Reaching the end now. Everything comes in a rush. The careful planning is now falling away and we are left with what there is and always would have been. Maybe it took all the time in the world, and maybe it was just a few moments from a then to now. Either way, it all seems too soon and happens too quickly for the experience to have the appreciation of all the parts meshing together. Live through it and you could look back and analyse all the eccentricities that came together to pull that final chord that makes the complex looking knot fall away to reveal its true nature; a essence of nothingness. But you won’t…live through this, that is. You’re caught up in the dance already, and your feet are carrying you away. You may not know the steps to this one number, but you’re managing just fine and no one would have guessed you hadn’t planned for this your whole life.
Dee and I finished up our coffee and lunch just as Orpheus was getting feisty in his carrier. I told Dee we’d start the day’s work after I dropped Orpheus and Mamma off at the house and got them settled. We’d do a time thing and make up for the lost hours, and we’d still manage to get him to his date tonight as well. The time line progression of our day didn’t make much sense, even in the broad strokes we painted, but it always seemed to work out so there was no reason to question the system.
I gathered myself together and took the whirlwind express back to Florida. As we touched down, Orpheus had decided enough was enough, and the windy trip I’d just given him was the last straw. He positively yowled within his carrier, and nicked my finger with his claws as I attempted to unzip his prison. Once the flap was open, he barrelled out of the carrier onto my mother’s living room carpet, and then froze, sniffed hard, and realized instantly that he wasn’t in Jersey anymore.
I pulled his toys out of my gym bag and scattered them randomly around the room. I borrowed a flower patterned bowl from my mother’s kitchen cabinet and filled it with his kibble, setting down a bowl of water beside this. I poured an amount of kitty litter I’d brought into a washtub I found in the laundry room.
“Voila!” I said, standing back from the tub. “You’re home, Orphie!”
He was hiding under the dining room table, and threw me a look of disgust.
“Well, yeah, I took things this way too when I started the journey,” I said, sympathetically to him.
As I returned to the kitchen to fix myself a glass of water, the phone rang. I caught it on the third ring.
“Hello, dear. I’m all ready to go. Doctor says you can take me home,” Mamma said on the other end of the line.
“Great. Should I come to your room?”
“No. They will wheel me to the lobby. Just pick me up outside. I’ll see you soon, dear.”
“Love you too, Angel.”
I hadn’t slept in about 48 hours, but I didn’t feel exhausted or as tired as I ever had in days when I thought sleep was a valuable need to my human functioning. I felt like if Iaid down and closed my eyes, told my consiousness to shut down for a little bit, then I would sleep in the sense of the word I was familiar with from days “pre-Dee.” But it didn’t feel neccessary or brain cleansing in the way that sleep had felt when I thought it was a cure-all to most everything in days that were, again, pre-Dee. Out of habit though, I made myself a cup of coffee in Mamma’s single cup brewer, and poured it into a to-go cup from her cabinet so that I could take it with me for the drive over to the hospital.
I tried reaching for Orpheus under the table to give him a pet before I left, but he hissed and took a swipe at me. That’s all the rejection I needed. I dusted my knees off as I stood again, and picked up my coffee from the table above him. I grabbed my Mamma’s keys off the wooden key holder by the door that I’d made in some summer camp endeavor in my grade school years. The front of it was smeared with a thick layer of dried glue that held a leaf under the coat, trapping this small thing forever in a state of preserved death where it was not allowed to decay and, once cut from the mother tree, could not continue living. Hell of a perspective I’ve gained, I thought. Only a month before, I’d saw the memento of my youth and thought it a cute attempt at art, although perhaps a little kitchy.
My Mamma’s car was a small burgundy Taurus that was suited to her small stature. It was a newer model that she’d purchased only about four years ago when she’d moved down here. I squeezed into the front seat that she’d adjusted as far as it would go forward. It felt as though my heels were pressed into the back of my thighs for a long minute until I found the side lever that allowed the seat to clunk metallically back a few notches. Another quick fiddling with a button that whirred an internal motor within the seat and the seat was lowered so that my head was not scraping along the top of the car’s interior. I adjusted the mirrors, and only then did I crank the car.
I hadn’t driven a car in almost a week, and I realized now that I actually felt a little nervous about it. By any stretch of the imagination, I was not the world’s best driver. And driving a car that was less than ten years old made me anxious that I’d suddenly forget the basics of roadway procedure in the face of updated technology. Driving much like the old lady that actually owned this car, I gave a blinker signal to the empty neighbourhood street, looked both ways, and pulled out onto the roadway.
I had eased up a little on the drive over, and so when I pulled into the hospital parking lot, it was with a smooth turn of the wheel. I manoeuvred through the lots, and past the emergency room entrance to the main doors of the hospital where I had appeared earlier today. Just the short drive over made me appreciate how much I was not going to miss having to drive and dodge to get practically anywhere I wanted to go. Being Death had its perks, I guess.
I had only just put the car into park in the covered drive-thru of the hospital’s pickup and drop off area when the automatic doors opened and Mamma was pushed out through them by a young girl. The girl had a white collared t-shirt on that had the Red Cross logo stitched into its upper left breast pocket area, the words “Junior Volunteer” sewed neatly below it. Both their mouths were moving as Mamma and the girl were talking up a storm as the girl pushed her along. As I opened my car door to help Mamma make the transition from wheelchair to car, Mamma stopped mid sentence and said to the girl:
“This is my son, Jorge. He lives in New Jersey. He’s come all the way here to pick me up and take care of me. Not all sons would do that for a mother, but I’m sure you’d be there for your mother and father in their time of need. You seem like a good girl.”
And then to me: “Jorge, this is Ana. She’s from Springhill, and she’s going to go to school to be a pediatrician.”
I grabbed on to one of Mamma’s arm and looped my other arm around her back to guide her into the passenger’s seat while saying to the girl who steadied the wheelchair, “Ah, well, isn’t that nice?”
Mamma was settled into the seat and putting her seatbelt on, Ana was unlocking the brakes on the wheelchair, and I was getting ready to shut the passenger door when Mamma put her hand out to stop me.
“Jorge…Ana brought me out all this way, and has talked to me the whole time we were waiting. Wasn’t that nice of her?” she said, meaningfully cocking her head at me.
“Um…yeah. Thanks Ana,” I said to the girl, as we both stood awkwardly apart from one another.
“Ana’s got a scholarship to go to the University of Florida, but she’s paying for her books and dorm room all on her own,” Mamma said, and there was another meaningful look to me.
Ah, I thought. I had thought my mother was just making the overexagerated slow small talk of the elderly, but she was trying to give me a hint in her Hispanic way that left no room for subtly. I dug out my wallet, and found that there were no singles, but I did have a $5. Oh well. Money was near useless to me now anyway. I handed over the bill to the young woman.
“Hope this helps,” I said.
“Thank-you,” she said with a smile, folding the bill into a few quick halves and palming it while she clattered back towards the hospital with the wheelchair. At the door, she waved and smiled to Mamma, and it was only then that Mamma would allow me to shut the door on her.
I walked around to the driver’s side, and ducked in.
Mamma laughed and shook her head.
“I did not think you were going to catch on,” she said, smiling at me and pinched my shoulder playfully.
“I didn’t either. I had no idea what you were wanting me to say,” I said with my own chuckle.
I pulled the gear shift into drive, and we pulled slowly out of the carport area.
“Are you hungry?” I asked, as she fiddled with her purse at her feet.
“No, they fed me lunch at noon. I’m just ready to get home, and get into some real clothes,” she said, plucking at the gown she was wearing underneath the coat she had on. “Have you eaten?”
But I wasn’t allowed to finish that thought. All at once there was a tremendous push, my whole body felt shoved for all it was worth, and all the metal around us in the car became simultaneously very thin and flimsy and alternately very sharp and dangerous.
There must have been sound as the car that had been barreling around the corner struck ours in textbook definition t-bone style and proceeded to keep on going all the way through what I thought was very obvious solid car material. I heard no sound though, not even my own shocked inhalation and noise of distress that I knew I was making. My head was buzzing too loud.
My thoughts stacked upon one another, but all their small sum integers added up to the same conclusion. This could simply not be happening. I had finally worked everything out in my head and reconciled myself to being in Death’s line of work. I had gotten everything lined up in such a way that I felt secure again with the turmolt necessary to turn my life from that of ordinary insurance agent nobody to caretaker of mother and cat nobody status. I had even guiltily indulged in daydreams of bringing Mamma meals in bed when she was losing clumps hair to chemotherapy treatments. I had planned, actually worked it all out in my head, how I would respond on one of Mamma’s “bad days” that I anticipated when pain management was not all too manageable. And now there was this to shatter every single anticipation.
I was still trying to control my life. As futile a process as I had learned that was, I had unconsciously fallen into it again, and so that was the first pain I felt as the vehicle collided with my mother’s car.
Even as an immortal badass that cut people’s life off with a fancy pair of cutters, I was still subject to fate and its whims. We all were.
With everything in a state of suspended motion as my brain looped on a circuit of panic and fascination, I watched as the car door to my left began to cave in. As soon as my brain could process all this, it would be too late, and the car and us inside it would be crumpled up like an empty Coke can. I was waiting for the car that hit us to tear into me, and end the fragile hold I’d attempted to theoretically get on everything before this.
But everything remained frozen, and I found that I could move as I pushed through my paralysis of fear. Had I stopped time like Dee had done for us before? Nothing seemed to be progressing, and so I assumed this was the case whether I was aware of using this power or not.
I reached out and touched my mother’s outstretched hand, held up across my chest as though she was going to keep me in my seat during this crash with just this frail limb of hers. Her eyes were shut against the noise and pain that the wreck was trying to impose. I gently touched her face, but she was still and did not acknowledge my touch.
I tried to unlock her door, intending to shove us both out while the time was stopped, but the lock was stuck fast, and the door handle, and my mother. Nothing was allowed to move in this state except me it seems. I had been touching the steering wheel when the time quit working, and so I could still move this, but it did little good. The car had already been hit and there was no steering away from this whichever way I turned.
The glass had broken in my window, and its fragments were halfway towards the ground, allowing me to push myself up from my seat and squeeze out of this opening of the car. I grabbed the frame of the window as I pulled myself out, and expected myself to be cut by the shards remaining around the window’s rim. They exerted a pressure not unlike Orpheus’s nails on my palm, but they did not pierce me and there was no pain. That was my first clue that I was going to be able to survive things that humans simply didn’t until my cycle time came again.
Falling onto the road beside my mother’s car, and the car that was currently destroying it, I wondered if my inability to feel death would give me any powers of strength as well. I tested this theory with a hearty shove of the vehicle that was intersecting the Taurus, but either I was still as weak as ever or the freezing of time was stronger than anything I could muster. At any rate, all this pushing allowed was for me to break a sweat, staring with a rage building into the face of the woman who was driving the other car.
She was a middle-aged woman, common enough looking, who was going too fast to stop in what I assume was an attempt to get her passenger, a small boy of about three-years of age, to the hospital. He looked a little feverish, but not in the kind of way that I felt justified her speed in careening into us. The mother in the driver’s seat had a panicked face that was frozen in its turn to terror as she realized her error in making too much haste to get her child to supposed safety. I was trying to get angry at all this for happening, but her face showed her as one to be pitied and perhaps forgiven. Who knows what was going to happen to all of us when time started up again?
Oh. He does. I thought, giving up on pushing the car and looking to the grassy side of the road where a figure stood in silent contemplation of me. There stood Dee, and if he was here, then surely one of these occupants of the two cars before me had reached the end of the road. Perhaps they all had. And then I noticed another figure on the opposite side of the road from Dee. There was Azazal.
And then I didn’t have to wonder, because I knew that at least one of the deaths in today’s crash would be my Mamma. The whole of Death Inc. had turned out to see the show.