MOMENT 00: TERMINAL
“Seven days,” said Dr. Clar. “You have seven days to live.”
Mom burst into heavy sobs, and Dad turned, peering out the hospital window. Did I humiliate him so much? He couldn’t even bear to glance in my direction. Not that it mattered since he wasn’t around often. My little sister, Kat, cooed at first, but although at a young age, she saw the misery in everyone’s eyes. Our parents appeared devastated, but shouldn’t that have been my right?
Dr. Clar, a kind, elderly man, looked as pained himself. He didn’t revel in telling fourteen-year-old boys they were dying.
Dad didn’t turn as he rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Can you do anything? Give him more time, somehow? We need to prepare.”
The doctor ran a hand through his silvery hair. “Again, I’ve only seen this illness once before in my fifty years of practice. The other hangs on by will alone—a blessing perhaps, but it’s also a curse.”
Mom lifted her puffy, red eyes. “Christ! If we brought him sooner. Anthony, if only you’d listened!”
“Lee!” Dad said. “This isn’t the place to shout—”
Sobbing, Mom threw a snotty rag in his direction. “How can I not?”
Dr. Clar patted my knee, and whispered, “I’ll be right outside if you need me.”
He showed sympathy, but I didn’t want it. I needed a cure to my disease. I wanted to live, but it was strange that I couldn’t bring myself to cry—not a single tear.
Mom stared daggers at Dad. “It’s all your fault!”
“Please!” He trembled, his face straining to stay calm.
Mom stood and glanced at me for all of three seconds, then stormed out the door, letting it slam.
Little Kat crawled across the floor and tugged on my pants. My Sister, so innocent and unaware, held no blame for my sickness, but my parents—them I blamed. Dad came around when it was convenient, and Mom almost never lifted a finger for any reason.
Why me? I didn’t deserve to die. I’d never smoked, drank, or did drugs. Then again, life wasn’t fair. It was a lesson I should have learned early, but ever the optimist, I ignored the signs. When I saw those donation commercials, I always thought it’d never happen with me—I was healthy.
In the past couple weeks, everything changed. It all started with the blackout episodes and the killer headaches.
Kneeling, I lifted Kat. She lunged into my embrace and wrapped her arms around my neck.
“Brah!” she said, unable to pronounce brother.
I buried my nose in her dark hair and eyed Dad. He didn’t care to lay eyes on me. Was he concerned for my health, or did he mourn the money he’d waste on all of this? Funerals were pricey, so cremation it was. He opened his mouth, and I thought he might comfort me. He didn’t. Instead, he uttered the foulest words I’d ever heard and rushed from the room. They cared so little; they left Kat. How long till they noticed her gone? Children services might take her away one day, and when she reached a foster home, she’d never remember she lost a loving big brother.
A while later, a nurse came, and upon seeing my sister, furrowed her brow. She snatched Kat from my arms and tossed a gown on my bed. “Get changed.”
Kat screeched and reached for me, but I only stared, my heart shattering.
When I was alone, I changed and took my place in the hospital bed, careful not to tug the IV. Defeated, I glanced out the window and fixated on a single, brilliant star. At that moment, the star split into six orbs of light, spun around in a tight circle, and merged into one. I laid my head back, rubbing my aching head. Was it UFOs? Angels perhaps? No, it was a trick of my dying mind; powerful painkillers dripped into my IV feed.
When I closed my eyes, the thoughts hit me all at once. The painful reality weighed heavy. In eight days, I’d be no more. In seven, I’d die. And in the six leading to my fate, I’d suffer. I opened my eyes again and spotted a cockroach on the windowsill. The filthy creature crawled over Kat’s toy she forgot; a red curved magnet, the kind you saw in cartoons.
Coldness spread across my body, and my fingers and toes felt so far away. Was it my time? Seven days, or seven minutes, what did it matter? Death becomes us all. Unable to stay conscious any longer, I slipped into the frigid darkness.