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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Review Chain
When your death is impending, what will you choose to do? Serena is aware of her own demise, but trudges forward to meet her maker, leaving no words behind for the ones she loves.

Submitted: April 19, 2017

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Submitted: April 19, 2017



The room dimmed with the curtains closed. It felt cold and lonely, but that’s how Serena's life had become. From the partially opened door, Serena could hear her husband’s weeping. What had caused her illness, none knew, but they had grasped one truth: it would kill her. Her life would end soon. But even with news of this, she still sang and smiled.

Most days she would sleep. Sleeping helped. It numbed the pain. It kept the fear at bay. And she wouldn’t hear the crying. Today though, she resolved to sit up through the day, bear the pain that tore through her spine and lungs, and spend at least a minimal amount of time with her family.

She shifted on the crumpled sheets and moved the thick quilt off her. But she wouldn’t stand. She couldn’t. Her body rest against the carved headboard behind her. The protruding carvings poked and prodded at her shoulders, making them just sore enough to move now and again. At her feet, two blankets had been folded, and she moved her toes under them. They felt warm to the dying skin, but only a little.

Her thin fingers brushed over the loosening threads of the quilt she kept over her body. They burned somewhat from the friction and only increased her shakiness. Her eyes shifted from the linens over her back to the door, then to the window, and back at the doorway. Had her husband lost his will to come and see her?

She licked her chapped lips, tested her lungs on a few heavy breaths, then called his name. “Stephen,” she called again. The weeping eased on her second call. Otherwise, no response. “Stephen, please, I implore you, visit me.”

The weeping silenced but she couldn’t hear his footsteps yet. Her eyes closed once more. They were heavy and itching with the Spring’s pollen. Would today be nothing but another lonely evening? Admittedly, Serena grew lonely often. She could no longer sleep beside her husband, hold her daughter, or go out among the villagers and mingle from day to day, gossiping about their families and troubles as she had done before.

She missed the dinners they had together. Now, she ate alone. Slept alone. Sang and spoke alone. But most of all, she missed putting her darling Marina, her only daughter, to bed. She missed blowing out the candle as her little one would begin to snore softly in the night. Those memories often dredged up tears, but not today.

Her eyes opened as the door creaked open, her husband now standing there. His eyes were red and puffy as he looked at her, somehow still holding a deep kindness and love. She could see a bowl in his hands. It steamed up into his face, but he seemed to ignore it. “I brought soup for you. It’s vegetable. Try to eat, won’t you?” She moved her arms in front of her to scoot forward, but her body resisted and her form fell backward against the headboard once more, eliciting a groan.

She opened her mouth to speak but closed it instead. She weakly took the bowl and rest it on her lap, using her hands only to steady and prevent a spill. She peered into the bowl at the watery mass her husband called soup then back up to him. Her eyes had glazed over. Her lips parted again, the voice emanating from her a flat and lifeless tone. “I have a preference to not look upon it. In honesty, nothing fancies me nowadays, love. I would enjoy the opposite of this, but to mine own dismay it is set. Would you, with my asking and your permission, be willing to abide me that I do not eat this? Grant me this wish of not consuming that which nauseates me so?”

He took the bowl from her and placed it on the nearby table then came to rest at her side, crumpling up the blankets even more. “I see…And still nothing positive? All this negativity clings so fiercely that it seems not a thing will help you. I feel as if you with not to gain health from this plague once more, to become the mother and wife you had been. Do you desire to leave me? Marina? What would come of us without you?” His fingers raked through her matted hair. “You hold such a lovely scarlet upon your head. Only by God was this bestowed, for no other could have made it so. Nothing alive holds a similar beauty, albeit our darling daughter upon whom you and He have granted it.”

Her eyes stayed on his face for a moment then trailed to the blanket beneath her hands. She groaned and leaned her head back against the rough wood and let her eyelids fall closer together, remaining open enough to see the man sitting at her bedside. As she did so, a flurry of thoughts raced through her mind. Some of her childhood, others of her more recent past, and another part of her incoming future, what little of it was left.

This had concerned her husband who now rubbed at her shoulder, stroked her side, and moved his body closer to hers. “Do not concern yourself so,” she began, her words flowing slower now. “I know mine own limits, love, and that sound I make comes from the memories housed inside me, a thing that pains me more than the burdens of the plague.

He gnawed at his lower lip and fidgeted his hands in his lap now. “I only wondered if you had begun to-“

“Experience new pain?” Her finishing the statement caught him off guard, and he cringed.

“Yes, that,” he finally responded. “I only concern for you, Serena. Do not take my words and actions in the wrong light; you must learn me, dear.”

“I do know you, but I cannot think clearly these days, you see this. It is rather difficult when you have many a thing on your mind, yet you somehow house no thought at all. Do you understand?” Her eyes fell closed quickly, and her body jerked forward as a sharp pain shot through her abdomen and radiated through her spine.

Stephen nodded his head, concern harboring more so inside his eyes that stayed upon her face. “I believe to understand, yet I feel not to the degree as you. Experience is the only means by which one can fully comprehend, and this is what I lack. Nor do I possess a divine power to understand fully.”

Her head fell, and a grunt rose from her chest. “Yes, ‘tis true my dear, but you must know this: I do as I can to ensure your understanding, but your wife does not wish for you to house experience of this pain I bear nor another man. No mortal nor God should feel this pain. Do not confuse me as being greedy in concern or detail, but you know this fact: ‘tis much larger a burden than I portray to you. Thus you realize details lie with me that you shall never know.” She drew a long breath and raised her head slightly, eyes roaming to bits of chipping paint in the wall.

His chest rose and fell with a harsh sound. “Of course, I understand this, but shall Marina be forced to comprehend the death of her mother, the person of which she clings most to in life?” He stood erect with a scoff, his face angled away from her. “No, I shall not speak another word of dedication to this travesty. No more acknowledgment shall befall this tragedy that dares rear its ugly head. It tries, oh it tries, to ruin this life of ours, the holy establishment of our Father above! What wrongs must have been done by me for this curse!? And you…Surely nothing evil has originated from you, lest you be lying and this be your punishment!?”

“The fibers weaved by our Father ache,” she whispered, her face falling once more to the quilt weighing her down. A shaky hand rose, and thin fingers curled about his shirt, tugging ever so lightly. He didn’t move, but an audible sigh escaped his lips. “Dear, do not leave me so. I greatly fear this, but I choose not to worry you. I wish not to bring up this pain I know lies dormant upon your heart. This burden forces trembles in the night upon your body. Your words hold power to shove me away, but you care; with caution, you speak, pain behind the voice falling upon my ears. Come forth, and speak openly of which you wish me to hear. I yearn for this fear to lie upon me and grant peace unto you. This plague placed by him who lies dark, or perhaps by grace I am released from worldly shackles, it shall be.”

He silently moved to the doorway and curled his fingers about the brass knob. “I do not heed these words of yours; it is by no means His fault! You who have sinned, this be your punishment now? I can explain in no other way why this tragedy occurs now, to our family who has served Him! What have you done?” He turned now to look at her, his face red and tears stinging at the corners of his eyes. “Answer me this: why must you, the witch you appear to be, curse me like this and hex yourself? What is this where a man must lose the basis of his existence? I love you, but know there is nothing I can do but pray; day and night I must and will for you to remain as mine. I wish not for you to take this entirety that I have created and thus end this life.”

“Speak not of rot.” Her voice remained loving, yet stern. “Speak to me of your heart. Lay blame not upon the innocent or me as no sin here has occurred.” Her eyes roamed to the doorway that a portion of him blocked from her view. “Tell me the concerns of our darling. Speak and leave me not in the darkness of her heart. Grant unto me time with her that I may reveal my heart to our daughter. Her voice plucks a string of my heart and grants the angel’s voice upon my ears. She may soothe me.” She raised her hand and pointed at the door now. “Please, allow me this. Be not so sinful that I may not see her. I wish for a sight of my blessing before mine own passing to be with the Father, He who is not of the flesh.”

He gave a somber nod and stepped from the room. Serena listened as his footsteps slowly softened until she heard them no more. Her eyes closed. She grew more tired as the seconds ticked by. How long could she wait for them?

Serena’s eyes opened slowly as the sound of footsteps appeared once more. Click. Click. Click. She heard two distinct sounds, one heavy and one much smaller and more rapid. The door opened, and she smiled at the sight. “Mother?” The girl’s voice was small and timid. Her hands remained crossed over her lap as she approached the bed.

Serena could see herself in every aspect of the girl, and it warmed her with a bittersweet feeling. Tears now stung at the corners of her eyes. Marina kept her eyes upon her mother as Serena’s hand raised to tousle the girl’s hair tenderly. “Marina, you realize I love you with all my heart?” The girl nodded, curls bouncing on her head. Serena could barely speak but pushed to say what she felt necessary. “And everyone returns home when their bodies refuse to move, and they pass on?” Again, the girl nodded. “Yes, you are a smart child. Know this: mother has always loved you and father. You will take care of him?”

The child cocked her head, confusion prominent in her sparkling eyes. “But what is it you say? Mother, you are not leaving us, are you? Papa and I need you!” Marina leaned over and prodded her mother’s arm. No response. Marina threw her arms around her mother’s neck and pulled her in close. “Mother, I need your love and warmth! Do not leave us!”

Tears fell from her eyes and wetted Serena’s skin, though she could barely feel them. Her husband’s voice and daughter’s sobs became muffled until she could no longer hear them. The vision behind her eyes fell black and her consciousness faded. The pain that had suddenly struck her lightened. The darkness finally faded to allow some ice formation. She reached out to touch it, and the cold pierced her skin. Here felt lonely, but also peaceful.

She traversed this abyss for some time, the formation of ice crystals increasing, but their color changed gradually to a soft yellow. “Serena,” a voice called out to her, deeper than any she had ever heard before. The blackness around her shattered to pure white. “Home is waiting.” Her eyes had closed at the sudden brightness sprouting before her. When she opened them, however, a large gate stood before her, surrounded by loved ones she hadn’t seen in years.

With tears in her eyes, she turned back to the tiny clasp of darkness left. From there, she could faintly hear her husband and child crying. With a smile, she spoke tenderly “I love the two of you, but now my time has come. For now, I await the day of our reunion among those who lived before.” She turned on her heel to face the people that waved before her, wiping the tears away, and stepped forth. “Father, I shall see you now.”

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