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Heartbeat

By Elwyn_Castor All Rights Reserved ©

Other

Chapter 1

The alarm clock sounded off, stirring Herschel from his unconscious state. He groaned in reply, positioning himself upright. 

He took a few moments to wipe his eyes before reaching over to dismiss the noise. And another few moments to sigh, and to stretch his aged muscles. Each of his joints popping as they stretched.

As he finished, he swept his legs across the bed, placing his bony feet onto the cold floor.

With relative difficulty, he began to rise. His old body straining, having found it difficult to even perform the simplest of things. He was finally unto his feet when he sighed once more.

"Here we go…" He muttered softly, expecting more difficulty throughout the day.

He began his way out his room and into the rest of his house. Now beginning the basic routine of his everyday mornings; he checked his mail, obtaining several letters before dropping them carelessly onto the table. Proceeding to retrieve a coffee mug from the already warmed coffee in his brewer.

Afterwards, he sat at the table, opening the letters and occasionally sipping from the mug.

As his eye scanned through the lines, he groaned inwardly and tossed the letters advertising retirement homes, but eventually tossed all of them. None pertaining to his interests.

After finishing his cup, he discarded it within the sink, then went into the bathroom, brushing his teeth. He spat the paste from his mouth, now beginning to rinse it clean.

Now that his morning routine was, for the most part, finished; he began to dress in his normal clothes. Slipping his frail arms through the sleeves of his formal jacket, pulling on his dress shoes and slacks, and finishing with the readjustment of his tie and hat.

After ensuring the house was locked, he proceeded to the outdoors. 

With gray skies looming above, a cold bitter wind greeted him. He groaned briefly, not favoring the cold weather as it bit irritatingly at his skin. Nonetheless, he continued on.

He strode down the sidewalk in his own pace, as others passed by him. But he didn't mind a slow walk, even though it was the only speed he was capable of reaching.

But after a span of time, he eventually reached his destination. A quiet park that was usually absent from people.

He eased into the wooden bench near the walkway, and merely waited. He waited for nothing, really, but he enjoyed the peace. He felt tranquil as he listened to the birds sing. Unfortunately, due to the weather, the birds were absent. But the quiet would take their place.

After some time of sitting, he spotted a fox. It was around twenty feet away, closer than he's ever been to one. But he wasn't afraid, he just eyed it closely. It's slow pace bespoke that it wasn't alarmed as well.

Herschel hadn't known why, at first it came to thought it may have been wounded or injured. But it wasn't limping, or had any impediment in movement. It was just simply, walking, as if no one was there.

Gradually, it went off out of sight behind a few trees. So Herschel glanced away, resuming his quiet waiting. But soon, as he waited, his eyelids grew heavy. The absence of events and noise gradually easing him unconscious, slipping away into the dark.


Herschel gradually aroused from his sleep. He yawned, then finally opened his eyes. After glancing around, he found that a fog now hung close to the ground. 

He couldn't see any further than thirty feet, and it was a little more colder than it was before.

He was thinking of getting to his feet, until he saw the fox once more. It was trotting towards him this time. 

At first, he thought to prepare for an attack, but as it drew near it slowed in it's pace. And as it neared the bench, it leapt unto it and landed to Herschel's side.

Herschel was surprised, he never expected it to come this close within a human, let alone join his company. He couldn't help but watch it, it was strange. It acted as if it was completely normal.

Then it turned to him, focusing it's eyes unto his.

"Hello Herschel." It spoke.

His mouth drew open, and his eyes widened in shock. For a few moments, this look was exchanged between the two.

"I-I must be dreaming…" He finally spoke. 

"I assure you, this is very real." It replied.

Herschel paused once more, but he spoke again. He couldn't believe it.

"In reality, dogs or-or foxes don't talk."

It smiled warmly. Seemingly appreciating this.

"That's true, they don't, but that doesn't mean they can't. If given the ability."

Herschel closed his mouth, still pondering if he was even dreaming.

"s-s so you? You were given this, this ability?"

"For the moment…"

"To talk to- me?"

"Indeed."

Silence swept between the two for a for moments.

"This can't be…" He said to himself.

Turning away and rubbing his forehead.

"It may seem, a little unbelievable or impossible." The fox began.

"A-a little?"Herschel scoffed. 

But the fox replied calmly.

"But I assure you once more, this is real. It is why this fog has appeared. To give us this time together…"

"Why me?" 

"Unfortunately, you're time has come to an end."

At this, Herschel's brow furrowed. And he promptly replied,

"Wait, wait. You're, death?"

"Indeed."

"Death? But…why a fox?" He asked. 

The fox smiled once more, almost uncanny in it's emotions.

"Wouldn't you agree it would've caused more panic into those who see me; as you are more familiar with, a skeleton cloaked within a dark robe, carrying a scythe?"

Herschel fell silent. He couldn't disagree with it's logic. But more thoughts swept into his mind, and he brooded over them. 

"I'm to die today?" He asked softly and concerned. 

"Soon…"

He turned away, and a moment of quiet ensued.

"How soon? D-do I get to say goodbye to anyone?" He spoke. 

"I'm afraid not…I'd much rather to keep my schedule. I'll give you a moment, though."

Herschel glanced away once again. He hadn't known what to think, to do, or even how to feel. He had a knot of what he thought, fear in his stomach. 

He knew someday he would retire from this life. Especially because of his age. But he wasn't prepared for this moment. He didn't think anyone ever was.

"Are you ready?" Death asked finally. 

Herschel, after a moment, sighed deeply and exchanged another glance with it.

"Yes."

"I apologize, in advance for this." It spoke, before lunging forward and snapping it's jaws around Herschel's throat.

As it's teeth sunk, he was sent back. Memories flooded within the expanse of his mind; his whole life.

Being birthed; first laying eyes on his mother, who smiled upon his arrival. 

Growing up; learning how to crawl, and taking his first steps. 

A young boy; watching his parents descend from love, watching bitter fights. Finding broken shards of glass, blood, tears. A grave.

A teenager; secluded from everyone. Constantly bullied. 

A young man; being drafted into a controversial war. Remembering faces and friends he'd never see again.

 An adult; returning home. Finding love. Having children.

An older adult; A crumpled car, cries coming from the fire. His wife. Another grave, another bitter funeral.

An elder; secluded in a tiny home. Pondering why he still lived to this day. 

A fox, death.

Herschel still remained sitting, reclined back into the bench. His eyes were closed, and his were hands folded together on his lap, but his breathing halted. No wounds were on his neck or body, just an old man, seemingly fast asleep. Though, without a heartbeat.




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