Photo by John Silliman on Unsplash.
For today’s Throwback Thursday story, I’m sharing something I wrote in January of 2008. I was only seventeen when I wrote this story, so I can say pretty confidently that I’ve improved in the past eleven-or-so years.
The moon was shining full on the house of Sedgewick, but no one noticed it, for they were gathered in Sebastian’s room. They were gathered there to say goodbye. You can guess what I shall say next: he was dying.
His chest rose and fell heavily with his labored breathing; his face was pallid and sweaty, and his black-locked head jerked from side to side with delirium. He was very close to the end, and all of them knew it. All of them: his tall thin aunt, usually stern but now sobbing into a black handkerchief; his two young twin brothers, only seven years old but brilliant and deep-minded already; his father, tall, broad, and strong, normally tough but tonight weeping tears he was not too tough to hide; and his sister, dark-haired and sharp and pretty, even through her pale tear-washed face. They stood around Sebastian’s bed, gazing at him, as he twisted and struggled against the ever-looming presence of Death.
“No, please, don’t die, don’t die,” Viola, his sister, whispered brokenly, clutching his cold hand. It jerked out of her grasp as he twisted under the bedclothes. A ray of moonlight fell across his sickly face, showing it like marble. At his other side the twins stood, stiff with fear and sadness, though no tears showed on their young faces. Their father stood next to them, his muscular shoulders hunched in grief.
“My son, you can’t–you can’t–” he mumbled, his voice wavering. The aunt spoke nothing, but hid her face among the folds of the damp black handkerchief.
But their prayers were not to be. Sebastian’s thrashing grew wilder, his weak struggles against Death more and more desperate, until suddenly, with the moonlight shining right over him, his thrashing stopped, he took a long, rasping, painful breath–and died.
Viola collapsed half on the bed and the floor in wild weeping; the aunt fled the room; and, by some mysterious cause, the seven-year-old twins coaxed their father away to compose himself a little, and he went. But they did not come to Viola. She remained there, sobbing, at the side of her dead brother.
All at once, she heard his voice through her tears.
“Viola. Viola, look at me.”
Her head snapped up, and immediately she felt like her heart had disappeared.
His body was still there, white and lifeless, but there was a second him sitting up, a grey transparent him, smiling in a mischievous way. It was very obvious what he was, as you can tell.
“What–how did–Sebastian, you’re–” Viola stammered, her tears and everything else forgotten.
“Yes,” he laughed, “here I am. So,” he added, rising, or rather floating, up from the bed to stay about a half foot off the floor. “What shall I do first?”
And his sister stared at him, a ghost, her own brother, dead just minutes before; and the full realization dawned on her, and she rose from the floor slowly and grinned.
“Hmmm,” she said mischievously. “Let me think…”