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The machines do their thing and I mine. As best I can. They beep and I wheeze with old lungs not ready to peter out. Sunlight comes through the only window as I lay still, watching it change the tone of colors onto the generic wallpaper that threatens a headache when gazed upon. I lay here and think. Guess that is all you can do at the end of your life. People leave and leave you to your thoughts. As the song goes… Regrets, I got a few. The biggest is one I have had to live with for sixty years.
I was 20 the day I took my last full breath on this Earth. The inhalations after that were for show. I stopped breathing the day I missed my ride, a road to happiness bathed in the warm summer sun. My feet planted firm on the ground that day, wished they had grown wings the long years that followed. The rest of my life was spent glancing up at the stars. Trying to find her in infinity.
I was three sheets in the summer sun. Fishing by a creek that didn’t want to give up the goods. The fish weren’t biting, so I did what any man in my position does when you have drunk your fill in the sun. I took a nap. One of those sweaty mid-day summer naps that leaves your head spinning, and your skin blistered.
I had no recollection of when I fell asleep that day, or how long I slept. I only remember waking up. My eyes opened, and I saw her. I rubbed my groggy eyes and looked up at this being standing before me. Sunlight passed through her hair making it shine golden and transparent in places. A golden light surrounded a face perfect with not a blemish on it. When I looked at her, I knew she could not come from this earth. Her eyes told a story that had been everywhere and seen many stars.
She drew closer, moving as if she was part of the sunbeam that had blinded my eyes. Her perfect golden shine washed over me, making me feel loved, and innocent once again. She smiled, and the brilliance just about killed me dead where I laid. With a movement, so fluid and full of grace, she reached out, touching my cheek sending pleasing vibrations down my spine. Her mouth opened and one word escaped.
One word sounding like a song of angels as it exited her lips. I didn’t know what she meant for me to do.
“Shed,” she said. This time raising her hand and beckoning for me to follow. The fear of losing something welled up inside me. I looked at her wanting her to stay here with me because I knew if I left I would quit being me. She looked at me one more time. Her face filled with a confused sorrow before she winked out, and the golden light became just a sunbeam once again.
Oh, I was a foolish boy. Offered something too big too soon. Like a teenager offered money and power and squandering it with reckless abandon.
In the years that followed I compared everyone and everything to the women I encountered at the creek that day. My life blessed with a wife and children. I never wanted for much or needed much of anything at all, except her. I sat quiet on days when the sun was just right. Thinking of her in silent agony. I have had much joy, but not a day goes by when I didn’t think of the golden being. A soul mate that traveled distances unfathomable by the human mind only to have me reject her wish.
I watch the light in the room. I hear the machines beep. I wheeze, as the sun no longer shines in the window, and my heart slows. I hear a voice I haven’t heard in 60 years.
My feet are no longer planted firm on the ground. This time I follow her. This time I shed.
Ernie Howard was born on January 29, 1977 during a Minnesota blizzard. His two story-telling parents almost didn't make it to the hospital in their beat up blue Cadillac.
Ernie is the author of The Pool, A World Without, Walter, and Float, On Holiday with an S.O.B. Two short tales that recently appeared in Tales from the Canyons of the Damned.
All of these books are available on Kindle.
Ernie lives with his wife and 3 boys in Henderson, NV, where he dreams up new stories and tries to live every day to the fullest.
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