The Silence of Cooling

by Eddy Dreadnought

I said to everyone he died peacefully … but I’m not so sure.

He seemed hard at work on it to me.

He had waited for me like they say, needing someone familiar and loved to hold his hand, for the courage to go. But really he was focussed inside himself, like a man in a cave, like a man in a cage. Me holding one hand, his live-in carer the other, as though to tether him there.

His breathing seemed to have been commandeered – remotely driven to a new rhythm not of his choosing – his eyes mildly puzzled at this puffing and blowing – his brow cold then hot – unsedated it was an effort – simultaneously peaceful and violent – the thready pulse in his waxy wrist coming and going – he opened his eyes almost angrily – stared full at me like a camera – I said “I’m here” – but thought – where are you – please don’t take me with you – I said “relax … it will be all right” – did I really say that – how presumptuous – what do I know – but what can you say to somebody – as lost as you in this?

His breathing stopped rather suddenly, his skin changing through colours like a chameleon. He appeared still there for quite a while, an age. Can they really still hear after the heart stops like the nurse said? What a horror then that bit of time, that transition. To still be there but gone and nothing to be done, paralysed. Going into the light – or just into the dark – or exactly nowhere – to see the face of god – or the face of emptiness – what a sublime horror – please let his mind play consoling tricks – please let angels whisper instructions for the journey – this phase change. Let not our enemies be waiting for us by the gates of hell. Let us be borne aloft, a ball with wings.

And the secrets of some momentary point of death enlightenment? Last words or signs? Unrevealed of course, unrevealable I should think. No spoiler for your turn son. You have to come at this one fresh, that’s the rule.

His clamminess still on our hands, we waited for a while just in case he came back, his pupils weren’t all that dilated. When his body started to cool I closed his thin eyelids, out of respect, out of fear of being seen. Later on they were ajar again, so that explained the old custom of pennies. Will he ever allow closure?

We wondered when he could be left alone, when enough was enough and he would have wanted us to leave him. We flattened his electric bed and switched it off, what to do with his hands and do we cross his empty forearms? We put the bedroom heater off, and pulled the sheet up over his face, and put out the light. Night night, but by then he was nowhere near. His vigil was conducted from the next room, staring at the flickering TV, a long wait for an unknown doctor to diagnose death. I led him to the body in the dark early hours, he had gone and the body seemed lonely. The stethoscope on his chest made him moan – had he really gone though?

More waiting. For the removal of his empty body the next day, a night numb and sleepless out of wonder, out of fear. I only slept the following evening drifting over the motorway lanes, not yet please, you gave me life, but don’t take it with you, I need a bit of life without you.

Dawn and the curtains reveal deep snow in the garden. Would I be stranded here forever in this drifting departure lounge? But then my sister got through to view him. Suddenly yellow overnight in the icy light, his mouth open, slack jawed and absent. “He has really gone” she said. And the men dressed in black came in a black van, and he went and the snow went. The bedroom was an empty breezeblock tomb, but with no angel to explain what had happened.


Until 11 years ago Eddy was a community psychiatrist. After a first class honours art degree, and an MA in Contemporary Fine Art, he became a full-time contemporary artist working out of Sheffield.

His work uses performance, writing, drawing, found object sculpture, video and research. It aims to raise questions, but open questions posed in a poetic way. It is preoccupied with horizontal structure, as opposed to the hierarchical vertical. In particular it embraces horizontal thinking, multiple and dispersed rather than any single line of enquiry, whose lost alternative versions might be glimpsed and rescued by art. It therefore rejects certainty.

His work can be seen at eddydreadnought.tumblr.com

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