Welcome back to another Open Book Blog Hop!
This week’s theme is to write a scene or story that includes a character who has a phobia. What do they fear? How does this phobia affect their life? For my short story, I’ve gone with the fear of death.
And remember to pay a visit to my fellow writers to see what they have come up with. You can find their works here!
The muted burble of conversations faded as the music grew, rolled out over the beach. Turning to face the warm golden sun, the gentle crashing of the Pacific at his back he saw her for the first time. A stunning white gown, off the shoulder, flowed out at the bottom in a spectacular train. Hundreds of delicate crystals exploded with colour, the early evening sunlight reflecting off of each of them. Her blonde hair lightly curled, cascaded over her right shoulder. A small bouquet of tropical flowers clasped in her hands as Amelie and her father walked down the sandy aisle barefoot. She looked even more beautiful than he could have ever imagined. As stars dotted the inky blanket of the sky and flaming torches lit the beach, they shared their first dance. In that moment, Marcus was certain he could never be happier.
~ ~ ~ ~
Not until he came home from work on a particularly unremarkable day. The house was silent, Amelie sat on the edge of the sofa. A look of anxiety, worry, etched her face as she clutched a small box. An unopened pregnancy test. He dropped his bag to the floor and joined her on the plump sofa, his arm lovingly wrapped around her shoulders. She couldn’t bring herself to take the test alone, she needed to share this moment with Marcus. Returning from the bathroom, it was done. Nothing more to do but sit and wait. Seconds felt like minutes, minutes like hours. Both of them cast nervous glances towards the small plastic test stick on the coffee table. An electronic beeping from her smartwatch brought the three minute wait to an end. They looked at one another, nervous excitement filled the room. Both slid forward in their seats to better read the test. Positive. Their family of two was soon to become a family of three. Tears of joy, the pure laughter of elation as Marcus and Amelie hugged. Nothing could make him happier.
~ ~ ~ ~
The delivery suite was a give of frantic energy. Terse instructions were barked out. Medical staff dashed around, machinery beeped and highly polished metal instruments glinted under the harsh sterile lights. Marcus was not allowed in the room with his wife. He paced outside the door, growing increasingly concerned with every wild-eyed nurse that dashed past him on their way to or from the suite. Something wasn’t right. Nobody was telling him anything. More and more staff packed out the small suite. Amelie was losing blood. Too much. The baby was in distress. The cord had become wrapped around the neck. Nothing to be done for him. He never even got to take his first breath. His wife though, she could be saved.
A week in intensive care. Surgery. Blood transfusions. Too many close calls to count. Amelie returned home with her life, but the house was empty. The nursery door never opened. The funeral. The smallest wooden coffin lowered into the freshly dug grave. Amelie withdrew. She was no longer the same person. Marcus fared no better. He dove headlong into his work, starting early, staying late. Anything to avoid the heart-rending silence of the house, a house that should be filled with the tears and laughter of their baby boy. He spent more time out of the house than in it. Drinking, increasingly by the day. Gambling. Crossing the kind of people you’d never want to cross in your sane mind. He began making enemies. His wife. Backstreet bookies. Dealers. He had never been so miserable, but nothing would pull him from his spiral of self-destruction.
~ ~ ~ ~
Amelie had been tired for weeks. Neither of them thought anything of it. Probably just the stress. Then the sickness started. They knew she wasn’t pregnant again. She was sick day after day. Even Marcus noticed, absorbed as he was with his destructive ways. His gambling was bad. His drinking, too. He brawled seemingly for fun. But enough of the spark remained. Enough concern and love to see his wife was ill. Doctors ran test after test after test. Looking at the mundane. Virus. Gastrointestinal bug. Winter sickness. Fear took hold and Marcus lost his cool. He shouted, rage consuming him. Why wouldn’t they check for something more serious? Why couldn’t they understand how sick Amelie was?
She took on a grey pallor. She slept more often than not. She couldn’t keep food down. And pain consumed her, day and night. Finally the doctors tested further. Too little too late. Amelie had months to live. Caught sooner, her condition was most likely treatable. Months of testing and poking and prodding had delayed the diagnosis and now she was a silent observer as the sands of time slowly ran out. She went with dignity, while Marcus picked fights to ease his pain. Nothing worked. All his destructiveness did was alienate him from his family, and put him firmly in the crosshairs. All he could do now was to run. To stay alive.
~ ~ ~ ~
A slow, measured thud of deliberate footfalls resonated along the confined space of the dingy corridor. Marcus awoke with a start, sweating after the dreams, nightmares, that visited him every night. Sitting bolt upright on the battered old sofa. He listened to the footsteps as they approached his doorway, holding his breath. The only other sounds in the dead of night, the creaking of sofa springs long past their best. He grabbed the bag he always kept by the window to the fire escape, his jacket and car key. The footsteps stopped right outside his door, a dark shadow blocked the light sneaking through the gap at the bottom. Marcus eased the window up, and ducked through as three slow, booming thuds echoed from the door. He took the damp steps three at a time as the door to his apartment splintered inwards and bounced off of the wall.
He jumped off the last level, rolled clumsily and scrambled to his feet. In his haste to escape, Marcus crashed into the dumpster spilling the contents of his rucksack all over the alley. Frantically clawing to grab his stuff, a shadow appeared at his window. Time was running out, his problems were finally catching up to him. He had to go. Jumping behind the wheel, Marcus started the car. In a screech of smoking rubber he tore away from the dingy apartment block and on into the night.
Outside town, trees crowded around the narrow winding road. The rain was coming down heavier. Every set of headlights he spotted in his mirrors set his heart racing. His eyes frantically flicked to the mirrors to the road and back. He was distracted. Didn’t see the sharp bend. His car crashed through the vegetation and down the side of the hill. He gripped the wheel, desperately seeking some measure of control. The last thing he remembered was crashing into a tree.
~ ~ ~ ~
He stood on the banks of a river. The landscape was flat, barren. The only sound was the gentle trickle of water over the rocks. He wasn’t alone.
“Who the fuck are you? Where are we? Where’s my car?”
The figure beside him said nothing.
“If you’re gonna kill me, just get it over with. What have I got left to lose?”
A voice, so deep and resonant, appeared in his head. He wasn’t sure it had actually been spoken, or arrived via his ears.
I think we are somewhat beyond discussing matters of life or death.
Marcus properly looked at the figure. Tall, enshrouded in robes of the inkiest black. No features were discernible.
“What do you mean? Tell me where we are, right now!”
We are nowhere. We are everywhere. Beyond.
“If you’re trying to scare me, you gotta try a little harder than that! I got nothing left to lose! Everything’s already been taken from me!”
Nothing has been taken from you. Everything is given.
“You’re crazy. Nothing you say makes sense! I ain’t afraid of you! What is this place?”
Of that you are wrong, Marcus. I am the end. You crashed your car. Fatally. I am here to guide you.
“Fatally? I’m…..dead? Wait…. Hang on! Death? You took everything from me! My child! My wife! You took it all!”
I never take anything before its time. You fear one thing. Me. The end. Death. You fear the unknown! You have been running from me for years. You have hidden from me when your child passed. And Amelie. You could not bear to be at her side when I was. You can no longer run from me, I am the inevitable! It is time.
The figure turned to the opposite bank. Marcus saw her. He was speechless. Amelie. She stood there. As beautiful as the day he met her. And she was holding a baby. Their baby.
Life cares for the living. When their time is up, She sends them to me. I look after and protect them forever. I am the protector and their guide. I have watched over them since Life sent them to me to guard over.
“Thank you”. Marcus choked back tears. Walking over a small bridge to the opposite bank, he greeted his family. Finally, they could be together again. For eternity.