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Charon's Curse

A withered, frail man lay in the bed, his diseased body overwhelmed by the white sheets and blankets. Life-giving oxygen blew into his nose, and the constant beep of the heart monitor dictated his weakening life-force. An IV bag hung over him, dripping pain numbing drugs into his ravaged system. Walking up beside him, I took his fragile hand in mine and squeezed gently.

"Howard," I whispered.

His eyelids fluttered and then opened, a look of recognition flitting through the filmy blue of his eyes.

"Is it time already?" he asked.

"I'm afraid so. . . "

"But I've still so much left to do," he protested. "So much left to see."

"I'm sorry, but it is out of my hands."

The man sighed and nodded in understanding. "I knew the time was coming for you to appear. I just didn't realize it would be this soon. I haven't said my good-byes. Will you give me a few moments? Please?"

I was prepared for this request and with a slight smile, I released his hand and took a few steps back until I stood in the shadows in the corner of the room. I watched as he turned his head and called out to the younger woman sleeping in the chair beside him.

"Marie," his raspy voice called. "Marie!"

The woman jerked awake and sprang out of the chair. "What is it honey? Are you in pain? Should I call the nurse?"

"No. Come. Sit with me . . ."

Unaware of my presence in the room, Marie perched on the side of the bed and took her husband's hand in hers. "What's the matter?"

"I am dying my love."

"Don't say that!" The tears welling up in her eyes were evident by the shaking of her voice.

"Sweetheart, time for denial is long past. The doctor's haven't been able to do anything to help for months now. They've just been making me comfortable as I wait."

"Wait for what?"

". . . You know the answer to that."

"No! I refuse to listen to you talk this way. You can't give up."

"The time for fighting is long past my love. I'm facing what's coming, and you must as well. I want you to listen to me. Please?"

Marie nodded her head, the tears not allowing her to vocalize her response.

"More than anything, I want you to be happy. I know it will take awhile. But I want you to marry again."

Marie vehemently shook her head.

"My love, please. I don't want you spending the rest of your life pining away for me. I want you to be happy. I want you to be loved. I give you my blessing. When the time comes, and you'll know when it's right, I want you to go for it. I love you, and I want you to be happy. I'll always love you. . . you and the kids. Never forget that."

Howard fell silent, his chest heaving with the exertion of his speech. Marie's body shook with sobs as she mulled over his words. When she spoke, her words were broken. "I can't even begin to think of those things right now, but I promise you that I'll always remember your words. I love you so much, I can't imagine life without you. . . I have to be strong for the children, but I'm going to miss you so much. It already hurts deep inside." Marie flung herself down over his chest, her arms cradling his sides.

I walked forward and ran my hand lightly across his forehead. His body trembled and shuddered, his breath rattling as his soul glided from his body.

"There's no need for you to watch this," I said to him as I took his hand and led him from the room as the alarm from his heart monitor began to blare.

"But Marie..."

"She'll be okay. Of course, it will take time. It always does, but she's young still. She has a whole life ahead of her."

"What happens? Do you know?"

"Only a little. I know she honors your wish and eventually remarries."

"Is she happy?"

"Of course... but she never forgets. You're always with her. Every time she looks into the eyes of your children, she sees you, and her heart aches just a little."

He closed his eyes for a moment, taking in the information. When he opened them again, he only said two words, "I'm ready."

I led him on. . . to the other side.

I am Charon Lifesbane.

Death.

This what I do.

I'm the soul-taker.

7 mad rant(s):



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  1. Comrade Cripple said...

    Good work. I really liked the way the soul taker is given some emotion instead of just a heart of stone. Perhaps a sequel.....  

  2. Arbitary Juggernaut said...

    Aaaahhh remember the Cradle?

    Perhaps one should wonder... What would an avatar of death think of the undead? ;)  

  3. yiwei said...

    Fantastic! i really liked how your "identity" was kept so...innocuous all the way till the end.  

  4. thwen said...

    Charon... Pluto's 'moon'? Hmmm... I really enjoyed the perspective you wrote the entire short story from. Unfortunately, I guessed from the beginning that 'you' were some angel of death... Turned out to be the soul-taker instead, haha. =)  

  5. Arbitary Juggernaut said...

    Yes thwen The Romans named all the known planets and their moons after the Greek pantheon.

    Charon is the Greek's version of death and is Pluto's underling... 'cept this time he rides a gondola and ferry's you past Cerberus (the three headed dog).

    soul taker - angel of death .... same shit different toilet no? :D  

  6. Shine said...

    ...?

    So... an old guy is gonna die... and then a mysterious angel come and give him 2 more minutes to live... he goes and asks his wife to ditch him and remarry, cause she is young... and then the angel fellow come and reap his soul... while his wife cries her eyes out?

    ... AWESOME!

    Me likey  

  7. Anonymous said...

    I really enjoyed the story, the thing that I find ironic is that my name is Charon. Also, I have the worst luck with death. So it makes me feel like someone... I really did enjoy this story though!!! Its great!!! I would also love a sequel!!!  


 

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