General Hurt/Comfort

In The Final Moment

April 8, 2020
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Average Rating: 3.0
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In the Final Moment

The room is hued in the deep oranges and reds of the sunrise peering through the drawn blinds. A lonely folding table is positioned in one corner of the room, one chair with its back against the wall opposite of me and the other chair pushed in to the table. A wardrobe stands tall in another corner and a short dresser rests at the foot of my bed with a blackened box TV on top of it.

I stand beside my bed as I gather in the unchanging arrangement of my room. I don’t remember getting up though, or waking up. I barely make out the sound of slow sighs behind me. I turn around to see myself, still wrapped tightly in my cream bedsheets, mouth open slightly and eyes closed. Am I dreaming?

Or lucid dreaming? I studied up on the subject in my fifties during the writing of my third fantasy novel. It was said to be like an out-of-body experience. I look back at myself, This is as out of body as it gets. My body catches on a snore then, and for a while, my chest stops moving. A stab of pain shoots through my heart and a small pressure begins in my forehead. My body sucks in a long breath, coughs, and goes back to its normal breath pattern as if nothing happened.

“I think you’re wrong on this one, ‘ol pops,” my eyes follow the source of the voice to a man sitting in the chair against the wall. He’s wearing a black beret, a loose-fit button-up tan shirt with rolled cuffs, and black trousers being supported by a pair of suspenders. The man almost appears translucent in the orange lighting. He leans forward to place elbows on thighs and adds in his thick New York Bronxs accent, “This ain’t what ya studied before.”

I draw in a shaky breath, unsure of what to say.

“Don’t ya remember me, pops?”

I shake my head slowly, “I’m sorry, but no.”

“Ouch, that’s a stinger to the ticker,” he clutches his breast in mock anguish. When seeing his attempt at comedy doesn’t hit its mark, he rolls up his left pant leg, “Maybe this will jar your memory, pops.”

I look down to see a mauled calf muscle. The whole length of it is streaked in dark pink caverns and craters where the skin and muscle look to have been torn off. How did this man even walk in here?

He notes my shocked expression. “Pretty ugly, eh?  You did this to me. Well, indirectly.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Remember The Great?”

My eyebrows furrow, and I think for a moment. Nothing comes to mind. What does this man want? And how did he get past the nurses and into my room? I don’t know him. He looks like he’s from an entirely different century.

And then I remember. The fishing crew I wrote about in college. I constructed an entire decade of their adventures. Set in the 18th century, they encountered the biggest fish anyone from the colonies had ever seen: a Great White. One man in particular battled face to face with the beast: the boat engineer, Charlie.

“Charlie.”

“I knew you’d remember, ‘ol pops.”

I can’t believe it. Writing Charlie’s story helped me through some tough times. Not to mention it was my first published work. How had I forgotten? Has it really been so long?

His thoughts and emotions used to fill my mind and body. His were mine and mine were his. He was a part of me. Is still part of me, a wisp of my soul.

Then, the room plummets into silence as the constant, low crackle and rumble from within my body’s chest stops, and there’s nothing. Not even a breath. Not even a breath. I turn to look at the bed. There I lie, peacefully turned onto my side, mouth still open. I try to see chest movement, but a surging pain drills in between my eyes. It’s enough to blur and dim my vision as the room grows to be a foggy violet.

“I can’t tell if he’s breathing, Charlie,” I say, the pain drilling deeper into my head.

When he speaks, his voice is in my ear and his arm is wrapping around my shoulder. “It’s because he ain’t, ‘ol pops,” Charlie says, all humor gone. He gives my shoulder a gentle pat and adds, “but you’ll be alright. We’re here.” He stretches his other arm out to indicate the entire room and in doing so seems to slowly lift a blanket off of a half a dozen other figures standing in the room. I wince as a fresh wave of pain sinks into my head.

I stammer a “Who are they?” to which Charlie states simply, “Some old friends.”

And then I see them. Every one of them. My characters’ stories flash before my eyes: the cave adventurer, the widowed woman, the lost astronaut, the shaman, the time-traveler, the warden, the boat engineer—Charlie. They are all here. Every voice that had ever whispered to my being, here, watching me with sullen eyes. 

“This is it, ‘ol pops. You can’t stay in this room any longer. Through that door,” Charlie motions toward my room door, “something amazing awaits you. Something so unimaginably fantastic, I don’t even think you could put it down on paper.”

He gives me a nudge toward the door. I hesitantly take two steps and reach for the handle, a cool relief flowing into my forehead.

I ask over my shoulder, “Are you and the others coming with?”

Charlie shakes his head, “Afraid not. We’re gunna stick around and do a little breathin’ for ya, pops.”


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Interesting idea
oddone rated this work:

April 9, 2020, 8:33 a.m.

I like the idea of the man seeing all of the characters he's created come to him during his final moments.
my only critique is a vague one, unfortunately, it's in regards to the style of your writing. It still reads okay but there are places where mentally I was removing or changing certain words to make the sentence or paragraph read better.
For example, the sentence "Just then I notice the room plummet into silence as the constant low crackle and rumble from within my body’s chest stops, and there’s nothing."
Maybe consider removing "Just then I notice..." from the beginning of the sentence, and start the sentence with "The room plummets into silence" to give the action more immediacy, and make the sentence a bit more streamlined.

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Would like to see more!
slorence rated this work:

May 14, 2020, 6:44 p.m.

This is a really interesting and original idea- I'd like to see more of it! It might be interesting to introduce some more conflict and drama into the story by having the narrator dying from something more dramatic than old age/illness. If the narrator was facing something traumatic and a couple more of the characters appeared and were talking/deliberating with each other before addressing the narrator (or having the narrator address them) it might make the reveal of them being the narrator's characters more impactful. The way you have it now, you tease it a bit by describing Charlie as looking translucent, which clues in the reader that something supernatural is going on. If you hold out for the reveal a little longer, I think it would make the piece stronger. It would also be a neat way to introduce some more interesting characters that the narrator wrote about and have more context or exposition revealed through dialogue.

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