его теле так же, как ветер рвет развивающийся флаг. Беспощадно и у всех на виду, предательски растрепалась его мышечная масса, заставляя его обмякшее тело свисать словно забытый пиджак, на стуле.

На эти посиделки со смертью было тяжело смотреть, оставаться безучастным можно было лишь в случае, если иметь гарантию, что чужая смерть не постучится в собственные двери. Ни у кого этой гарантии не было, и тень смерти калейдоскопным разноцветием окрасила лицо каждого.

И вот его не стало. И моральные мучения, наконец-то, закончились, удушье от смердящего дыхания дамы в черном отступило, оставив надолго горькое послевкусие. А мне (почти!) не страшно, потому, как сказал классик: “Всем великим во мне я обязан смерти.”


4 thoughts on “Breath of Death

  1. Thanks for sharing this with me and for asking for feedback.

    What I liked:

    The use of the word ‘unhealth,’ which is not a word we use in English, but makes sense. Also, the metaphor of unhealth tearing at life like wind tears at a flag. I liked the image of muscle shaved off until there was nothing left. I also like the image of the lady in black retreating with her stinking breath. And I just kind of like the idea of writing about death. It’s something that’s been on my mind lately, and surely on others from time to time, but it takes some guts to write about it, especially if you are trying to figure out what your readers want to read (which is rarely a good thing to try to do, because you just don’t know, nor should it matter. We should write what interests us/moves us, and try to make it true, right? Right! That’s what reader’s want. That’s what I think anyway.)

    What I thought were opportunities to improve:

    The verb tenses shift between past and present. Better to stick with one or the other, usually.

    You might remove a few phrases, such as ‘of this once blooming person,’ ‘Ruthlessly and helplessly,’ ‘there is no guarantee that his death won’t knock at my own door. None of us have this guarantee.’ I think they distract from what you are wanting to say. Removing them might call more attention to the important words. And maybe give you more room to explain the last line, the significance of which I think I’m missing. It’s a profound statement and I would like to know what about himself he thinks is great and why he owes it to death.

    Thanks for sharing your post with me, hope this is the kind of constructive criticism you were looking for and that you find it helpful. Looking forward to reading more from you. Cheers!

    ~ Walt


    • Hello Walt!

      And finally I have a bit of a spare time to write you.

      You said “… it takes some guts to write about it, especially if you are trying to figure out what your readers want to read (which is rarely a good thing to try to do, because you just don’t know, nor should it matter. We should write what interests us/moves us, and try to make it true, right? Right! That’s what reader’s want. That’s what I think anyway.) “.👍 I Agree. Nothing in art should be dictated by public taste. I gave up on a crowd opinion. This world moved by individuals. Look at this: the most tasteless of my posts are the most popular and something deep like this one has no likes at all. Am I disappointed? Not really. It’s shows just a general public level and if I will orientate on it – I ll become “them”. And I think if you feel that you “don’t belong here” as you said, you have to get used to that feeling and carry the flag of the “odd little me” with a pride, don’t you think?

      What else…

      The comment about sticking to either past or present is gold. Thank you! I actually like the way you analyse this piece. Now the hardest part is on my side – try to explain myself.
      According to the “unneeded” words. Don’t you think “Ruthlessly and helplessly” are the colours of that sentence, they are bringing more contrast to it???
      The “Blooming person” – it was about the age of that man. I think it should stay (though I had a doubt about it as well. Still open for discussion).
      About the sentence with “guarantee” I personally think it is a thread which connects my personal feeling and observation of a death. Otherwise it becomes just impersonalised observation of a stranger, don’t you think? It will loose a relation in-between. The triangle (he-death-me) will disappear. (And again, I’m open for your criticism).
      Now we are at the finale… I think, that it is the only point where I strongly disagree with you. If we think that a writer always raises the bar for a reader and encourages him to think, then not everything had to be chewed and be ready for digestion. The last sentence is good on it’s own, cause there is nothing more to add to it. It’s clean and clear. If there would be no death nothing would make sense in this life and we never will grow and achieve anything. In case if I ll try to explain it a bit more the whole pyramid of this piece would collapse under the overweight finish.
      That’s pretty much it. I hope I explain myself well.

      I ll be glad to hear your thoughts.

      ~Hermesss A~


  2. Hermesss A,

    If you like the words and phrases I highlighted then they should stay, it was just a suggestion, and it’s never a good idea to change something you like based on one suggestion from one reader. Now, if several readers were to give you the same suggestion and you still chose to stand firm, then that would probably be a mistake.

    Now that I’ve read it a second time, I am more in favor of the line “because there is no guarantee that his death won’t knock at my own door.” It implies that there might be something contagious about the death.

    One thing to consider about the pairing of ruthlessly and helplessly is that the former implies the subject is taking action whereas the latter implies the subject is being acted upon. The man who is the subject of the sentence could die helplessly, but he could only ‘kill’ ruthlessly.

    As for the last line, it sounds like there might be a cultural weight or relevance attached to it that has meaning for you or the reader(s) you had in mind. For me it felt like it raised a question that didn’t flow out of what came before but was instead new and unexpected, and while of course it’s fine to end with a question or without resolution, I was left wanting to know how death made the man great, because i didn’t understand the connection. Anyhoo, there ya go, those are my thoughts. Hope they are helpful in some way.

    ~ Walt

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Walt
      Thanks for writing, it is always a pleasure to read you. Sorry that I couldn’t answer to you earlier. I was reading your comment and mentally answered on it and as another excuse, I had a really busy week. Here we are…official part is done. Now to the interesting bit.

      I agree with you about “ruthlessly and helplessly”, but for a moment it stays there till I come up with a better wording (suggestions are welcome).
      Regarding the last sentence I’m a bit disappointed, because it was clear to me, when I first time read it (also without much context around it), but by the look of it, it is not clear to the others. Am I having a big expectations of people? Am I thinking too fast? Hmmm…. Chewing sentences is not my strongest part. I always wanted to leave something for others, otherwise I will be teethless.

      ~Hermersss A~

      Liked by 1 person

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