The Dying Atheist

Fiction By Laura Elizabeth // 2/8/2011

After a LONG hiatus, I'm back! Hope ya'll enjoy :)

THE DYING ATHEIST

 

He was dying. Even though the doctor insisted that his condition had not worsened, he could tell. His breathing was shorter, but was that from fear, or the sign that his lungs were giving out at last? He looked over to the bedside table. Several books lay on it, along with bottles of medication, as well as pens, pencils, and sheets of paper. The books were some that had been sent to him to autograph. The sheets of paper were the first few pages of the manuscript for a new book: Godless Morals: Why We Can Be Good Without Being Theists.
All his money... all his prestige... all his books (he had ten in print)... where were they now? His life felt wasted.
"Live life to the fullest," he could hear himself saying to a group of college students. "To believe in God is to despair. To walk with head down, always wondering where you've misstepped, where you've offended this 'holy and righteous being'. To fear that, with one mistake, you will be thrown into hell fire for ever and ever. Atheism gives you the freedom to live well, without fear, and to die peacefully, knowing you will go down to the grave. No hell to dread, no judgment to worry about."
A bitter smile formed across his face, the face that always smiled in public; that always laughed (privately) when yet another debate had been won by his superior intellect; that, more often than not these days, twisted in pain.
His clock struck noon, and he glanced over at the medications. He felt too weak to even swallow them.
"What's the use anyways?" he thought. "They will just prolong my life a few days. Better to die, and find peace."
He lay back with a sigh, and then heard quiet footsteps coming into the room. A face came into view: that of the nurse who attended him.
She smiled.
"Time for your medicine," she said cheerfully.
He groaned and turned away from her.
"I can't swallow them," he said. "And don't you dare put them in my drink again."
"Professor Milton," she said firmly. "You'll die if you don't take them."
"I'll die anyways," he said with. With a slight growl, he continued,
"Why make it stretch out any longer?"
"Aren't you afraid of dying?" she asked, her eyes wide.
Hastily, a bit too hastily, he said,
"Of course not."
A violent spasm of coughing racked him, and when it was over, the nurse handed him his pills.
"Take them," she said.
"Why do you care?"
"It's my job to make sure you do."
At last, and with great effort, he swallowed them and closed his eyes with a sigh. The nurse stole out of the room. But her words haunted him, and he could not sleep.
Aren't you afraid of dying?
Of course he wasn't. Fear? The grave was just... the grave. Nothing more. If heaven was wishful thinking, then hell was revengeful fantasy, the place where serial killers, and worse, went. Of course, they might be afraid, at the end of their lives, to die. They might be haunted by guilt, and their fear would make hell seem real. But for him, moral, upright citizen... why should he fear hell, or hope for heaven?
Aren't you afraid of dying?
He had told others, through his writings and his speeches, that there was nothing to fear. That this life was all there was, and all there ever would be. No God to mess things up, to call you to account for mistakes. Why should he, of all people, be afraid? But somehow, he could not seem to remember why he should not be fearful. Something dark and terrible seemed to loom before his mind. What was death like? He imagined a dark pit, and falling, falling, forever and ever. Would he find the bottom? Would he be smashed to pieces there? He recalled a debate he had had, long ago, but it was vague. The only thing he could remember from it was something he had said:
"It's rather childish to be afraid of God. I remember being scared of monsters under my bed... when I was five or six years old." He had laughed, and a lot of the audience members clapped and cheered. But now, now. Why was he so afraid? Why did death seem more like a gateway to an unknown and terrifying world, instead of the peaceful nothingness which he had always believed, or said he believed, in?
And then, from his reading of the Bible, he remembered a verse which, even then, had struck him.
"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
But he knew that that was only for the Christians. His life stretched behind him, a long fight against God, but it seemed so short. It had all been for what? So that people would admire him? Look up to him, and praise his knowledge and intellect? But if he was dead, what good would it do him, even if he did just sink down into nothing?
And he felt certain that to sink down would not be what happened.
"I've been living a lie," he said aloud, to the ceiling, to the clock, to the door which was slightly ajar. "And I don't even know why. Wouldn't the world be much simpler if there was no God? I was just trying to do some good."
But he knew that even that was a lie. He felt himself slowly slipping away, and terror hit him full force in the stomach.
"I can't die!" he shouted wildly. "No! What's beyond? I can't die!"
He uttered a string of profanities, but each word became harder to force out. With his last strength he sat up and shoved hard on the bedside table. His glass of water fell over on the pages of the manuscript, blurring them. The table tipped over, and he heard the sound of shattering glass as the cup hit the floor.
"All in vain!" he cried as his eyes glazed over. "All in vain! Fifty years! Wasted!"
And with that, he sank back.
The nurse came running when she heard his voice, but when she entered, the room was deathly still. The only sound she heard was the ticking of the clock. The professor lay silent on his bed, one hand hanging over the side, his mouth open, his eyes wide and filled with terror.
The nurse shuddered as she closed those eyes and that mouth, which so shortly ago had belonged to a living man, and she mused that atheism had not, in the end, lessened the fear of death.
"Perhaps," she thought. "It increased it."

Finis
 

 

A/N: Please tell me if it seemed too melodramatic near the end.

Comments

Wow....

This was sad and haunting but very, very true! And I love the last sentence at the end,

"Perhaps," she thought. "It inscreased it."

very well thought out and very well done! 

Madeline | Thu, 02/10/2011

everything was better when/you would call and I'd be like/yeah babe, no way

I wouldn't change the ending.

I wouldn't change the ending.
If only athiests would see! Christopher Hitchins has cancer (I think it's cancer) and was quoted to have said, "If I repent on my death bed, then the cancer has spread to my heart." 
So sad.

Very well done piece.

And by the way, I've been meaning to tell you this for the longest time, but can't comment on your blog because of the comment layout. Congratulations on placing in Mrs. Morecraft's contest! We were doing her webinar, but were a few weeks behind, so I missed the writing contest. But when she was reading aloud the names of the winners, I heard/saw "Laura Andrews," and I thought "that name sounds so familiar!" Then I was on your blog the next day and thought "Of course!" :) 
And I'd love to beta read "Red Sea Rising." I thought about the Amazon breakthrough contest, but you have to be a U.S. Resident.

Kyleigh | Thu, 02/10/2011

Wow.

This is not only very well written, its also extremely powerful. I love how most of it is just his own thoughts... him working things out between life and death, himself and the idea and the fear of God. Very, very well done.

paperpoet | Sun, 02/13/2011

Well done! I had tingles the

Well done! I had tingles the entire time I was reading this and the ending was superb! Excellent job.

Sarah | Wed, 02/16/2011

"Sometimes even to live is courage."
-Seneca

Blogging away!
busyscribbler.wordpress.com

Thank you, Jesus, for your

Thank you, Jesus, for your mercy...

This is an excellent piece, Laura.

Anna | Wed, 02/23/2011

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

Amazingly True

This story is amazing and it really does show the truth: that being an atheist does not always bring the comfort that they think it does at the end. I have always wondered what atheists think about before they die and this story is almost exactly how I would have imagined it. It is so true how atheists spend so much time trying to convince others that there is not a God, that they waste their life away. This is a very powerful story; thank you for sharing it with us!

God Bless,

Wings of Eternity

P.S. I wouldn't change the ending at all! I think that it makes the story more powerful. The part about the look of horror on his face when he died is very fitting because he probably was not only afraid, but he probably caught a glimpse of his eternal life afterward that he didn't believe in and did not like what he saw.

Wings of Eternity | Sat, 02/26/2011

"Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

Hmm!

Hmm! Well done, you did a good job of making him athiest! LOL!

I'm pretty certain that athiest don't think that right before they die.. maybe? Maybe a few that weren't entirely athiest... But I don't think many.

You being christian must make you wonder what other people with other beliefs... well, think! LOL! You did a fine job making it seem real... except maybe the very end? But I can see a man like himself doing that now that I think about it, LOL.

I am not an athiest! There is an universal consiossness, like... God! But as Shakspeare once said: "What is in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet" ! And I, for one, think that Shakspeare was one of the most brilliant men in history!

Good job!

Write on!

Kassady | Thu, 03/10/2011

"Here's looking at you, Kid"
---
Write On!

Poem

I hope you do not mind Laura Elizabeth, but I recently wrote a poem inspired by your story. It is entitled To Die an Athiest. I have given you credit before the poem. If you want me to remove it for any reason, just let me know since it is based off your work. I hope you actually like it and I thank you for the inspiration that your story gave me to write it in the first place! Your story really got me thinking and the idea to write a poem on it would not leave me alone. It still must be approved yet, but it should be up on AP soon. Thanks again and God Bless!

Wings of Eternity

Wings of Eternity | Tue, 03/15/2011

"Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

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