Archive for May, 2014

Mid week Blues Buster, year 2, week 11

Posted in Uncategorized on May 30, 2014 by drmagoo

Prompt: http://thetsuruokafiles.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/mid-week-blues-buster-week-2-11/

“Not too tight, Keith. You know I don’t like it when you tie it too tight.” Billy tried to keep from whining, even though the blindfold was too tight, and it really hurt. But he was good at not whining – he’d learned that from Daddy – and Keith just slapped him on the back.

“Gotta be tight, you know. Can’t peek, can’t take it off. Or it’s not proper Hide and Seek.” Keith had just turned twelve, and his voice had started to crack, and when it was right, he sounded an awful lot like Daddy. They didn’t usually let Billy play with them, but Randy’s parents had grounded him for sneaking out after curfew, and Hide and Seek needed at least four guys to be any fun.

Billy felt Keith grab his shoulders and hold him tight. His hands hurt, more than the blindfold, and for the first time, Billy wondered whether he wouldn’t have been better off letting Keith call him a wuss for not playing. But Daddy wouldn’t just call him a wuss when he found out – and he always found out – so Billy just stayed quiet and listened to his big brother tell him the rules he already knew. And then they were gone.

“One! Two! Three!” Counting loudly, just as he was supposed to do, Billy strained to listen for the sounds that would tell him where his brother and his friends had gone to hide, but he just couldn’t hear anything over the echo of his own voice. “Nineteen! Twenty!”

Once he stopped counting, it wasn’t silent, as he’d expected. Billy could hear breathing – not close, but still somewhere in the room. He stepped forward, hands outstretched to make sure he didn’t hit the wall. Billy wasn’t worried about tripping on something – the floor, as always, was perfectly clean. Daddy had tripped on Keith’s baseball mitt once, back when Billy was still in preschool, and Keith had missed the next week of games while his arm healed.

Footsteps. Off to his left and his right, heavy thumps on the oak floor just out of reach, and Billy spun around. And then nothing but breathing. And then nothing.

They couldn’t have left – he would have heard the door open – but where were they? The silence dragged on, and Billy forced himself to move. One step, then another, and another. There. Was there a noise off to his left? He stepped quickly in that direction and banged into the wall. Footsteps again.

“Little Billy hurt himself? Bang into the wall?” Keith’s voice, deep and unwavering, echoed in Billy’s ears. They were moving behind him now, all three of them – he could hear them laughing. But who was that to his right? And to his left? There were too many voices.

“What…what’s going on, Keith? Who’s there?” The answer was a laugh – loud and harsh, with Daddy’s cruel overtones. Was Daddy home? But it was too early! Billy reached up towards his blindfold, and he felt the smack on his arm.

“Uh-uh, little Billy. You keep that on until you catch one of us.” Keith’s voice cracked, once, but that was enough. Not Daddy. The monster in his belly let go of his stomach, and he took a breath. This wouldn’t be fun, and they’d make fun of him, but it was just a game. He lowered his arm and heard Keith nodding next to him.

The room grew silent again, and Billy resumed his hunt. It would go on for far too long, but it would end. He sighed, and tried to concentrate.

Something skittered by on the floor behind him, and he whirled around. Now it was behind him, and in front, going in circles. Billy paused and tried to get the timing down. Now!

He leaped forward and grabbed at the sound. But instead of hitting his brother or one of his dopey friends, all he felt were solid legs, much too long for a twelve year old. How did Daddy come in? How did he move like that?

Billy reached up for the blindfold, but someone grabbed his arms.

“Nuh-uh, little Billy. Time to stay in the dark.”

Flash Friday, vol 2 week 25

Posted in Uncategorized on May 30, 2014 by drmagoo

Prompt: http://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/flash-friday-vol-2-25/

When Warren was naught but a tadpole, he asked Father what lay beyond the pool in which he was hatched.

“One day, I will show you, but the waterfall is too dangerous for one your size.”

But one day never came, for just as Warren was growing legs and shedding his tail, the goddess took Father for her own. So Warren stayed in the pool, though he came to be much too large to live in such a small space, and he was always alone.

The goddess did not want Warren to be alone, however. She had needed Father for another purpose in another pool, but so too did Warren have a purpose. Which is how it came to be that one night, during the summer solstice, she took living form. Reaching into the pool with hands of moss and ivy, she lifted him from the pool and set him, still asleep, on his way into the world.

Flash Friday, Volume 2-24

Posted in Uncategorized on May 23, 2014 by drmagoo

Prompt: http://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/flash-friday-vol-2-24/

The box stood, unopened, for more than a half-dozen years. Well, technically, it was on federal land, and it wasn’t addressed to me, so there I let it sit.

I’d been down south, repairing a fence that got knocked down when something had spooked the cattle overnight. Got a call from Old Ben that a few head had gotten out, and there went my Friday. Could have been worse, if grass grew thicker than the hair on my head in these parts, but I’ve been farming dirt for the last six-seven years.

When the post was back up and the cattle back home, I took a ride to check the rest of the fence. I was about to turn back home when I saw the box was gone. In its place was a bright red sticker. “Andorian Brandy of the Month Club,” it read. “Membership Cancelled Due to Lack of Payment.

“To reinstate delivery, notify the nearest telepathic agent.”

Mid-week Blues Buster, week 2.10

Posted in Uncategorized on May 22, 2014 by drmagoo

Prompt: http://thetsuruokafiles.wordpress.com/2014/05/20/mid-week-blues-buster-week-2-10/

For seven brothers

I open my eyes and see nothing. Still dark. Good – that will give me time to prepare. I let them out at night, sometimes when they get too wild and rambunctious. They’re too dangerous to be out on their own, really, even at night, but I’ve been getting more and more convinced that they don’t obey me as much as they tolerate me.

The first one, as always, is in the bed next to me. I can feel its weight pressing down on me, trying to keep me here, unmoving, alone. It’s big, and heavy, but easy to catch, and goes into its cage more docilely than some days. I could be happy about this, but I suspect it bodes ill for the rest.

Padding into the bathroom, I step over the toilet to drain my overnight waste products. As I take my penis in my hand, I feel it beginning to grow, and I know the second one has followed me in here. It’s been out all night, gathering sounds of couples (and sometimes more) satiating themselves in the dark. This morning, it has a special treat for me, a window shade left open, allowing it to record the delicious sights hidden inside. I know what it wants, and I give in, just for a moment, distracting it just long enough. Then cage number two is filled.

The water is hot this morning, before everyone else in the building is awake. Before the mirror fogs over, I catch a glance of my naked body in the mirror and smile. Who wouldn’t be proud of such a physique, especially at my age? And it takes effort, that’s god’s honest truth, walking to work every day, eating organic and vegan. All those things I deprive myself of – I deserve something more than just a clean bill of health at the doctor’s office. Then the fog comes, and I see it there, just in the last corner that’s clear. It could run, but it never thinks I’ll catch it. But I do.

Finally clean and dressed, I pick up the remote, hoping to flip on the news and catch up on what happened overnight – I don’t want to know, but I need to know. But then I remember – the TV died last week. An old monstrosity, heavier than sin, with a picture tube and console frame, it barely worked anyway, but was better than nothing. Yesterday, after work, I saw the box out in the hallway. Roger, in 3F. 60 inches. 3D. Stupid bastard leaves his door unlocked every time he goes down to the laundry, and he’s got so much nice stuff. Would it hurt so much to share? I slam the remote down on the table, feeling the rush that comes with smashing something that has failed me.

I hear the cackling behind me. Oh, they’re ganging up on me now? That just makes me angrier, and I kick the piece of shit end table over. Sure, it was a gift from my grandmother, but she’s dead, and what does she care? But I haven’t put on my shoes, and that table has sharp corners. The pain clears my head, and I open up two more cages in my mind. I made one nicer than the other, and it traps one of them easily. The other likes to fight, but I win. It was out all night, and I’m well-rested.

At this rate, I’m going to be late for work, so I try to lure the last two in. A six egg omelet, topped with caviar – I keep a tin in the fridge just for emergencies like this. I hear the five in my head hooting their derision at me, just like always. But the trap works, and I’m able to get the last two locked up before the stench from the chicken and fish eggs turns my stomach.

They’re all in there now, lined up in the dark. They want me to let them free, but I won’t. I hope so, anyway – those cages are old. I step out into the world and wonder if everyone else goes through this every morning. But I’ll never know.

698 words
@drmagoo

#DirtyGoggles Blog Hop, 2014

Posted in Uncategorized on May 18, 2014 by drmagoo

Nurse to the Dead

754 words

Eric Martell/@drmagoo

Steampunk

Truth be told, I wasn’t a very good nurse. I wanted to be a doctor, to cut people open and see what was inside them, to feel their lungs expand and their hearts beat, but medical colleges wouldn’t even consider admitting a woman, much less one with my skin color. So I became a nurse, but I’d been relegated to the worst shifts and the worst patients, and there’s only so much vomit and excrement you can clean off before deciding that it’s just not worth it. Then one day he showed up.

Doctor Franklin was the thinnest man I’d ever seen, his skin so pale as to be translucent, but he was also the only doctor who spoke to me as if I was a person. Taking on the hardest cases, patients more dead than alive, he told me that he learned the most from the ones he couldn’t save. He let me stay in the room as he worked, teaching me about how the body worked.

His techniques were different than the other doctors’, and a higher percentage of his patients found their way out the back door to the morgue than out the front to their homes, but he never seemed discouraged. Still, when I showed up for work and heard raised voices, I was concerned. The man he was arguing with was the director of the hospital.

“…will leave this hospital and never return! Only the barest shred of professional courtesy has kept me from contacting the authorities, and my patience is at an end.”

The door swung open, and Doctor Franklin stormed out, his gaunt face twisted into a knot of anger. When he saw me, he stopped. “Maria, I am sure you heard the end of that unfortunate confrontation. I am doing great work here – with your assistance, I must add – but I must leave now. If you wish, you could join me, and we can continue our work.”

I didn’t have to think hard about the doctor’s offer. There was nothing for me here but a lifetime of being dismissed as inferior. And so when his carriage showed up, I was ready.

Doctor Franklin was waiting in his front room, but I almost did not notice him, so startled was I by his home. Whereas the outside was worn and nearly dilapidated, the inside was pristine. Spartan almost to the point of ascetism in decoration, it was instead filled with gadgetry the like I had never seen. Faint blue lines appeared on the ground, and the doctor motioned me to follow him in the direction they pointed as he began talking.

“My home is large, but you will never lose your way – just follow the lights which appear and you will be able to assist me as necessary.” He paused. “I must speak to you of the nature of our work here, Maria. What, do you think, is the most fundamental question of our existence as living beings?”

I had no answer, but he didn’t wait for one. “It is simple, really. What does it mean to be alive, and what does it mean to be dead?

“Doctors have worked for millennia to keep people alive, but what does that mean? And while it is obvious that we can cross over from life to death, is it, as they say, a one-way trip? What of miraculous recoveries, people who seemingly have died but once again become one of the living?”

We reached a small door, made of polished bronze and opaque glass. Doctor Franklin stopped and turned to me. “In the hospital, when someone dies, what do they do with them? They throw them away, put them into the ground to rot. That’s what other doctors do. Not me. I bring them here.” He put his hand to the door, and the same blue light from the floor glowed around his fingers. With a click, the door swung open.

Superficially, the room behind resembled a hospital ward, a half-dozen beds lining each wall, but there the similarity ended. Each bed was surrounded by an endless supply of gadgets. Bellows to force air into their lungs. Pumps pushing blood into their bodies. Arrays of lights blinking red and green, though to what purpose I could not say. And each was occupied by someone I recognized – men and women who had died on Doctor Franklin’s operating table. I straightened my uniform and bent over to examine the first patient. They were dead, but I would help keep them alive.

Dirty Goggles Blog Hop story, first draft

Posted in Uncategorized on May 18, 2014 by drmagoo

Alright, this sucker needs some serious editing, but here’s my first shot at a story for the Dirty Goggles Blog Hop, and the first steampunk story I’ve written. 

Nurse of the Dead

The carriage had once been well-appointed, with rich fabrics and polished brass, but it had been many years since those days. Still, it was the nicest I’d ever had the chance to ride in, and the worn brocade and uneven cushions were echoes of a decadent life I couldn’t believe I had been invited to join. The driver had pulled up outside the boarding house promptly at six o’clock, his thick cloak and fur-lined cap a much better bulwark against the cold than my flimsy uniform. I’d been hired as a nurse, though, so as a nurse I went.

Truth be told, I wasn’t a very good nurse. I’d wanted to be a doctor, to cut people open and see what was inside them, to feel their lungs expand and their hearts beat, but the medical colleges wouldn’t even consider admitting a woman, much less one with my skin color. So I became a nurse, but I’d been relegated to the worst shifts and the worst patients, and there’s only so much vomit and excrement you can clean off before deciding that it’s just not worth it. Then one day he showed up.

Doctor Franklin was the thinnest man I’d ever seen, and his skin was so pale as to be translucent, but he was also the only doctor who spoke to me as if I was a person. He took on the hardest cases, patients more dead than alive, and told me that he learned more from the ones he couldn’t save than he ever did from those who lived. Since he let me stay in the room as he worked, I didn’t have to hide my interest in what he was doing, and he began teaching me all about how the body worked.

His techniques were different than the other doctors’, and a higher percentage of his patients found their way out the back door to the morgue than out the front to their homes, but he never seemed discouraged. Still, when I showed up for work yesterday and heard raised voices, I was concerned. Doctor Franklin never yelled, and the man he was arguing with was the director of the hospital.

“…will leave this hospital and never return. Only the barest shred of professional courtesy has kept me from contacting the authorities, and my patience is at an end.”

The door swung open, and Doctor Franklin stormed out, his gaunt face twisted into a knot of anger. When he saw me, he stopped for the briefest of instants. “Maria, I am sure you heard the end of that unfortunate confrontation. I am doing great work here – with your assistance, I must add – but they are too short-sighted to see the future. I must leave now, but if you wish, you could join me, and we can continue our work. I will send my carriage to your home tomorrow, precisely at six o’clock. Good day.”

I didn’t have to think that hard about the doctor’s offer. There was nothing for me here, nothing but a lifetime of being dismissed as inferior, day after day. And so when the carriage showed up, I was waiting.

My life in the city had been restricted to a fairly small area – my home, the hospital, a few markets which didn’t kick people like me out – and I’d never had the chance to travel into the surrounding countryside. Even in the light of a waning moon, it was clear that I was in a world which bore only a passing similarity to the one I was used to. The carriage rolled over hills that took me past enormous estates, bordered by rock walls which led to iron gates, each seemingly more ornate than the last. Just as night was beginning to replace the day, the carriage slowed. The gate we were approaching was large, but plain, and as the lead horse neared it, it swung open on its own. I looked for an attendant, but saw none. It was the first of many marvels awaiting me in the doctor’s home.

The doctor’s house matched the carriage, and had clearly been a seat of importance once upon a time, but the worn steps and flaking paint on the shutters made it clear that no one had been paying much attention to property upkeep for many years. The carriage pulled up outside the front entrance, and the driver carried my bags as he led me up the stairs. As with the gate, the door swung open as we approached, again with no doorman.

Doctor Franklin was waiting in the front room, clearly agitated. “Finally. I should have better considered the time of the commute from the city in my planning for the night. Matters will be coming to a head shortly, and I have need of your assistance. Come, we will talk along the way.”

I almost did not hear what he was saying, so startled was I by his home. Whereas the outside was worn and nearly dilapidated, the inside was pristine. Spartan almost to the point of ascetism in decoration, it was instead filled with gadgetry the like I had never seen. Faint blue lines appeared on the ground, and the doctor began following them as he talked.

“When I have need of you, you will hear me call via the box on the wall. My home is large, but you will never lose your way – just follow the lights which appear and you will be able to assist me as necessary.” He paused, just for a moment. “I should speak to you of the nature of our work here, Maria. What, do you think is the most fundamental question of our existence as living beings?”

I had no answer, but he didn’t wait for one. “It is simple, really. What does it mean to be alive, and what does it mean to be dead?

“Doctors have worked for millennia to keep people alive, but what does that mean? And while it is obvious that we can cross over from life to death, is it, as they say, a one-way trip? What of miraculous recoveries, people who seemingly have died but once again become one of the living?”

We reached a small door, made of polished metal and opaque glass. Here Doctor Franklin stopped once again and turned to me, his face alive with an energy I had never seen him exhibit before. “In the hospital, when someone dies, what do they do with them? They throw them away, into the ground to rot. That’s what other doctors do. Not me.  I bring them here.” He put his hand to the door, and the same blue light from the floor glowed around his fingers. There was a click, and the door swung open.

At first glance, one would have thought that the room behind was nothing more than a hospital ward, a half-dozen beds lining each wall, but each was surrounded by more of the gadgets I’d seen in the front room. Bellows to force air into their lungs. Pumps pushing blood into their bodies. Arrays of lights blinking red and green, though to what purpose I could not say. I straightened my uniform and bent over to examine the first patient. Each of the beds in the room was occupied by someone I recognized – men and women who had died on Doctor Franklin’s operating table. They were dead, but I would help keep them alive.

Flash Friday, Vol , week 23

Posted in Uncategorized on May 16, 2014 by drmagoo

Prompt: http://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/flash-friday-vol-2-23/

Cheese and Onions

This was a man who knew what he wanted, ordering before sitting down on the plastic-topped stool. “Bowl of chili, cheese, onions.”

I flipped the rag off my shoulder and wiped down the counter. “Can do, friend. But first, I’ve got a story.

“You see that guy up there? On the TV?”

“Yeah. Everyone knows him.”

“He was in here earlier today. Just like you, bowl of chili. Man loves his chili. Eats it before every big speech, to show off his ‘intestinal fortitude.’”

“Yeah?”

“Just watch.” The man on the TV was getting warmed up, his arms beginning their familiar gesticulation. The sweat on his brow, however, was unusual.

“Man like that makes some deals, makes some enemies. Some of them sell chili.”

The man on the TV was visibly discomfited now, panic setting in on his face. Suddenly, he turned and darted from the stage.

“Still want that chili?”

The man on the stool smiled. “How’s the meatloaf?”

A story for the Rebirth Anthology

Posted in Uncategorized on May 13, 2014 by drmagoo

Lilies

Eric Martell

#J.A.MesPress Book Yes

I buried them in the garden. First Laurie, then Tim-Tim, then Papa Joel. Then Momma, who we thought would outlive us all. I’d cried when Laurie died, her sweet face yellow and twisted, her throat torn raw from night after night – then day after night – of screaming. Words I didn’t know and then things that weren’t words.

We held a service, after a fashion, before Papa Joel footed the spade into the east end of the garden, nearest the roses that were Laurie’s favorite. The four of us who remained intoned the words we’d been taught kneeling on a hard wood floor, in penance for crimes both imaginary and terrible. I stopped going to church when Laurie took sick, and by the time Papa Joel stepped into the hole and asked for her body, I knew none of us would ever be back.

Tim-Tim watched us cover her up, but didn’t move to help. He was coughing by then, and I knew he was wondering where we’d put him. Near the oak, as it turned out, working hard to avoid roots as thick as Papa Joel’s leg, and just a week after Laurie. He didn’t suffer like she had, although when Momma heard that shotgun blast, she cursed not just for the son she’d lost, but for the shell that we’d no longer have when the time came. We had a reasonable supply in the closet, but reasonable wasn’t forever, and no one had come down the road from the north with a wagon and supplies for more than a year.

I thought Papa Joel and Momma would go together. They took sick at the same time, and howled something fierce in the night, their faces wet with sweat and spit and pus. But Momma rallied just a bit, and Papa Joel didn’t, and she was able to sit in a chair next to the garden while I dug the hole and pulled Papa Joel in. That’s when the terror took me, the realization that when she left, I’d be alone. A twelve year old girl with a shotgun, a reasonable number of shells, and something in the air that killed but that I couldn’t shoot.

“It’s alright, child. You’ll cry a lot in the night, but crying ain’t dead, and ain’t dead means maybe it gets better.” I didn’t see Momma get up and come over to me, and I don’t know how she climbed down into that hole with me and Papa Joel’s body, but I felt her arms around me, and she kissed the top of my head like she always had when I woke up in the night after a bad dream. Her voice had no anger, no recrimination, and no fear.

“Put me over there, where the lilies used to grow. You remember how we’d pull the weeds in the spring and watch the first shoots poking through the dirt?” I nodded, the tears drying up a bit, but still not trusting myself to speak. “When the wind was right, we’d hear the spring melt rushing through the stream. I want to hear that again. I won’t make it through this winter, we both know that, but you’ll put me there, won’t you?”

“I will, Momma.” And even though Papa Joel had died, that was a good day. Momma was strong enough to make her soup for dinner, and, used to cooking for five as she was, there was enough left over that I didn’t have to cook for a while. Not until after she relapsed. Not until after she died, gritting her teeth against the pain as I held her against me. Not until I buried her in the not-quite-frozen ground, where the lilies used to grow, out where you could hear the spring melt rushing through the stream when the wind was right.

I don’t know why I never came down with it, but by the time winter was over and more nights than not passed without a hard freeze, I was inches taller and a child no longer. I hadn’t had to draw from the shotgun shell supply often, and there was enough coyote meat in the ice chest that I’d make it until summer. Maybe longer if the wagons started rolling again. And maybe, if the right man looked at me the right way, I’d leave the whole place behind, especially that garden.

The clip-clop of hooves was audible before I could see the horses, echoing throughout the valley while I was hanging the washing. I cautiously peered out the front window, my heart racing, though whether from fear or from excitement I could not say. It was a proper wagon, the kind I hadn’t seen in ages, all red and yellow, with the words “P. Donaldson & Family, Merchants & Smiths” written on the side in foot-high letters. They slowed down as they approached the house, but I sped up, rushing out to meet them. Driving the wagon was a youngish woman, maybe twice my age, with her hair in a marriage knot and her husband beside.

She smiled at me, and I burst into tears.

The first human contact I’d had in months was her thin body wrapped tightly around me as I sobbed. I heard chattering voices, and saw three children scamper out of the wagon. Much too young to be anything but cute, they looked at the house with awe.

When the tears slowed to a trickle, the woman spoke. “They’re all gone.” It wasn’t a question, but I nodded. She pulled me close again. “Show us. Share them with us.”

I took her by the hand and led the family out behind the house, around towards the garden. The wind was high that day, and I could hear the stream, swollen with spring melt, rushing in the distance.

“Are they over here?” I wiped the tears from my eyes with my sleeve to see where she was pointing. “Over where the lilies are beginning to sprout?”

Flash Friday, volume 2 week 22

Posted in Uncategorized on May 10, 2014 by drmagoo

Prompt: http://flashfriday.wordpress.com/2014/05/09/flash-friday-vol-2-22/

Tilly’s body wasn’t yet stiff when I’d lowered it into the garden, but in these things, the old ways were best. Get it gone and move on. I shouldn’t have even let Mallory name it, but she was as pig-headed as her father, and who can stop a young girl from dreaming when the moon is high?

Probably would have been best to have given her the brew as soon as she’d quickened, but it looked like the war was coming to an end, and for the first time in generations, there was hope. And she’d be growing during the winter, when the fields were fallow – we could afford to take a chance.

But now it was spring, and the earth was ripe, and the war claimed more lives every day. It was just Mallory and me from here on, and the corn wouldn’t plant itself. We couldn’t afford a mouth that couldn’t feed itself, not now. Maybe not ever.

Mid-Week Blues Buster, week 2.8

Posted in Uncategorized on May 10, 2014 by drmagoo

Prompt: http://thetsuruokafiles.wordpress.com/2014/05/06/mid-week-blues-buster-week-2-8/

3:51:31 AM

The second hand drags itself that one final mark and I push the button. The beep-beep of the alarm fails to sound, and I see the drop fall into the IV. I count to forty this time before I start to feel it, not a rush, not anymore, but a gradual retreat. I always forget how tense I get, like I’m about to fly off the edge of being able to cope with the pain, and it’s not until I breathe deeply that I realize how little air I’d been taking in.

3:53:02 AM

The pain doesn’t go away. It used to, back when the morphine was ibuprofen and I didn’t see Atropos’ scissors in the doctor’s eyes. But there’s still something like relief, or at least something like sleep. The hands on the clock fade, and I step into a dream. Each dream is a continuation of the last, as if there’s something in my unconscious mind that wants to know how it all turns out. I suspect there’s no real continuity, but it doesn’t really matter, because she’s there, and she’s young and beautiful and I can still run.

3:55:59 AM

The tick of the clock wakes me from the dream. Only three minutes that time, and the transition from the pretend to the real was sharp. I could still feel her arms and smell her hair – the herbal shampoo that she loved, that lingered in the air long after she’d left. The last words she had said were as ethereal as hope, but my body responded anyway – her lips, her voice, her breath in my ear never failed to summon that desire. Not all of me was dead, not yet, although the catheter took even this small joy from me. The drugs were still there, still working their magic, and I drifted back off.

3:57:22 AM

Where there’s light, there must be shadow. This was the other dream, the one that reminds me that when I die, all will be suffering. All will be pain. All will be consumed by the dark. The dark screams at me, teeth and viscera, and I know what it wants. But I don’t go to it. Not yet.

3:58:43 AM

The passing conversation of nurses in the hall cuts the dream mercifully short, but this one never truly leaves me. I know when it’s visited because the pain is back. The morphine has done what it could do. They could give me more, I know – they could make me comfortable – but they tell me I don’t hurt enough. That there’s still hope. That if I get as much as I want, I could become addicted, and then getting clean would be a nightmare.

3:59:02 AM

The nightmare is the monster in my colon, eating me from the inside out.

3:59:10 AM

The convulsion comes, and I hunch over in my bed, clenching my teeth to keep the cries in. I’ve seen the pain in the nurses’ eyes. They want to help, but can’t, and they know that, and they know that I know that. No need to call Angie in – at least I think it’s Angie’s night – if her pity would help, I’d take it, but it won’t. And she uses an herbal shampoo that just makes my heart ache. All thoughts of lips and caresses in the dark are gone now, but I still miss her, even through the pain.

4:01:31 AM

I push the button.