A Conversation with Death

A Conversation with Death

Alyssa’s eyes fluttered closed, she couldn’t take the argument’s anymore she just wanted to sleep, was that so difficult for them to understand?

A warm hand on her shoulder had her eyes opening again.

“It’s you,” she breathed with a smile.

A nod of a dark head, shrouded in darkness his features weren’t easy to distinguish, but she knew this man, trusted him, with her life, which was ironic really, considering who he was.

“You are still decided then.” It was a question but like everything he said it sounded like a statement, an absolute truth.

Alyssa sat up and nodded eagerly, the people around her bed ignorant of her actions, still arguing and reasoning amongst themselves, over her. Her opinion wasn’t sought, it didn’t matter to them what she thought.

“Please,” Alyssa pleaded.

A slow shake of his head, sending his dark hood shifting slightly, even though the room was brightly lit, he stood in darkness, it clung to him like the robes he was wearing.

“Why do you dress like that still? I’m not afraid of you.” Alyssa said tilting her head to the side. She had seen him wear casual clothes, but he was back to his robes again as though he wanted to remind her who he was.

“But you should be,” he said quietly.

“I’m not, I’m ready –”

“You are not, you think you are, but you are not. You are too young to understand that; you will miss out on things, you have not even realised you will miss.” He said.

Alyssa just stared at him her face stubborn.

He held out his hand.

“Come with me,” he said.

Alyssa eagerly complied; stepping out of her body came naturally to her now, like it no longer belonged to her. She looked down at the stranger, hooked up to the life support machines, surrounded by her family and the best Doctors and Nurses she had ever known, but still it was easy to step away and leave them all. It was far easier for her to take his hand.

He took her to a house she knew too well, a bedroom she hadn’t seen for almost a year. It hadn’t changed; a picture that her sister had brought to the hospital was here in her room before she had gotten really sick. Her bed never as neat as her sister’s had her teddy bears assembled on her bed waiting for her return.

“Why have you brought me here?” She asked him a catch in her throat as she slowly touched the light pink walls, she remembered having an argument with her sister over the choice, they had settled on painting two sides of their room yellow and the other two sides pink.

“I want to show you, all you will leave behind.”

Alyssa gasped as her sister stepped into the room. She looked happier than Alyssa had seen her in a long time. At thirteen Penelope was two years older and being tall always looked more mature. Alyssa took a step back as she, or rather a projection of her walked into the room. It was strange seeing herself so vibrant and full of life. Alyssa’s projection and Penelope’s began painting their nails.

Alyssa’s eyes shimmered as she looked away at the scene; so normal and yet something she had been longing for.

The scene shifted, Penelope and Alyssa’s projection were older in their mid-to late teens. They were chatting excitedly as they made their way downstairs. Alyssa followed the duo as the doorbell rang. The house was different, the pictures on the wall depicting the passage of a life she couldn’t know. She stopped short at the sight of her parents, they looked exactly the same, except Dad’s hair was greyer. Mum whispered something in Dad’s ear a smile on her lips as Dad narrowed his eyes at a boy who looked to be sixteen; he was shifting from one foot to the other.

Alyssa glanced at her companion.

“The first boy you ever love.” He explained.

The scene shifted again and she was graduating, she looked so different, the hair she had always struggled to grow, had been cut very short almost pixie, but it suited her older face; she’d even pierced the top of her ear. The older version of her smiled as she went to hug her sister and her parents who were applauding and beaming at her.

Alyssa wiped tears out of her eyes at the image.

“I don’t want to see anymore.” Alyssa said, the tears wouldn’t stop as she kept wiping her face over and over again.

“One more.” He said.

The scene shifted and it was her and her sisters bedroom again, except everything was different, the walls were painted a dark plum and a deep purple, even as they grew older they would always disagree on the colours. The shelves were empty; boxes lay around everywhere as though they were moving. An older version of both of them lay on separate beds but they had both closed the divide by reaching out their hands to each other.

“Ally?” Penelope said softly.

“Yeah?” Alyssa’s projection said.

“Even if we are miles apart, promise me that we will always find our way to each other?” Penelope asked.

“Always,” Alyssa’s projection responded.

The scene shifted and she was standing in the bedroom again, the one she had left behind.

“Why are you doing this?” She asked.

“You are too young to die.” He responded.

“You have taken younger, why are you hesitating?” She asked.

“Because you have a choice to live, take it.” It was as close to a plea she had ever heard him make.

Alyssa shook her head.

“Let me show you something.” She reached out for his hand, “take me back.”

Suddenly they were back at the hospital again and her broken body was before them, her parents were still arguing with the doctors and Penelope was sat in the corner, doing her homework, but every so often she would look up.

“Listen to them,” Alyssa said softly.

“I know what I said but I can’t bear to give up on her, I want to keep her on life support for as long as possible!” Mum said angrily.

The Doctor sighed.

“That’s fine Marianne, it really is, but Ally will still be in pain, we are talking about multiple organ failure, she’ll be in constant pain until the end, if she doesn’t want to prolong things –”

“She’s eleven for Christ sakes! What does she know about a decision like this?!” Mum said.

“We will not take any action without your consent, but –”

“You’re damn right you won’t!” Mum said and she glared at Dad who hadn’t yet spoken.

“We won’t, but,” Doctor Anthony said slowly, “please re-consider, think about it from her point of view –”

“I am, and she is a child!”

“For a child to even be considering this option, says something about her mind-set, she’s spoken with the therapist –”

“I don’t care whose she’s spoken with, who in their right mind would sign off a child on their decision to die?” Mum said glaring at Wilson, the therapist, in disgust.

“We don’t want to upset you anymore,” Doctor Anthony said placidly and she and the other Doctors left the room.

Mum burst into tears as she turned to Dad, and Alyssa watched them with a lump in her throat and a heavy feeling in her chest. She looked up, but her companion was staring at her parents with a sad look in his eyes.

“See how much pain I cause them, and I’ll only cause them more and more, even after I’m gone I’ll cause them pain, so why should I prolong things any more than I have to. Every day I will be in pain, and they’ll be miserable watching me in pain. I can put an end to this right now, right here, I can choose, I can die and set them free.”

“You are too young, to speak so easily of death.” He said turning to her.

“I wouldn’t speak to death if death didn’t speak back.” She said.

She could already feel the pull of her body again; she had been away from it for too long.

“Think about it,” she asked him, as she slipped once more into her body.

“I will if you will.” He said before he vanished.

The monitors began beeping as soon as Alyssa fully merged with her body. She didn’t know how she could forget this level of pain, she gasped for breath even as the tubes fed her oxygen, was in agony even though the medicine numbed out her body. She felt pressure on both her hands and she slowly opened eyes, it was funny how much such a small movement cost her, when she had walked and talked so easily in spirit form.

“Penny?” She asked softly, her vocal cords raw and rough from abuse and disuse.

“I’m here,” Penelope said from the foot of her bed, she was blinking rapidly and Alyssa felt herself beginning to cry before she stopped herself.

“Mum,”

More pressure on her left hand.

“I’m here baby, I’m here,” Mum said, her voice thick with emotion.

“Dad?” Alyssa tried to turn her head, but the movement was too painful and she stopped as she felt a tear slip down her face.

“Shh, don’t move Ally, I’m here.” Dad said softly kissing her right hand and he pressed something on the machine so it would give her another dose of medication.

“Please, please, I can’t do this anymore,” she paused as she took in a ragged breath, “you have to let me go, please let me go.” She pleaded, and she felt the tears rolling down her face.

“Don’t ask that of us Ally, you don’t know what you are saying.” Mum said crying.

Alyssa looked at Dad, after weeks of asking, they had both agreed with her yesterday.

“How can I let you go?” He asked, tears in his eyes.

“I understand,” Penelope said slowly, “I don’t accept it, but I understand.” She wiped furiously at her face.

Mum began to cry harder.

“You have to fight Ally, you have to fight this.” Dad said squeezing her hand a little harder.

“I have, and I’m tired, so tired. Please, I don’t want to fight anymore, I just want to rest.” Alyssa said slowly, her speech was slurred as she felt the effects of the increased dose.

“We want more time.” Dad said.

Alyssa tried to shake her head but her eyes were closing as the medicine overtook her compulsion to stay awake.

*

Alyssa came awake slowly to the sound of hushed but urgent voices.

“Just let me just hold her in peace.” Mum said.

“I know you do, but I can’t watch her dying before she actually dies.” Dad said sadly.

Alyssa tried to open her eyes to tell them to stop.

“She’s only a child, she…she can survive.” Mum said desperately.

“Stop this, she’s dying and,” Dad cleared his throat, “she wants to die, and as hard as it is for me to even consider, I have to let her go.”

“No, no, I need more time.” Mum said.

“We always knew we were living on borrowed time, eleven years, the Doctors didn’t think we’d even have one. Her sickle cell has ravaged her enough, we were only burrowing her from heaven, but we have to give her back.” Dad said.

Alyssa felt herself drift into unconsciousness.

*

Alyssa woke up again, she felt oddly peaceful as she opened her eyes and she saw the dark figure at the door.

“You’ve come for me?” She asked hopefully.

A slow nod.

“Say goodbye.” He said softly.

“I love you and thank you” she said looking at Mum, Dad, the doctors and nurses then finally at Penelope.

There were tears everywhere.

Alyssa smiled as she felt her eyes flutter close.

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Short story: A promise of Love in Death

To sleep no more

“If I die, I won’t blame you, I promise,” Amelia said earnestly.

Dipender flinched and he stared at her for a long moment before walking over to her and kneeling down so they were eye-level.

“Don’t say that. Don’t even think like that, you can fight –”

“I heard you talking to the nurse earlier,” Amelia said taking the oxygen mask off her face, “and I just want you to know that I don’t blame, just don’t lie to me.”

Dipender blinked a few times, swallowing the lump that was forming in his throat, he told himself that crying in front of patients was wrong especially children who looked at him with eyes aged beyond their years.

“I’m going to call your parents. I’m going to make sure they are here.” He promised taking her hand and he saw her try and hide a wince as the monitor beeped, Dipender let go immediately.

“You don’t always have to be so strong, it’s okay to tell me when it hurts,” He said, annoyed at himself for letting his voice break, angry at the world for wanting to even try and take this little girl’s life and powerless in his need to save her.

“It hurts all the time, so I have to be strong all the time.” Amelia said her voice modulated her gaze unwavering.

Dipender felt the moisture build in his eyes as he held her gaze. He carefully put the oxygen mask back on her face.

“It’s okay, it really is,” she said reaching forward and patting him on the arm lightly, as if he needed reassuring, as if the action didn’t cost her everything.

He didn’t even want to imagine the level of pain she would have endured to become that resilient.

“I’m going to call them, I’m going to…” he trailed off as she shrugged as though it didn’t matter to her.

A kid in your grade whom you don’t know very well shows up at your house one day to tell you something important. What does he say?

I open the door and standing there looking directly at me is Hershel, from my class, the quiet kid at the back who doesn’t really like to make eye contact with anyone.

I wonder if is he is lost and I’m about to close the door when he speaks.

“Good evening Riley, may I come in?” His voice is very deep for a twelve year old, most people make fun of him for it, or they used to, I haven’t actually heard him speak for almost half a year.

His voice startles me and I almost close the door anyway, except I don’t, but I can’t just invite him in either, he could be crazy, it’s always the quiet ones, that’s a saying for a reason.

I debate for a moment as he just stares at the ground, he has got really curly hair, it’s dark brown at the roots and almost blonde at the tips, he even has blonde highlights. It’s quite feminine hair, I never realised, maybe it’s the voice that threw me.

“Come in, but don’t touch anything,” I caution, before leading him up to my bedroom, Hershel is quiet, too quiet, I don’t even hear his footsteps behind me, freaky.

I sit on my desk and he just stands, eyes on the floor.

“I have something to tell you,” he says quietly.

I wait for him to continue.

“Go on,” I say.

I wait some more.

“Tell me,” I command.

“I remember that when Miss Brent died you spoke at the assembly, my dog has just died can you please do the same?” He asks.

I am speechless, not only do I not know Hershel, I didn’t even know he had a dog, certainly I didn’t know the dog well enough to write him an epitaph.

I want to refuse but I don’t because I like to think I am a good person which is how I ended up standing in front of a grave on Saturday morning, speaking about a dog I never even met before.

Hershel is quiet, but I can tell he is sad.

When I finish he just stares at the grave, then he walks away, I follow him, into his mansion, because he is rich, like famous person rich, given a tour of his house, that rich.

We walk into wealth and he just stands there at the threshold, during the tour I saw a gaming room, I want to go there but Hershel is silent.

Then the maid comes up to us with a lovely bouquet of flowers that would fill up my whole house, she tries to give them to Hershel but he is just staring at the floor again.

I take them and thank her, before reading the note out loud.

“We will send a replacement, love Mum and Dad,” the words are out of my mouth before I even realise what I am saying, I re-read it appalled, and I carefully put the note down.

“You may go now,” Hershel says looking at me directly.

“You can come with me, my mum is not a chef, but she’s making spaghetti and meat balls, I don’t have a pet but I have a little sister, she’s almost two and she’s basically an animal,” I say tucking a braid behind my ear as I take my bike out of the shed.

“You do not have to be nice to me because –”

“Because you lost your pet and your parents are mean, yeah I do, come on it will make me feel better.” I say grabbing his forearm and dragging him along, it’s awkward with my bike, and I scratch my leg but I don’t let go.

“You do not have to drag me, if it will make you feel better then I will come.” He says going into the shed to take out his own bicycle.

I laugh, “Was that an actual joke? I thought you didn’t even know what it was.”

Hershel smiles as both get on our bikes and ride back to my house.

 

 

 

Short story: Write a scene that begins with: “It was the first time I killed a man.”

Write a scene that begins with: “It was the first time I killed a man.”

“It was the first time I killed a man.” The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them, and she looked across with a mixture of fear and relief.

There was no judgment on her face, so young and seemingly innocent, she held my gaze, her grey eyes almost shinning as she nodded, eyes aged beyond her years, childhood not something she would ever experience.

“It will not be your last, many more must die before and even then you may never know what peace is,”

So much death,’ she thought looking away, ‘too much.

“You fear that you will become a killer because of the life you took and the ones you intend to take.”

“That is not why I am afraid –”

“You enjoyed it?”

She met that level gaze again, and watched for a reaction as she spoke her next words.

“I felt nothing, there was some justice at ridding the world of evil but I am still waiting for the guilt, the horror of the act, anything.”

No reaction and she looked away.

“You are afraid –”

“Weren’t you listening?” She said hotly, “I don’t feel anything!”

“No, you are afraid that what happened to you has changed you irrevocably, that even when you wish to you can no longer feel emotion. They changed you and that change cannot be undone.”

She looked back to see tears gleaming in that grey gaze and wanted to turn away from the emotion but she stared, fascinated.

She reached a hand out to touch the tear, a barrier of resistance as her hand met with its reflection.

Snapshots through time: Liana’s decision

Forever and always

Liana noticed both Sanella and Ezra locked in an intense conversation and she walked in.

Ezra looked a little stricken and Sanella looked smug, which was strange because ever since he had gotten her pregnant Ezra had stuttered around like a peacock whereas Liana had become a recluse, embarrassed at having fallen pregnant because of a one night stand; she very rarely left her office.

Liana walked in, and they both jumped.

“You want to publish it?” Ezra asked, recovering some of his composure.

Liana met Sanella’s distressed gaze.

“Why do you hesitate?” Ezra asked,

“Morally, I’m not sure if it is the right thing to do.”

Ezra looked confused for a moment before nodding.

“Both Jonah and Eleanor are patients at the institute, and you blame yourself for making them recount their lives.”

He phrased it like a statement but Liana nodded.

“The more they remembered of their past lives the –”

“The crazier –”

“We don’t say the word crazy!” Sanella reprimanded.

“Fine, the more they remembered of their past lives the more mentally unstable they became, and from the looks of all the other people you interviewed it appears that this is a trend.” Ezra said nodding, as he began to pace.

“So now your fear is; that people will think that there is no such thing as mental health issues, just people who have remembered something they shouldn’t.”

“We are not supposed to remember our past lives.” Sanella said softly.

They were all quite for a long time.

“Do you ever wonder how many things have been discovered and kept a secret because we are just not ready to face some truths?” Ezra mused.

“It is for the greater good,” Liana said, “tragedy has plagued Jonah and Eleanor for decades, because their love was too strong, it overrode any commands of the brain to not remember. Maybe if they are lucky; in their next life they can forget enough to enjoy a love they have waited two life-times for.”