By CJ Alexander
His life force is ebbing away. You listen helplessly as his lungs labor, a staccato duet. Hiss, wheeze, hiss, wheeze. You synchronize your breathing to the oddity of his, holding in your precious air as long as you can. Your ears buzz in protest from the strain of it. It’s been hours since the attack. How much longer until someone drives by? Your ribs push and clamp, push and clamp, threatening to pierce your chest. Breathe, breathe, you fool! Against all odds, he inhales again, so you do too, gorging on oxygen. Because it has to last.
You nod encouragingly, hoping he’s too preoccupied by the intriguing business of dying to notice your trembling lips fail to curl into their usual grin. Alarming, isn’t it, to lay your finger against his carotid artery, to feel it pulse furiously and sporadically beneath the fragile epidermis. You could end his suffering by pressing firmly and holding to a count of ten, perhaps. Some unknown force prevents you from remembering exactly how.
You shift your weight to the other hip, and grasp his hand, the one that’s still attached to an arm, and give it a reassuring squeeze. You murmur soothing inanities: “Shhhh. Shhhh. Just breathe. Stay with me. I’m right here, I’m not going anywhere.” Not going anywhere you’re about to go, you add silently. You hope he can’t read your thoughts, nor see the worry etched on your face. You want him to die as peacefully as possible, all things considered. You want to protect him right up until the inevitable end.
There it is now, the death rattle. His dying breath smells mysterious, like sage, and sharp, like lavender. You stare, transfixed, hoping you’ll witness his soul clamber up his ribs, hoping it turns its face to yours before it flees. Oh!
Now you close the eyelids he left open like curtains. Tears form and fall and stipple your shirt.
You lay your head on his lap and wait.
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CJ Alexander is blog creator, host and editor of the Whitesboro Writers Group. She’s been writing for fun since forever, and in 2015 she finally decided to find out if her fiction had any merit in the publishing world. Eight of her stories are soon to appear in various anthologies compiled by Horrified Press of Great Britain.