The gift. A short story by Ashley Houston.

They called her the mourning woman.

He watched her suffer for years. Even through it all she still managed to be there for him. To be a mother to him for most of her life. It wasn’t until she was nearing the last of her days that she would spend upon the earth that she was no longer able to be there for him.

Her wheel chair sat empty as he rushed around their small house. Calling for help, for someone. For anyone to come help him.

It was eerily quiet that night. He could still remember the smell of blood tinting the air of their house.

His mother’s attendant had went home for the night.

When she was alone the thought of what she wanted to do echoed through her tired mind. She thought her son was asleep and that he would not be witness to those last few agonizing moments of her life. She picked up one of her favorite purple knitting needles. She took a deep breath, as her hand shook. Her long red hair hanging in ringlets down her back.

She paused thinking maybe there was a better way. The pain shook her small feeble frame causing her to drop the knitting needle, which is when her door cracked open.

Her ten year old son, Charles stood, silently starring at her.

“Mommy, are you okay?” He spoke in a small voice, which could only belong to a child.

She tried to smile but it was so hard.

“Can you help me? Hand me my make-up bag, will you my love?”

He had a bad feeling, like he should say no but it was his poor sickly mother and he just wanted her to feel better.

He slowly walked over to her old wooden dresser and picked up her thread-bare make up bag. He handed it ever so slowly to her, his hand shaking. He was uncertain. There was something off about his mother.

She pulled him close to her and hugged him. Not letting him go for as long as her strength allowed. Finally her arms grew limp and she laid back against her flat, faded pillows.

“Promise me, son, that you will be a good man. Know that I always have and always will love you. Now go call my attendant for me, please and don’t look back. Don’t come back into my room. You should get some sleep, after you call my attendant.”

He felt like crying and didn’t know why and yet all he could do was shake his head in compliance.

She waited for a while after she heard his small voice talking beyond her door. It was with a smile of relief that she found her extra set of razors within her dirty makeup bag.

The rusty smell of old wet copper filled her room, leaking slowly throughout the house.

It hurt so badly at first but not nearly as bad as she had been hurting. She lost thought and feeling, her eyes glazing over.

The boy crept back down the hall, not able to sleep. Drawn towards his mother’s room as the smell of wet copper burned his small nose.

The attendant had told him not to go back into his mother’s room and that she would be there soon.

Yet he could not stop from reaching out his small hand, turning the old glass handle. He pushed the door open and walked inside the shadowy room. Even through the shadows he could see her, open unseeing brown eyes staring through him.

Blood was everywhere, it soaked her sheets, dripping onto the cold wooden floor.

He screamed, his young mind not able to fully comprehend what he was seeing.

He jumped up, screaming now with an adult voice as the nightmare of what he had seen as a small child still haunted his dreams.

He was alone in his large airy room.

He shook off the old dread as he pulled on his silky midnight blue robe, only to pull forth a new awakening dread.

The door was heavy and his house smelt of fresh flowers.

His daughter’s bedroom light was on, just how she liked it.

He pulled her white floral blanket up over her small frail body. Trying not to think about his mother. His daughter’s breaths were shallowly flowing in and out. He tried not cry, but he could not hold back the tears.

He had to find a way to save her. He had to have the strength to save his daughter. He could not be as powerless as he had been with his mother.

The dark brown door closed with a soft click. Walking slowly down the lit up hallway he paused just outside of the heavy door that would lead into his study.

The piles of old dusty books and stone tablets that he had found in old Egyptian tombs beckoned him. There were warnings written on the walls around each tablet and book he took but he needed, wanted the power of knowledge that could be obtained through them.

Even his fellow colleagues in Egypt and in his hometown of New Hampshire warned him not to mess with something that he could never hope to truly understand. Yet it was still there calling out to him, telling him that there was hope to be found within the old pages and almost forgotten histories that they hid within their depths.

He poured himself cup upon cup of coffee, not wanting to give in to sleep. Thumbing through a heavy yellowing papyrus book that fell apart in spots, the more he handled it. Knowing that what he did was wrong, the stolen volumes and tablets, disturbing the contents that seemed promising yet so far he could not decipher anything useful.

“There has to be something that can help me to help her. Somewhere, I can’t lose her, not like I lost my mother. I will not let it happen!”

The sun was starting to break through the clouds of a new day after hours of research. Everything started to blur but he kept pushing himself till he found something that gave him hope.

There were small hieroglyphics, some he recognized while some he could not remember seeing before. He knew enough to roughly make out what it was saying.

It said that there was a way for a person to live beyond their given time. There were spots in the text he could not completely understand. There was a price and yet he could not fully comprehend what that price was.

It took him weeks and many meetings with his closest colleagues to fully comprehend the text.

He was not certain that he could believe it. Surely it could not be possible but how could he not at least attempt it. He had to save his daughter. Although the cost would be great for him and for her.

It started as one sip of whiskey slowly turning into swigs of the ancient whiskey he had saved for a special occasion. This was not really what he had in mind. He was drinking it just to try to escape from the insanity of his thoughts.

His daughter was in hospital for treatments and had to stay for a few days for monitoring, or so that is what the doctor had told him. He knew better. She did not have much time left. They could not do much more for her.

The radiation treatments were only making her weaker. The light was dimming in her normally shining green eyes. Her dark brown hair had fallen out long ago. She wore small pink and white knitted hats.

Was he willing to give her his life? Yes, he was. Would she be okay, alone? She would have to be okay. How would her body react to being accelerated? He didn’t know. His thoughts swirled into a tight little ball till there was no room left.

Something had to be done or she would soon fade away from this life. It was beyond her control and yet there was another way. If only he could believe what the text said. He had no other options. He would trade his life for hers.

Only a few months left for her to live.

The pill was a mixture of science and his newly learned knowledge. The mixture was not something his rational mind was willing to accept and yet he did accept it because he had no hope left. He winced as he cut his vein open so that the pill could soak his blood up.

Whispering the words he had learned from the texts he closed his eyes as a feeling of nausea washed over him. His stomach tightened as his mother flashed through his mind’s eye.

What was he doing?

He paused, thinking maybe he was going too far.

Maybe history was slightly repeating itself.

She had only one month left.

His eyes were swollen and hallow. He could barely eat.

When comparing the father to his daughter, one would think they were both suffering from the same aliment.

He was wearing black and dressed to impress his young sickly daughter.

Her green eyes flashed with a flare of light before dimming in pain.

“I have something for you, love. It is a piece of candy that I made for you. I know how you like chocolates.”

He smiled.

She looked at her father in mild shock.

“You have never cooked or baked.” Her eyes teared up.

“Thank you for making something for me.”

She did not feel like eating, the thought of eating anything made her want to gag. She took the melty flat chocolate disc into her small hand. It was oddly heavy as she popped it into her mouth.

She grimace and then smiled, swallowing the bitter coppery chocolate.

“Thank you.” Was all she could whisper before sleep over took her. She fell into a deep coma as her father fell to his knees.

When she woke up, the world was different.

Her body was bigger.

She was stronger yet her mind was still young. She was scared, calling out for a father that could not come.

The world did not understand her and she did not understand the world. She did not know what had become of her father. She was alone. She was lost.

Yet she was alive.

Breaking free from the cold halls of the hospital. She ran until her feet were bloody. Alone.

Year after year she was alone yet she was healthy.

She did not age but watched those she became attached to die.

She was an immortal in a world full of mortals.

It was an endless cycle of pain.


I originally posted this on frankenstein200-b72b946d0def#.wphdzmfa2 on a 7/24/16.

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