|I open my eyes. A bright light causes me to blink in confusion. My head feels as though it’s embedded with shards of glass. My body aches. Slowly, my eyes adjust to my surroundings. The landscape is barren, desolate. Fierce, menacing clouds hover overhead. A black sun stares at me. Fog seems to have taken the role of grass here. It blankets the ground and envelops the air. The world becomes clearer still. I see buildings. The dilapidated city beckons me. I hear my name being called. Sweet whispers plead with me. I stand up. My clothes are tattered, my hands bruised. My throat feels as though it’s coated in ammonia. I let out several dry coughs but the pain doesn’t subside. I place a hand on my neck. It feels bumpy and bruised. Sore and weary, I make my way towards the sweet voice and the dilapidated city.
With each agonizing step, I struggle to breathe. I cough loudly. The fog is too thick. I feel it creep inside of me with every breath. I can barely make out what’s in front of me. I hear a rustle, and out of the corner of my eye, I see her. I strain my eyes in disbelief, but it’s definitely her. I run with frantic intensity to catch up with the figure in the fog. A sliver of hope gnaws at me inside. It feels as though it’s been an eternity. As I reach her, she smiles at me. I stare at the wispy shade before me. A ghostly aura permeates her being. With some hesitation, I reach out to her with my hand. It makes contact with her face. I begin to stroke her cheek, but to my dismay, she disappears in a whirlwind of smoke. I let out a cry of anger. I fall to my knees. I feel the dirt in between my fingers. Her voice echoes from the city. She calls my name. It taunts me. I get up and make my way through the fog. I know better, but what have I got to lose?
The fog seems to follow me. It clings to me, suffocates me. A light rain starts to fall. It dances and swirls within the fog. It drips down my face. It’s somewhat comforting. I cough some more. The pain causes me to double over for a moment. I spit out some blood. I gasp for air. Death feels imminent. I manage to get myself under control. I regain my resolve and continue towards the city. Her voice haunts me still. Beautiful, haunting and sorrowful all at once. I must reach her. I must. I can’t recall when I last saw her. It feels like a lifetime. I need to hold her again. Hear her laugh. Feel the warmth of her lips against mine. Memories work their way into my mind. The pleasant feelings make me flinch in pain. I push the happy thoughts out of my mind. I let out an exasperated sigh. I have another severe coughing fit. White bile drips from the corner of my mouth. I wipe it away with my bruised hand.
I continue towards the city. A bridge presents itself. Its supports are metallic. Rust taints them. The bridge creeks and buckles under my weight. I look down below. The fog is too thick to be able to make out anything. I reach the end of the bridge. With relief, I step off. I’m in the city. The area is decay incarnate. The roads are dotted with potholes. Dead trees sway with an eerie liveliness. Every building is in an extreme state of disrepair. Most of the windows are shattered or blown out. My mind’s attempt to make sense of this place is futile. Something terrible happened here. I begin to explore the city. Silence chokes the air. I hear nothing, save for my racing heart. The fog remains thick.
Suddenly, I hear a faint sound in the distance. A familiar sound. I try to hear which direction it’s coming from. East. I begin to run in the direction of the sound. My lungs seize in agony, my throat burns. I’m desperate now. I keep running, hoping to find an answer. The fog thickens, it shadows my every step. I breathe it in with quick breaths. My foot gets caught on something. I fall and hit the ground hard. The pavement scars my forearms. Blood seeps from my wounds for a few moments. I have my worst coughing fit yet. I struggle to catch my breath. I press my hand against my chest, hoping that it stops soon. My teeth are clenched, I look around wildly. After several minutes, I seem to be able to breathe again. I allow myself to rest for a bit. A loud banging noise from behind startles me. I turn around to discover that the fog is thinner. I look up at the building before me. The fog obscures my ability to recognize it. I focus my gaze, and to my surprise, the fog begins to clear. I feel a lump in my ravaged throat.
It’s a hospital. An uneasy feeling slithers into my veins. A feeling of dread. I bite my lip. My breathing quickens. I can’t put my finger on it, but this place terrifies me. My mind feels numb. Still, this place feels familiar for some reason. I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve been here before. I stand up and examine my wounds. My forearms are bruised and scarred. My hands are purplish-red. They throb with an annoying pain. I dust myself off. As I start to walk towards the hospital, I feel something brush past me. I stop dead in my tracks. It’s her. She walks in silence towards the hospital. Her steps are so graceful; it almost looks like she’s hovering. Grey fog teems off her. She turns to face me. Her skin is very fair. Her hair flows gently over her shoulders. Her eyes entrance me with longing. A dark dress drapes her body. A wave of contradicting emotions crashes against me. She smiles and turns away. She enters the hospital, leaving me to my torrent of feelings. The fog begins to thicken again. I race towards the hospital and enter before my lungs suffer at the hands of that accursed mist again. The door closes. I hear a click. Puzzled, I push the door, but to no avail. Locked. A shiver runs up my spine.
This place appears to have been deserted for decades. Flyers and papers are strewn all over the floor. Chairs are stacked in neat rows. Weeds poke out of the floor. A few lights are functioning, but they flicker every few seconds. I hear a draft coming in from a broken window. I explore the various rooms near the entrance. Exam rooms, a few offices and the waiting room. All in disarray and devoid of life. I hear the sound again. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It’s her again. I make my way to the source of the sound. I come up to a patient exam room. I press my ear against the door. The sound intensifies. I try to enter, but the door is being stubborn. I force it open. I hear her clearly. She hums a soothing tune. The melody calms my jarred nerves. The room is unremarkable. Nothing stands out to me. My eyes scan everything that might be of interest. I spot her purse on an end table. My eyes widen, I run over to it. I pick it up and sift through its contents. Her humming remains in the air. I turn my head to let out a racking cough. I place a hand on my neck to try to steady myself. I pull out a referral request. It’s for an oncologist. My brow furrows. The humming stops. That feeling, that dreadful feeling overtakes me again. My pulse rises. Small beads of sweat trickle down my face. I hear a loud crack nearby. I spin around to find that a window has shattered. Fear clings to me. Fog begins seeping in through the broken window. Terrified, I scurry out of the room, slamming the door behind me.
I slump on the floor against the wall. I cough a few times while I try to regain my composure. I look at the slip of paper, the feeling gnawing at me. My mind is numb. A feeling of familiarity accompanies this piece of paper. My attempts to remember anything prove fruitless. The name of the doctor stirs that feeling some more. I sigh. I get up, brush myself off and start looking for this doctor’s office. I wander through the halls. A sickly aroma nauseates me. The air feels disease-ridden. Each breath fills my lungs with decay. I come up to a map of the hospital. The doctor’s office is on the third floor. I eye a nearby elevator and decide to take the stairs. The climb is grueling. My feet ache. My entire body trembles with pain. My throat seizes. I cough out some more blood. My mouth is dry. An unpleasant taste causes me to grimace. I reach the third floor. I make my way to the oncology department. My stomach twists itself into a knot. That dreadful feeling dances on the edge of my mind. I begin to hear her humming again. I swallow hard. It hurts.
I find the office. The humming becomes louder, clearer. I see her sitting in the doctor’s chair. Thick fog rolls off her figure. I enter the room, anxious. She simply stares at me, her sweet lips curved into a smile. My heart aches at the sight of her. She looks over to a nearby wall. I turn around and head over to it. The fog is very thick. I do my best to fan it away. Several X-ray scans are hung in parallel to each other. That awful feeling intensifies. My mind goes numb. It throbs with a piercing pain. I turn to her. Still she sits, smiling and humming. I turn back to the scans. Her name is present on all of them. My gut churns with fear. My body quivers with uncertainty. I turn to her again, but she’s gone. A clipboard is in her place. I walk over to it. With sweaty palms, I pick it up. I swallow hard. Details regarding her health are jotted down. My mind is numb again. Something whispers from the back of my mind. Reading the doctor’s diagnosis makes my heart sink.
“Pancreatic cancer” is written in bold, red letters. A few spaces down, written in equally red and bold letters, is the word “terminal”. I blink in confusion a few times. I drop the clipboard. It hits the ground with a thwack. I stand there, trying to make sense of all this. I eye the X-rays, feeling an emptiness in the pit in my stomach. I leave the office. I stumble out into the hallway, my mind reeling. My throat feels raw. I place a hand on it. I have another nasty coughing fit. Blood and bile spew out of my mouth. I claw at the air. The pain is intolerable. Tears stain my eyes. As death seems certain, I get some relief. Air fills my aching lungs. I manage to keep myself together. I make my way through the halls, aimless. My hand traces the wall. I can feel the decay on my fingertips. I find another map. I scan it for patient rooms. Second floor. I place a hand on my leg in anticipation. The walk down the stairs is still painful, though less intense. I grit my teeth. Frustration and pain shoot through me. I reach the second floor.
The fog is incredibly thick here. I cough while my lungs attempt to re-adjust to the mist. I stick my hands out in front of me, both to fan away the fog and to make out where I’m going. I can hear a low rumble. The decay feels particularly extensive here. I grope my way through the halls. I inch my way forward. I cough a bit more. Desperate, I yell out my love’s name. I can’t take this anymore. As if to respond, I hear what sounds like singing. My heart begins to race. I move through the fog a little faster. The singing becomes clearer. I start running, I don’t care. My breathing is frantic and choppy. I need to reach her. The fog is so thick. It almost seems solid. I keep running. The singing is very clear now. I notice a doorway in the thick mist. I stop myself. I heave for air. Bile trickles down my lip. That room seems to be the genesis of the fog. I go through the doorway with my arms outstretched. She sings still. I try to fan the fog away. I intensify my gaze on the fog. It dissipates, thankfully. I see a bed and some machinery. She’s laying there. She stops singing and smiles. She looks sick, thin. It’s painful to see her in such a state. I turn my head to cough, then I head over to her. My mind feels strange. The numbness feels familiar.
I sit on the bed next to her. I take her hand. I stroke her hair. I search her eyes for answers. This all feels too familiar. Her eyes gesture towards the door. I turn around. I gasp in shock. I see myself. I’m discussing something with the doctor. I let go of her hand and walk to myself. I look distraught. I listen to the conversation.
“Is there nothing you can do? She’s in so much pain.” The doctor shakes his head. “We can’t give her any more pain medication. It would kill her.”
Tears begin streaming down my cheeks. “She’s going to die in a matter of months, though. You have to do something!” “I’m sorry, sir. We’ve done all we can for her.”
I watch in silent horror. I feel so strange.
“Could we – put her to sleep?” The doctor’s eyes widen. “That isn’t legal here. I’m sorry.” “You’re telling me that she’s going to spend the rest of her life in excruciating pain and you can’t end her suffering because of some law?” The doctor gives me a sympathetic look. “I’m sorry, sir. We’ll do what we can for her.” He leaves the room.
I watch myself head back to the bed. I move out of the way. I sit on the bed and wipe away my tears. Her sullen face looks up at me. I take her hand.
“How are we doing?” I stroke her hair. She laughs weakly. “Not very good. I hurt all over.”
I bite my lower lip. I think I know what’s coming.
“Honey, I – the doctors can’t help us.” I weep. Tears flow in an unending stream. My face is a contorted mixture of grief and anger. She coos. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”
I watch myself head to the door. I shut it. I draw the curtains to a close. I return to her side.
“I can help you.” Fear grips my voice. She nods. I kiss her forehead as I sob uncontrollably. “I love you,” I whisper. She smiles. “I love you too.” She kisses my cheek. “Thank you.”
I watch in shock as I place my hands around her neck. My heart thunders within me. I stare into her eyes, stricken with fear. I watch my hands tighten. She struggles. I hold her down and tighten my grip even more. The last bit of air leaves her body, and it’s over. Her eyes stare vacantly back at me. I close them. She lays still, peaceful. I’m sobbing uncontrollably. Her suffering is over.
My legs give out. I crumple on the floor. My mind whispers to me. This couldn’t have happened. There’s no way I would have done this. I watch myself get up. I look at my hands. They’re bruised. With a knot in my stomach, I look down at my own hands. Bruised. No, no, no. Impossible. The scene before me shifts back to how it was. Dilapidated, hollow and devoid of life. She lays in the bed, clear as day. No fog is present. I walk up to her and collapse on the bed. I feel her hand running through my hair. I start crying. I look up. Our eyes meet.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” She smiles. “I don’t blame you. You took on a heavy burden so that I could be relieved of mine. You mustn’t blame yourself for what happened.” She keeps running her fingers through my hair. It’s so soothing. I cough a bit. My throat still feels raw. “You took away my pain. You can’t keep punishing yourself.”
I turn my head to cough some more. It’s debilitating. Blood stains the corners of my mouth. She continues smiling at me. I manage to muster a smirk in response. She places her hands on my face. They’re soft and warm, just like I remember them. I take one of her hands. I kiss her fingers.
“I love you,” she says softly. Her eyes brim with acceptance. I wipe away some tears. “I love you.”
We move closer to each other. My hand strokes her cheek. I give her a kiss. I feel the warm gentleness of her lips for the last time. We look into each other’s eyes. A silent goodbye.
I start coughing. I try to catch my breath but it’s no good. I fall to the floor, gasping for air. My throat is on fire. The pain is unlike anything I’ve ever felt. Tears cloud my vision. The world darkens. I look up at her but she’s gone. I think I’m going to die. This is it. The darkness consumes me.
It’s not over yet. I open my eyes. I’m no longer in the hospital. I seem to be somewhere else in the dilapidated city. An awful taste grates against my tongue. My mouth is dry. I stand up. My body still aches. I look around in desperation. I ball my fist in anger. Will this never end? I look up to the sky. Clouds still churn with malevolence overhead. I let out a loud, raspy cough. I rub my throat. It’s still bruised. I scan the surrounding area for anything of note. I spot a familiar house. My heart jumps. I start walking towards the house, but I know better. Solace won’t be found today. My feet are killing me. I half-limp, half-walk through the metropolis of misery. I approach the house. It’s definitely our house. I swallow hard and walk up the stairs. I raise an eyebrow. The door is already open. I enter what was once my home.
Everything is dreary and grey. The floor is covered in dust. Thin fog drifts throughout each room. I walk around. Memories of happier times invade my thoughts. I push them out almost immediately. Happiness is a luxury I can’t afford at a time like this. Frames hang on the walls. They’re empty. Several pots with dead flowers sit along some windowsills. I cover my mouth as I let out a racking cough. Blood stains my bruised hand. I flinch at the memory associated with it. I walk upstairs. My knees buckle with pain. I go into the bedroom. Clothes are piled in the closet. The bed is undone. Papers and books cover the floor. I leave and close the door behind me. I sit on the couch. A cloud of dust flies up as I do so. This exacerbates my cough. I have another coughing fit. I get up and head to the kitchen. I grab an empty glass and turn on the faucet. Water doesn’t come out. What does causes my stomach to turn. Several black centipedes crawl out from the faucet. One of them latches onto my glass and crawls up my hand. I scream and throw the glass away. I hear a loud static emitting from the living room that almost makes me jump out of my skin. My heart pounds within my chest. I run to the living room.
It’s the stereo. I flick it off. I try to steady my breathing. The stereo turns itself back on. I stare at it in silence. The song is familiar. A pang of sadness hits me hard. Suddenly, I hear a loud whoosh with an eerie cracking noise. I turn around and head in the direction of this sound. With my hand on the railing, I look up near the staircase. Nothing. As I back up, I feel something hit against me. I freeze. I slowly turn around. The song plays louder. It almost sounds like it’s mocking me. I look up to find myself hanging there. I scream and fall back on the floor. I crawl backwards until I come up to the wall. I’m breathing fast and heavy. I inspect the figure hanging before me. It’s definitely me. The body twitches. The eyes bulge. I place a hand on my neck. My mind whispers to me. I understand now.
The scene shifts as it did before. I watch myself pacing back and forth. The song plays repeatedly. A melancholic ballad on loss. The lyrics haunt me. I watch myself ready the rope, muttering the chorus like a deranged lunatic. “It’s all right, ‘cause some enchanted night, I’ll be with you.” I grab a photo of her and put it in my pocket. I place the noose around my neck. I let myself drop off the railing. The audible snap sends shivers down my spine. I watch myself struggle for air. Soon after, there is no more movement. I stare vacantly back to myself.
I begin coughing. I can’t breathe. I struggle for air, but I can’t inhale any. The world begins to spin. It darkens. This time, I’m sure. Death has come to collect me. With some understanding, and perhaps closure, I accept it. Let it claim me. I’ve been here long enough. I look up to see her standing nearby. She smiles and nods, assuring me that it’ll be over soon. I reach out to her. She takes my hand. I lie on the ground. My gasping slows. A few tears flow from my eyes. I force a smile. It’s over. I close my eyes. Darkness envelops me. I lay still, peaceful.