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These Dying Days

January 28, 2012

This day something different happened.  Nothing tangible. Students walked by but did not notice.  Tim did.  He observed the mid November breeze swirl through the majestic oaks that stood guard on Valencia Avenue in St. Augustine, Florida.

A hint of a chill dappled the air as Tim stopped, rubbed his eyes and looked again.  Breezes he once believed benevolent pacifiers of a romantic’s overworked imagination now manifested as malevolent, perpetual beasts working to eat away at anything they touched.

Their victories manifested as nearly imperceptible and inconsequential to the casual eye. Every now and then, a leaf would fall or a loose piece of bark would tumble and the breeze would travel on its merry way.

Tim glanced at the trees, the overcast skies, and felt age in his fifty-year-old body.  Death was never on the doorstep so much as on retainer.  The day would come when the call would go in and everything he knew would cease to exist.  Like the breeze’s big brother, the hurricane, when it blows down hundreds of these stately oaks.

Tim couldn’t help but stare at the twenty year old woman who walked toward him in a tight mini skirt. A v-neck shirt promoted her assets quite well.  He wanted to run up to her and shake her.  He wanted to scream “You’re going to die with everything else around you.  What do you think you are doing?  Quit wasting your time and run.  Run to pleasure.  Run to indulgence.  Run to anything that has life and revel in it because the day is soon coming when you will most assuredly yield your last breath.”

Of course he didn’t do this.  That type of thing got one locked up real fast. His ability to see the wind would earn a straight jacket as well, if ever he spoke about it.  Yes, the wind embodied an evil, malevolent being.  Lending words to that knowledge would put him away for life.

He tried not to see.  He did not want these creatures to notice he perceived them.  If they knew, they did not make it apparent.  The absolute purpose of their movement chilled him.  The alien way in which their ruination would rocket upward and dive to the unsuspecting life below cost him much of his strength in his endeavor to ignore them.

Tim observed the skin dry on the woman’s cheeks as the wind beat at her auburn hair.  The bluster affected every single hair.  A tug on the roots caused some to pull from their base unnoticed by their owner.

Brief eye contact with the young lady read of classes, work, boyfriends and misunderstanding parents.  Tim stopped as she strolled by. He quelled an urge to shake her – to shout that none of her worries held importance.  Mortality hovered over everyone’s head. The game always played out to annihilation’s satisfaction. Not ours.

She would scream rape, or something, and he knew it.  He questioned his sanity anyway.  Why shouldn’t she or anyone else not scream if he opened up?  He stared into the sky at the thunderheads approaching.  Lightning flashed in the distance. He noted its non-random purpose in life – destruction and dissolution.

Just because the debt of nature did not strike every living thing, every minute of the day, did not make it any less a fact. The last agonies – alive and doing very well.  Everything worked in concert with oblivion.  Wind, rain, lightning.

Everything designed to break down and destroy.  Everything, no matter how innocent, contributed to someone’s or something’s demise.  Tim strode to class hoping to make it without that wild-eyed-nutcase-look about him. That look frightened the other students away.  He truly did not wish to hurt anyone.  He just desired they see their wasted time and energy on efforts that did not matter.

He ultimately came to the conclusion that comfort meant necrosis.  The only recourse to the last gasp? Grapple. Fight.  Everyone appeared to resist, but like Don Quixote, they fought foes unreal and imagined.

He could see the enemy. He wished he couldn’t.  If he enlightened others on his ability to see decay, straightjackets and rubber rooms loomed.  Tim felt sure death owned a hand in using his special sight to punish him.

He knew the truth.  He knew King Death in a personal way.  The food you eat – poisoned no matter how much you homogenize and pasteurize.  The air you breathe – vile, no matter how well you filter. The water you drink – laced with toxins that over time, like the breeze, will win their assault on you.

Joining the greater number attacks your psyche. Extinction convinces you to ignore its vagaries and pretend. Life’s ebb doesn’t exist in people’s minds until too late. Expiration overrides your every waking moment and hounds you to suicide or lobotomy.

This day he observed the wind in its entire adversarial splendor.  In the past, things like the teeming and uncountable trillions of bacteria that assaulted all life, including food – disgusted him.  As a youngster, he quit eating because his eyes transfixed on all the disgusting fatality armies that squirmed on his plate.

His parents, alarmed, sent him to counseling. Once, not knowing everyone didn’t see the grotesqueries, he explained himself. He learned to keep such observations to himself thereafter.  This latest manifestation of reality nearly sent him over the edge.  It would be so easy to stalk that woman . . . .

He ambled away, knowing that too, led the way of the vagaries of death.  The concept of ‘life’ actually defined a no-win situation.  Rigor mortis comes when and where it wishes. Powerlessness vexed him.

The Stygian shore effectively robbed him of any avenue of denial about his existence and those around him.  Ultimately, this thought kept him eating.  If he did not eat he would expire.  If he did eat, he would still pass over, just not as soon.  He trained himself to love certain foods despite the presence of moribund entities in every bite.

He wanted to probe for a weakness. Futility sculpted sinister smiles on the face of the Reaper.  Tim’s one hope lay in a connection to someone who could at least communicate to him that they saw it too – termination – everywhere.

He could not allow himself to believe too deeply in this fictional other character that would at least validate his perspective on this concept so laughingly labeled life.

He peered at the stately oaks and their patient vigil. He understood they exhibited not so much patience as they simply suspended cessation through every effort in their lives.  Everyone does this – suspends the final breath for as long as possible.

The King of terrors defined patience.  Cold, uncaring, and infinite.  Humans exhibit no more patience than pigs flying to Jupiter.  Humans only suspend their actions and emotions until a determined and acceptable time.

Mortality bides its time in cold calculation.  The Black Shade measures every molecule of destruction through vehicles large and small.  Cyclones and bacteria.  Eternal silence does not care about the means.  In fact, the preference – a slow, agonizing demise rather than the violent sudden destruction of life.

Much more grave loading births from disease and defect than by disasters and war.  Disasters and wars appear to be nothing more than the reaper’s dessert.  The smorgasbord of this world makes every living thing Death’s apple.

Tim shook his head clear of the cacophony surrounding him. He mixed in with the horde of students climbing stairwells to their prospective classes.  Life, this biggest lie humans passed from one to another.  The Lone Conductor only allows life to fuel an insatiable appetite for pain and suffering.  Tim couldn’t stand up and state that tidbit anywhere in class either.

He could in his writing class, though.  Writing became the one reason he made this trek twice a week – to write and to write well. His hope lie with writing well enough that every set of eyes his words reached would know where they stood on this earth.  They stand with one foot in the grave.

Why do students and postal workers and disgruntled employees and ruthless dictators go berserk killing people and then themselves?  The answer rolled uncontrolled and silent off his lips. They shook their collective heads at such mayhem and always wondered why?

“Because on some level these people sense death’s grip, you idiots!”  

Tim’s mission? To convince people they only do death’s bidding. Some take their own life, which causes Doom to smile its heartless smile.  Massive no-win scenario here.  There are no ‘cryogenic’ solutions, no fountains of youth, and no earthly way out.

If he could only get his writing recognized, at least he might get the human race to focus on their real problem.  He knew he would be labeled a crackpot.  He knew many would blow him off as demented.  If he could only convince one person, then he could bask in some positive action that would make him feel valuable.  He understood this would be a fleeting moment. A moment he probably would never duplicate, but he would enter his final rest trying.

Tim slipped into his desk chair and gazed out the half-shuttered window.  Trees curled to the dance that would end their earthly career, brought on by the wind.  Manic glee from the Great Mortician’s wicked wind burst upon branches only to reform as the unseen maelstrom rose into the sky.

He focused on the professor. He ignored all the countless mite-looking bacteria that crawled on everything and everyone.  He gave the world around him a blank stare. He ignored the fact that the sound waves of the professors voice ever so slightly wore away at his inner ear.

He thought of the pretty waitress that once struck up conversations with him while he scribbled his thesis on going the way of all flesh.  She seemed interested in the subject and even listened to a diluted version of his views on giving up the ghost.  He didn’t tell her these views came from first hand observations. He did get intense at times about the concepts she could grasp.

Like how the germs and bacteria crawled, teemed, and actually overran everything and everyone. The Master of the Scythe mounted a constant campaign to steal your life away.  She grasped this premise and even agreed with it.  He had looked forward to dinner that evening because she accepted his dinner invitation.

He found he could look past all the duskiness that clung to her skin like some horrific seaweed and see the beauty that lay beneath.  She did not appear dirty. On the contrary, she displayed less bacterial infestation than most.

He left class that day with a skip in his step. He met her an hour later at the restaurant.  They reclined in a quiet corner and he went over some of his writings on the big sleep.  She asked questions and listened. He explained how everything, even the wind, contributed to the demise of every living organism on this planet.

She moved closer as he told her of malevolent breezes. She nodded when he described the insanely ecstatic sun, which wrought more havoc on life than people could ever imagine.  She asked about the sun being happy about the situation as her hip slid ever so slightly next to his. She leaned into him.

He got excited. For a moment he forgot himself. He told her he knew this because he could see the sun react to its handiwork.  He felt her tense up. She then asked if he always joked like this.  Still caught up in the moment and the proximity of her body, he went on to tell her how he could see the face of the wind as it destroyed life in its own evil little ways.

She inched away. A nervous laugh escaped her lips.  He realized she no longer desired the conversation.  She asked how he could see the wind. What tangible means could a person use to see it?  You could observe the effects of it, sure, but how could he see it?

Instead of trying to backtrack and get out of the conversation, he told her how he could see germs, bacteria, viruses and all manner of decay and rot. He confided they clung to living organisms, manic parasites that frolicked unchecked on everyone and everything.  He noted the slight drop of mayonnaise on her finger. He described the infestation of bacteria that crawled around and waited for the opportunity to enter her system and do their damage.

She said she really must go. She did not care for what he said.  He tried to let her know.  He wanted her to know. Worms and the like lived inside her. Filthy harbingers of the last torment. She could do nothing to stop them.  She then told him to shut up. He scared her.

He told her she should be scared. She needed to understand.  Everyone needed to understand.  She bolted for the door.  He followed her into the early evening dark.  She told him to go away. He could not let her go. Not like this.  She had to see.  He would make her see.  Then she would know.

She whirled around in the middle of the street and glared at him.  The same glare he regularly received from the moon at night. The same glare as his reflection in the mirror.  She asked why he had to be so nuts? Why he couldn’t be just a quirky guy that was a lot of fun like she originally thought?

He knew she had to see. That was the only way.  He’d shown others. He did not like it the others knew what he knew.  They were not worthy of the knowledge.  At least she had listened to him. At least at one point she showed interest.  Clearly, she needed to understand.

He shoved her against the stucco wall of a closed shop. The streetlight cooperated and sent no beams their way.  Her head struck the wall with delightful force. He felt the incredible concert of shadow all around him. Hell’s grim Tyrant worked everything in unison to assist his mission.  Sounds rattled at just the right moments to take a person’s attention from the couple in silhouette.

A sneeze followed by mucous that needed cleaned up. A cold wind turned heads. Walkers turned the corner before reaching Tim and his protégé.  The moon slipped behind leering clouds that cloaked the couple in more darkness. Tim sneered.

She grimaced at him, hair splayed against the wall by a roving wind. His back tingled. He and a breeze an ally for the moment.  Her feeble kicks and struggles appeared a marionette’s dance. He placed his right hand on her throat and pressed. He squeezed. He realized one hand could not finish the job.  His second hand entered the fray. He watched, fascinated, as her eyes grew. He kissed her last breath and delivered his own bacteria and germs into her body. She went limp and caused him to hold her against the wall with his own body.

He continued to crush her neck knowing she may have only passed out. He also knew that the allies of the Grim Reaper all around him would announce their victory when the time was right.

Sure enough, the wind crescendoed. The moon exploded from behind the dancing clouds. An infinite multitude of microscopic vermin screamed a celebratory chant that announced she finally knew what he knew.

He allowed her body to fall to the concrete. Her head smashed the surface with a painless thud.  He stared at the trees assaulted by frantic winds and wondered how he would survive these dying days.

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