Tag Archives: illness

The Sickness. Short Story.

John walked down the empty street, his breathing was slow and heavy, each breath came with a wheeze. Occasionally he would stop and hawk up a lump of phlegm, spitting it onto the ground. He ignored the twin streams of mucous running from his nose. He’d been sick for two weeks now and it seemed like he was the last person left in the city. When rumours could still circulate he’d heard the other cities weren’t fairing much better, at this stage he could be the last man anywhere. He was tired, so very tired but he kept going. Around him the street lights began to grow brighter, it was dawn. He started coughing, each cough tore at his chest, his vision started to swim, John stumbled forward then dropped to his hands and knees until the fit passed. He spat on the ground again, ignoring the flecks of blood that streaked through the mucous. Slowly he got to his feet, that alone took almost all of his strength, but he was nearly there now.

He stopped outside the door, it was smaller than he remembered, less imposing, about eight foot tall and ten feet wide. John went to the small computer screen at the side of the door. He’d soon find out if he was right or not. He pressed a few buttons before he found the option he was looking for. He clicked open, a woman’s voice spoke from the wall, startlingly loud in the quiet “Opening the door will expose you to harsh conditions outside and may mean your death. Should the doors fail to re-engage it would mean the destruction of this city. Do you wish to continue?” he clicked yes. His throat was sore, each time he swallowed it felt like he was swallowing razor blades. He hadn’t spoken since Matilda died a few days before, he wasn’t sure if he still could, most people couldn’t at the end. A siren started blaring from the door as red lights began to flash, “I require identification from the highest ranking member of the community. Please look directly into the camera for your retinal scan.” John moved closer, here went nothing. The computer scanned him and quickly located his profile, “John Henry Adams, you are cleared to open the door.” he stared at the screen, he didn’t expect it to actually work. So it was true, he really was the last one left. There was a loud, high pitched whine followed by a deep grinding noise, the ground around him trembled as the door opened. How long had it been sealed? Someone somewhere must have known but he didn’t. He knew what had been outside, before the bad things happened. He knew that there had been life, animals and trees and plants but now there was nothing left but great desolate plains, filled with nothing but ash and death. Still, he wanted to see it, before he died, feel wind on his face, see the world that they had come from. Besides, what did it matter now? He was dead already, he was just waiting for his body to get the message. The door revealed a large room, thirty feet by forty, it was brightly lit by intense flood lights, empty biohazard suits lined the walls. He stepped into the room and as soon as he crossed the threshold the door started to close again. The voice spoke, “Warning: Once you leave the city limits you may not be able to re-enter depending on your level of contamination.” John ignored the voice and shuffled across the room to the final door, it was as large as the first, there was another computer pad here, “please confirm retinal scan.” John moved closer to it. He was feeling weak now, he didn’t have much longer. He leaned against the wall as the computer scanned him, “Retinal scan confirmed. Door will open in five minutes.” John let out a surprised gasp that turned into a coughing fit. Did he even have five minutes? He shuffled to the edge of the door and leaned against the wall, letting it support his weight. Slowly he began to slide down it, he didn’t have the energy to stop himself.

As he waited he wondered what outside would be like, no one had been outside since the city had been officially opened all those years ago, when the doors had been sealed and humanity had been saved. He could be the first human to go back outside since then, all transport was done underground via railway and they had everything they needed in the cities. A siren started blaring, startling John from his thoughts, had it been five minutes already? There was a rush of cold air as the door opened and the air flooded into the room. He breathed deeply then started coughing. His vision swam, darkness crowded the edges of it as bright spots of black and red danced across everything. Finally the coughing slowed, then stopped. He felt light-headed and dizzy, but he wasn’t done yet. He tried to stand, but his legs quivered and shook before coming out from under him. He waited for a moment, getting his breath back, he rolled onto his stomach and started to crawl. His hand reached outside and hit something cold, but surprisingly soft and slightly wet. He peered out at the expanse of green in front of him, it was magnificent. He dragged himself from the doorway, feeling the wind on his face, flowers dotted the grass along with trees, reaching towards the heavens. The sun shone down, warm and comforting.

John rested against the tree trunk, he couldn’t go any further, this was it for him. He ran his hand through the grass again, how long had it been like this? How long had they been kept cooped up in the cities? He wondered if anyone else knew but that didn’t matter, he wouldn’t be able to tell anyone anyway. He closed his eyes, each breath coming with a wheeze and phlegmmy rumble. Nearby he could hear something moving towards him, he was too tired to feel fear, what did it matter now? A large creature appeared, walking on thin, almost delicate legs. It had brown and white fur, large eyes and slightly pointed ears that stuck up form the top of its head, it leaned down towards him, sniffing curiously. Slowly, gently he reached out and placed a hand on its side, feeling the warmth of it through its fur. He smiled, then closed his eyes for the last time. A second later his hand dropped from the creature sending it bounding off with a graceful leap. John’s chest fell still and with the sound of birdsong in his ears and the feel of wind across his skin he slipped away into the darkness.

Slow, Painful Death. Short Story.

The room was large and bright, a desk sat in the middle, behind which was a large sliding door leading to a balcony, the door was open letting in a light breeze. Joanne hadn’t expected this. She thought it would be a dark room with a large bed and the smell of death. The room itself smelled clean, there was a faint undertone of illness but just a hint. Where she had expected hardwood floors were carpets, thick, soft and white. The man sitting behind the desk looked frail, old. He was slightly emaciated, his cheeks were sharp and pointed, his eyes sunken into his head and rimmed with darkness. He didn’t stand as she entered, the door closed behind her. She moved into the room slowly, unsure of what to expect. The man smiled, his teeth were straight and white, a strange contrast to his grey, sickly skin. “Please, have a seat.”
Joanne sat down, clutching her bag tightly.
“I was wondering if you’d show up or not.”
Joanne smiled uncomfortably, “I wasn’t sure if I would either to be honest. I’m a little nervous about the whole thing.”
“Understandable but don’t be.” He started coughing, great hacking sounds that came deep from his chest. He brought a handkerchief to his mouth, when he took it away it had splatters of blood. “Are you all right? Do you want me to get someone?” He shook his head and reached for a glass of water and took a sip, “Sorry about that. It comes and goes. One of the downsides of dying I guess.”
Joanne nodded, unsure of what to say.
He took another sip of water, “So, how much do you know?”
“Um. Not much really. I was just told that you could help me.”
“By Officer Smith, right?”
“Yes. He was very kind to me, during it all.”
He nodded, “Yes, so I hear. The police have failed you. Let’s just be crystal clear here, your husband has the right connections to make this all go away.”
Joanne nodded.
“He has money too, so you believe you cannot escape him?”
“I…I tried that once. About five years ago now. I ran. I did everything right, I only used cash, no cards, I gave myself a fake name. It took him four months, but he tracked me down. He had hired people to do it. He came and he brought me home. That night he taught me a lesson. That’s what he calls it. Teaching me a lesson. I learned my lesson that night. I stayed with him, hoping that someday he’d go too far and just kill me.” She shuddered, “I…I’ve never said that out loud before.” Her eyes filled with tears and she struggled at the clasp of her bag, she retrieved a tissue and dabbed at her eyes a little. After a moment she continued “It became too much, I tried going to the police, I thought it would be over then. Either he’d be arrested and convicted or he’d kill me. Something would happen to finally end it all. But it didn’t. He wasn’t arrested and I’m still here.”
He nodded, “Yes, you are. And now you’ve come to me.”
“Officer Smith told me you could help, said you would help me stop it.”
“Did he go into any more detail?”
“No.”
“He wouldn’t I suppose. First things first, I’m dying. I have been for the last thirty years. At the moment I have about three months left, when I was first diagnosed I had three months left. Yet I am still here. It is nothing to do with medicine, nothing to do with me being a fighter. This disease is insidious, it worms its way into your very being. Doctors are unable to remove the tumours. I have been in remission, complete and total remission twenty nine times. The cancer is gone, no tumours detected, but it always returns after a few months. Slowly at first then getting worse. After the first time I came to a realisation very, very quickly. This wasn’t normal cancer. It’s like a parasite, living inside a host. One of the benefits of having a parasite is that I can pass it on. Once I do I go into remission, completely and utterly.”
Joanne nodded politely.

“You don’t believe me, but that’s ok. You will if you go through with it.”
“Go through with what?”
“Killing your husband of course.”
“Killing?”
“What did you think he meant by take care of it? Did you think I, a dying man, would go and intimidate your husband?” He gave a wheezing chuckle, “No, I’m afraid my days of intimidating people with my presence alone have long since passed.”
“maybe this was a mistake.” Joanne stood, “Thank you for your time.”
He nodded once, “if you leave that’s it, no other chances, no do over’s, you have made your decision.”

Joanne nodded and walked towards the door. Her hand rested on the doorknob, her fingers closing and opening. She turned back towards him.
“What exactly are you proposing?”
“Simple. I infect him. He will have a short but painful illness culminating in his death. Doctors will not be able to cure him and he will become too weak to do you any harm. I require no payment unless it works. Once it does I ask that you give me one hundred thousand dollars. Once your husband dies you will become a very, very rich woman and that will be an exceedingly small amount, a drop in the bucket.”
“That’s all?”
“That’s all. I would also appreciate it if you made a matching donation to a charity of your choice, but that is entirely up to you.”
Joanne had moved closer to him as he spoke, her hands rested on the back of the chair.
“How is it done?”
“Your husband, does he like to drink?”
Joanne shook her head, “He doesn’t drink any alcohol.” She was always thankful for that. The things he said and did when he went into his rages, she couldn’t image how much worse they’d be if he drank.

“What about coffee?”
“Yes. He drinks a cup of coffee every morning, then another at lunch.”
“I will give you a vial of my saliva and all you need to do is put it into his coffee. Nothing else.”
“That’s all?”
“That’s all. The rest will take care of itself.”

Joanne took a deep breath, “Ok. Let’s do it.”
“You will only have once chance at this. The saliva is useful for twenty four hours, after that it will become inert unless it has been previously ingested.”
“I will get it into his coffee.”

He reached behind the desk and opened a drawer, from it he took a small, glass vial. He started to clear his throat, over and over. The sound of it made Joanne’s stomach clench, she couldn’t watch. She closed her eyes as he hawked up a lump of something and spat it into the vial. When she heard his drawer closing again she looked back. He held a vial of thick, black phlegm. “It’s all here. Just pour it in. It will mix with the coffee easily, it has no taste and no noticeable texture.”
He held out the vial, Joanne took it, her skin crawling as it came into contact with the glass. “It works faster if he drinks it all, but even a sip will be enough.”

Joanne carefully put the vial into her handbag, “Thank you.”

He looked over the file he had been given, Joanne’s husband really was an awful man. He was always very careful over who he offered his services to. Those who the law couldn’t, or wouldn’t, touch. He didn’t bother trying to convince himself that what he was doing was noble, he knew that at its core it was selfish. He wanted to live longer. The cancer would return, but it would be a few months before that happened, a few months of almost perfect health. He spread the pictures out in front of him, the ones that had been taken of Joanne and above that a photo of her husband. It was early morning, soon he would drink his coffee. He liked to look at a photo of them as they did so he knew, truly knew, what he had done. He felt himself shudder and his breathing became easier. He took a slow, deep breath and smiled. She had done it. Others had backed out before and he didn’t think she would, but you could never know. He carefully stood from the chair and stretched, they were both free, even if his freedom was only for a little while.

His Final Days. Short Story.

Frank was dying, despite everyone’s insistence that he wasn’t. He had already accepted it and couldn’t see why they couldn’t. He had lived a good life and a long one, probably longer than he had any right to, he was ready to go.

The sickness had come upon him quickly, as it did these days, turning him from a reasonably strong man to someone who was thin and weak. They all gathered around him, telling him he’d be fine, that he was soon to turn a corner and be back to his old self. Frank had no time for such nonsense. He would always stop them, gently at first but harsher as time went on, yet still they tried to tell him otherwise.

He spent most of his days lying in bed, dozing or enduring the few visitors that came, broken only by occasional trips to the bathroom and the meals that he took. Most of which were spent eyeing the food before taking a bite and declaring himself done. He knew he was wasting away but why prolong the inevitable? There was no treatment, no cure, just waiting until it finally took him.

Angela had already gone on ahead of him, about six years back, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and killed by a stray bullet. He had been sad, but the knowledge that she had protected a young boy from getting shot gave him solace. She was kind and giving, right up until the last. Jake, the only child they had ever had, ran away when he was fifteen and no one had heard from him since. Frank hoped he was still alive somewhere, that he had a good life, but he wasn’t foolish. He knew it was more likely that Jake had been accosted by someone, that he had been robbed and left for dead or sold off to some unscrupulous businessman .For years Frank and Angela would wait for a letter that never came by the phone that never rang. Frank was the only one left now, everyone else had died or left, the friends and family he had grown up with were replaced with strangers. Kind people sure, but he didn’t have the connection with them that he had with those that came before. They checked in on him, brought him food, made small talk with him, but there wasn’t that easy companionship that there had been. He knew that once he died they would descend on his place, small though it was, and strip it of anything of value. He didn’t blame them. He had already given away most of his valuables to those that deserved it, like Louise from next door, she had three children to look after. He would slip a piece of jewellery into her hand or a wadded pile of notes. He didn’t trust the banks, not many from his generation did. He suspected that some things had already gone for a wander, he rarely left his room and when he did he was more concerned about whether he’d be able to make it to the toilet, or back to bed afterwards.

Frank wasn’t frightened of death. He had thought he would be, it was always something that seemed to loom over them all, waiting. Now that he was experiencing it though he wasn’t afraid, he had made his peace with the world long ago. He was tired now and perhaps he would be born into a new world, refreshed and young, or perhaps there was nothing but darkness, he looked forward to the rest, whether it was brief or eternal.

Breathing was getting difficult, his chest felt heavy, as though a weight was sitting on it, he didn’t have the strength or energy to sit up, or to talk. Louise sat by his bedside, knitting away. He had told her to go home, to be with her family, they were his last words. She had tutted and shook her head, “No one should face this alone.” And she had gone back to her knitting. Occasionally she would pause and gently pat his hand, sometimes holding it, almost caressing it. Secretly he welcomed her company, the warmth of her touch, the cooling of the damp cloth as she wiped at his face.

Frank took his last breath, filling his lungs before his chest fell in a long, slow exhale. His eyes were still open, staring at nothing and everything. Louise stopped her knitting and gently sought out a pulse, she found none. She sighed and closed over his eyes. He had already given her so much, he had told her before that she could take what she liked once he was gone, but still she felt a tug of guilt. She rearranged the wool in her basket, picked it up and made her way through the small apartment. He had told her of a few of his hiding spots, she cleared out each one. When her basket was full and heavy with goods she repositioned the wool to cover it all, then she brought the basket home. Once that was safely put away she returned to Frank’s place and called the doctor. Within moments the word had spread and the people descended. Louise didn’t try to stop them as they pawed their way through his meagre belongings. She didn’t judge them for it, how could she after she had done the same? When everything was gone they stopped coming. A few stragglers would appear and seeing the bareness of the walls and floor, would turn and leave almost immediately. The doctor was still to arrive and the only thing left was Franks bed and body, once that had been removed someone would be along for the bed. Louise stood just outside the door to Frank’s room, unsure what to do. She didn’t want to leave him here, all alone in an empty apartment, but it felt wrong to stay. She went into his room and softly kissed his forehead, “Thank you.” She stood and left, gently closing the door behind her.

Punishment. Short Story.

Grace sank back into her pillows and dabbed at her mouth with some tissue. At least the vomiting was over for a little while. The bucket was half filled with the thick, gelatinous mass and the room stunk of it. Her mother wouldn’t be back to clean it out for another hour or so. Grace was used to the stench by now, sour and strangely sweet, mixed with the heady scent of the flowers her mother filled the room with. The idea behind the flowers was to mask the smell, stop it from spreading through the rest of the house, but it was a pointless idea. Her mother left the buckets and only cleaned them once a day, maybe twice if she was particularly fed up with the smell. Apart from that Grace only saw her mother when she brought breakfast and dinner. Lunch was pointless as Grace was usually picking at her breakfast until then. The nurse usually came around the time that her mother emptied the bucket and the nurse would help her use the bathroom. Her mother was adamant that she wouldn’t do that. It had been a struggle for the nurse to convince her mother to empty the vomit bucket. The nurse would strip the bed of the soiled sheets and replace them with fresh ones. Grace didn’t like the sheets that were used, they were plastic and sticky, she missed fresh cotton sheets, soft against her delicate skin. The nurse would clean her up, usually by hosing her down in the bath, then she would be dried and put back to bed. There were new beds out, ones that would dispose of the waste, but her mother refused to buy one, always saying that there was no point, as Grace would only get a few months use of it.

Grace had books and television to keep her company during the day. The visits from the nurse were a nice break, but the nurse was always a bit distant. Friendly enough but never all that forthcoming with conversation. Grace understood. The nurse was run off her feet, travelling around and looking after people like her. It was so much to do, besides that, people with the disease usually didn’t live too long, so it was probably easier on the nurse if she wasn’t attached. Grace still didn’t know the nurses name. Her mother knew, but her mother wouldn’t tell her. Her mother barely talked to her these days, and Grace was happy about that.

When she first got the sickness her mother ranted and raved, screamed about how it was her punishment, how she went against God. Grace had long since given up trying to explain, her mother didn’t want to listen, didn’t want to know. Her mother had blamed her once she heard of the attack and wouldn’t listen to what anyone else said. So Grace just stayed silent. It didn’t bother her too much now. It did before, when she still believed in god, but the night of the attack she realised that there was no god. If there was how could he let such things happen to someone who always tried their best to be kind and courteous, to follow the words of the bible. She had done nothing to warrant a punishment, she didn’t deserve the sickness, she didn’t deserve to die in her own filth, but that was going to happen, whether or not she deserved it.

She had been on her way home when she was attacked. Grace still didn’t know why she had been singled out. Two men had grabbed her and dragged her into the alley before she even had a chance to scream. They beat her, she didn’t remember that bit. The bruises had lasted for weeks, the broken bones for months. At some point she felt something sharp in her hand, she didn’t remember what she did, but Grace remembered the warm flood of blood that washed over her. She remembered the screams. Someone found her not long after. Covered in blood, both men were dead. The police all agreed she had been extremely lucky to survive the beating, and lucky that they had only managed to make it that far. The men were known to the system, recently released and with records of violent and sexual crimes. Her mother didn’t believe Grace. Her mother had painted her own picture of what happened. Her daughter, dressed proactively, flirting and drinking with men, leading them on and bringing them to the alleyway. Grace had always tuned out at that point, covering her ears and yelling so she wouldn’t have to hear the vile stories her mother had created.

They were both infected, still in the early stages. She caught it through the blood that splashed into her eyes and mouth. There was no treatment. Infection meant death. The only variable was how long it would take. Some people could live for years before finally succumbing, others only months. Grace had it for seven months now, the doctors expected she would only live for one or two more.

The only satisfaction that Grace could find in the last few months was the knowledge that, should god be real, should he be just, then her mother was going straight to hell. When she was a child she had those thoughts occasionally, always fleeting and always leaving her feeling horrified that she could think such things. But now she could see her mother as she really was, a cold, cruel woman who wielded religion and god as a weapon, as a means to dominate and subjugate those around her. There could be no arguments made, no speeches given. Her mother was right, her mother was righteous and anyone that disagreed with her was going against the very word of god and god would punish them. Sometimes at night her mother would sit outside her door and whisper, whisper the things that god was punishing her for. Grace wasn’t worried, now that she could see her woman for what she really was.

Grace smiled. It was time. She knew she did not have long left in the world. Her mother would be in soon to change the bucket. She would only have one chance and if Grace failed, her mother would most likely kill her.

Her mother didn’t look at Grace. She bent over and picked up the bucket. Grace took a deep breath and on the exhale she slit her wrist, as her mother looked up Grace flung her arm outward, splattering her mother in blood. Her mother dropped the bucket, it tipped over sending the black vomit over the floor and her mothers trousers. Her mother started screaming. Grace allowed herself to relax into her pillows. The cut was deep and blood was draining quickly. There was no need to splash more of it onto her mother, she had seen it get into her eyes, her mouth. As darkness closed in Grace welcomed it with a smile. Grace didn’t know if god existed and now it didn’t matter. No matter what happened now, her mother would be punished.

Surgical Precision. Short Story.

Hope everyone had a good weekend!
Sorry about Fridays post being up so late, there were some problems with my computer, though it’s all sorted now!

On with the show!

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“And how are you feeling this morning?”
“Fine, a little nervous, but fine.” Fran stifled a cough.

“That’s good, and don’t be nervous, everything looks good, I’m sure in a few hours you’ll be back here, wondering how you were ever nervous in the first place.”
Fran smiled at the  doctor, “I’m sure you’re right.”
It was her first surgery, her first and hopefully last. They had found a tumour, a small one, one that could be removed and she’d be ship shape, but a tumour none the less. “I have to check on some things, but I’ll see you in a bit ok?”
“Ok.”
The doctor left the room, no doubt off to make some last minute preparations. She trusted him, trusted them all, after all, they were good at what they did. Her parents were rich and, after their deaths, so was she. She had found the best and paid for it. She knew she’d probably be fine, but there was always risks and she didn’t want to be another statistic. There was nothing to do now though, just wait until it was over. She had two options really, have it removed and be hopefully fine after treatment, or leave it grow. To her it wasn’t really a choice at all.

The doctor stood against the wall, breathing deeply, trying not to let himself be over come by the guilt. His patient wasn’t going to make it through. They all knew, but no one could say it. It was horrific really, but the only other option was mass panic in the streets and no one wanted that. He took another calming breath. They might be wrong, it might have been a mistake and once they got in there, they’d see and everything would be fine for her. God damn it, why did he have to like her? Why couldn’t she be some stuck up bitch, demanding anything and everything? She was soft-spoken and kind to everyone. He  released a breath. It was just first time nerves. That was all. He hadn’t had to do this before, though he had dreaded the day. She was already dead, he just had to remember that. She wasn’t really there. It was just a lifeless shell of  biohazard material. He stood from the wall and started walking.

There was a pause before it was revealed, then an audible sigh. “Ok. It’s confirmed. There’s nothing we can do.” The nurse handed him a small syringe, he injected it into her left arm. It didn’t matter if there was an inquest held, no one would say this was found. They waited in silence until the heart monitor flat lined. “Ok, call it. Report we did everything we could. All that good stuff.”

He left the room, the others could deal with it. That small, green lump had killed that poor woman. He didn’t want to say her name, didn’t even want to think it. It had been reported sometime last year. Some kind of infection that killed. If it reached later stages, those around them would get infected. There was no cure, no treatment, just death. So far no one had noticed the upswing in cases of cancer, but it was only a matter of time before there was a public health investigation. They wouldn’t find anything. Something innocuous would be blamed. Microwaves or cell phones. All the usual subjects would be trotted out, maybe contamination of the water supply. They couldn’t go public with it, that much was certain. There would be panic, instant and unstoppable. Anyone could have this and there was no treatment. Their jobs would get that much harder. Everyone would start feeling sick, worrying about the smallest thing, cramming themselves into doctors waiting rooms. Those who did have it would be there along with those who were uninfected, it would allow it to spread easily through the population. That couldn’t be allowed to happen. So this was the only option that had been used so far.

He suspected they might reveal a new treatment for the “cancer”, that those who were sick would be shipped off to convalescent homes to under go it. Of course they wouldn’t return. Something would happen, a bug brought in with visitors, sweeping through the immunosuppressed patients, leaving a trail of death. Terrible and unexpected side effects. Perhaps even a couple of fires.

At some stage, someone would do an expose, reveal it all for the lie it is, but that day hopefully wouldn’t come until there was some kind of viable treatment or even a way that could be used to avoid it. Simple hand washing and avoidance wasn’t enough. Nor were surgical masks. They were placebos and, if the public knew of the disease, they’d find that out too. People reporting they got sick despite doing something outlandish, or that they were healthy due to drinking some crazed concoction. The news always loved a good scandal, something to stir up the masses into a frenzy. What better way to do it than that? While everyone is scared and panicked they can report what they like. Anything to get viewers. Of course there might be fines after, but that would be only once the damage was done. It had to be kept from the public. It was the only way.

Her body would be cremated. She had requested that herself, so there was no need to forge anything. There had been problems a few months before, when another hospital cremated some Christian guy. His family denied he would agree to it as it was against their religion, they believed to get to heaven the body must be whole. He didn’t know how much the hospital had to pay out for that one, no doubt it was a pretty penny. They claimed he had signed the forms himself and might have gotten away with it until some dumbass told the family that maybe he was too out of it to know what he was signing. Potential lawsuits or no, it was still the best way of disposal. The disease wouldn’t be able to survive those temperatures.

He left the hospital, still feeling that pang of guilt. No matter how he tried to reassure himself, it remained. There was no other choice, it was for the greater good.

Terminal. Short Story.

It’s almost Christmas!

My sister returned so there is now one less dog in the house. Which makes thing SO SO much easier. Particularly as our two don’t like my sisters dog. Mostly because he’s a puppy. One, (Jessie, psycho, neurotic dog) doesn’t like the puppy because puppies are unexpected. They squiggle and writhe and bound and change direction. The other, (Dougal, lazy, possibly old (he’s always looked old.), plods along and likes to sleep and maybe play for a moment and then stop) doesn’t like the puppy as the puppy is all “OMG PLAY WITH MEEEEE” while bounding around Dougal and pawing at his back, face, available areas. It’s too much for him. We expect that once the puppy is a bit older and calmer, they’ll get along better, but until then, having them all around at once can be stressful. Mostly as you have to block them from one another, we usually keep them divided by room, but it isn’t fair to leave our two alone all day so it becomes a balancing act.

In other news, I’ve made an insane amount of marshmallows the last few days, I was supposed to go to a friends house for a day of movies and such, but that fell through. So I’ve basically be passing off large amount of marshmallows to all who pass through the house. Mostly family as they visit in the lead up to Christmas.

On with the show!

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He woke slowly, drifting in and out of consciousness until finally, he decided it was time to actually get up. Groaning, he turned over and checked the time, it wasn’t too late, only eleven. He rubbed his eyes, then sat up. Ugh, he was feeling all stiff. Probably from all that work yesterday. He shook his head. The weekends were supposed to be restful and for Dennis, they were anything but. Well, he had Sunday to himself, that was something. He stood out of bed and stretched, then, he plodded towards the bathroom.

Dennis examined himself in the mirror, did he look a little pale today? Maybe. He pulled at his skin, looking at the reds of his eyes. He yawned again. He was probably just tired. He picked up his toothbrush, it felt startlingly heavy. Obviously he had worked too hard yesterday, but it had to be his done. He had spent yesterday lifting bricks, and plenty of them, his father wanted to build a path in the back garden, but as usual, that meant he wanted Dennis to do it while he watched. Dennis didn’t mind so much, he liked to help out, but sometimes his father could be difficult. Yesterday for example. He had moved all the bricks and cobbles five separate times. Then there was the digging too. Dennis was just happy they got some work done before he had to leave. He noticed a few specks of dirt on his arm, he frowned and wiped them off. Strange. He had showered when he got home. Oh well, obviously he didn’t do as good a job as he thought. He began to brush his teeth.

He sat in the kitchen, eating breakfast. He was still stiff, it seemed to be getting worse, not better. He’d have to have a long hot shower this morning. He finished eating and made a cup of tea, then Dennis went to shower.

The water was soothingly hot, and it felt like it was easing everything. He took his time showering, standing under the warm spray, letting it run down his body. He changed the shower head setting until it was a concentrated stream and carefully he aimed it at his legs and arms, hoping the power of the water would massage out the kinks. When he was done, he dried himself, doing so slowly. He felt stiffer again since the shower, his arms weren’t responding as fast as they should and the ache had become deep, almost radiating from his bones.

Dennis dressed slowly ,moving carefully so as not to cause too much pain. He started to button up his shirt, then stopped. His arms weren’t responding. He frowned, that was strange. Maybe the muscles had locked? He took a breath, then tried to relax his arms. Nothing. He flexed his fingers, they were still moving, even if it was slowly. Ok. He had to move towards the phone, if he could ring someone, this could be sorted quickly. He tried to move his legs, they didn’t respond. He had to stay calm. He couldn’t panic, panic would make his do something stupid. Ok. Think. What should he do? He could try call for help, the walls were thin, his neighbours might hear, he took a breath and opened his mouth, or at least he tried to. Ok. Ok. Something was seriously wrong. His heart started to beat faster. He closed his eyes and opened them. Ok, good. That was good, he could protect his eyes still. He was paralysed. That was the only explanation. Had he done something? Eaten something that might explain this? Dennis didn’t think he had. Not anything unusual at least. He looked at his arms as best as he could. There were more flakes of dirt on them. That must be a symptom. Good, if he had visible symptoms, they’d be able to diagnose him. He just had to stay calm. They’d notice he wasn’t in work on Monday, his parents would worry when he didn’t call them after a day or two. He’d be able to survive until then.

He was surprised at how calm he was able to stay, after all, he had been stuck like this for hours. He could just barely see the clock, but he ignored it. It was easier that way. Still, his arms weren’t even hurting. His whole body had stopped aching, though that strange dirt had continued to grow and spread. It almost looked shiny. The longer he looked at it the more and more he thought of bronze, but that was just silly. He’d be found soon and doctors would figure out what was wrong with him and he’d be back to normal in no time. There might be some after effects, after all, this was something serious, but they’d figure out what he had done to himself and everything would be fine.

Five hours later he could no longer blink, his eyes were permanently open. He panicked at first, but his vision didn’t blur, nor did his eyes hurt or water. That was something. Maybe whatever it was kept his eyes lubricated. Well, he could still see, so there was no reason to panic. Not yet. He could keep himself calm as long as nothing hurt. That was a good sign, right?

It took three days for anyone to appear. It was his landlord and his parents. His parents looked worried, his land lord looked angry. Dennis felt himself relax when he saw them. They’d come into his room, see him, and call an ambulance. He could see them, just through a crack in the door. They wandered through the kitchen and living room, he could hear them mumbling and muttering to one another. His bedroom door opened, his mother stopped.

“What the hell is that thing?”

His father stepped closer, “I have no idea. It’s creepy. It’s almost identical to Dennis. Did he have it made or something?”
“Why would he though? For who?”

“For us maybe? He knew we were doing up the garden?”
“Bit of a tasteless gift. I love him, but I don’t want a statue of him staring at me creepily every day.”

His father moved into the room and looked around, “His wallet and phone are still here. I’m telling you, something must have happened to him. He wouldn’t disappear like this.”

His mother looked worried, “You’re right. We’ll call the police.”

Dennis tried to call out to them, use his eyes to attract their attention, anything, but they didn’t notice. He needed them to know it was him. What were they on about? He wasn’t a statue. Sure he looked kind of…bronzy, but it was obvious he wasn’t a statue, he was still breathing for Christ sake. He stopped. Was he? Had he been breathing? He focused on his chest, his lungs. He felt a shallow intake of air. He was breathing, Someone had to notice.

He watched as the police searched his room, as they made snide jokes about his vain, creepy statue. Eventually they moved him, he didn’t know what was happening. The movers didn’t talk about him at all, they talked about the statue sure, but that was the only reference they made to him. The rest of the time they talked about themselves, their lives. He tried to let them know he was alive, that he wasn’t just a statue, but it wasn’t working.

He stood in a dark locker. He noticed he wasn’t hungry, in fact he hadn’t been since this all happened.

Light. His eyes burned, he wanted to blink but nothing happened. People came in and started to move him. He didn’t know how long he had been standing here in the darkness. Time had become meaningless.  They moved him into a truck, it was unpleasant, his whole body vibrating. He rocked back and forth, hoping he wouldn’t fall. What would happen if he did fall? Or he was dropped? Would he shatter? Or die? Would he dent?

The truck stopped, two men strapped him to a trolley and moved him out of the truck. He was brought to the middle of a garden, and they eased the trolley from under him. Then, they left. He stood, sun glaring in his eyes. He was alone. Completely. The wind picked up, blowing against his body, but he didn’t feel if it was cold or warm. There was no heat from the sun, no cold from the rain. Nothing. He stood, watching, hoping that someone would notice him, that someone would save him.

No one did.

 

Death Bed. Short Story.

He sat up, letting out a faint groan, “how are you feeling today?” “Tired. Sore.” “Any better?” “Not really.” “hmm, there should be some improvement.” The doctor looked worried, “I’m not getting better, am I?” “No, it doesn’t look that way.” He lay back against the pillows, “I don’t blame you. I know you’re doing your best.” The doctor smiled slightly, “you should be getting better. You really should.” “I’ll tell them it isn’t your fault.” The doctor breathed out in relief and began to gather his things. “I don’t think there’s anything I can do for the moment. I’ll come back tomorrow and see how you’re doing. I’m going to consult with a few other doctors, see if they can come up with anything.” He nodded, “Thank you. See you tomorrow doctor.” The doctor reached into his bag and took out a bottle of pills, he left it on the bedside table. “If the pain gets to be a bit much, take some of these. Take no more than two, and wait six hours before you take any more. They should help you sleep.” He nodded. The doctor left the room, he caught a glimpse of the guards outside. The doctor paused to talk to them as the door swung shut. After a moment, he could hear the guards laughing, no doubt over his illness. The doctor would have told them he was weak, probably dying. He shook his head. They used to be his men once, dedicated to him, now they laughed at his death bed. It was a disgrace. He flung back the covers, no one would come to see him for a few hours at least, and stood from the bed, he began to pace the room. It was large, but seemed small, he’d been trapped in here for months. Unable to leave. Sure he occasionally was taken into the garden for some sun, but that wasn’t the same. On those short excursions he needed to stay in the chair for the entire time. It drove him insane. He wanted to get up and walk amongst the flowers, not just sit there. The nurses that brought him outside would park the chair and wander off, no doubt gossiping amongst themselves. Horrible women. Still, he had no one else to blame for this, after all, it was his own idea. How else was he supposed to escape? Only one other person knew the truth and they were sworn to secrecy. If his health hadn’t taken an apparent turn for the worse, he would have woken to find an assassin standing over him one night, or he’d be poisoned or killed in other, numerous ways. This was for his own good, his own safety, but he hated it.

He was trying to out manoeuvre his opponents, they paid little attention to him now that he was so sick. Of course they were bribing the doctor to find out what he knew and of course, he himself was bribing the doctor for secrecy. It helped strengthen the illusion. Once the pieces were in place he could strike down his enemies and have a miraculous recovery. No one would be able to prove he did anything, after all, he had been dying. It was really the perfect plan. Still. There would be some upheaval afterwards, he’d have to dismiss most of his men, though that was always risky. It would be easier to send them out to fight some battle, they’d most likely die on the field or flee. Either way would be best. He couldn’t afford to have men who would turn on him so quickly. Of course, it was mostly those in command. They all hoped he’d leave them everything, after all he had no children, no wife, they were all dead. A botched assassination attempt years ago. He was running late and so he sent them ahead, deciding to take a different carriage. The one they were riding in was raided by bandits. Or at least that was what it was supposed to look like. The men that did it were good at covering their tracks, but not good enough. They stripped the bodies of anything valuable, they took the horses, but left the carriage. It was distinguished and would be hard to dispose of quickly, they didn’t bother to check inside, which bandits always did, there were still gems on the carriage, expensive decorations that could have been pried off in a few minutes and the luggage had been left untouched. To him it was obviously an attempt on his life, or at least a message, meant to scare him. He carried on afterwards and tore down those who had tried to kill him. He had never remarried. His marriage had been one of necessity, consolidating wealth, but he did love his wife. He didn’t want to betray her memory. If he died, no one in his employ would get anything. He had made sure of that. He had divided his wealth amongst his allies, should he die, they would get everything, should one of them be implicated in his death, the money would be donated to various charitable causes. It kept them in check, one couldn’t risk assassination as they would be losing their own spoils and everyone else’s and they’d instantly have a new, dangerous group of enemies. Everything was carefully planned out and each plan had a safety net. No, he wouldn’t die before his time. Once he was done walking, he got back into bed, it wouldn’t do to be caught up and about. It had almost happened the week before, the door had opened unexpectedly and he had to drop to the ground, claiming he was trying to summon someone for a glass of water and he was too weak. It had worked, they believed him, but he didn’t want it to happen again. He had given express orders that he was the one who decided if someone should enter his chambers. The men were starting to get too lax. He’d have to do something to put a bit of fear into them. They might think he was dying, but he wasn’t dead yet. He grabbed a sheaf of paper and a pen and began to write out some orders. When he was done, he carefully put them to the side. He placed the pen down and reached for the pills the doctor gave him. He didn’t particularly want to take any, but they needed to be gone by the time the doctor returned. He was having difficulty sleeping, the lack of exercise no doubt, he took two with a gulp of water.

He was found the next morning, dead. Of course it was a horrible shame, but not unexpected, he was after all deathly ill. No one suggested murder, why would anyone bother, everyone knew he only had a few weeks left. When the doctor returned he casually slipped the bottle of pills into his pocket. No one would suspect anything, but he didn’t want to leave evidence just lying around.

Her Final Days. Short Story.

I’ve been fairly tired this week, so I haven’t been up to much! Hope everyone’s week is going well.

On with the show!

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He held her hands in his. It was so small. He had never noticed that before. It was warm too. Like he was holding a small lump of coal. He shook his head, that was stupid. Coal would burn. He moved his top hand to her forehead and felt it, at the rate her temperature was climbing, she’d be that hot soon enough. He put his hand back where it was. He needed to be here for her. No matter how long it took. Her eyes were closed, the lids gently undulating as the eye underneath flicked back and forth rapidly. He wondered if she was dreaming, if they were nice dreams. Sweat was beading up on her face, he dabbed at it gently, feeling useless. Noise. He leaned in closer, trying to hear, then leaned back. She wasn’t trying to speak, it was her breathing. It settled again, slow and deep. If only there was something he could do. He dampened the cloth and wiped her face gently, hoping it would help. God. This was maddening. Outside nurses moved back and forth, rushing off to treat other people, one’s who were apparently more important. She’d be ok. Of course she would, she always was. He looked out the window, he couldn’t look at her sunken face, her greasy and thin hair. He stood and opened the window slightly, the room felt stuffy. He sat back at his post. He wouldn’t abandon her now.

She had gotten sick not too long ago, only a month. It was nothing. She couldn’t be this sick, everyone knew you couldn’t get that sick in a month. It wasn’t possible. The disease was slow, lingering, it didn’t just burn through someone’s body. Yet that was what it was doing to her. It was supposed to take years. The doctor said so during the diagnosis. His face was solemn, grave, but he said it. Ten years at least, ten years of good health, then another five years of decline before a final four months. Oh sure, he told them there was a little leeway either side, it might be a little shorter or longer, but not by much. She was healthy, everything indicated she would live longer. Everything had said so, everything but the disease. Though the worst part of it all, the scariest part, was that no one knew how she had gotten it. There were no medical procedures done recently, no transmission of blood or bodily fluids, at least not with anyone other than him. He had been worried at first, worried that she might pass it to him, but it seemed ok so far, both the doctors and nurses said he’d be fine, that it wouldn’t spread to him, but what did they know? They said she’d live for fifteen years. He couldn’t leave her alone during her last moments though. They had spent almost their entire lives together, he wouldn’t fall short now.

She opened her eyes, coming to consciousness for a brief moment before closing them again. He struggled not to look away, to keep his face neutral. Her eyes were a deep, pure black. They said that would happen, hell he’d even seen pictures, but pictures were not reality. Still, he held her hand, he was there for her. No one else had visited them, not after the news of the new virulent strain. That’s what she had. Burned through the body much faster, spread easier. The nurses had offered him masks and gloves, but he refused, they were too stressed and busy to really push it. He hadn’t caught it yet and they still weren’t sure how it spread, hell chances were good if he was going to get it he already would have. The hospitals were inundated with cases, those who had it and those who feared they had it. He was lucky she already had her room, they hadn’t moved her yet, or added people in, but they would soon. There wasn’t much time left,  but he needed her final moments to be full of peace.

It happened with little fuss. One moment she was there and the next she was gone. In a way it was a relief. He could rest now. Every hitched breath, every gasp, he feared it was happening. The constant worry of if she had regained consciousness, if he missed it, was finally gone. He didn’t really expect this feeling, this feeling of relief. He had expected grief, anger but they hadn’t come yet. Perhaps because there had been so much of it in the preceding days. Everything had happened so fast. He had taken her from the hospital, it was the only way. It was better for all involved. The hospitals were no longer safe, not with the marauders, searching for medicines, doctors, anyone and everything that could be of use. The world would become normalised again, once everyone calmed. For now, things were in chaos. He knew things would get better. It hadn’t nearly been as bad as everyone had expected. He gently kissed her forehead, then sat beside her, holding her cooling hand.

There was something final about digging the grave, the act of filling it was numbing, the act of digging was excruciating. Each shovelful drove home that she was gone, the deeper it went, the further away from her he felt. She was truly gone. They were incinerating the bodies. He couldn’t let them do that to her. Not to her. When he was finished the job, he sat by her grave. It was almost midnight when he finally went inside. It was cold and the moonlight felt sullied, as though it was mocking him, things couldn’t be beautiful now that she was gone. The streetlights had been turned off to try and preserve power. He lay in their bed, so large and empty now, wondering if it was a good idea. She would be there, always, with him, as she should. He would make some kind of marking for her grave, something that would honour her. It had to be subtle, discrete. People couldn’t know that there was a grave there, he wasn’t sure of the legality. Something beautiful, like her, something she would have appreciated.

The morning came faster than he expected and with it, a changed world. A new strain, more lethal than the last, the few businesses that were still open shut down, hospitals finally closed their doors completely, barricading them, the few doctors fleeing with their families. The government broadcast warned that there would be blackouts, the power was being shut down for all none essential services. The message played on repeat, over and over, there was nothing else on, there never was. He turned off the TV and went outside, to be with her, for just a little bit longer. He had it, there was no doubting it now. He lay across her grave, he was tired, so very, very tired.