Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

Marked to die – Part 1

Author: Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho

Perhaps I was supposed to die at 22:30 on the 22nd of August 2004, less than 48 hours before my birthday. In order for the scenario of my near-death to be set up, a series of factors were brought into play:

A] In the interviews held to promote his new film, actor Will Smith always spoke of my book “The Alchemist”.

B] The film was based on a book I had read years before and liked a lot: “I, Robot”, by Isaac Asimov. I decided to go and see the film in homage to Smith and Asimov.

C] The film was showing in a small town in the southwest of France in the first week of August. But a whole lot of things without the least importance made me put off going to the cinema – until this Sunday.

I had an early dinner, shared a half-bottle of wine with my wife and invited our maid to come with us (she was reluctant but eventually accepted). We reached the cinema on time, bought some popcorn, and saw the film, which we enjoyed. We returned to the car for the ten-minute ride back to the old mill that had become our home. I put on a CD of Brazilian music and decided to drive slowly so that we could listen to at least three songs before we reached the house.

On the two-way road cutting through sleepy little towns, all of a sudden I see a pair of headlights in the rear mirror, surging out of nowhere. There is a crossroads right in front of us, with posts on either side. I try stepping on the brakes because I know that the car won’t be able to make it, for the posts make it quite impossible to overtake. All this takes a fraction of a second – I remember thinking “this guy’s crazy!” – but there is no time to say anything. The driver of the car (the image engraved on my memory is a Mercedes, but I am not sure about that) spots the posts, accelerates, cuts in front of me, and when he tries to correct his course he ends up at right angles in the middle of the road.

From that moment on, everything seems to happen in slow motion: he overturns once, twice, three times. Then the car is tossed over to the shoulder of the road, where it flips over again, this time bouncing high in the air, with both front and rear windshields crashing on the ground. My headlights illuminate the whole scene and I can’t brake suddenly – I watch the car doing somersaults beside me just like in the film I have just seen – except that, my God, there it was fiction, here it’s real life!

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