Her Final Days. Short Story.

I’ve been fairly tired this week, so I haven’t been up to much! Hope everyone’s week is going well.

On with the show!

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He held her hands in his. It was so small. He had never noticed that before. It was warm too. Like he was holding a small lump of coal. He shook his head, that was stupid. Coal would burn. He moved his top hand to her forehead and felt it, at the rate her temperature was climbing, she’d be that hot soon enough. He put his hand back where it was. He needed to be here for her. No matter how long it took. Her eyes were closed, the lids gently undulating as the eye underneath flicked back and forth rapidly. He wondered if she was dreaming, if they were nice dreams. Sweat was beading up on her face, he dabbed at it gently, feeling useless. Noise. He leaned in closer, trying to hear, then leaned back. She wasn’t trying to speak, it was her breathing. It settled again, slow and deep. If only there was something he could do. He dampened the cloth and wiped her face gently, hoping it would help. God. This was maddening. Outside nurses moved back and forth, rushing off to treat other people, one’s who were apparently more important. She’d be ok. Of course she would, she always was. He looked out the window, he couldn’t look at her sunken face, her greasy and thin hair. He stood and opened the window slightly, the room felt stuffy. He sat back at his post. He wouldn’t abandon her now.

She had gotten sick not too long ago, only a month. It was nothing. She couldn’t be this sick, everyone knew you couldn’t get that sick in a month. It wasn’t possible. The disease was slow, lingering, it didn’t just burn through someone’s body. Yet that was what it was doing to her. It was supposed to take years. The doctor said so during the diagnosis. His face was solemn, grave, but he said it. Ten years at least, ten years of good health, then another five years of decline before a final four months. Oh sure, he told them there was a little leeway either side, it might be a little shorter or longer, but not by much. She was healthy, everything indicated she would live longer. Everything had said so, everything but the disease. Though the worst part of it all, the scariest part, was that no one knew how she had gotten it. There were no medical procedures done recently, no transmission of blood or bodily fluids, at least not with anyone other than him. He had been worried at first, worried that she might pass it to him, but it seemed ok so far, both the doctors and nurses said he’d be fine, that it wouldn’t spread to him, but what did they know? They said she’d live for fifteen years. He couldn’t leave her alone during her last moments though. They had spent almost their entire lives together, he wouldn’t fall short now.

She opened her eyes, coming to consciousness for a brief moment before closing them again. He struggled not to look away, to keep his face neutral. Her eyes were a deep, pure black. They said that would happen, hell he’d even seen pictures, but pictures were not reality. Still, he held her hand, he was there for her. No one else had visited them, not after the news of the new virulent strain. That’s what she had. Burned through the body much faster, spread easier. The nurses had offered him masks and gloves, but he refused, they were too stressed and busy to really push it. He hadn’t caught it yet and they still weren’t sure how it spread, hell chances were good if he was going to get it he already would have. The hospitals were inundated with cases, those who had it and those who feared they had it. He was lucky she already had her room, they hadn’t moved her yet, or added people in, but they would soon. There wasn’t much time left,  but he needed her final moments to be full of peace.

It happened with little fuss. One moment she was there and the next she was gone. In a way it was a relief. He could rest now. Every hitched breath, every gasp, he feared it was happening. The constant worry of if she had regained consciousness, if he missed it, was finally gone. He didn’t really expect this feeling, this feeling of relief. He had expected grief, anger but they hadn’t come yet. Perhaps because there had been so much of it in the preceding days. Everything had happened so fast. He had taken her from the hospital, it was the only way. It was better for all involved. The hospitals were no longer safe, not with the marauders, searching for medicines, doctors, anyone and everything that could be of use. The world would become normalised again, once everyone calmed. For now, things were in chaos. He knew things would get better. It hadn’t nearly been as bad as everyone had expected. He gently kissed her forehead, then sat beside her, holding her cooling hand.

There was something final about digging the grave, the act of filling it was numbing, the act of digging was excruciating. Each shovelful drove home that she was gone, the deeper it went, the further away from her he felt. She was truly gone. They were incinerating the bodies. He couldn’t let them do that to her. Not to her. When he was finished the job, he sat by her grave. It was almost midnight when he finally went inside. It was cold and the moonlight felt sullied, as though it was mocking him, things couldn’t be beautiful now that she was gone. The streetlights had been turned off to try and preserve power. He lay in their bed, so large and empty now, wondering if it was a good idea. She would be there, always, with him, as she should. He would make some kind of marking for her grave, something that would honour her. It had to be subtle, discrete. People couldn’t know that there was a grave there, he wasn’t sure of the legality. Something beautiful, like her, something she would have appreciated.

The morning came faster than he expected and with it, a changed world. A new strain, more lethal than the last, the few businesses that were still open shut down, hospitals finally closed their doors completely, barricading them, the few doctors fleeing with their families. The government broadcast warned that there would be blackouts, the power was being shut down for all none essential services. The message played on repeat, over and over, there was nothing else on, there never was. He turned off the TV and went outside, to be with her, for just a little bit longer. He had it, there was no doubting it now. He lay across her grave, he was tired, so very, very tired.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
This entry was posted in Horror, Sci-Fi, Short Stories, Suspense and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Her Final Days. Short Story.

  1. SELAHbrate says:

    “Each shovelful drove home that she was gone, the deeper it went, the further away from her he felt.” – These delicately chosen words depict the agony of letting go. He is burying his heart with her. Indeed, captivating!

    • Thank you, I felt that the digging of a grave would be more painful than filling it, at least for me. There’s something final about digging the grave and it’s creation rather than the filling, which is just the final step in a process that begin in the digging.

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