I’m early for once, here is this weeks #FridayFlash. Enjoy
One More Day
by Jason Warden
When old men cry it is hard wired into us to cry along with them. At least that’s what I’ve come to believe. We all cried; you probably would have as well. There was no shortage of tears then, and I guess haven’t been since.
As a nurse, I’ve never been one for hiding my head in the sand, pretending the worse can’t happen, but we’re like everyone else; we knew it was real, and refused to believe until the old man was admitted to ICU.
I guess it would have been worse had he awoke, but as it was none of us could walk into his room without shedding tears for the sacrifices he had made so that we could live the life, and enjoy the freedoms we were supposedly guaranteed. Being nearly immortal made the damage took upon himself hard to even fathom. We covered his wounds and cared for him as best we could, but it was futile. Then…He came.
I was in the old man’s room and sensed more than heard when he entered. His long black coat drifted around his ankles like a shadow. If I he’d not been standing in the doorway, I’m not sure I would have even seen him. He may have become part of the background completely. He moved to stand over the elder man and neither time nor sickness could hide their similarities. Trenches ran the length of his cheeks, tears cascading and cutting flesh unknown decades had failed to touch.
The old man did not stir. He lay as he had for days, lost in a world beyond our ability to touch. A place we always called Neverland.
“Timothy?” I asked.
He nodded, and turned slightly toward me.
“He’s been asking for you. Well he was before, but he’s been out for a few days now. I like to believe he may still hear, it may even help, so…” I trailed off not wanting to tell him his business, nor upset him. A few uncomfortable seconds passed. I turned to leave, and then thought better of it.
“Can I get you anything?” I asked
“No, I…” he began. He took a deep breath and continued, “Is he dying?”
“I’m afraid so. It won’t be long now.” I answered.
I couldn’t help myself. I moved closer and put a hand on his shoulder. Power radiated from him. I could feel it like a tangible weight.
“He told us about you, what you did. Thank you.”
The words brought him out of his revere. I stepped back surprised by the fierceness in his dark eyes and the twin points in the corners of his mouth.
“Did he tell you he hated me for it? Or that after, he wouldn’t even claim me as his own? That all my calls went unanswered? Did he tell you that?”
I only shook my head, unsure what to say. Words would not make it right. I’ve dealt with enough grieving families by now to understand only time can heal certain things. I backed toward the door wondering how things had gone so wrong. I had offended this noble, this hero and I couldn’t even begin to see how it had happened. He turned back to his father and I stopped backing away. He reached into his pocket and I thought “Oh God,” but then he pulled only a slip of paper. He unfolded it carefully, gently, as if what were written upon it were the secrets of the universe.
“Did you mean it Father? Did this come from you or from the sickness?”
He waited for an answer, got none, and began to read.
Timothy, My pride,
You never kept the logic I tried to instill in you. Instead, you lived with heart. You never learned to need things of this world, although you were born of it, and should have. Instead, you learned to love. My instincts kept me hidden away while you traveled the world, fighting for something I couldn’t understand. I was wrong in not joining you sooner. In truth, greed kept me away, greed and stubborn pride. I thought, there would always be enough for us, but you knew something else. That life, even an eternal one, isn’t worth living alone. The plague of the undead, had you not slowed it, would have consumed all. I told you from the beginning that someday you’d find one to spend your immortality with, that when the time was right, you’d know, as I knew with you. Oh how you’ve made me proud. You embraced not one, but a world. It’s all yours Timothy, what’s left of it.
I loved you, I always will.
I stepped back into the room as he lowered the paper. Again, I lightly touched him. I was weeping and no longer felt in danger. He must have known I hadn’t left for he took my hand and squeezed it gently.
“When he first arrived, he spoke of you often.” I said. “He was proud, but he was also scared of losing you. Then there was the news report that you’d been overcome inLondon. He said he became so angry that he tried to fight them alone. He killed many, but… he didn’t have the followers you did. There were some that tried to help, but when they saw him, they saw…”
“Another monster?” He finished.
“He fought hard, and as you see he still fights now. Many of those he saved have come, to offer… to donate… We have more than we’ll ever need. Do you…? Would you like…a drink?”
For the first time he looked at me straight on and the hardness of his eyes softened just enough that I could tell he had been, and still was a good man, regardless of what he’d become and what acts he had committed in the pursuit of survival. Then something else happened in those eyes, those beautiful eyes. I was speaking but had no control over the words coming from my lips.
“Will you take me? Can I be yours?” I asked.
My need for him was overflowing and even when I reached the point where that feeling should ebb, it grew, and my question became a plea.
“Take me,” I cried, “Show me the wonder.”
He looked away and the feeling slowly began to fade.
“I did what I needed to so people like you could survive, not become. Already I must dispose of some of those you call my followers. They have become more dangerous than those hideous Walkers. They know not moderation, but only strive to fulfill their most base desires. People, when they become, mirror what they were in life. There weren’t so many monsters among humankind during the time of my own becoming. Please, I need time, a drink will be fine.”
I left him, ashamed at my outburst, and when I returned with his pint he was kneeling beside his Father’s bed, one hand over his face, the other holding the old man’s hand.
“I’m sorry father. I shouldn’t have left you.” He said.
Then, for only a second his father’s eyes opened. They looked about, fixed on his son, and then he spoke.
“So, you were right? We…. You my son, I Love…” Tears ran from the corners of his eyes, but he said no more. We waited, nervously watching, to see if what had taken so many mortals would also capture and enslave him. Nothing happened, after a time, Timothy bent, kissed his father’s forehead and shuddered. He looked at me and spoke even more quietly than he had before.
“Burn him; burn him before he comes back. He should have already been dust. The disease is holding it back. I don’t know if it can awaken him, and I don’t want to find out. Take him…Now.”
We rushed him to the morgue. Later I found out he awoke in the back of the ambulance, but it wasn’t him anymore. I can only imagine the carnage if he’d gotten loose. The EMT said he was still screaming when the conveyor rolled him into the crematorium fire. The nylon straps must have burned before he did. The mortician said during all of it ungodly screeches came from within, eventually though, everything burns, even our innocence.
I never saw him again after we took his father away, when I returned to the room he was gone like smoke, like shadow. I’m glad he didn’t take me as I asked. He could have, but then I would have been left to learn that life from another and he would have likely been one of the monsters. I’ve decided it’s better to be powerless than saddled with a life I don’t understand.
Timothy’s destruction came upon him only months after that night. Not by the Walkers, they are no longer a problem. It was his own, his followers, that took him as he tried to cull their number.
I must go. I must give, as we all must, as a symbol of our thanks and fealty.