The machines beeped and whirred and annoyed, cicadas of the only field that she had known for longer than she dared remember. Memories were all that she had, although her brain, as a defense mechanism, was not allowing new ones to process. It was for the better. This was not a tableau that needed to be imprinted for eternity. Her mind was sharp and poignant, a debilitating counterpoint to the degenerating neurons with which she was cursed. She heard, she saw, she perceived, but she could not return the signals in kind, the cruelest one-way street, for all involved.
For what seemed like eons she had fought, swam against the tide that would always prove stronger. She had hoped and struggled for herself, but even more for her kin, for her sweet husband, for her loving daughters, for her shock of gorgeous grandchildren, for all those whose lives she had graced. She was not delusional, she knew what was to transpire, but the spark of life is so precious, so fleeting, that no matter the odds, you do whatever you can to nurture that flame. She had revisited all that there was, and now knew the time had come. She picked up the white board that was her link to the outside and she made her wishes known. As she wrote the words that would summon the end, she conjured the vision of Mary and smiled, internally.
The roar subsided, the washing machine was finally still, and he knew. For the first few moments thereafter, he tried to pretend that he did not have that knowledge, but it weighed upon him even more than the snow crystals hardening to concrete. Surely, he would find a way out, he would find his friends, they would all escape and have some quiet moments of analysis over beers. Then he tried to move his arm and nothing happened. Time turned elastic, stretched out before him, he was a kid and then he thought of his kid and his heart broke and his mind raced and he panicked and lashed out and nothing happened. He knew.
Thrashing would burn the oxygen faster, would bring the inevitable, but he wanted just a little more time for reflection and so he remained immobile, save for the synapses firing with all of their might. He had so much more to give, so much more to say, so much more to do, he had been in the midst of his life, nary a thought given to the spectre of mortality. Now he had mere minutes to give thanks, to send out the good vibes, to reminisce and to regret, to be proud, to make his peace. He had always laughed in the face of adversity, in the face of danger, and it was with a hearty guffaw that he took his last breath.
They had never had an easy time. She had suffered at the hands of a series of cruel, vicious, sadistic masters. The abuse visited upon him was unrelenting, unreal, unrighteous. Neither could remember a time of happiness, neither could even really conceptualize the idea of happiness, unless it was at the sharp end of a needle or the empty dregs of a bottle. United in their misery, in their anger at the world, in their addictions, they clung to each other, their combined weight too heavy to rise above their circumstances. Together they could have helped each other, but instead they reinforced their doom.
It had been her idea or his. Really, it was a wonder that their imbibements had not already done the trick, but they were still young and the human body is a miracle of survival, usually for those who treat it the most poorly. Not yet twenty-five and already they had grown weary of the suffering, of the way that the coin always came up tails. In a mutually-reinforced loop of self-loathing and self-pity, they stepped over the railing and onto the outer span of the bridge. They held hands and turned to look into each other’s eyes. He squeezed her palm, smiled at her, and then relinquished his grip as he jumped, knowing he had to sacrifice himself for the girl who still stood on the ledge as he plummeted, finally free of his gravity.
What will you think when the end comes?