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Short Story - Basket Case

How does one befriend Death?

There is no better therapy than counting the seconds between the present and tomorrow. I am never too sure to see my twenty-eighth birthday. Death can creep upon your door-step like a thief in the night and renders no respect to whomever you may be. Hours, minutes, seconds have come and gone and yet my mind wavers over the thought that time is only an illusion. I have learnt to never count the days and to instead allow each day to count, but what if there is nothing in this world worth my days counting for?

In the serenade of the black, I stare from my bedroom window as the stars dance around the bright, silver orb. The cold air slaps through the thick trees like a blacksmith's bellow, beckoning me to join them under the starry sky. I was always fond of the darkness for without it, we would never be able to see the stars. Aunt Madelaine once referred to them as our ancestors ─ that they were in fact living matter and once exploded, they created new life. I guess that is why mom never appears anymore and Itnahsa only comes out at night. She said that the darkness was her favorite place to be; that it was when everything came into existence.

Since mom departed from this world, aunt Madelaine instructed me to never mention it. She claimed that mom's demise was uncanny and that no person, existing, will ever recognize me as a sane person but I deemed her words to be erroneous. Itnahsa never looked at me that way. She smiled with every word I said and uttered words of benignity to me. Something about her was peculiar, however. I have never mentioned it to her but why is it that she hides when aunt Madelaine enters the room?

Sometimes I can spot Itnahsa walking from a distance, towards me. Other times she appears right at my side. She always aims to make herself available for me, and I suppose it is crazy to say that my mom, a dead person, can assure to send me a benevolent soul to borrow my loneliness when the night falls.

The crazy thing is that even though I have Itnahsa, other friends and aunt Madelaine, something still seems to be missing ─ Mom. She was the meaning why I ever tried to make my days count. Aunt Madelaine was just my advisor, giving me advice and incentives that never work. Itnahsa filled mom's space but it was never enough. I needed to be with her. There was nothing else left on this earth to look forward to. My job as a bank teller was tedious and living in this house with aunt Madelaine made me see horrifying images. After-all, it was where mom died. Itnahsa said that she sees them too and that sometimes we have to make friends with the things we fear.

I feared death. How does one befriend death? Do we invite him in or does he make himself available? Is death someone I can arrange a meeting with, or does he move on his own accord? Can I tell death when or where to visit, or does he decide that on his own? How does one befriend death?

Itnahsa said that it was simple. She said that mom did it and her mom too. She said that aunt Madelaine will do it very soon and that death is waiting for my invite. Itnahsa knows everything. It is sometimes even terrifying that she knows too much about myself but Itnahsa was innocent, just like me. I saw no reason to fear her and question her knowledge. However, she mentioned, once, that she and I were very much alike and that even our names, were a reciprocal of each-other.

One day Itnahsa said that death called. He asked for me. He inquired about my procrastination and that he heard my call the last time and missed it. Itnahsa has a weird way of communicating. Perhaps she meant that she knew what happened on July 22nd. She said that it was okay if I met mom and that aunt Madelaine will be okay with it; that whatever I do with my life is never selfish. I rebuked that. My life did have an impact on those around me and that mom and aunt Madelaine will never be okay with it. Itnahsa said that one day I will try again.

Tonight, she believes that day has come. It was a night just like the night mom died. I can still hear her wailing in the other bedroom adjacent from mine. No one ever steps foot in that room, especially aunt Madelaine. No one except Itnahsa and the shady, distorted figures that drift through the walls at night. Itnahsa stood beside me, gazing at the stars. Her cold, pale shoulder rubbed against mine. At the corner of my eyes, I can see her head turn towards me and that familiar painted smile below her pointed nose. Her brittle voice whispered into my ear. Suddenly, all I see is our reflection in the window. The orb in the sky has disappeared, along with everything it towered over. I can no longer hear the howling wind but instead hear my own heart, thud against my hollow chest. She said that death was here and he took what he came for ─ aunt Madelaine?

My feet frantically raced out of the room and down the flight of stairs. I panicked. The last place I saw aunt Madelaine was at the television, watching her favorite Sitcom which still remained on but no sign of her. Was she really gone?

Suddenly, I heard a loud scream from upstairs which appeared to have echoed from the room in which mom passed. Already, I stood before the door, one hand in the pocket of my red dress, holding the Rosary which mom gave to me on my Baptism, and the other hand against the left side of my chest. My breath raced rapidly and I slowly turned the door knob, noticing strange marks across my hands ─ marks that always appear out of nowhere.

In the darkness, I saw aunt Madelaine, kneeling, surrounded by the strange, silhouettes. They stared at me, their distorted faces slowly becoming much more lucid and I realized that the faces belonged to those whom I knew of ─ grandma, great uncle Jack, cousin Bernadine, Benjamin, mom.

I tried to ignore. Maybe this was all of my imagination and I turned to reality, gingerly proceeding towards the bitter, wailing aunt Madelaine. She seemed to be kneeling over something, or rather someone. As I came closer, I came to realize a pool of red liquid, matted on the white carpet and a pale hand spread over it. My eyes slowly traced that to long, blonde hair, soaked in the crimson liquid. It appeared to look like Itnahsa, until I noticed something oddly familiar. The scars on her wrist matched the ones like mine. That girl, all along, was me.

There is no better therapy than counting the seconds between the present and tomorrow. I was never too sure to see my twenty-eight birthday. Death can creep upon your door-step like a thief in the night and renders no respect to whomever you may be.

© 2021 Suzette Belfast