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This is Book 2 of the Moments of Fate Series. Please see book 1: War in Heaven to begin this epic adventure.
The monitors beep as I observe their screens with weary brown eyes. I could fall into a blissful sleep with the lure of that sound, a lullaby I’ve grown accustomed to and even grown quite fond of, but the constant chatter and brash laughter going on around me shocks my senses from time to time, forcing me awake when all I can do is sleep.
Family members gather around, six or seven or maybe nine or ten, they all blend into my memory like a continuous dream going from one sequence to the next. Part of me wonders if they even know I’m here while they enjoy each other’s company. I’m thankful that they visit but I don’t know why they’re here. I’m not a part of their conversations, I’m not a part of their party. I’m only a piece of the furniture.
I’ve accepted that. Now all I really want to do is sleep.
My eyes shut and the beeping increases in my ear. It is heavenly.
I hated that sound when I first got sick. I glared at the incessant noise-making machine, blaming the lifeless contraption for the disease rotting in my veins. Now it’s my closet friend. I rely on it and enjoy the song it sings. It’s the sound of my heart beat and it is the only sound that makes sense. Every pound of it, every day for the past eight months I have heard the beating of my heart. It’s a blessing in disguise.
How many people in this world understand how precious a human heart is?
A heart can do so many things. The obvious need to be affirmed because we go about our days never realizing how treasurable it is that we have this beating flesh beneath our chest. It gives us life. It pumps blood throughout our body, keeping each limb in movement, allowing us to breathe in every moment on this planet.
It’s a truth telling machine. The heart will express when you’re scared, when you’re happy, but most of all, by listening to it, you’ll find your true friends. If you’re lucky you’ll even discover the love of your life.
Perhaps, it was too late for all of that for someone like me, but at least death holds no regrets.
Cresdena sits beside me holding the weightless meat of my hand. Forcefully I shift my gaze toward her, leaving the luring instrument of my heart. Her scrutiny is on the party. Her smiling face is toward the crowd. Curling brown hair rests on her shoulders. She dressed up for today and I can’t summon the strength to tell her how beautiful she is.
It’s a reminder that I will have to let her go. I am being selfish holding on to her. It’s just that I realized only two weeks ago that I loved her. My life should have been over already. I’m clinging and cherishing what shouldn’t be mine. It’s time. She should be out having fun. She’s too young to know heartache. Her heart should beat for someone worth its fervent music.
I attempt to detach my fingers from her, but it only gains her attention. Her green orbs are bright. “Josh?” She grins wide for me. “You awake?” Others fly to my bedside.
There are so many of them I can’t quite grasp the reasoning behind it. I see faces I haven’t seen for quite a while. Balloons float in the corner. I wonder if it’s my birthday. How old am I now? A balloon spins on its string as I stare. The number twenty-five writes in gold letters.
I claw at the mask at my face and she is quick to take my hand away, “You need that.”
My brows knit in anger. I don’t like being treated like a baby and she knows it.
“Don’t give me that look. There’s too many germs in this room. We can’t have you getting sick.”
She’s right, I know. But considering I should have been dead weeks ago what’s the point of being careful? I never wanted to make it to twenty-five. I am okay with dying. I have made my peace with God. I have no goodbyes left. I have no regrets. I am happy. Sticking around is only making it worse for the people that love me. I don’t know what God is waiting for. I don’t know why I’m still here. I only know I want to sleep and if I don’t wake up, I’d be okay with that.
Except I keep waking up and I don’t understand it.
“Hey Josh.” I hear my young brother Victor. I slowly open my eyes. I must have fallen asleep.
I slowly turn my head, getting dizzy from the movement. He sits beside me, grinning wide. He and I look nothing alike. We have different dads. Aside from the fact that we both have black hair, brown eyes, he’s black as you can get and I’m Spanish. We use to make fun of each other about it. That is something I will miss. He grins, showing his white teeth, “As you know I graduate college next month.” The realization of time hits me hard. He had just finished his junior year when I entered the hospital, the last time I’ve been to a movie, or a mall, or anywhere. I’ve been wasting away ever since.
“As my present mom and dad said I can chose one of the three, a car, a condo, or a vacation.”
“A car.” I whisper hoarsely. Victor leans in and I remove my mask much against the dislike of my girlfriend, “A car.” I swallow. She promptly puts it back on.
A car is what I would chose. To drive away as far and as fast as possible.
“But I got one. I know it’s a crappy ass honda but I worked my ass off with my job and it works fine. And I got friends to move in with when I leave the dorms. I think I’m gonna take the vacation. And guess where I’m gonna go?” He waits for a half a second. “Amsterdam!” He pulls out a magazine for the city and promptly goes on about how it’s the best place in the world and how beautiful the women are. I listen intently, going on this journey with him mentally and loving every moment of it.
I don’t know when I fell asleep but sure enough I wake again. The room is partially empty beside the balloons swaying in the air, the talking television, and the presents that were left un-open.
My mom is with me. It’s a sight I wake too on a constant basis. She’s crying with her head down pressed against my hand. Her shoulders shake, her hair pulled into a bun, slight grey mixes with the brown. She murmurs every so often a Spanish prayer but then curses in spite of it.
The day I was diagnosed with AIDS, I didn’t tell my mother. I didn’t tell anyone. I took the pills they gave me and went to all the doctors privately. It was the only thing I have ever been ashamed of. It wasn’t the disease I was ashamed of. It was dying. I was angry and I refused to admit to anyone including myself that I would be taken in by an infection.
At first, I thought it was some joke. I looked healthy. For so long after I was diagnosed I looked fine. It wasn’t until I began having bad days and the signs began to expose itself that it became real.
It takes time for my other hand to come around because my body refuses yet soon I rest it on her head. She jumps at the contact and quickly cleans up her face, apologizing. I smile, removing my mask from my face. “Momma.” I breathe, “You brought us to church.” I pause of air, “for years because you love God.”
Her face contorts in pain. “Why would He do this to you, baby? You are a good boy.”
“It was an accident, Momma.” Taking another breath, “Don’t blame Him. He loves me and He loves you.”
“I wish I could believe that.”
“Maybe that’s why I can’t go, Momma.” A tear falls from my face. “I can’t go until you forgive God.” She collapses against me, sobbing into my shoulder.
“Never, never.” My dad enters with cups of coffee but upon seeing her, he rushes to take her away, telling me to rest.
Tears come easy then. When I’m alone and have no reason to be strong, I’m capable of crying. I don’t do it for myself. I don’t have anger. Death is simply a voyage I’m ready to go on. I just wish everyone else felt the same. It would be so easy if no one else hurt.
At times like these it sucks having a big family. It is extra big too because after my parents had me they divorced and my mom quickly married someone else and had Victor. So I kind of had two families. My dad’s and then my brother’s dad’s. They didn’t get along for a while. At birthday parties, there was always drama about who was sitting where, or who’s food was being eaten by who, or something as petty as that. But since I got sick, they started to respect each other and love one another. Not all bad things had come out of my illness.
I press the button on the bed and it slowly sits me up. After an entire day of wanting to be alone, I suddenly ache for company. I know visiting hours are over but for someone on their death bed like I am, I get special privileges. All I need to do is make a phone call. If I could find the phone, that is.
“Looking for this?” My eyes flip to the entrance where a young nurse leans against the doorway, holding my bed phone. It’s an odd sight to see considering that the end of it is nicely trimmed and dangles down at her waist. She smiles and tosses it into the trash by the door. “You won’t be needing it tonight.”
I’ve never seen her and I’ve seen all the nurses in this part of the hospital. I know all their names, their family histories, and their work schedules. If there was a new recruit joining the staff, gossip would have been roaming the halls for at least a week before she arrived. The mysterious woman struts up to the bed and fear grips my heart the moment she reaches my IV.
“You won’t be needing any of it.” She promptly rips it out of my hand. My heart monitor beeps wildly and she only laughs, watching it. “That is annoying, how do you handle it?” She yanks back the blanket and strips the pads off my pale chest.
The sound ceases.
The room is silent.
I stare at the screen, blank and still. It’s when it dawns on me. I’m dying and this is the angel that’s come for my Soul.
“Wrong, Joshua.” She whispers to me. “I’m not here for your Soul. I’m here to save it.” She smiles big and wide, grinning from ear to ear and strokes my cheek with her thumb. “It’s time. It’s time to change the world.”
My eyes widen upon those words. The very words I have said every birthday since I can remember.
“You made a wish and I have not forgotten. But I wonder. Have you, Joshua? You didn’t make your wish today?”
I was four years old when I decided I wanted to change the world. I started a can collecting company with a wheelbarrow. In middle school, I did over a hundred hours of community service. In high school, I built five houses, had three hundred hours of community service and got my school involved in three different charities. College broadened my horizon by sending me overseas where I was able to work in Africa during a summer course. We built homes, churches, and schools and cleaned up rivers to make the waters drinkable.
It was there the accident happened. The man that was helping us fell from the roof and landed on a beam. I was trying to help him, holding his hand, talking to him. He coughed and the blood splattered in my face and mouth. I was diagnosed a year later at the age of twenty-one.
“How?” I whisper.
“We’ve been waiting for the moment when we would need you. That time has come.” She shuts off each machine one by one, these machines that have been by my side every day for the last eight months and she makes them obsolete. “Will you join us?”
“I’m dying.” I whisper with confusion on my weak brow. My gaze stares at my silent heart monitor, missing the beating already.
“Joshua.” She steps in my view, forcing my eyes on her. Her hand grabs my own and presses it against my pale sunken chest. “Close your eyes.”
I’m hesitant. How can I not be? For all I know this woman is a lunatic spouting off nonsense and I’m looking for a miracle so I’m buying into it so easily and recklessly. I shut my eyes. I should have been dead weeks ago. Taking risks are really all that’s left to me.
I can feel the beat of my heart. Feeling it is so much better than that sharp beeping. The thumping it makes against my hand, knocking from the inside of my chest, making a smile come to my lips. It’s increasing and so is my breath with each second that passes, excitement runs through my nerves. Even if this is death, it is more thrilling than I ever thought it would be. It’s not like going to sleep at all.
“Inside you,” She whispers. “is something that human beings rarely possess.” I open my eyes. “Heart.” She giggles at my perplexing gaze. “Metaphorically speaking, of course.”
I don’t believe that. There are tons of humans in the world that have heart. I’m nothing in the world of millions. She puts a finger under my chin and lifts my gaze. “God has chosen you, Joshua, for a specific reason. You may never figure out that reason but never doubt it. Now I need an answer from you. Either way, your sickness will be taken from you. A decision must be based only on your desire to be a part of it.”
“Now?” She steps back and I find someone else standing in the doorway.
A young man, probably the same age as me. He’s clean-shaven with short brown hair. Fingers play with a round silver stud in his brow before he tucks them into the pockets of his brown robes. He smiles, greeting. “We got less than a month,” He starts with a Northern accent I find hard to understand, “till Hell breaks out onto Earth and God dies leaving Heaven in an uproar. The humans need some key players. You’re either in or you’re out.”
I blink. “What?”
“Sable.” The woman chastises lightly. The man chuckles and shrugs. She turns back to me, “We are in a rush. The human race needs you. Don’t you want to change the world?”
I look at these two strangers in front of me and then to my heart machine. A habit I had for months is gone and I’ve lost how to make a decision on my own. Everyone made my decisions for me. What time I should eat, where I should sit, if sun is okay for me, how much fresh air I should have. I never protested, I never bothered to. I didn’t want to upset them worse than I already have. This decision was bigger than any of it, bigger than them, bigger than me and I didn’t even understand it.
My hand rests on my pallid, bony chest and presses against it. I close my eyes and listen to the thumping of its beats.