Breathless. Artificial air tastes like licked Lego, burned copper, dirty coin hands. My fingers are clenched and my skull throbs with the dull drum beat of a death march, kamikaze, this is the end. Last I remember is the grass, hands tearing on the hard earth, a pain like angry acupuncture. Doctor Remnbaud says “We told you not to drink. We told you not drink when you took Iomustine,” and there he is, beard and coat and all, have you come to fix me or is it too late for me, my infected carcass? You look on me with pity, the coat a shield. You have me now so let me sleep in peace. I want to say this to you, Dr Remnbaud, but my tongue is a limp slug, my cancerous salt has paralysed the muscles in my skull.
He checks my pulse and waves his hands in front of my face. I cannot open my mouth. I cannot move my arms. I can only watch him. My past echoes in front of me like a nineteen eighties science fiction novel, film, parody skit. I am a joke, Dr. Remnbaud. A joke with the last laugh. You won’t laugh because I’ll be dead, six feet under covered in worms or blasted dust in an urn thrown from our favourite cliff-side spot because what say do the dead have if not the memories we’ve shared? Memories are messages from the grave. I had one last chance to connect with the world. Spread that message. It ended with the destruction of my marriage, adultery, not natural causes as intended. I only got as far as Ruth Ortis. Cora. Cora the untouchable. Should’ve played sympathy, double aces, full hand, I win because I’m dead. The truth is I couldn’t tell Kit. I didn’t want it to end. A farce, she said, a farce.
I’m too scared. Hate me, Kit. Hate me. I’m trembling over the lines unspoken. I’m sorry. We’ll try everything. State of the art drugs. There’s a twenty-five percent chance. We can beat this. Think of all the lines in the books I’ll never read. Then the food I’ve never tried, the caviar, the hundred pound bottle of wine, a cheese and ham and egg sandwich eaten on a rainy Sunday with my beautiful wife reading a book in front of me under a warm lamp that keeps off the chill of the storm outside. The places I’ve never been, like Taiwan, the swimming pool in town or the return visit to the house I was born in, my unborn son’s grave in the garden of a church of a faith I don’t follow because where are You? Will I cradle the foetus of my dead son in heaven, You? Who will pray for me? No one, because I was jacked up and faithless trying to figure out what it is to be lonely in the twenty-first century. Tell my friends. Tell my friends I’m dead.
Kit enters and stands at the doorway, blue-faced, wide-eyed with shock and anger. Anger. Dr. Remnbaud, talk, talk for me.
“Mrs. Lock, I presume?” his voice is the roaring gravel of a dead friend’s car on the driveway, the sad grating of carrots, chopped and prepared for one. Gravel saliva. Mushy.
She doesn’t say anything. We’ve made eye contact. My face is numb. You remind me of the future we’ll never have.
“You didn’t know,” says Dr Remnbaud. Kit doesn’t pay him any attention. “He has cancer. It has been aggressive and metastasized quickly. Lung. Kidney. He didn’t respond well to the Iomustine treatment… The police found him last night in a park. They don’t know how long he’d been there. His blood had a high alcohol reading. The two. Iomustine. Alcohol. They don’t do well together.”
Still she doesn’t say anything. She crosses the room and sinks beside me. My eyes can’t follow her movement across the room. I only see her shaking head, I can’t feel the tickle of her hair on my arm or her warm breath on these finger tips. Dr Remnbaud watches from the door shaking his head in disbelief, he doesn’t understand, Kit doesn’t understand, neither understand I’m dead already and she says baby, why, baby, Edward, baby, why and I’ll never be able to explain, I’ll never be able to make sense of it. I can’t ever say sorry or goodbye. I can’t say a word.