I have often been asked what it feels like to be torn apart. You see, I know from experience what it feels like to have cold iron rip through my flesh and shatter my bones. In short, I know what it’s like to die. If you have ever wondered what it would be like if a limb spontaneously ceased to be attached due to some kind of injury, or what it would feel like to run out of blood, don’t. You will either fail in your endeavor or your imagination will drag you down into a deep pit which no sane person would willingly delve into if they had any idea what lay within.
By continuing here, you prove yourself no sane person, for you are choosing now to delve headfirst into this question; to dig like the Dwarves of Moria (which is to say too deeply and too greedily) for answers I guarantee you do not really want, but I suppose you’ll know what I mean at the end. To spare you the worst of the details (and yes I could tell it worse than this with far more desperation and gore), I will not give to you the specifics of my own maiming, I will instead, paint the pictures of the feelings so as to answer the question that by reading this you seek to understand “what is it like to bleed out?”
First, you would discover to your immediate surprise, the cold. It could be a hot day, hovering around 87 degrees Fahrenheit, but it may well be the dead of winter for all you care. You’ve bled before, sure, everyone has, but it never made you cold before, at least not really. But this cold would be different. A cold from which there can never be warmth, as the fluid that kept you warm would shoot and pulse from impossibly deep lacerations. You would also be surprised by the stump itself, or the mangled remains of the limb, whichever the event left you with. Either way, you would be surprised at how you were nothing more than meat once held together by now shattered bones, now looking to be little more than the snapped and fragmented teeth in the crimson maw of the wound. Perhaps you may even cut your hand on these fragments in a vain attempt to stop the bleeding or to check and see just how much limb you had lost; my fingertips hold thin scars from this very thing.
I’d warn you again not to look at the wound, your brain is not made to face its own mortality so bluntly. To look upon the pulsing wound is to know you are dead or soon will be. Your brain does not comprehend the chance of survival when faced with such damage. To look at the twitching bits of limb is to fall into despair, to know for a fact that everything you have not done will remain undone, everything unsaid will stay that way forever.
If you resist that trap, or overcome it, surprises would continue as humans, it seems, we contain a genuinely amazing quantity of blood. And when it rushes from an open wound like a raging river of sticky crimson the mess is tremendous. And all the while you get colder. So cold you’d be able to feel it within your very bones (or what’s left of them). Perhaps you had been in cold places before. Cold enough you had to blink to keep frost from your eyes. You may have felt that cold deep in your muscles, even though winter clothes. I’ve been in weather that dropped 40 degrees below zero (counting windchill) and I promise that this is worse. Normal cold you feel first on your skin, then a little less on outer muscles and so on. The cold pushes into you, but there is warmth at your core. Blood loss is different. This cold comes from within. This is not cold happening to you, you are the source of the cold, or rather, you would be if this happened to you. You wouldn’t be able to see your breath, after all, it wouldn’t actually be cold outside. It’s just that with your skin turning pale with lack of blood, your body would feel cold and dead. The only thing stopping you from convulsing from the cold is that your body doesn’t have the strength to shake, but more on that later. Besides, it isn’t all cold. Where your blood rushes out and touches your flesh, you feel it like fire. It makes a sort of sense, your skin is cold, your blood is not. But to feel like your hand is burning while the rest of you freezes is enough to make anyone scream, not that you wouldn’t be doing that anyway.
But I digress. I doubt you are aware of just how thirsty the loss would make you; I certainly had no idea going into it. It’s a sort of unquenchable thirst to go with the cold you can’t shake, but thirst is the least of the problems. If you reached for water (assuming it was a leg and not an arm that was pulverized as it was for me) you would find your limbs unable to obey any commands; it would feel as though you were trying to move a mountain, just to lift your arm.
Speech too would become difficult labor within a minute at most, the work of pulling syllables out of your mouth unbearable in its difficulty. I sincerely hope you never understand what it is to be so weak that to cry in the face of your imminent death is an effort so exhausting you can feel the muscles in your face become too weak to continue after mere seconds. But at least shock would keep the pain at bay you may be thinking. But no such luck.
It’s hard to describe the feeling here, but I will try. You do know you are in pain, The shock just means your brain lacks the power to fully comprehend the exact degree of the pain, and so rather than feeling normal pain you feel this overwhelming ‘other thing’ which we call shock. But in due time the adaptability of the human brain means if you survive long enough, your brain will learn how to feel that pain.
As for the blood loss, well now yet another new experience, your heart would start hurting. Could it be a heart attack, in the middle of all this? No, your heart is simply pumping nothing. Without enough blood to pump, each beat of the heart feels like a punch to the inside of the chest. Over and over as the walls of your heart collide with one and another. Your arteries empty themselves out of your injury and you can feel your heartbeat reverberate through your empty blood vessels. All the while you would lie there imagining frost forming on your dry lips as you gasp for breath and life.
But soon any imaginings you had would run together, the torment, one way or another, almost over. With your brain no longer able to remember the past or distinguish it from the present, or even your imagination, you would lose yourself. It is indescribable, your brain is incapable of deciding If the experience is good or bad, pure terror or amusing, perception itself unravels more fully than the Heffalumps and Woozles scene from Whine the Pooh. Vision starts to go black around the edges and you would grow unimaginably tired. Perhaps you think you know what it means to feel this tired. Perhaps you stayed up for two days straight or some such, but I promise it is not even close. You would lack the strength to keep your eyelids open, or even keep your eyes facing the same direction. It would take everything you had to stay there, all the while knowing that you are only prolonging your inevitable demise. But it is possible to survive, I swear to you I am not a ghost-writer. And I mean that both ways.
Anyways, eventually, you would lose the fight with holding on to consciousness. Your eyes still open, you would feel your perception fall down through your limp useless body. Then there is nothing. For me that nothing lasted for an imperceptibly short time. Like blinking, only three days had passed. And I know that all things considered I was lucky. Hopefully, now you understand my prior point about this question. Even just going over these feelings sends a shiver through my scars, I feel a fraction of the cold I felt that day run from my toes all the way up my hip in the reverse of the way I received my wounds. And if you have the kind of active imagination that would lead you to read this whole piece, I believe you might feel a fraction of that cold as well.
About The Author
Dylan Amadeck is a writer whose ultimate goal is simply to provide people with stories and characters to enjoy, especially in trying times such as these. He is a self-proclaimed Dungeons and Dragons addict and is on an endless quest to possess all of the Star Wars lore (a task currently taking up quite a lot of space in his apartment).
If you want to see what else Dylan is up to, you can follow him on Twitter @DAmadeck or head on over to dylanamadeckwriter.wordpress.com