See me dying, withered and decaying between crisp white sheets. I wait for the prick of the needle. It comes and the warm reprieve takes me again.
I run. Dark and empty city streets. I stop, my heart pounding and resounding in my head, and I watch thin pools of water gathered upon the road beginning to ripple. I look behind me, an immeasurable distance back to the birthplace of darkness itself.
I turn back, and a two-headed dog with massive jaws that foam and drip sinks both sets of jaws deep into my face. We fall to the cobblestone surface of the road, and my faceless head lulls forward. The dog takes it. The heads fight to enter my red dark hole and they hollow me out. They rip and consume the skin from my bones, and they eat the bones so all that remains of me is a scull dripping in blood from a scalp that is nothing more than a few splotches of dark hair.
And then I see you sitting at the end of our bed, wrapped in your heavy white bathrobe, your skin fresh and pink from a warm tub. And even with the stain of this life worn so heavy upon your face, you are beautiful. Your light blue eyes, long black hair, and lips that crave red lipstick still all shine, despite the small fog that settles at the front of your brain, goes away, comes back and settles again.
I wake in the dark, the room silent and thick with the smell of my pending death.
I open my eyes—where? I remember and close them again.
Together on the porch stairs we lean back with the sun warming on our faces and we watch our four young children walk down our long shaded driveway. They walk and talk and play and stop to see the horses come to the white post and rail fence to see them off. The horses’ tails flicking at flies, the school bus honking and waiting.
We smoke and we talk and time passes in our words like a faint breeze across our world—a world that was ours for the making.
You wore faded and ripped jeans and a white tank top and we lay back flat against the warm porch boards and made love in the sunlight.
That night, you drank a bottle of red wine. You took another one with you, and you drove away. You drove down a dark country road. You drove onto an irrigated field of beans, and you ran a jagged piece of green glass across your wrist. They said you wouldn’t make it. That’s what they said. But you did. You stayed.
The children are here now, standing before me, so beautiful, still and quiet; their sad, young eyes filled with such fear and uncertainty.
The needle comes and I go again.
You wake from a late morning nap and walk to the chair by the small side window and sit looking out at a cool autumn day without sun. You watch for a while, crisp red-brown leaves whirling and tumbling down the vacant road. You look at me, and I can see it, the very same as if it were an object you held in your hands before me. Your wellness has surrendered, betraying you again—there, with the leaves, our hopes held tight beneath warm sheets in the night—gone, and fallen away again, and this pain, harbored in a darkness so utterly whole you know it must come from somewhere beyond even yourself. And it won’t be put off. Not by doctors, not by meds., by me, by you, not by the letting of your own blood. It will come.
You draw a warm tub and drink a glass of red wine. You lean your head back and cry, long and silent again. You put on your heavy white bathrobe and walk to our room and sit at the end of our bed.
I dream that I wake and see you there and you are beautiful.
We talk and laugh, twenty years warmed by the sun breaking through the open window, and we stay like this—for a very long time. Somewhere in the house the kids yell and scream. One of us should go. “Please,” I hear myself saying. “Stay.” The tears that come now are mine.
I wake and think back to that day not long after we moved to this little house in town. I was not yet sick. I went down into the basement. I can’t remember why. I came back up, and you were gone. And it was not like at the farm; there were too many places for you to go—too many side streets, dead-end streets, parks and strip malls.
They found you alone in the night parked behind an empty building. Gone. Empty bottles filled with what? Squeezed tight at your feet.
I wake, unaware I’ve been sleeping—confused and unable to distinguish myself from the darkness. A warm touch upon my face. A whisper. “In the guardianship of perfect silence, all shall be known.”
And your eyes come now—so blue and clear and there’s a breeze. Your long hair sways. Your red lips before me—our feet entwined, twisting and twirling in soft white sand on a vast empty beach I have never seen before. And we dance. A dance of time. All our moments spent.
Author Bio: Christian Fennell, having recently completed his first novel, Urram Hill, a William Faulkner – William Wisdom 2014 unpublished novel award semi-finalist, is currently working on his next novel, The Monkey King. His short stories have appeared in a number of literary magazines and collected woks. His short story, “Under the Midnight Sun,” was an Eric Hoffer award, 2015 Best New Writing, finalist. In addition to writing fiction, Christian is a regular contributor to The Prague Revue. He resides in rural Ontario. You can find him here: http://www.facebook.com/fennell.writer