The Final Countdown ~ My story for @RBwood’s Word Count Podcast

You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #40 of R.B. Wood’s “The Word Count” podcast.

The prompt asked that we use THREE words in our stories: 

Glass | Bed | Bow

Special acknowledgement to David Bowie for inspiring my tale.

*  *  *  *

My eyes click open mechanically like a ventroliquist’s dummy, like a cheap plastic doll you win at an amusement park. They stay open, staring at the ceiling. That god awful beige, the same color as the walls, the color of sick, which I am.

Wait. I’m not sick. I’m dying. Let’s not mince words here. I prefer not to delude myself.

I’m in bed. It’s probably nine, ten in the morning. I can tell James has been in the room. The curtain has moved. A fringe is in a different place from yesterday before I fell asleep—my marker. I know every tiny movement of everything in this room. That’s all I can do—look around and take note of minute changes.

Time drags, but that’s okay. It should slow down at this stage. We rush our whole lives to get here, and when the end comes, we’re not ready.

Not me. I’m ready.

It takes all my strength to lift my body enough to elevate my head. The room spins, so I shut my eyes. Behind the lids, silver lightning bolts pinwheel and shoot out in different directions like fireworks.

Zing! Boom! Bang!

I scrunch my face and squeeze my eyes tighter. I wait for the noise to quiet down, for the lights to stop flashing, and for the time bomb in my head to stop ticking. It only ticks to tease me because it has yet to explode. I’ve waited for it to explode, even sat in front of the mirror, (when I was still able to sit up), staring at my reflection, eyes bulged, pressure building in my head, counting down my time like … like …

10-9-8 … Ground control to Major Tom … 7-6-5-4 … Commencing countdown engines on … 3-2-1… Check ignition and may God’s love be with you … Lift off …

No. No lift off for me.

The pressure builds and builds and then it’s like someone pricks a pinhole in my balloon of a head and the pressure eases.

I think it would be great to see my head explode. If the last part to burst could be my eyes so I can see that final image of myself intact, that would be great—one hell of a way to blast off.

That’s what I thought last month anyway. Now … I’m not so sure. I can’t even get out of bed anymore. Oh god, a different sensation, rising from my stomach.

I roll to my side and say hello to my bed companion.

“Hello, spit bowl. Don’t you look shiny today? Are you ready for me?”

I pull the glass dish toward me and drop my head over it.

“I have something for you. It’s coming, I feel it coming up.”

A few seconds later, I hork up a phlegmy gob and immediately feel some kind of relief.

A teaspoon size dollop jiggles like lime-green silly putty in the bowl.

Lime green, better than beige anyway. Must be an infection.

My time is near.

To know this, to have the luxury of feeling death take hold of me is a gift really. I’ve had time to reflect, to have the choice to die at home.

I’m a lucky man.

Uh oh. Queasiness.

The bile rises quickly. I can’t catch my breath. I grab the bowl again (thank god it’s a deep dish) and gasp air in short, quick breaths. The first expulsion jettisons liquid into the bowl and up its sides. There’s a bit of splash-back on my face, but not much.

No lumpy pieces this time. No surprise. I haven’t eaten anything solid in days.

A second hurl (there’s always a second) ratchets up my abdomen. Another splash into the bowl, though not has plentiful as the first one. My heart beats like a jackhammer. My empty gut gurgles.

The stench of stomach acid curls my nose. I push away the bowl and flop on my back. I suppose I’m one of those crazy people who enjoys vomiting. It feels so good when you stop, and you can’t know that good feeling without the agony before it.

Yeah, the logic is a bit twisted, but blame that on the brain tumor.

A packet of cough drops lay by my pillow. I pop a cherry-flavored lozenge and suck it against the roof of my mouth. Useless things. It gets rid of the awful taste in my mouth anyway.

A knock on the door. James, my trusted servant of more than a decade walks in to greet me. He bends at the waist in his usual gesture of reverence.

“James, I can’t believe you still bow down to me after all these years.”

He sits on the edge of my bed and adjusts my pillow. “Until the day you die, Mr. Chancellor.” With a wet cloth, he wipes around my face and mouth.

“That could be today, you know,” I say.

“Yes sir. That could very well be.”

“By the way James, you know I’m leaving you everything I own.”

He applies a warm compress to my forehead. “Yes sir, and I’m forever grateful. I will miss you, Mr. Chancellor.”

I close my eyes. It’s time. “I’m going to sleep again, James.”

“Sweet dreams, Mr. Chancellor.”

I hear him walk around the bed and pick up the bowl on his way out. In my head, the countdown begins again, for what I hope is the last time.

Thank you for reading.

Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.

You can find more stories in my book of flash fiction and poetry, Hot Flash. 

My mystery novel is due out Summer 2014, and I will announce all details leading up to it here.

To make sure you don’t miss the details, please subscribe to my blog (by email or via RSS feed).

Thank you. 😉

~eden

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14 Comments

Filed under Short Stories & Poetry

14 responses to “The Final Countdown ~ My story for @RBwood’s Word Count Podcast

  1. I marvel at how you find the time among all you’re doing to write something compelling like this. You are a true pro and an inspiration.

    Like

  2. A deft mix of grim and tender here, with a healthy dose of bone dry gallows humor, and the way you dig deep into the dying man’s psyche… it was hard to listen to, in the best way!

    Like

  3. You are a writer’s writer.

    Like

  4. I love flash fiction and my dear Eden, you are a master with them. This it’s a wonderful piece.

    Like

  5. All the other comments say it better than I…Great Stuff!

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  6. Grim and vivid, Eden. Wow!

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    • So happy you enjoyed, William. I would like to think that at the end of life we can have a vivid mind and that it’s not all grim — it just ends and the mystery continues 😉
      eden

      Like

  7. Pingback: Music Monday with David Bowie |

  8. Pingback: Music Monday and The Next Day ~ #RIP #DavidBowie |

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