Your Days Are Numbered at Twenty-Six
Neon LED’s flashed 5:40 at him. Today was the day.
“Are you comfortable?”
The eyeballs moved in his sockets to face the speaker. She appeared as a deformity; a Cyclops with an extra eye beneath, nose where the ear should be, hair falling sideways in an abomination against gravitational law. No, he wasn’t comfortable. He smiled anyway. There was no point in complaining today.
“Can I get you anything?” He twitched his head, no. No shaking it now: his neck would not allow it. She got the message. She always seemed to. That was the one good thing about his Cyclops Lady: she understood him when nobody else could. She had an unattractive face and the oily voice to match, but her bedside manner was top-rate.
In fact, he was in significant pain and would murder for a glass of scotch, but that would only kill him faster. He didn’t mind that scenario, but his Cyclops Lady would never hear of it. Back before his voice-box mutinied against him he had joked about it and she had scowled most ferociously, index finger waggling at his lack of humour. He had thought it was funny.
“Did you sleep well?” No, he hadn’t. The morphine had made his dreams trippy. Around every corner was a new obscenity. He had been in between dozing and waking all night, one moment stumbling down a corridor walled with bones and Comedy masks, the next being sucked into the mattress as he stared into the dark, both mental and quite literal. All was dark that final night. He smiled at her again.
Soon she would ask his family in. One set of feet would walk through the door. Any that were still alive had forgotten or abandoned him long ago. Like that bothered him now. He had told them what was going on, had informed them of the time-bomb his life had become, but they hadn’t batted an eyelid. Only his little sister had appeared affected. She doted on him. Poor sod. What would she do when he was gone?
“Are you scared?”
His eyeballs drifted to the black stripe across the ceiling. His Cyclops Lady had disapproved when she first saw it, but his sister had understood his intentions and had painted it herself. It was a timeline. It began at January 1st. It ran through to January 26th. Here, was a thick vertical line. Here, the timeline stopped. That vertical stripe was so small, yet so final. Along the timeline red crosses indicated his final treatment: January 13th, his release from the hospital: January 22nd, and the date his Cyclops Lady had moved in to the spare room: January 23rd. Today was January 26th. After this line were more crosses, floating in the blank expanse of the white-washed ceiling: his little sister’s birthday in two days, his little sister’s due date in seven days, and his own birthday in eight days. He would not see these come to pass.
He closed his eyes and twitched his head, no. He hated that he could lie to his Cyclops Lady even now, but it was easier than the truth. Footsteps padded away from him. A click, a creak, another click: the door. Fabric shuffling against itself, two sets now. The presence of his Cyclops Lady reappeared at his side. A shadow passed over his lids and he knew a second presence had joined him. He opened his eyes and saw his sister.
“Hey, you. How you doing?” He smiled again. All this pretence hurt his face. His hand lifted from the bed and floated toward his nephew: his sister’s doing, of course. There was no way he could have made the distance alone. His nephew beat his protest against his palm. His nephew’s slumber had been disrupted. His nephew wasn’t ready to see the world yet. The irony was not lost on him.
“It’s time.” The whisper sledge-hammered him.
‘Well, here we are. I told you: your days are numbered at twenty-six. Twenty-five have been and gone, and the only thing you have to show for it is one black line above your bed. You fool.’ At least he had been able to write his little sister and his unborn nephew into his will while he still had control of his motor functions. At least he hadn’t left it until he could no longer tell his little sister he had provided for her son. At least ..
“Are you ready?” He wasn’t. He had never been ready. But what choice did he have? He smiled goodbye at his Cyclops Lady. He smiled goodbye at his little sister. He twitched his fingers goodbye at his unborn nephew. His eyes gravitated to the little vertical line on the ceiling. Today’s the day.
The cancer had been too violent, too sudden to stop. It had bypassed his major organs and gone in for the kill, direct to his spinal fluid. There had been no warning. One day he was running the office, the next he was on his back in hospital receiving his death sentence. He had been given 26 days to live. Today was the day.
His eyes fluttered closed, the way they would remain.
His sister squeezed his hand.
His throat clogged with a sob.
His Cyclops Lady pulled the plug.
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