Thursday is priest day. My mother’s doing, no doubt. Terrified that my sceptical soul will burn for eternity, she has decided that if I can’t repent for myself she’ll have someone do it on my behalf. He talks, for about a half hour usually, preparing me for all of the things I have to look forward to, apparently, and I listen. There’s nothing else I can do, after all. But I don’t answer, naturally.
I feel as though I’ve already experienced eternity, in any case. At first, after the accident, I counted the days but now I’ve lost track. It’s something north of four hundred. I can verify that from the changing light outside. The days are long; it must be summer. But then, for me, the days were long in winter too.
The children will be playing in the garden back at home. They came – or were brought – a few times but I think the sight of me attached to all this machinery scared them. They haven’t been for months. And my wife? She comes twice a week and sits for an hour or so with a stoic look on her face. She prattles on for the first half hour, offloading all the things that are on her mind and that she thinks I might care about – how the children are doing at school, the health of various relatives, domestic maintenance that she has commissioned, whatever is happening in the news. Then we sit in silence until she feels she has stayed long enough to go without feeling the nurses’ silent, knowing, judgement as they glance at the clock.
Last Thursday was different. The priest was there at eleven, punctual as ever, but so was my mother, her red eyes setting her bloodless face into relief. My wife arrived, lips pursed in reluctant determination. Then the doctors came. And as the priest muttered, one by one the machines were disconnected. I felt the needles leaving my veins, their liquids stop trickling through me. I feel as though I have been waiting for this for so long. I’ve wanted so much to sleep, for it all to be over, but I wanted even more to say goodbye.
I think it’s been five days since then. It’s good to feel warm again. I’ve been so cold since they moved me that it hasn’t been easy to think. It feels as though everything that is me has been slowing down. There was so much time spent in darkness that I was able to sleep properly for the first time since the accident. I don’t think I had dreams. If I did, I can’t recall them. Being brought back into the warm, under electric lights, today was like being reborn. I wanted to shout out with joy: ‘Hello! I’m here. I’m back.’ Then I realised what they were doing and I knew for sure I would never be coming back.
But now it’s dark again, apart from a faint thread of light coming from above that I can see out of the corner of my eye. I’m very comfortable, cossetted in softness. They’ve put my arms across my chest and I can feel one of the children’s cuddly toys in my hands. That’s sweet. My favourite song, Who Knows Where the Time Goes, is playing somewhere nearby. After it finishes, I hear muffled voices and then some Chopin. One of the nocturnes that I used to fumble my way through. There’s a small judder and I can feel that I’m being moved, very, very gently. The nocturne grows fainter.
I can’t remember the last time I played my piano. I can’t remember what it’s like to move my fingers.
Now there’s silence. I know where I am, of course, and what’s going to happen next.
I think about the priest. All the time, on those Thursday mornings, I wanted to say to him: please, ask your God to go easy on me. Don’t let it be too painful or take too long.
It’s getting very warm now. I try to think back to school science classes. What temperature is needed to melt fat? How high to burn bone to ash? What’s the boiling point of consciousness? How long will this take? Will there be anything – anything of me – left afterwards?
It’s a bit too hot now. My lungs grasp at the last few molecules of air and, for the first time since that split second before the lorry hit me, my ears catch the faint sound of my own voice, a gasping, thin spasmed plea for help. But it’s too late. There is no one left to hear.
First published in the TL;DR anthology of horror stories, Nope 2
Image by Michael on Pixabay