by T.A. Brooks
The early end of a childhood. And the slow acceptance of death.
|Hello! My name is Andromeda Eternal but you can call me Andromeda, Brook, or whatever else makes you happy. I am a born writer and thoroughly enjoy it as a hobby, lifestyle, and career. This specific piece was written for a writing contest and was not written with a clear mind. Let me know what you think!
When It's Over....
Hospital gowns had never flattered her figure, or at least that’s how Madox felt. But then again, when had anyone ever cared what she thought? The hospital room was too bland, too khaki, too cold.
'Well why don’t you ask the nurses for more blankets?'
Her mother said it every time she complained about being cold. Every time she would just tell her she didn’t want to be a bother, but of course there were deeper reasons. The cold never went away, no matter how many blankets or heating pads they gave her; it was a mental chill, a phantom panic.
There were many things that Madox couldn’t explain. She had no clue how to decipher quantum theory. She could never even attempt to understand where and why the sky ended or which star held her childhood wishes. She couldn’t even explain the unending scent of smoke in her nostrils.
Some things that Madox could explain were much more simple, and far easier to think about than the heavy truth she’d been forced to understand. For example, it was far easier to explain Schrodinger’s box than it was to explain the thing eating her from the inside out. She knew the answers, but she kept them all quiet for fear of letting the wrong answer slip. Because if she’d said it she would have to believe it; she would have to accept that there was a very near end.
Of course there were things that simply made Madox curious. Such things included a poster on the wall to the right of her bed. She’d spent hours trying to decipher it, staring at the little girl holding a candle close to her chest as if protecting the most precious treasure. Above her read the words “When it’s over-” but it had been torn at some point, the rest of it’s solemn message lost to some altercation. She enjoyed pondering it’s meaning, and appreciated the time it passed.
Most of her days were quiet. Her family didn’t visit very often and when they did it was always a brief affair. Usually her mother would ‘drop in’, as she would put it, on Tuesdays. She would be there long enough to tell Madox to ‘chin up’ and then spend a few minutes talking to her doctor before leaving. Brief, businesslike, and demoralizing in every essence of the word. But of course there were the good visits; the days when her brother would come and sit with her were the easiest. He was like home. And he looked at her as his sister, not as the ghost that sat beside him.
On the days when her life was loud there were newcomers. They would drop in a cold case once a week in the bed across from hers. They always kept her curtain closed so often enough Madox would make a game out of imagining what they looked like through the sound of their screams and slurs and sobs; the sounds of fearing death. Fun wasn’t a word she would use but it passed the time on those long days.
Of course there were different types of loud days, such as the cognitive tests every Wednesday and cleaning days on Thursdays and all of the other things that had once been so alien and odd, but now seemed mundane and simple. Every day a nurse would come in, ask her her name and then leave. And a new nurse would come in the next day to ask again, as if expecting Madox to forget her own name. At first she found it annoying, but now she found it only odd, waiting each day to see a familiar nurse, but she never did. That was the truly curious part; Madox hadn’t had a repeat nurse for a weeks. It was peculiar, when a new nurse came in she would get a dizzying sense of deja vu that she couldn’t explain, the fact that they often called her 'Maddison' not helping considering that wasn't her name. It frustrated her but the mystery gave her something to think about.
Slowly her days had been getting louder, time feeling like it could drag on forever without the slightest tick of a second. Days had begun to feel like weeks and weeks months. Her consciousness would slip from day to day, her mind blanching and then sparking with color. Some days she’d feel she had been standing in a field of flowers, her legs holding her up and her body confident in itself; some days were perfect in their dream-like aesthetic. It didn’t take long, however, for Madox to realize that these pastel fever dreams were being induced by heavy sedatives when she woke up to yet another unfamiliar nurse injecting something into her IV before her mind blanked again.
In every dream she felt an itch, un-scratchable at the back of her mind. Something was always amiss, skewing the flawlessness of every beautiful landscape that unfolded in front of her. Every time she focused on the itch, trying to reach it, the floral heavens would fade, a room of white and sharp scents coming into view. Her eyes would itch as if she hadn’t used them, but despite this she could always make out figures that hovered in the corner of her vision. Sometimes they would be right next to her, touching her hand. She could never feel this though; Madox’s mind was no longer relaying any feeling or function from her body. Madox was only a consciousness, and it frightened her when she realized this.
Gradually the bouts of reality would become fewer and far between, her consciousness wandering through realms of both beauty and war, peace and horror, fantasy and science fiction. Reality slowly became a distant concept, all but drowned in whatever was being dripped into her veins.
‘It’s ok. You’re ok. You’ll be ok.’
Madox would hear the whispers as they came and went, echoing in her dreamscape like a forgotten tune.
‘We’ll be here waiting for you, all the way till the end. We’ll be here. You won’t be alone. I promise.’
They were familiar whispers, spoken in grief soaked tones and broken syllables that stained her dreams in solemn suffocating hues. They pulled at her mind, a feeling akin to a string being gently pulled through her scalp.
‘We’ll always love you. I want you to understand that. Even if you let us go, we will always love you. Nothing you do will ever change that.”
The hues would swallow her like a tidal wave, shaking and jostling her through the current, drowning the floral worlds and giving way to darkness. But she could feel for the first time in what felt like millennia. She could feel her fingers and toes and heartbeat. And she could hear. She could hear the sobs and the prayers and regrets that filled her hospital room. And she could hear her brother’s voice, his lips pressed to the palm of her hand, wetting it with broken tears worth more than gold. And for a moment she could open her eyes, the swirling gray and blue irises finding her brother crying at her side. There were tears that welled from her fading eyes, slowly slipping down her sunken and ashen cheeks. Even if she wanted to speak she couldn’t, having very quickly noticed the tubes snaked down her throat and nose.
But she could see, and she could speak without speaking, her soul leaking from the tears her eyes let go of with an oddly peaceful sense of finality. She could see, and she could hear, and she could feel the impending end as words reached her ears for what felt like the first and last time.
‘I will always love you, Maddison, even when it’s over…’
And that was all.
An entry for the September short story writing contest for writingforums.org