Copyright 2015 Britt DeLaney
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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This one’s for Gary, who started me on my journey.
She didn’t look like much.
The orderly, with the unlikely name of Mr. Graves, pushed his cart into the room and shut the door. The woman looked nearly dead already, her body settling, pushing down into the mattress. Dried spittle gathered in a clump at the side of her mouth, and her lips were cracked and dried from hours, or perhaps even days of breathing with her mouth open.
Graves sighed as he flipped open her chart, giving it a quick skim. Oh, he did love a good congestive heart failure. Slow and lingering, unless there was a cardiac event of some sort. In this case, it had been quite drawn out already, and her “Do Not Resuscitate” order guaranteed no one would come bounding in once she coded out. Ah, good. The priest had even been in to give her last rights. This was going to go well.
He reached under the towels on his cart, pulling out the small wooden chest hidden beneath the stack. His fingers lovingly traced the intricate designs in the lid, before he opened it almost reverently. He glanced back over his shoulder at the woman, then up at the machine monitoring her failing heart. Not much longer now.
He moved to her bedside, setting the box carefully on the small table at her bedside. One by one, he removed the bottles and vials from the box, lining them up with great care on the swiveling metal table he’d pulled across her body. His nose wrinkled a bit as he did – death was close, and the stink of a failing body could be quite nearly as bad as a corpse. He glanced at the monitor again, just to be sure, noting with relief that her heartbeat, while faint and fluttering, was still evident.
“I believe I’ll use the crimson on you, my dear,” he said. “Or should it be the cobalt? Cylindrical, pyramid or fluted? Hmmmm….”
He pushed the bottles around. "I suppose I should save the crimson for someone a bit more-" he looked down at her- "interesting." He stared at the bottles and vial for a long moment, finally sighing in resignation. "Oh, very well. I haven't much time, anyway."
He moved closer, leaning in almost as though he were a lover, ready to bestow a kiss. The woman didn’t stir. He reached for the crimson vial, unstoppering it and waving it about in the air for a moment. His eyes slid to the monitor.
“In just a moment, my dear, you’ll breathe your last. You’ll unfetter from this earthly plain and move on to the great mystery. Oh, don’t fear! You mustn’t fear a thing, my darling. I’m not here to interfere in any way. I’m merely here as an observer. A collector, if you will. My hobby takes me to realms others cannot even imagine!”
The woman’s breaths became more and more shallow. Finally, with the tiniest jerk of her body, she exhaled for the final time – directly into the vial beneath her nose. Graves quickly put a stopper in it, lifting it to his face as he did so.
"Ahhhh! I underestimated you, my dear! Such depth! Such passion! And do I detect a hint of-" he paused to sniff delicately- "unrequited love? Mmmm. Touching. So deep, and an added level of purity to it. Perhaps a love child involved, eh?" He glanced down at the woman's body. "Pity that by the time I have questions, it's too late to ask them. Ah, well. This one will be a fine addition to my collection."
He placed the vial carefully, back in the box, packing the others in around it, then checked his watch. “You know,” he remarked, to no one in particular. “There just might be time.” He placed the box back under the load of towels, then opened the door and pushed his cart out into the hallway just as the nurse was coming in the door.
“She’s gone, Linda. I just found her.”
The nurse gave him a smile and a nod, and then headed in to tend to her patient. Graves, on the other hand, turned his cart toward the elevator, taking it up two floors to the indigent wing. A new patient had been brought in just a few days ago. Deep in a coma, his limbs were in a severe state of atrophy and constriction. His face was skeletal, twisted, and his body contorted into what would surely be a rictus of pain, if here were able to feel at all. He was completely unknown, and if anyone ever did want to claim him, they wouldn’t recognize anything about him, as wasted as he was. He was ideal.
Graves closed the door softly behind him, addressing the man in the bed.
“Well, hello. I’m here to do you a favor – oh, no need to thank me! I shall release you from your earthly bonds, sending you into a journey where your flesh need no longer hinder you. I realize that your body could go on for years, but we both know that’s not what you want, don’t we?”
He kept up his conversation as he lined up his bottles, choosing the cobalt blue after a bit of perusal. “Think of me as aiding in your immortality. I capture your very essence, as the life flows from your body, and who knows what wonders that could contain? Were you an adventurer? An activist? Was your life filled with purpose, with passion, with conviction? Who would know that, seeing you this way? But I’ll know. Oh yes, I’ll know. Your life will be savored as only I can savor it!”
He leaned over, reaching for the extra pillow that was lying on the chair. It was difficult doing it this way, but nothing else would look natural. It simply required some extra finesse to capture the breath with the vial under the pillow. There shouldn’t be much of a struggle out of this one, in the condition he was in. He smiled as he slid the pillow over the man’s face, then leaned in to press down.
Suddenly, a hand, strong as iron, gripped him by the throat. The pillow slid away, revealing wide, fevered eyes keen with intelligence. Graves struggled ineffectively, flailing his arms, clawing at the hand, but nothing could break its grip. The man pulled him closer, till his fetid breath wafted under Graves’ nose. Graves would have recoiled if he could. He smelled death, but in such volume and tinged with such pain and darkness, he found himself gagging. His eyes grew wide as he tasted the acrid scent of loathing and contempt and the twisted sickness of this creature who breathed the darkness out and fed on the suffering he could inflict. He knew in an instant that this was an ancient thing, even more ancient than he was.
He was dying.
He felt the life draining from him, sucked away like dust in a windstorm, feeding into the mouth of the creature, leaving him shriveled and contorted. His features were now a twisted mask of agony with no resemblance to the man he used to be. His final breath left him in a rush, unbottled, captured only by the gaping maw of the evil that held him.
The man rose from the bed, quickly changing clothes with the unrecognizable husk that used to be Graves. He glanced at him with a bit of a smirk before he grasped the handle of the cart and turned it to the door.
“Thank you for aiding in my immortality,” he said with a mocking half-bow. “Now….who’s next?”
And whistling, he opened the door.
About the Author
Britt DeLaney is a seasoned professional blogger and a former winner of LiveJournal’s “Live Journal Idol” writing contest. Her work has appeared in anthologies, magazines and feature spots on numerous online outlets. In her spare time, she writes steamy Fanfiction and eats too many Pop-Tarts. She is currently writing her ass off.
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