Our flash fiction challenge this week at Terrible Minds was to write a story in which death is featured. Featured. Not just a part, but featured. So, I did. 1000 word cap, and I was actually just under this week. Imagine that. Enjoy.
A Fatal Response
It was never meant to turn out like this. We had hopes and dreams. We had goals for the future. We wanted that big house out in the country. We wanted our kids to grow up to be doctors and lawyers and investment bankers, rich with wealth but also love. We were going to the Caribbean in a month. We were going to paint the living room a bright, cheery yellow so that when the sun shone in in the morning, we felt like we were anywhere warmer than here.
But now, it’s all ending and there is nothing I can do about it, nothing but feel such guilt and remorse for not being able to help him that I would gladly die for him instead.
The kids are at their grandparents’ house, thank God. I couldn’t imagine them seeing this, us this way, his blood dripping down my fingers as though I’d dipped them in paint of a redder hue than the Spring Daffodil we had planned to buy.
His breathing is slowing but growing more urgent, and I strain desperately to hear the sound of the ambulance soaring down the road towards us. But in the congested city at rush hour, we might as well be wishing for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
My heart feels like it has stopped. Time no longer exists. All that exists are those desperate gasps for air as he lays below me on the floor, his eyes trained on me, begging to know why.
I wish I could give him answers, but I can’t even speak in my shock. I can’t believe this is the end, so preventable, but happening nonetheless with no hope in sight. I can’t tell him why I did what I did, because I don’t even know why.
It was a reaction, as most things are in life; a spouted retort against a negative comment, a hug thrown around a bearer of good news, swerving for that raccoon on the road. Just a reaction. A bad reaction. A fatal reaction, one that I can never take back.
I can’t even look him in the eyes, but that’s all I want to do. I want to imbibe every last moment of our time together, even if it should be smeared by regret, desperation, longing.
He is the greatest dad. As all marriages do, we’ve had our ups and downs, our colossal fights, our epic apologies, but we’ve enjoyed it. He doesn’t deserve to die, especially not so young, not in his mid-thirties when life has so much more potential.
His hand grasps tighter at mine as he clutches at his chest, where the blood seeps from the hole. The hole that I made.
For a moment, a flash of our wedding day invades my vision. I don’t remember much of it anymore, but I remember the look in his eyes as I walked down the aisle towards him. I’ll never see that look again.
Why did he have to come home early from work?
I don’t know what I’m going to tell the kids. Maybe I’ll never get the chance. I’ll be in prison. They’ll grow up without parents, become train wrecks without a future themselves, all because of one kind thought and one horrible reaction.
He gasps now so deeply that I can’t help but release the pent up sob. My eyes have been blurred for the past five minutes, the sheer quantity of tears nearly blinding me. Blinding me so that I can barely see my dying husband; I can’t even see the clock above his head, the same one that I had looked at just minutes before all of this happened.
It had been twenty minutes after four in the afternoon. I remember that, because I remember thinking that he wouldn’t be home for another hour. The kids were at their grandparents’ house for the day, enjoying the splash pad near their house, and I’d had a day all to myself for once.
Because I’d had an hour, I knew I had time to do the dishes.
When I saw the shadow fall over me and onto the counter as I was unloading the dishwasher, I froze. When I heard the creak, when I heard the deep breathing, I panicked. There have been break-ins all week in our neighbourhood, and the cops had been unable to arrest anyone.
When I saw the shadow and heard the creak and the breathing, I only thought of one thing: someone has broken in here and they want to kill me.
I grabbed a knife from the dishwasher, spun around, and having misjudged the distance between my intruder and I, I stabbed my husband in the chest.
I stabbed my husband in the chest.
Like that, our lives, our futures, began to erode beneath our feet.
All because I’d been a little jumpy. All because I didn’t get the message on the answering machine from the father of my children stating that he was taking an hour off work so that we could have a little time to ourselves for once. All because I’d been outside when he’d called, and forgot to check the machine.
His hand is squeezing mine so tightly now that it hurts, agonizes, like my heart, my soul, and I pray for a knock on the door, even though I know that help now would be completely ineffectual. His features are washed out, so I wipe my eyes. Now I can see his blue irises boring into me, begging me to save him. He coughs up blood, inhales, but inhales his own blood and coughs more.
I lean over to hug him, to be close to his warmth just one last time, and I weep. I can’t stop. I don’t think I’ll ever stop. I don’t think I’ll ever want to stop.
And then his heart stops.
© Lindsay Mawson 2012
4 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge #38: Death is on the Table”
Heartbreaker but still as hard as a brick to the face. No relenting here. Just life — or the end of it — final and no do-overs. Cool.
Thanks, AJ. Always had nightmares of something like this happening. There is no going back. Glad you liked it.
Wow. Heartbreaking, but awesome.
Thanks, RJ! Glad you enjoyed it!