A dying man, bound to his hospital bed, watches the sun set through his window. Each breath is agony. Each heartbeat a mere respite from the inevitable. Every minute the shadows creep closer, robbing him of light, leaving him to pass in darkness. Each minute brings night closer to claim his soul.
“How trite,” He coughs at the dimming day.
Over the rattling of his chest’s brittle bones, he hears a presence enter. The man knows he is not alone. Without a sound, a dark-figure appears by his bedside. Its long fingers evoking bone, sallow face recalls a skull, its sad eyes echo death. It stands by his side, not speaking, as they both become silhouettes in the darkness. Their figures are one with the black.
Through the quiet, a questions echoes in his mind.
He doesn’t answer, fixing his grey eyes on the dissipating sun. Instead of a reply, he asks, “Was I worthy?” Fear of the specters answer clutches his heart, slowing, subsiding with each reluctant beat.
No reply, the man must answer himself. “No, no, I suppose not. I didn’t love as fully as I should have. Lied more than most.”
Still the skeletal adjudicator does not move, speak or even breathe in response.
“I was hurt,” The man says, defiant in his weakness, then allows, “And I hurt others in turn.”
After another long pause, the figure asks.
The man smiles, “Yes mute reaper. Take me to paradise. Take me below. I acquiesce to my fate.”
The sun sets at last. The room devoid of life. The figure in the bed still, so still. A warning whine, the rushing steps of nurses from down the hall the only indication of change. They arrive too late, far too late, the man carried away by Death’s embrace.
And as they carry out their futile ministrations, on a corpse that grows cooler all the while. In the floor above them, down the hall, a woman finally gives birth after long hours of labor. Her child? A quiet son, with knowing eyes as gray as mist.