The question seemed simple enough. “What do you think would be the worst way to die?”
It’s like I flipped a switch. The room full of fairly disinterested 7th and 8th graders came to life with a flood of macabre methods of taking human life. Clearly I was not the first to ask them this question, and they excitedly offered up these horrible ways of killing, some of which I’ve never heard of before.
- Put someone in a hollow brazen bull and light a fire under it until the person bakes to death.
- Stuff someone in a barrel and nail the top shut, simply leaving them to die and slowly rot away.
- Impale the victim on a sharp stick which would slowly pierce the length of their body.
- Dip someone in the Amazon River, allowing the piranha to eat away their flesh.
I’ve been teaching this age group for a long time, but I’ve never had a class so fascinated with death and dying. I doubt many had even been to a funeral or seen a corpse, so this was all theoretical.
I remember doing a play in Junior High school called “The Lottery” based on a story by Shirley Jackson. It was about a small town that annually chose the name of one citizen who would be stoned to death by everyone else. The tradition provided a communal outlet for hate and anger. When everyone you know takes your life, that seems to be a pretty bad way to go.