The Reaper’s Touch

He lay on the bed staring at the ceiling. Sleep didn’t come easily to him, never had, and never would. Since it was dark and he couldn’t see, sounds came much easier to him; the clock burning seconds away was in particular intrusively loud. The soft thunk of the syringe hitting the ground, the clatter of the sizzling spoon, the crackle of the crack bag. The heroin was doing its magic. Thoughts swirled around him in ways that he did not like; he oft compared them to clouds. Some days they were white and silky, and he spent many hours thinking about what they meant. Happy thoughts. Only I can think about what I’m thinking. He’d spent the main part of the last three years thinking. Quit rambling. Other days they were the fake white, more threatening but not that bad when it came to the mysteries of the weed guy. Other days they were dark grey, threatening, descending on him in a show of aggression that would leave him cowering under his sheets with no one and nothing being able to reach out to him. My name is Joe. I am twenty seven years old. I have a family. I have Cerberus. I have a home. He shuddered. Horrible thoughts, those. And yet, what he wouldn’t give to be able to talk to Kammie again. They’d had the perfect marriage for two years, until he made the gravest blunder of his life and betrayed her trust. Trust she’d given, but trust – trust he’d never earned. Oh shit. Shitshitshit. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. My name is Joe. I am twenty seven years old. I have a family. I have Cerberus. I have a home. But.. but the feeling wasn’t going away. It was increasing. His heart began hammering, his brain freezing. In a last, desperate attempt, he flung open the windows and pelted out into the night.


The night was black, ink black. It took in everything, swallowing the scene in a misty vortex of darkness. The yellow streetlight cast a fluorescent aura over everything. The trees were bone, the grass hair. Terrified, he tried to move away. The hair felt soft on the soles of his feet; he was barefoot. The ground was hard and flaky underneath, all scabby and unnatural. His eyes widened; he couldn’t take it all in at once.


He ran. Irregular and zigzag, he ran the way he’d lived his life. He ran till he was out of breath; he stopped and ran some more. He ran till he felt he’d reached the end of the world. He ran till he felt he could race his life away. He ran until he – he didn’t feel like he existed anymore.


He stopped. The human heart can only take some damage. Stooping, he panted. Wheezed and coughed in a throaty voice like he was hacking up a lung. It took him a full five minutes to regain his breath. It’d been years since he’d run.


He looked up, crinkling his eyes up against of the glare of the yellow streetlight. It was dark all around. If only he could get home. His feet hurt, his head was pounding. His chest hurt, his heart pounding. His senses dazed, his balance floundering. His logic faint, his emotions blundering. His rhythm gone, his life ending.


He could feel it. As clear as if he’d been given the death sentence. Maybe in a day, maybe in a year, he’d die, and he’d die alone, as Kammie had just walked out of his life again. He began the slow haul back home. He walked and walked. His heart ached, his body giving off a burnt odor. Odd. What could that be? He asked himself, every thought punctuated by the stabbing ache in his heart. Lost in his musings, he didn’t know where he was going. The sad thing was, he didn’t even care. It was all dark; wherever he looked, he saw only darkness. The streetlight sputtered out and at the same time he heard an anguished scream, loud and clear, as if God himself were agonized. And then there was silence.


General Schuler Hospital. Kammie cradled the lifeless corpse of Joe Flint, aged twenty seven exactly when he died.


The death was a result of a massive heart attack that he could not have possibly survived, even after he had regained pulse of a couple of minutes. His torso was blackened; their electric paddles had caved in before the collapse of his heart. it was unlikely that he felt the happening, as he was on an extreme high of heroin and had likely hallucinated his last moments on earth away.


He didn’t even have a phone on him. Traces of crystal meth, weed and heroin had been found and his alcohol level was incredibly high for a guy whose birthday had started a couple minutes before he died. His pants were loose and limp, his chin unshaven. His hair was overgrown, with flakes of dandruff decorating his collar. His nightshirt read “In memory of when I cared.”


As she watched, he went out of focus and suddenly reappeared, with a single teardrop staining his nightshirt being the only change in his aspect. Her mascara was ruined and her hair was undone, but she couldn’t focus. She took a single, crumpled up note from her pocket. It read “Dinner at 11 before my birthday? Please, hon. ~Joey”


One highway car crash that held up traffic, claimed another life that day.


– Ranga Bhave | Edited by Aafreen Ansari



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