Time of Death (Short Story)

Lana is humming along the way as she unlocks her front door. Little does she know as to what is waiting for her behind this red door. She senses something different about the air in the house as soon as she steps in the house. It’s hard to shake off this eerie feeling. As soon as she enters the living room, her chest starts hurting. “Hurt” wouldn’t be properly accurate for this situation. It is like the explosion of a volcano; the only difference is, her life was coming out of this volcano instead of lava. She has just been shot. But why? And, who is this person covering the face? She looks both confused and haunted by these two questions. She falls on the hardwood floor on her back. The bullet is still inside of her body. The shooter crosses over her body without making any noise and leaves through the back door.

What should anyone do in this situation? She sees her phone has fallen in front of her on the floor. It takes her everything to grab the phone. She thinks about calling for help, but her phone starts ringing. It’s her mother. As they say, one doesn’t think clearly with a bullet in the body, she picks up the phone thinking it might be her last chance to hear her voice. Her mother lives in another city.
“Mom,” she moans in pain.
“What happened?” her mother sounds worried over the phone.
“Nothing. Just remember that I love you more than the rest of the world,” her voice breaks several times to say this one sentence.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” Her mother is now panicking.
“Don’t forget me,” she says those words with tears filled in her eyes.
She really needs to call for help now. But she senses that she is fading. It is probably too late. Suddenly, she hears Parker. He is her cuddle buddy and her neighbor, Jim’s dog. She sees a blurred image of Jim and Parker before passing out. Her mother is still screaming over the phone. A dark cloud surrounds her.

She wakes up covered in a fog blanket. Is this what the afterlife looks like? There’s nothing magical about this place as she has always imagined. Someone screams something gibberish with a voice like an ambulance siren from near her left hand. She cannot see the face because of this mystery fog, which only gets thicker by the minute till it consumes her again.

Someone calls her name out loud, which makes her wake up. Lana carefully examines the room. There’s no one here. And, she is certainly not dead. She thinks it might be a good time to remember everything happened after the red door, but she fails even though it takes all of her energy to try.

She is running and.. running.. and searching for something but she is not sure of what. There is no one to be seen. She is probably searching for someone. Suddenly something grabs her hand from the ground. She tries to take a closer look at it and she wakes up. She sees a doctor is taking her pulse.
“Glad you’re awake,” the doctor says with a big warm smile.
She momentarily doesn’t remember how to respond. She opens her mouth and closes it again.

She wakes up again. This time she sees a woman in her room. She is in her late 20s. She looks so familiar, but Lana is still having a hard time memorizing anything. Doctors think it is because of the trauma.
“Do you recognize me? I’m Claire. Your sister.” Claire squeezes her hand. It all starts coming back to her in fragments. Lana suddenly feels delighted to see her identical twin sister.
“Mom was here all night. I just sent her home.” Claire sits beside her.
“I’m glad that you are here,” Her first words after the shooting.

As she lies there in the hospital bed feeling completely blank, she begins to think about the meaning of life. She always wanted to be a teacher and live in a small town or village surrounded by mountains. Far away from this city crowd, she grew up with. But along with the time, it became a dream and then fragments of dreams. With time, she forgot what she was living for anymore. Her father left her quite a bit of money. She became an assistant at a law firm. She at least knew she was breathing. Her day starts and ends with work, which gives her barely the time for anyone. The picture of her own life started playing before her like a movie with no pause button. If she had died, her life would be for nothing. Frustration covers all over her like dark clouds covering the sky with no ray of light. She suddenly feels envious of Claire, who has a four year old girl, Hope. She closes her eyes again with the feeling emptiness.

She wakes up feeling suffocated. Literally. Someone is trying to suffocate her with the pillow. She desperately fights to the push it away, but she fails again and again. Suddenly she hears something and the pillow is immediately moved from her face. She takes a big gasp of air before seeing what is happening. When she sees it, it becomes hard to process. Claire is holding a pillow and a cop is pointing a gun at her. Claire looks back at her, “I’m sorry. Forgive me. I was doing this for Hope.”
“For Hope?” Lana asks feeling confused and devastated and worried.
“We both have life insurances,” Claire says with full of remorse in her eyes. A nurse is constantly asking Lana if she is okay, but she is unable to produce a single word. Her world comes down breaking into pieces like glass. Being mortified, she silently watches her sister being dragged away by the police.

After two months. Lana had left the city and her old job to get away from everything; from everyone. She now lives in a small town surrounded by mountains and ocean. She took a job at the local school as a teacher.
“Mom, where is Aunt Lana?” Hope asks looking up to her as they both are standing on the mountain by the ocean. She couldn’t bring herself to tell this little girl the truth about her mother. She will someday, but not at this moment. So she became her mother; she became Claire.
She over gently squeezes Hope’s little hand. “Over there,” she points at the sunset over the ocean.

(The attached picture is collected from internet)


Grace (short story)

“It’ a girl!”
Normally one would imagine lots of joy and laughter for this situation. But not this time. The mother might be dying and the father couldn’t care less if his little girl lived or died. He wanted to make sure that his wife lived. After all, this pregnancy was an accident in the first place. He has two more kids; a girl named Mia and a boy named Ben. Mia is 15 and Ben is 3 years younger than her. Mia couldn’t believe her eyes as she was holding her baby sister. First time, it seemed to her that she was holding in her arms the summary of every happiness there possibly is. She names her “grace.” Ben is no less elated. He just jumps around little Grace. Mia tries to make her father hold little Grace but nothing changes. By the end of the day, she realizes that her baby sister has been orphaned despite having both parents. She whispers to little grace, “You will never be an orphan till I am here. From today, you’re my child.” The doctor is surprised by the strength this little girl is showing; taking care of her baby sister all by herself.

A week goes by, their father still haven’t looked at Grace. He blames her for his wife’s condition who is still in a critical condition as if she operated on her mother right after being born herself. The doctors come bearing a little good news. They operated on their mother again and she might live.
“Okay, bring it to me.” The father commands Mia to bring Grace to him. It bothers Mia that he called her baby sister “it” not “her.” However she says nothing.
Grace pees as soon as she goes on their father’s arms. Mia smiles thinking that it might be what people call “karma.”

Their mother gains consciousness after nine days. Mia brings Grace to her. She seems disappointed seeing that it’s a girl. She had hoped she would have a boy because according to her, a man has what it takes to survive this cruel world. Since then, the only time she and Grace are in a same room when Grace needs feeding. Mia gladly becomes a mother and father of baby Grace as their parents should have been. She is her parents; protector; playmate. Their father still hasn’t stopped calling Grace “it.” Mia doesn’t protest otherwise she would be beaten black and blue. Grace cries whenever she sees Mia injured no matter how well she tries to hide it. Mia thought babies might be good at sensing things. Ben helps Mia, however he can. Everyone seems to have forgotten that Mia is a kid herself. She seems to have forgotten the meaning of sleeping. Their mother finally volunteers to look after Grace when Mia and Ben are at school. But even then she couldn’t stop worrying about her baby sister.
One day after returning from school, Mia sees a relative talking to her mother. Their sentences end with this line “We should wait to tell Mia..” before they get interrupted by her.
“What are you not telling me?” Mia fears that something has happened to Grace.
Her mother looks at the relative awkwardly, then flashes a big fake smile, “That your Paula aunt brought so many gifts for Grace.”
“Then why wait on telling me?” Mia knows that something doesn’t fit quite right.
“Look at you. A little girl with big words coming out.” The relative, Paula, says with a warm smile.
“Where is Grace?” “She is in the bedroom. And she needs a bath.” her mother points at the bedroom.

Later that afternoon, both of their parents come talk to Ben and Mia.
Their father starts speaking, which seems more like commanding, “As you both know, your mother’s health is not good. And both of you are kids yourselves, so we don’t see how to give Grace a good future. Your aunt Paula wants to adopt her in order to do that and we both have agreed.”
“What? You cannot do that?” Mia and Ben protests in unison.
“She’s not your kid so not your decision.” Dropping this bomb, their father leaves the room. Their mother follows her husband.
“Will they really take our Grace away from us?” Ben asks her with eyes full of tears.
“No, they won’t.” She hugs her little brother even though she knows they might.
Can she let this happen? Can they all live together? Whom to ask for advice? – All these questions start spinning in Mia’s head. This conversation makes her forget about the math test she has next day, but she doesn’t care. She doesn’t see a way out of this. She asks God why he gave them such parents; why couldn’t they have normal parents?
Mia stands guard over Grace for the next two days. She forgets about sleeping, eating and other earthly worries. Though she doesn’t know what would she do if their parents tried to take away Grace when she stood guard. She wasn’t physically capable of fighting with them, nor the relatives were helpful.

She has been looking for the right moment to do this. Ben would understand when he grows up. Their father has gone to work and their mother is taking a nap. Ben is at school. She carefully unlocks the bolts of the main door. Grace is sleeping peacefully sleeping in her arms. She took all the supplies she could fit in her school bag. After a moment of hesitation, she steps out of the house. She cannot let anyone take Grace away from her. She starts walking down the road, staying out of sight being oblivious that it might be the wrong decision.
“Where are you going?” Ben’s voice startles her from behind.
She turns around and sees that Ben has returned from school. She runs towards him, lest he starts yelling for their parents.
“I couldn’t let them take her away.” Grace tries to explain her action to Ben. Ben looks much older while he processes the information.
“Okay,” He says without any hostility.
“Take care of yourself,” she tearfully hugs his brother as she was saying goodbye.
They have been best friends since Ben was born. She turns around and starts walking again. Grace seems so peaceful and oblivious to the world. After it seemed like 5 minutes, a shadow starts walking by her side. It is Ben with his school bag full of baby foods and cloths for three of them. Mia doesn’t tell him to go back. Instead, she whispers in Grace’s ear, “You see that.. I’m your mother now.” Graces wakes up and starts softly giggling seeing her sibling’s faces.