Fiction Fragment Friday
This weeks story is a little more serious than most of what I have shared on here. A lot of the inspiration for it came from deeply emotional places and in some ways I think it might have been a bit of a cathartic exercise. I really debated on the ending for quite some time. Part of me wanted a darker ending that felt more realistic to me. Another part wanted a more happy ending. I won’t give away which direction I chose to go, but I will say the actual ending grew from my struggle to decide between the two original that will now never be written.
Getting old is an exercise in frustration. Any form of exertion causes back pain for days. Just walking across the room feels like you have run a marathon and your knees want to collapse. Your whole body starts to betray you. The worst part though is the loss of dignity. Once the hospital visits start all sense of privacy or bodily autonomy go right out the window. It is absolutely terrifying how quickly you go from a fully functional human being to an object that is poked, prodded, and examined. Tubes in places you would rather not think about. The only thing that could make it worse would be if my nurses knew just how far I had fallen. Thankfully, my powers were magic based and that won’t show up on any of the hundreds of blood tests they have run on me. Unfortunately, the cause of my illness is also magical so it won’t show up in their tests either.
I don’t mean to say that my body betraying me is magically induced. That unfortunately is all part of the natural aging process and not even magic can change it. What has me in the hospital this time is an inability to keep food down. I have been cursed and in my weakened state I collapsed before I could make any progress trying to break it. The IV and feeding tube they have in me seems to be taking care of the needed nutrients, but if I can’t function without them, they will never release me. It is a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness that I am really fighting now. I keep asking myself if at this point in my life it is even worth continuing to fight.
“How are we doing today Mr. Henderson?”
“Not sure about you, but I’m old and cranky. Same as always.”
She smiles at me in a placating way and I know my joke did not land. No one wants to be in the hospital and too often people take that anger out on the nurses because they are there. I don’t want to be that patient that everyone dreads dealing with. A joke here or there and the mask of a positive attitude is the least I can do to try and make their day just a little bit easier. I also need to take what little joys I can where I find them.
“We’re going to try having you eat some pudding this afternoon to see if you can keep that down. How does that sound?”
I really do try my best to not be difficult, but when they talk to me like I’m a child it is difficult. Multiple snarky replies fight to come out, but I am a well-disciplined man and I push them back down where they belong. “That sounds lovely.” In fact, it does not sound lovely. I already know what will happen because I can still feel the curse running through my body. These health care professionals are well meaning, but they are going to kill me. If I can’t get to my tools and books I will never break the curse. I don’t have the strength to get out though, and without them I won’t last long enough to do anything about it. The circular logic is just the start to the spiral that leads into my deep depression.
My thoughts travel back to the last fight with my apprentice. She thought we should stop hiding and use our power to make the world a better place. Her points reminded me so much of the ones I tried to make to my mentor. I just wanted to protect her from the lessons I learned the hard way. Some lessons must be learned on your own though. The world is just not ready to accept magic and people turn on you so quickly when they discover it. You become either a tool or a threat to them defined by what you can do and not who you are. No matter how much power we have the world is just too big for one person to change. We all go through that phase where we think we can save the world only to have the world beat us down until we give up. I figured that she would get over it like I had, but Mae was not me. I have come to realize she is so much stronger. If only she were here now, she could help me break this curse, but we have not spoken in fifteen years. I have tried to reach her, but how to you get a message to the head of a multi-billion-dollar company who spends all her free time traveling the world doing charity work? If I knew the answer to that I probably would have broken the curse by now.
The nurse has been talking for a while and just realized that I was off in my own world. I said something to apologize, but I get the impression they are used to it. It seems no matter how eccentric I am, they just take it in stride. Sometimes I think about seeing just how weird I can get before they say something, but then I remember I’m trying not to be a difficult patient.
This is going to take every last bit of energy I have, but I have to try one more time. Focusing every bit of my will and calling on all the magic I can gather without my artifacts I call out one last time. When we were connected, I could call out to my apprentice and she would feel me even on other planes of existence. Now though that connection is broken. There is no path and so my call has to go everywhere, and I just hope she is listening at the time. I have tried this twice before and the last time was what put me in hospital. As the energy leaves me I can feel it flowing away. My body can’t take much more, but something out there is responding. As everything goes dark I hear a long beep coming from my heart monitor.
As I slowly return to consciousness, I try to take stock of my situation. My chest hurts and feels like it might be bruised. What I don’t feel is the curse. I still have a tube down my nose and another in my left arm. My eyes struggle to open, but the light is just so blinding. My right hand though feels warm, and I realize someone is holding it. I can feel energy flowing into me and I don’t have to see her to know that Mae is here. I could never mistake the feel of that energy. Healing magic is the rarest of all magic and the cost is your own life force. As my eyes finally focus there is my forty-year-old apprentice looking down at me with tears in her eyes.
“You old fool. That stunt almost killed you. No, it did kill you, but the doctors got your heart going again.” I could feel her frustration, but I just didn’t want to fight anymore.
“How else was I going to get your attention?” The voice that comes out sounds distant and raspy. My throat hurts from the effort.
There was a look of sadness and regret on her fact that knew so well from looking in the mirror. “I found your notes. I’m sure you would have broken the curse if you just a little more time. Turns out dying and being brought back was an effective way to break it too.”
“Thank you for coming. I hope you can forgive me. I have missed you so much.”
A little girl ran in and grabbed Mae by the leg. Mae bent over and picked her up and the resemblance could not be missed. “This is my daughter Brittney. Brittney, I would like you to meet your grandfather. I think we all have a lot of catching up to do.”