Marian O. Macy rested in her bed one night, afraid to fall asleep. Life dealt her a bitter hand, and the more cards she pulled from the draw pile, the more certain she became that life simply didn’t care much for her. Everything hurt. Breathing was difficult these days. She needed a friend. She needed new cards. She needed…
She needed life.
If I can’t have it, I’ll make it.
She called to her daughter, who was in the other room. A faithful and diligent child, Annabelle came quickly.
“What is it, mom?”
“Will you get my laptop, please?”
Annabelle took the laptop from Marian’s desk and set it beside her mother on the bed.
“Do you need help sitting up?”
Annabelle assisted her mother as she pushed her frail body to a sitting position.
“It’s cold. You need a hat.” Annabelle took a hat from Marian’s desk and tenderly fit it over her mother’s hairless head.
“Thank you, honey, that’s all.”
Annabelle kissed her mother’s head. “Love you, mom.”
With a desperately aching heart, Marian watched her beautiful girl leave the room. Only sixteen. Marian would not see her grow, marry, and have children. So many experiences would never belong to Marian O. Macy. The writing fodder from years more of suffering, age, and joy were stolen from her.
She looked at her laptop and flipped it open and turned it on. She hadn’t turned it on in a few weeks. She hadn’t been in the mood since the doctor reported that it was time to prepare for the end. Treatments weren’t working anymore. She had to accept that and put her affairs in order.
Time to put this in order, she thought.
She pulled up her work-in-progress, Days in the Sun, and stared at it. She’d been working on this for ten years and never finished it. She pitied the characters who no one would ever know or love. Born to be alone.
She smiled as she scrolled through to the end and stared at Korban. He was fighting in a war against the invading barbarians now. Loyal to the king to the end. He did not let Natasya seduce him, he did not let the captain of the barbarian army entice him with promises of glory and wealth, and he fought, even in his poverty, for the king.
What a man.
She sighed. I don’t have the energy to do much, so I’d best make this quick.
She began to type.
He thrust his sword through the belly of his enemy and roared with victory. The barbarian army turned and fled and left the nation in peace. A great celebration was held in the palace where all feasted upon parsnips with mutton, pork, beef, chicken, and sweet mead and wines, in honor of the great hero: Korban.
The king’s daughter, his one and only true love, was gi–
What? Victory? Wine? Meat and… and… parsnips? What happened to my usual fare of defeat with bread and water, mistress?
Marian smiled. Don’t get sassy with me. Let me do you a favor.
She heard Korban snort. Sassy. I don’t ‘get sassy’. Wenches and lads are sassy. I’m no mere lad.
Please, just take the gift, she answered.
Wherefore? Something is amiss. What is it, dear lady?
Marian hesitated. She didn’t want to tell him. She didn’t want to ruin the eternal bliss of the king’s daughter and meats and wines. Korban deserved them and would have them forever now, and she was happy for him.
Because… because I won’t be able to come back and finish the story.
The devil thou whilst not!
I’ve started a new story that I think will stand a better chance of being published. You’re my labor of love, but you’ll never be published, sir, Marian answered.
Thou liest! Thou would’st never abandon me in that way.
She ran her fingers lightly over the keys of the laptop. You’re right, I wouldn’t.
So tell me. Don’t spare me, oh, great one. Give me the truth.
Again with the sass! Marian scolded. Perhaps I will delete your night in Antigan with–
Nay! he cried. For the love of the prophets and all that is holy, forbear!
The truth is that I’m dying, she said.
Naaaay! HAHAHAHA. I thought thou wast in earnest.
I’m serious, Korban. I’m dying. Very soon, most likely.
He didn’t answer for a few seconds. Then he said, Well, I thank thee for the wine and meat. I’ll enjoy it here, but I will mourn your absence deeply.
I know. I think you’re the only one who will. You were the one who kept calling me back to finish the story. You helped me through the horrible revisions back in 2009. Do you remember that?
His laugh rolled like golden thunder through her mind.
Dost thou refer to the revisions where thou didst change Elizabeth to a Michael and filled a plot hole by giving Demetrius a limp?
Marian chuckled to herself. Yes, that’s the time. You took to calling him Gimpetrius.
Demetrius is still vexed with thee for that offense, Korban answered in a low tone.
I know. He can just suck it up and be glad I gave him a limp instead of killing him off. He’s always causing trouble for me now. I tell him not to kiss that girl, and he does it anyway. I tell him not to go in that door, and he does it anyway. Troublemaker.
A moment of mutual mental laughter passed by. With a few contented sighs, they stopped.
One last thing, Korban.
You’ve always been my favorite, and I’ve had a terrible crush on you since the day I thought you up.
Dost thou like me more than Mr. Darcy?
Leave him out of this. I didn’t make Mr. Darcy anyway!
Mr. Darcy lives far away, but I’ve met the gentleman, and while I think thou would’st get along splendidly, I think the best match for thee is Lord Volde–
There is a saying in my world, said Marian, It is, simply, ‘shut up’. You’re my favorite, dear fellow.
I know, Korban answered. Thou mayest give me defeat with bread and water, but it’s obvious thou art especially fond of me.
How is it obvious?
You named me Korban. It means gift.
And from that you deduced that I liked you especially?
Korban winked and smiled.
Marian smiled, too.
“Good night, my friend,” she said aloud. “I wish I could share you with the world and have you live in glory all the days of your life, knowing and being known, feeling the hands of fascinated readers, and being smelled, aging in a library, but it wasn’t meant to be. You’ve been a good friend to me, and I wish…” She heaved a sigh and stopped talking. Saving the document, she closed it, turned off the laptop, and set it beside her.
Her breathing. Her heart. Her everything. It all ached. It was just too uncomfortable to be alive anymore. So… uncomfortable. Pretty soon she would request pain medications, but she wanted to be alert as long as she could. If she could only soak up one more minute, one more second, one more breath of consciousness…
Marian, Korban said, even with the laptop closed. I will not let thee die.
She lay down and went to sleep.
Annabelle left Marian O. Macy’s room alone for several months, lacking the emotional stability to enter and look at mom’s things. Today, Annabelle went inside. The spot where Marian died, still rumpled, and the pillow indented and wrinkled from the creative, bald head that once lay there. Mom’s laptop rested next to it.
Annabelle smiled and picked it up. Mom worked on Days in the Sun for almost as long as Annabelle could remember. She worked on other stories now and then, but Days in the Sun had her heart, though she never let anyone read it.
Well, mom wasn’t here now. She grabbed the charger from the desk and plugged in Marian O. Macy’s laptop. She struggled with the sense of trespassing holy ground as she sank into the soft bed and felt the crisp cotton sheet. She took a deep breath and opened the laptop to search for Days in the Sun.
And that, friends, was that. She sat with the laptop all afternoon. Enthralled, she tore through the pages CLICK after CLICK until she reached the end.
…Mutton, pork, beef, chicken, and sweet mead and wines were served in the palace, in honor of the great hero: Korban. The king’s daughter, his one and only true love, was gi–
So she tried to finish it for him before she died, Annabelle thought. It was the last thing she did.
Annabelle froze. Why did her mother’s name run through her mind?
Marian, is it thou?
She hesitated, but thought, No.
Who art thou?
Her heart pounded, her palms grew tacky. She considered slamming the laptop shut.
Annabelle, she answered.
Annabelle. What a lovely name. Where is Marian?
Thank you. Marian was my mother. She’s dead.
Silence. The text cursor flashed on the document. It felt like an invitation. Like whoever was talking to her was winking at her, rather than the cursor blinking in and out.
She sensed a sigh. Then it said, I’m Korban. Thy mother was a woman of many virtues, and my world is a darker place without her presence. Thou hast my sincerest condolences, Miss Annabelle.
Thank you, Korban. I, uh, I see that mom left you hanging a bit. Let me fix that. She reached for the keys.
Annabelle removed her hands from the keyboard quickly. I’m sorry. Why?
Because I have no wish to marry the princess. I want to find thy mother. It is urgent. I have made a vow to her, and there is only one way to keep it.
What do you mean? Annabelle asked.
I want to find her. She dwells in the afterlife, and I’m going to find her and bring her into the story with me.
Do you need help, sir?
I need help, ma’am.
So Annabelle helped him. Her quick fingers typed Korban out of the victor’s feast and out under the stars where he looked up and thought upon his creator. Where was the creator? Was there more to life than this? Could he find and love that blessed creature that gave him victory over his enemies and glory and honor? Could he do something to bring glory and express his thanks to his maker?
After consulting with a prophetess, he learned that the only course of action was to find the maker in the afterlife. How would he get there? He journeyed over the twelve seas of Luminesque, gutted the dragon of Wisterial, and blinded the cyclops of the north. Beyond the gates of the cyclops, in a land of snow, at the very center of the top of Luminesque, the afterlife waited. One must believe and leap into the water beneath the icy ocean. Charging forward he–
Thou art a much more cruel taskmaster than thy mother, he said. Thy mother would simply put me there if I asked. All this hardship and no beautiful descriptions of the wor–
Trying to get you there with honor, but not taking forever to do it. Is it worth it?
The text cursor blinked.
Yes, he said.
You have to trust me and just jump into the water. It will be painful, but at the end of it, she will be there.
He leaped into the frigid waters of the north and willingly, for love and the honor of his maker, sank into its depths, inhaling the cold water, freezing his lungs, sinking, sinking…
I just killed him. Oh my God, I just killed him.
Annabelle considered deleting the whole paragraph, her finger hovering over the backspace.
“No,” she decided. “No, this is right.”
When Korban opened his eyes, his hair and clothing were dry, his beard shimmered with a tint of blue like a shang beetle. The sky, a radiant shade of gold and purple–
Thou hast slain me! he barked.
I killed you… and resurrected you. Suck it up.
She heard him spit. Just like thy mother, child wench!
Now, he yelled, is not the time for scenery. Thou should’st have done that earlier, not now! Take me to her.
–was cloudless and beautiful. Almost as beautiful as the sight of his maker approaching in–
Korban interrupted, In a worn out night gown, with a bright, imaginative mind cascading from her hairless head, more beautiful than any strand of natural hair could ever be. When he beheld, not from afar, but within reach, the great one who created him, he took her hand, kissed it, and would spend the beginning of eternity telling her of the bravery of the great maker beyond Luminesque and its afterlife who made her own mother into a goddess. Together, they would go in search of Fitzwilliam Darcy and call each other names and be perfectly happy.
Annabelle wiped a tear from her cheek. Was mom there? He described her so well. Was she losing her mind?
No one answered. The text cursor blinked, then words appeared on the screen.
Publish it as an e-book. -Marian O. Macy
-Sarah Joy Green-Hart