At last they were all gone, leaving Aaron with the off-white ceiling to ponder the remaining hours in his life. Breathing was a game, counting, timing the slow exhausting exhale. A machine to his right would recognize how low the oxygen in his blood had gone down and feed an increased spring of air through the hose up between his nostrils.
On the count of three. The burst came, he sucked in hard, for a moment, the oxygen brought on tiny sparkles of lights, shimmering fairies that danced above head in the light, burning fervently before fading into the ceiling. He felt his lungs fill like a balloon, expanding until he felt his chest on the verge of exploading before releasing again.
Life was a game, all games have endings. Even in a game as open and vast as galaxies. He could’ve found himself in a beautiful house, with a yard, kids and a wife. He did not find the solace to invest in those things.
Most of the family was gone now. Austin took reclused back in New York with father, mother tried to make herself busy around the room but ultimately faded as he appeared to grow distant.
Outside the window grew dimmer on the side of sunlight. Evening approaching, the shift change would occur and he would be rotated. His paralyzed limbs stretched and pulled mechanically by the orderlies under the visage of the head nurse before movingonward to the next individual clinging to life stubbornly.
“Why won’t death take me.” he murmurred, playing his little game between intervals of calls over the address system.
the hiss of the door followed by the sharp clasp as it shut had broke the peace and roared in the noise around him. All at once the heart monitor seemed louder, the noise on the television more sharp and his breathing machine pressure constant. He could not cough or pull away from the figure who swept across the room with a languid stride.
an old african american man standing over six feet tall. his old face and broad nose felt familiar and inviting as he smiled the way a grandfather would to a young child. his hair was grey along with a goatee that lined down his large chin and jawline. Aaron tried to make sense of the black specks on his face to which the main pointed and replied in a wonderfully deep silky voice, “dermatosis papulosa nigra.”
How rude to stare at a man who failed to introduce himself, but, picked up on the visual queue from his glare.
“I would introduce myself, but, how little time you indeed have.” the mans stride slowed, the soft click of his shoes came to a hush as he paused over Aaron.
“Such a pity, a rare disease at the height of your youth no less.” he reached into his pocket, a small, plain box produced as he slid it to the feeding tray above his chest.
“If I gave you a cure.” his long fingers still pressed firmly on the box top,”Would you appreciate the gift of life?”
A flood of questions ran through his mind, who are you, why are you talking to me? Am I going to die or have I already passed on?
The man considered Aaron a moment, then smiled, “No aaron, you’re not quite dead. I’m here on business, there are many like us and yet, none of the same. I’m offering you a second chance, think of it as a permanent reset on your disease and certainly death.”
Aaron went to speak, a harsh, barking cough sharply escaped the chance to forfeit any coherant thought. Aaron rested, his shoulders slumping defeated at the notion.
“I don’t understand why you’d bother. Countless millions and I get the magic pill? What makes me so special to say a scientist curing cancer?”
the old man smiled, “Who says you’re not that scientist, that key? I’ve only one offer to one man at this time who happens to be you. Take it or leave it.” he finally removed his hand from the small box left on the table.
“I leave the rest in your hands, in about an hour from now, you’ll fall asleep in death. Or you can take that pill and make a full recovery. It will be a miracle.” he walked out graciously as he came in, the door hushed closed behind him leaving aaron in thought alone again.
the box could be a small weight resting down on his chest at that moment. the small cardboard top slipped off easily to reveal a dark red capsule in the center of a white pillow bed of cotton.
“take the pill, survive. this could be a prank and the guy might be out to kill me off early.” he mused to no one in particular.
the pill in texture, felt like any other pill, a slight firmness in between his fingers with the gel lining of the fluids inside. not particularly special, no odor or markings.
pain shot through him or fear but he tossed the pill back into his mouth washing down the thing with a swig of water.
resting now his shoulders slumped slightly. he could rest easy, sleep even as he turned his head into the pillow and slowly drifted.
“Whatever happens, happens.” he murmured as he lost himself in sleep.