I held in my hands the hourglass containing the remainder of my life. As each grain of sand went from the top of the glass to the bottom, I felt more and more relieved. Watching as my life drained in front of me made me serene. It wasn’t as I would have thought watching my life fade would be. It wasn’t scary, or filled with adrenaline. I wasn’t filled with any innate want to stop this hourglass from dripping. There was no point, and I had already come to terms with my life. Each hour would draw away another grain of sand into the bottom of the glass. Each hour that bottom would slowly shape itself into a mound. I thought of it like climbing a mountain. Once the mound was done with twenty-four finely shaped pieces, I would climb it. I would get to the top, and then disappear.
I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what the doctor had told me once he handed me the hourglass at the start of the clock. To me it was all the same. All he needed to say was that I had twenty-four hours. I didn’t need to know about the mutations in my cells or the deformation of my body. All I wanted to know was that I had twenty-four hours. There was no amount of biological know-how or euphemized disease that would have made me feel any better. In fact, him handing me the hourglass was all I needed to know. I held onto the hourglass for the first hour, wondering just how it would feel watching the first grain of sand plop to the bottom. It must have happened in the blink of an eye, but when I watched it drop from top to bottom, time seemed to slow down. The sand turned in the air, almost gliding down to the bottom, almost wanting to reach back up and find itself back into the original pile. I saw it grasping for air, but then it fell, and it groveled for a second, but it accepted where it was. On the second hour I watched another sand fall in the same manner, and by the fifth hour, the sands were quiet.
I walked out of my room, and tidied what remained of my stay. I dumped the vase of flowers, the get-well soon note, and the half -eaten candy bar. I looked at the monitor that once beeped my lifeline, and then gave it a good kick. I made sure that the curtains on the windows were open, and that a slight breeze was peeking through into the room. I turned on the small T.V at the corner of my room to the news channel and watched as the man on the screen talked about stocks. They were plummeting.
I left my room by the sixth hour but no one else was wandering about. Most of the patients were quietly tucked away in their own enclaves, and the nurses walking by me didn’t bat at eye. The doctors were busily scratching away on their clipboards, and the name on my door had already been stripped. I hadn’t spent enough time to know my way around the hospital. I don’t think anyone would have been proud being able to navigate their way through a hospital, but I decided that with eighteen drops of sand left, I would choose a line and follow. I wondered if asking a nurse would have been easier, but the harder I tried to expel words from my mouth, the harder it was for them to realize I was dead. The dead had no right in mingling with the living. We lived in separate worlds, and I wondered then as I looked at the lines on the ground what the purpose of a hospital was. I decided on green, and so I began walking. At the cusp of the seventh hour I had a realization. The nurses and doctors were god. The hospital was a church. I was a dirty pagan.
I followed the green line that swerved into hallways, ran through long empty tunnels, and finally collapsed upon the glass windows of the courtyard. The hospital’s courtyard was barren. It seemed almost elusive to have this open patch of green spill from the hospital. And at the same time it seemed almost fitting for this hospital to be surrounded by green. I stepped into the courtyard at the dawn of the seventh hour, and allowed myself to be swallowed in the air of the outside. It was intoxicating at first, almost too much to handle that I had to hold my breath. But once that subsided, the air renewed my lungs, the green of the grass captured my eyes, and I was left to be a part of the cycle known as life.
By the eighth hour I was wandering some place beyond the hospital’s courtyard. I was sure that they wouldn’t have minded if I strayed too far away from their premise. They used to hold me down like I was in a cuckoo’s nest, but now with the hourglass in hand, the only stares they gave me were empty. I didn’t know where I was walking to as I pushed past branches from trees hanging down and threatening to cut me. I didn’t know where I was walking to as I dodged the rocks jutting out and threatening to trip me. I didn’t know where I was walking to as I heard the sound of an animal gasping for air. I walked towards that sound unknowingly, only to find a girl stabbing a dog in the throat. She looked up at me once I was in view. Her hands were completely red, and the white dress she wore was stained with death. She had a needle in her hand that punctured through the small dog’s throat. I wanted to vomit at the sight. I wanted even more to scream when I saw her smile, her genuine smile that stretched from one end of her face to the other.
“That’s a funny little thing,” she said with a voice that was as smooth as glass. Her hair was dyed completely white, but it reached behind her almost to her ankles. Her face was mixed with some kind of blush and her lips were covered in red that wasn’t the blood of the dog. She stood up and dropped the corpse of the dog in the motion. She was little more over the cusp of adulthood , and if not for the blood of her hand, the sullied empty needle in her other, I might have called her beautiful.
“They gave you that, and they gave me this. Goes to show what this world is made of, huh?”
“They gave you a needle?” She pressed the needle into her arm, but there was no liquid to flow. It jabbed into her skin with the end still dirtied with the dead dog’s blood.
“They gave me a way out,” she answered.
“And you gave it away.”
“I offered it to him. You see–” She kicked the corpse, flipping it towards me, “Everything’s going to die. You and me, so did he. I just gave him a head start.”
“And you’re fine with that? You must be crazy if you think that’s fine?” She smiled.
“Do you know about war? The middle east? Agent Orange? Euthanasia?”
“Different than what I’m doing? The only difference is that you’re here.” Her voice was exactly like glass. It was sharp, and yet for some reason as it jabbed into me, I felt elated. It was a reflection that I saw within her voice, and within her clear eyes. There was transience about the way she spoke, about how each word slipped out of her mouth and into my world.
“Did you know that in the second world war, they made these small little pills filled with cyanide? Spies would carry them. If they got caught, then all they needed to do was eat one, and never have to go through torture. But why do that now? I’m not going be tortured. I’m going to die peacefully.” Her words were haunting, and yet I couldn’t stop listening to her speak. She was entrancing in her bloodstained dress, and I wondered what her snake-like fingers would feel grasping onto my neck.
“It’s a good thing you found me, I need your help.”
“If it doesn’t involve any more murder–”
“Please. If you think I’m a murderer, than what about that hourglass in your hand?”
“I’m going to die anyway.”
“And you think they couldn’t have prevented it?”
“Was what? Fate? Destiny? Inevitable? Don’t give me that. You think you’re any special just because you’re going to die at the end of the day? No. You’re special if you can pay for it.” Her smile was demonic, but if it was a demon, then surely it was a succubus. I followed her to some place beyond the origin of my hourglass. By this point, I wondered if any of the staff were worried where I had went off to. By this point, I wondered if I was already a number in their books. By this point, I wanted to leave the hourglass behind, to not see that I was almost at my ninth hour.
We arrived near a lake. I didn’t realize how close we were to a lake. She stepped up to the peak of the water’s ebb and flow, and closed her eyes.
“The blood doesn’t bother you?” I asked as I looked towards her still bloodied hands.
“Does your body bother you?”
“I don’t usually deal with my body in terms of liquid excess.”
“You just haven’t lived.”
“Well I’m definitely not going to be alive.” She chuckled at that. She turned, and then stepped towards what seemed to me an arbitrary tree facing the lake. She crouched, and then with her bloodied palm pressed it against the trunk. I walked over wondering why she had done so, and then I saw a cross planted into the dirt in front of her.
“If I asked you to live with me, what would you say?”
“I would say that I’m about to be dead.” I answered her, but she didn’t seem to be speaking to me. Rather, she seemed to be speaking to someone beyond me, someone beyond her. And as she did so, her voice began cracking.
“If I asked you to start a life with me, what would you say?”
“I would say that it would all be wasted.”Her glass was shattering.
“If I asked you to love me, what would you say?”
“I would say that love doesn’t transcend death.” And she wasn’t with me, her glass wasn’t as clear anymore, and her eyes were muddied with a cloud of acid rain. She began muttering to herself as she clasped her hands together in front of the cross. The only words I could make out were, “I’ll be joining you soon.” She reached into her dress and pulled out a container that rattled with pills. She opened it and it was filled with multi-colored medicine. She smiled, and leaned onto the tree with her bloodied hand hanging above her.
“I’m going to O.D, and I want you to bury me, okay?”
“You want me to bury you with… Your friend?” She nodded and smiled. Her smile now was weak. It didn’t last from one end of her face to the other, it couldn’t.
“Are those pills from the hospital?” I asked.
“These aren’t just any pills from the hospital. These are all the pills I could fit from their medicine cabinets.”
“I’ll help bury you but I doubt you’ll be able to down that thing.” She smiled again, a smile filled with bellicose, and her eyes lit up.
“Try me.” By the eleventh hour she stopped breathing. The bottle was only half finished. I pressed my hand into the dirt, and began digging a hole for her. I was disappointed by the loneliness that kicked in. I was disappointed by how weak she was. The needle would have killed her instantly, but she decided to prolong that over a few hours. She said she wanted to die peacefully. I looked at my hourglass wondering about her death. My peace had already begun by the first drop of sand. Was there anything wrong in seeing through till that lost drop of sand? I wondered that as I dragged her body into the ground.
By the twelfth hour, I was sitting by the tree with her bloodied hand. There were two bodies underneath me, and I would make the third. I closed my eyes with her half-filled bottle of pills, and allowed myself to be swept into the lake’s world. I decided to fall asleep to let myself drift away into the other world with them.
I woke up by the twentieth hour. I wondered if the hospital was looking for me, or for her. I never asked for her name, nor did she ask for my name. The hourglass’s mound was almost done. I was at the precipice of its peak. It was the dead of night, and the cold winds swirling around me caused me to shiver. I laughed at the bottle of pills spilled in my lap. I looked into the bottle to see a few still remaining. I placed the bottle on top of the dirt where I had buried her, and then closed my eyes again. I needed rest to reach the peak.