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The Clock -short story 2017

The cold caused him to ache, he barely could move for the pain. Adjusting his bedding he stirred for a moment before returning to the discomfort of elusive sleep. He wondered if he could get up but he had nothing to do. He was locked in place, pain strapping him in. All he to do was suffer. A long, lonely wait for the inevitable.

Turning to the bedside clock, its glowing red light of the digits as they slowly moved, tormented him. Four AM, he closed his eyes and willed for sleep. It’s harder to do when the sun is up, when other people are about, so he needed to sleep now. He could turn the light on and read but he found it hard to concentrate. So, he starred at the clock. The red numbers in a cycle, counting down each day. He watched two more minutes passed.

The pain was ever present, if he moved it hurt. If he remained still it hurt. The relief from it was elusive, no amount of chemicals seemed to satisfy his desperate need to no longer hurt. The rest, the endless rest only seemed to feed it and yet, he could not move much. He was too exhausted to want activity. So instead he waited. He felt his spirit spiral into the wind, the last moments of a candle, no more light left only the putrid waft of smoke.

He coughed, a sharp stab of phlegm dislodged from within his chest, he coughed again and again. The itching remained but the pain in his chest stopped for a moment. He sighed, it was raspy and shallow. How did he become so weak, when did he become so old. He despised the image he saw in the mirror, the body that he felt.

The dim light of the clock illuminated him enough that he could see his saggy, leathery skin as it draped from his arms, the thin embers of once mighty limbs that now shook as he swiped at the empty air. Scars and scabs grew from his flesh, discolouration’s and necrotic toe holds of death permeated his being.

He wanted to sleep, yet he could not. He swallowed hard and itched his limp finger against a tube that stuck into his inner forearm. He was tempted to pull it free, its presence a reminder that he was trapped. He did not have the strength to do it. His will was not enough.

Four Sixteen, he turned his head away from the glowing digits. If only he could sleep, then the pain would be gone for a little while. He had never felt so tired. It was a deep dragging malaise that denied him of cognition or ability to sip from a cup. He was not a vegetable, though he was not far off. The immobility had shredded his dignity.

What good was pride? It apparently went with age, disappeared with health. He could no longer bathe himself, go to the toilet without help. Each sanitary action or body movement was an impersonal annoyance to a stranger that hid behind the occasional fake smile. ‘Just die’ he could feel them think, as they washed and wiped his putridness away.

“I am trying to” He whispered back.

He tried to sit up, the pain in his torso had returned. It felt like his insides was awash with flames. The agony ripped at his internals, it caused his body to throb in discomfort and torturous persistence. Both of his elbows pushed against the rubber mattress, he shook as he lifted himself, the exertion was a different sort of pain. A welcome one.

He could push the button to raise a nurse’s attention. But he refused to, damned them. ‘They hate me,’ he reminded himself as a spark of the man he once was re-merged through the weariness. His focus was now on lifting himself up, sitting. That was all that mattered now. He pushed, pulled and clawed, sighing and groaning. He did it. He sat up. Victory.

It still hurt, but less than before. His legs now felt tight and constrained, he wanted to kick the blankets from them. The nurses had wrapped him up as though a babe inside a fabric cocoon. He could not relieve the sensation, he wiggled his toes and rolled his ankles, they burned and stayed held down. He could not get them free. He looked to the clock, four eighteen.

He looked across the room, he could hear his neighbours. They were all sorry and pathetic. An old lady that spoke to the ghost of her dead husband. An obese man, his heart squashed inside of his own bosom. An old man, broken frail and decrepit. Maybe that was just his own reflection.

The pain had returned, he could hear one of the nurses walk nearby. The sound that they made on the polished floors was distinct. She stuck her head in, he closed his eyes. Better to pretend to be asleep than to bother her. She reminded him of his granddaughter, this one was nice. She was kind. He did not need to annoy her by trying to find a comfortable place for him. One did not exist. At least not while he was awake.

Closing his eyes and opening them again, he groaned and moaned. Staring upwards at the ceiling and into his own eye lids. None of it helped. He began to cough again, he felt as though he was choking. The taste was vile. He must stink, he was ashamed. He stirred as he turned to look at the clock again, four forty.

The pain was growing with each day and night. He was not recovering. He was dying. He needed to sleep, but then what. He will wake up to hurt again. He wanted to really sleep. To escape it all. To no longer bother the nurses, to free up the bed for another. To remove the burden from his family. They all were waiting for the inevitable. They had already mourned him; the date was yet to be set. Now, now is the time. He wanted to die now. He was ready.

No prayers came to mind, he had no faith in the afterlife and even if he did, would it have cured him? He considered theology for a moment. It was a nice distraction. He coughed again. It hurt more. He began to wheeze; his breathing began to grow harder. Turning to the clock, he saw the time it was growing close to five AM.

He smiled, what if he died then. He watched the illuminated numbers, fantasizing that it was a count down. His death clock. In ten more minutes He would find peace, his desperate mind promised himself. He was very tired now. His eyes fell shut. He could feel the fatigue claim him. He was confident that this was the end. Finally.

“Thank you,” He whispered in the last moments that he could, a deep dark heavy fog consumed him. Death he welcomed.

“Good morning,” The painted-on smile of a nurse greeted him, he turned disorientated, the pain returning with savagery.

He could not speak; his throat was sore. The nurse checked his body, pulling at him and lifting him as she chose. He had no choice in the matter. She wrote numbers down onto a clipboard, checked the liquids that entered and exited his body through the many tubes. He looked to the clock, seven ten.

He would live. Another horrible undignified day.


Published inShort stories and fictions