Updated: Jul 25, 2022
‘We’re losing him!’
‘Blood pressure’s dropping…’
‘Janet, commence CPR…’
The sound fades. I’m left in peace. It’s funny: I’ve had forty-seven years of thinking about this moment. Poems, films, shows, conversations, funerals. Nothing quite captured it.
‘Larry, get up, I haven’t got all day.’
An English woman’s voice. I open my eyes and find I’m back in the operating theatre. Doctors are frozen like waxworks, panic in their eyes. I can move – painlessly - and find my body’s perfectly intact. The blood on my jacket has vanished, as has the pain in my abdomen.
At the other end of the room is a blonde woman in black clothing. I’m not sure where I’ve seen that face before, but I can’t say she’s a stranger.
‘Right.’ I hop out of bed and cautiously approach her. ‘Sorry, who are you?’
She huffs. ‘One of the few people who don’t ignore me all their life and you still don’t recognise me.’
‘The one you didn’t invite, the one nobody wants to share a room with. Don’t worry, I’m done taking it personally. Millions of years I’ve received neglect and curses while my brother Birth gets all the praise.’
‘There’s a Birth?’
‘Of course there’s a Birth. If I exist why wouldn’t he? Nobody remembers him but everybody loves what he does; everybody dreads me, and they all hate what I do. They call me the ugly one, the scary one. Let me tell you, if you remembered Birth’s face, you’d understand why babies come out crying.’
I shrugged. ‘You can see why they say that. Most people enjoy life. You’re like the Mum that drags their kid out of the sandpit, except nobody knows where you’re taking them.’
‘A lot of people enjoy the comfort of the womb until they’re yanked out of one. How’s this any different?’
She shook her head. ‘I don’t know, Larry. Some understand. Mexico celebrates me! But if you were to ask someone when their happiest day was, nobody would mention one with me in. You’d think they’d admire someone so essential to the continuation life. I work my back out to allow your species to continue, I hope you realise that.’
‘I do. But do you have to always do it so brutally? So early?’
‘That’s not my decision. I do the job, I don’t choose where and when. I don’t think anybody does. That’s the worst and best part of life, isn’t it? The unpredictability of it all.’
‘I suppose so,’
She extends her hand. ‘You ready?’
I look back and frown. ‘People will miss me.’
‘They’ll move on.’
I nod. ‘Then I guess it’s time to go.’ I take her palm.
‘Out of interest, Larry, what was your happiest day?’
‘Life, I suppose. Life was one wonderful, happy day. And now I expect a wonderful, peaceful night.’
She smiles. ‘I’ll do my best.’
We both begin to glow. And then, in a bright flash, we disappe-
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