A Falling Body

by Art Kavanagh

List of chapters | Fiction
Previous chapter | First appendix


That was the end of Andrea. Her death was excruciating — for her and, to a lesser extent, for me. I intend to spare both of us, you and me, a description of what it felt like, though clearly I don’t deserve to be spared. Just know that I lived through her last moments and remember them vividly, and that the experience has changed me. I have done my utmost to recount her life, as we both lived and felt it, from her point of view, starting with her first meeting with me. As a starting point, I’ve used a short narrative she’d written, which my people found on her computer. It forms about two-thirds of the first chapter of this account. I accepted that it was my responsibility to finish her story. Inevitably, there is a lot that I’ve got wrong, but I assure you that this is absolutely the best that I could do. I owe her memory more than I can ever repay, including the duty to record it as faithfully as I can.

The part of my reconstruction whose accuracy I’m least sure about is in the last chapter, where I’ve attempted to recount her experience inside the mountain. She was right in her conjecture that the signal from her brain was blocked by the mass of rock and soil which enclosed her. I put together my version from the fleeting allusions and myriad little memories that passed through her consciousness in the all too brief minutes between her emergence from the cave and her final precipitous plunge. I don’t believe that I have played down the extent to which her claustrophobia subjected her to an extended episode of panic and terror; but I have to recognize the possibility that my own sensitivity in this respect has prevented me from facing directly the full truth of her last hours.

I’m old now. My medical attendants have told me that, while it’s possible that I may survive for another ten years or more, I can expect to succumb to dementia in the much shorter term. By the time my own death arrives, there is every possibility that I’ll long have forgotten the experience of dying which I bought so dearly, if mostly not at my own expense. For that reason, the medico-scientific team who developed the feed from Andrea’s consciousness is now working on a way to preserve mine in being, long after the decay of the brain and body which have hitherto borne it. If they succeed, the preservation will be practically indefinite. “I” shall have a very long time, perhaps centuries, to reflect on the evil for which I’ve been responsible. Obviously, I hope this project is a failure, and I believe there’s a very good chance that it will be. On the other hand, I have ensured that it is generously funded and staffed with the most promising researchers in the field and I have divested myself of the power to impede its progress.

Was it worth it? Obviously not; what could be worth the unnecessarily early and painful death of somebody who had so much potential? Her intelligence, resilience and resourcefulness you have been able to judge for yourself; you should also know that she was gorgeous. I delighted in my opportunities to study her reflection in the mirror, to her enormous irritation and embarrassment. I have to admit that on these occasions it was my habit to exploit her propensity to blush. On the subject of women, we French men are too ready to resort to the term magnifique. Andrea was magnificent in the true sense.

No, it wasn’t worth it. If I’d known even a fraction of what I know now, I’d have behaved very differently. Andrea would most likely still be alive, keeping her private thoughts and feelings to herself, she’d never have met me and you would be completely unaware of her existence. And yet — no doubt it’s self-serving to say so — I’m reluctant to write off anything that actually happened as a complete waste. Life, like improvised music, happens in real time, once, without a rehearsal. Is that too facile? Often I would think so but not today. The main thing we learn from experience is that it’ll be different next time, if there is a next time.

C. Legrand