I am afraid to die. To be honest, I find anyone who isn’t a little suspect. The annihilation of everything you are, snuffed for eternity? Holy smokes. If there is anything more profoundly terrifying, I cannot think of it.
Oh, I know the arguments. “You won’t be around, so what does it matter?” I don’t know. Maybe that makes sense for then. But for now, the thought still has the power to rip me from a profound sleep, shaking and terrified. Want to ruin my day and reduce me to tears in ten seconds or less? Remind me that one day this won’t matter because I’ll be dead. And, truth be told, I think that if people are honest with themselves, humanity is on my side. What is every Botox injection, every jog, every vitamin, every voyage to find the fountain of youth and all the money given to charlatans if not some hedge against the fates?
That’s why I was intrigued to learn of Longyearbyen, Norway. I discovered an article about them months ago, and have kept the tab open on my phone, because I couldn’t bring myself to write this piece (since it required the aforementioned acknowledgement of mortality).
Longyearbyen is on a small island between Norway and the North Pole, established in the early twentieth century as a mining town. Polar bears roam it. In fact, a local law requires that anyone venturing outside carry a rifle in case they need to protect themselves from one. Much of the town was destroyed by avalanche in 2015. As you might expect, temperatures drop precipitously low during winter months, preserving bodies indefinitely. Scientists studying the phenomenon in 1950 found that bodies buried in 1917 had not yet begun to decompose, and still had preserved influenza virus in them.
Because of this, the graveyard in the town of Longyearbyen stopped accepting… inhabitants?… nearly seventy years ago. Now, when someone is close to death, they are taken to another part of Norway so they can die somewhere where they can be buried. No one is “allowed” to die in Longyearbyen.
So here’s the plan, peeps: I move to Longyearbyen in my ripe old age. I follow the rules, and don’t die. Problem solved, yes?
Actually, I kind of like this as the start of a story idea.