Inktober 08/10/19: Frail

I don’t much want to share today’s flash fiction. I don’t like the prompt word and I didn’t want to write this, but this challenge is what it is. So it comes with AN ENORMOUS CONTENT WARNING. If you’re grieving, or worried about someone towards the end of life, or just get upset by this stuff, it’s cool buddo. Skip this one and pick up on… Actually maybe skip tomorrow as well. See you for day 10.

There’s a rhythm to it, this breath of life thing. Not the beats of a drumkit that keep the band in time, but a rhythm that cuts into the flow of life itself. Bloodless faces and red eyes watch the fall to death over cooling styrofoam cups of weak tea. I slow that fall: sometimes I am a parachute and sometimes merely an agonising slo-mo rendering. I am an odd ensemble of LED lights, bleeps, dials, and that whistling in and out like the swish of waves. I sit in the background, simultaneously making things bearable and reminding them how very wrong everything is.

I cram air into lungs and out again… as they speak whatever words they can find. Rambling, personal things, just to put sound into the air and hope that it catches flight into wherever this ailing mind has gone to.

Didn’t they all know to breathe, moments out of the womb? For all the talk of cardiac death versus brain death, people speak of the breath – not brainwaves – of life. Pneuma. The first question from the 999 dispatchers: is he breathing? This man has fallen from a ladder and the skill was knocked out of his head in an instant so here I am with him. In and out. He may remember how again, or he may forget how his heart works, or they may disconnect me and take him away.

Then the next: pneumonia, severe COPD, or a car accident, or cancer perhaps. I take them all, outsource their breathing for a time. Do they remember how to breathe? Some will and some will not. I remember them all and nurse them without complaint. I do not dare to wish I could forget.

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