"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whosoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
– Albert Einstein
The Order of Brighid
“Possibility is the secret heart of time.”
-Anam Ċara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, by John O’Donohue
The whoosh, whoosh, whoosh of that infernal machine. Its bellows pump up and down as black, tarry sludge is sucked up the tube and into the holding tank.
She lies on the bed like a robot corpse, tubes and lines going in and out of her body. Her once rosy lips are pale, tinged slightly green. Her once vibrant emerald green eyes are closed, sunken into the eye sockets. Her once strong body lies still and shrunken. Only her hair looks the same, flowing like a red wave across the white shore of the pillow.
Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.
I stand at the door and gingerly peek in. I don’t want to be there. I don’t want to see her like that. I don’t want the putrid odor of dying people stuck in my nostrils.
I don’t want to go in, but I’m sucked into the room anyway. My legs feel powerless against the invisible force that draws me in. I flail my arms and try to command my body to obey me and run from the horrid scene.
But I’m in the room anyway, drawing ever closer to the bed.
What is that tarry black stuff? Is it being sucked out of her body? Or put in?
I’m close enough to touch her, but I don’t want to. The last time I touched her I saw a vision of her taking her last breath. The last time I touched her, I saw her die. I don’t want that to come true. And I don’t want to see her die again. The first time I saw her die I ran and ran, trying to escape the vision. I don’t want to touch anyone ever again.
But my hand reaches anyway, a mind of its own. My mouth opens to scream, but nothing comes out. My lips are locked open in a soundless “O.”
My hand quivers as it reaches in slow motion toward the sleeping body that bears a resemblance to my mother. Is she still in there? Or has the cancer stolen the last of her?
My fingertips shake as they touch her hand. The skin on her hand is as thin as an onion skin and shows the blue-red blood vessels beneath.
As soon as my fingers touch her hand, her eyes pop open in a look of terror. Her mouth is open in a scream. But it’s not a human scream. It’s the loud whoosh, whoosh, whoosh of that tar-sucking machine.
She sits up. The long, wavy red hair flying about her head is the same, but the face is no longer my mother. It looks at me with large, solid black eyes, devoid of light or emotion, staring out of a bare skull. Her hand is no longer covered in thin flesh but is instead the hand of a skeleton. The hand of bones grips me hard.
I pull and pull to get free of the monster, but it has me. I’m caught in its grip.
Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.
I finally wake, dripping in sweat. My mouth is still open in an “O,” the scream still caught in my throat.
I awake once again from the same ghastly dream I’ve had for the last seven years, only to find myself in a house of nightmares.
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