Because Death would not stop for Seth

He didn’t dream about the fire.

He didn’t sleep, most of the time. It hurt too much to sleep. But that wasn’t why he didn’t dream about the fire.

“Seth?”

Sarah. His wife. She was always here when he didn’t want her and never here when he did. She didn’t know the pain. She walked around, free. She breathed and ate and slept and read books. He saw her. Sometimes she thought he was asleep but he wasn’t, and he saw her. Living. Breathing. Not being in pain.

He ignored her.

When he grew tired of the white walls and the blue covers and the brick wall outside the window, he closed his eyes. But he did not see the fire. He saw pictures of things that were opposites, veering away from each other, like a zipper being unzipped. He saw objects he could not name, in colors he did not recognize, spiraling away down a dark void. He did not see the fire.

He did not think about the fire. But then, he did not think. He existed. He took shallow breaths. He drank water. He ate sometimes. Waffles. Sarah liked to make waffles. But he did not think. His brain would go on its own, and he watched as the words and the images slipped by. None of it made any sense. Blue giraffes. Water wender way. In a box by the bay there is a thing, and all the children sing. He watched, and the words and the pictures and the time went by.

He waited.

“Seth?”

He closed his eyes. He heard her sigh. The chair by the bed creaked as she got up. He followed the sound of her steps across the room and out into the hall. He opened his eyes.

The white walls mocked him.

It hurt too much to lay down. He sat at the top of the bed. Leaned against the headboard. Sometimes his head would jerk as his body attempted to sleep.

He still did not think about the fire. The fire was gone. The fire was the past. It happened to someone else. A different Seth, in a different universe. He looked up at the ceiling, all white and spackled. He tried to breathe.

He did not think about the fire but he did think about the shadow. He did think about the bony figure draped in black, the scythe slung over one arm.

He waited.

“Seth?”

He opened his eyes. She was there. Blonde and pale and straight. Upright. He watched her chest rise and fall.

He used to breathe like that, once.

“Do you need anything?”

He thought about answering her. Yes, he needed. He needed rest. He needed a surcease of sorrow. He needed the scythe to come swinging down.

She kept his pain medicine. He did not know where. He could watch. He could follow her. But that took effort, and breath, and so many things that he did not have anymore.

“Seth?”

He looked at the walls. They were a duller white than the ceiling.

He heard her walk out of the room.

He closed his eyes.

He dreamed. In the dream there were orange flickers, red sparks. And in the center, a black figure. The scythe cut through the flames. A bony white finger pointed at him, and then curled into itself. Yes, yes. He would go. He would be free.

He woke up, and cursed.

The brick wall outside the window shone orange in the late afternoon sun. He stared at it. Counted the bricks as he breathed. One two three four. One two three four.

When Sarah came into the room, he spoke to her.

“I want to work in the garden.”

His garden. His herbs. His alchemical experiments. The Great Work. Separating, and then joining together. Becoming perfect, immortal. Able to breathe. Able to do things. Free.

She stared at him. He looked into her eyes, so pale blue that they were almost gray. He saw shock, hurt, hope. Love.

All he felt was pain.

“Do you think you’re up to it?”

He swung his legs around. Pushed himself off the bed.

“No. But I’m going to do it anyway.”

He walked, slowly, out of the room. The pain flared, its flames licking against the insides of his chest. He ignored it.

He went down the stairs. Slowly. Carefully. One foot down, then the next one. Stop for a few seconds. Then repeat.

He made it all the way to the porch before the darkness came.

After that, she brought him his books. If he could not go out to his garden, she could bring his work to him.

It hurt to hold the books. She brought him a tray that fitted over the bed. He hunched over the tray, in a position where the pain was tolerable, and read.

He could almost forget the pain when he was reading. He would read about ambrosia, about life fruit, about the ashes of the dead that could be used to bring life to the living, about oils and tinctures that would stop the pain, that would make him whole again.

If the shadow figure would not come, if the scythe would not fall, if the bell would not toll for him, then he would find some other way.

If Death would not stop for him, then he would stop Death.

He didn’t dream about the fire.

The ritual and the recipe were very precise. The ashes had to come from a body newly dead. The heart would only work as a life fruit seed within the first three hours of death. The death had to be by fire.

He grew stronger every day. He could walk down the stairs now. He could go out to his garden. He could take down the fire alarms.

He didn’t dream about the fire, but sometimes he did dream about the shadowy figure, about the scythe. The figure’s bony finger extended and curled, extended and curled.

It pointed at Sarah.

“Seth?”

He ignored her.

“Seth?”

He bent down, in front of the fireplace. He struck a match.

“Seth?!”

He didn’t dream about the fire.

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6 Responses to Because Death would not stop for Seth

  1. Jessie says:

    Creepy much….

    Like

  2. Yikes!! Always good to visit with Seth, even when he is lost like this. Outstanding, as usual!

    Like

  3. Very creepy end. Interesting about the pain and all that. It’s been so long, I don’t remember… did we know about that?

    Like

    • medleymisty says:

      Thank you!

      And yeah – I don’t know about the physical pain, but in the bits with Sarah’s diary you can see how he was depressed in the days after the fire at his lab.

      Like

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