By Lisa Lerma Weber
Death stands in the doorway of an old woman's hospital room. It's 3:00 a.m. and the hallway is dim and empty. Tired voices echo from the nurse's station. Death turns as he recognizes one of the voices. It's the middle-aged nurse with the wild red hair and aching back he saw smoking a cigarette near the parking lot earlier that evening. He was savoring his own cigarette at the time, blowing smoke at the scrawny black cat that appeared from behind a trash can and rubbed against his leg. The nurse was joined by one of the hospital security guards and they commiserated about unruly teenage children. The nurse was struggling as a single mother to a rebellious son. If only she knew she didn't have much time left with him.
The old woman coughs and Death turns back towards the room. The full moon bathes the room in a soft light. How Death loves the moon. The way she calls to poets and psychopaths alike. The way she disappears without anyone accusing her of abandonment. The darkness her absence brings.
Death whispers and the voices down the hall are suddenly quieted. The machines fall silent as well. The moon retreats behind some clouds.
Everyone thinks Death knows nothing of loneliness. But they are wrong. Death knows much of loneliness. Death knows the old woman lived the last ten years without the husband she loved for more than four decades. He knows the emptiness that settled inside her the day her husband died. He knows the black holes that formed inside her soul after she lost one child to war and the other to indifference. He knows no one ever came to visit her.
Death stands next to the bed, caresses the old woman's head, and whispers. The woman opens her eyes. She looks at Death for a few moments, then lets out a hacking cough.
"It's about time," the woman said. "I've been waiting forever."
Death holds out his hand. The woman rises from the bed, takes a long, deep breath, then places her hand in his. They walk out of the room, hand in hand.
Lisa Lerma Weber lives in San Diego, CA with her husband, son, and dog. Her words have recently appeared in Voidspace and Roi Faineant, with work forthcoming in Bulb Culture Collective and Bullshit Lit. She is the Misfit Micros editor for Versification. Follow her and her morbid fascinations and sad stories on X or Blue Sky @LisaLermaWeber