(Words: 700; Read time: 5 min.)
Beneath the pale blue glow of a lonely lamp lay the man on his bed. The white sheets drawn over his body concealed little of its waste and decay, its slow draw back from life. The pain constant and yet numbing this perpetual existence which hardly was.
With each moment passed he detached further from muscle and vein and bone, from all things physical, mind more in a place of lucid thought than physical consciousness. He tried to shape these thoughts into some retelling of his history, into memories by which he could grasp the reality that had departed from him some time ago, but they instead removed him further from the truth. Whatever it may have been.
Sometimes he dreamed he was a father. Sometimes a husband. A fiancé. He dreamed he was all the men of the world. Any would be fine, so long as he was. But never was he alone, as his soul was now. But that wasn’t entirely true.
He was not alone.
Occasionally, in a distance both near and far, the vague form of some being would pass by in the darkened hall before him. Its walk slow and yet conducted with purpose, as if searching for some lost connection. A flailing tether. The figure morphed and changed each time it passed by, the distorted shape of its being malleable, this shadow amongst shadows.
The man on the bed often thought of calling, but the distance between two souls seemed too great a gap for his voice to travel. Even if he did build the courage required for summons, the figure was only fleeting. And time devoted to debating whether or not to make contact took from him the chance to do so.
He soon lost himself in time. In the room. That place of other and forever. The traffic in the hall before him was still perpetual and yet rare. The pale blue glow from the lonely lamp strong and consistent. The electric hum of its energy a constant force.
How he wished to die. These eternal thoughts a torment he could not escape.
He begged God to do the honors and claim him from this place. His broken body incapable of satisfying his own wants. God never obliged.
Some moments he thought he’d perhaps been for only a few seconds, and some moments he believed this place had been home for all time.
Time carried on and on, unrelenting and unpreventable, and as it did each passing moment seemed to fold over on itself, one scarcely distinguishable from the next, so that time no longer stretched into the infinity but shrunk to something finite yet somehow still perpetual. Until all things were confined to this place, this instance.
The only change to occur was of body and mind, and that of the body that paced the expanse of forever in the hall. As his bed ridden being withered, so too did the traveler’s; as his mind dulled and slowed, so too did the pace with which the traveler wandered the hall.
The last moment came like an ancient debt waiting to be satisfied. It had been a long time coming. The pale blue light began dimming away, and in the forever hall the shadow of the form emerged. Emaciated and broken and dying. The being did not carry on past the doorway on this crossing; it instead turned and hobbled across the threshold. The once vibrant blue light of the room so dim the figure remained vague, an ambiguity amongst the immovable darkness settling over this finite place.
“What were you waiting for?” the man asked, voice frail.
“I was waiting for you. I’ve been waiting,” the man replied.
“Waiting for what?” the man inquired.
“Waiting for you to be.”
“You killed me,” he said. “You killed me.” His old, shrunken eyes producing tears for his lost life.
“No,” the man said, “you killed yourself. You killed yourself.”
All thought faded away, the pale blue light diminishing altogether. Giving way to nothing. The once dark adjoining was now flooded in the pale blue light of a lonely lamp, below which a body lay upon a bed and a mind dreamed of how it had arrived. Fresh and alive, yet withering away the moment it came.