Day two of Ten Days of Excerpts from my collection, THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES.
Today's excerpt, from the story Mother's Last Wish, examines what is ultimately the worst horror for us all -- death -- and how the world might be different if we could avoid dying. If everyone could avoid death.
A high-pitched hum, worse than any alarm clock, invaded his sleep. Sonny woke, the fading light of dusk adding a melancholy mood to the room, and remembered he was alone, in his mother’s bed.
The hum grew louder. Sonny sat, glancing around for its source.
Lying on the bed next to him the music box vibrated with the hum, a pulsing pink light surrounding it.
Eyes wide, heart hammering, Sonny scrambled across the bed, away from the light and sound.
The glow drifted up from the box, formed a small globe of light floating next to the bed. It changed from pink to yellow, then red, followed by purple, brightening with each change, the hum growing louder. The light expanded to the size of a basketball, turned white, so brilliant Sonny closed his eyes. He placed his hands over his ears, shielding them from the loud, piercing whine emanating from the light.
He screamed. The whine grew so loud he could not hear his own voice, the light so bright his eyes burned, even while closed.
“No,” he called.
Sonny took his hands from his ears and peeked through partially-open eyelids.
Standing in the bedroom was a woman, dressed in a sheer, billowing emerald green robe, a soft white glow surrounding her.
Sonny’s eyes snapped open, breath caught in his throat.
Gorgeous was the word that popped in his head.
The woman was tall, at least equal to Sonny’s five-foot-nine frame, and slender. Red hair fell in loose curls around a lightly freckled face. Her eyes glowed bright and green. She smiled, lips full and red, teeth brilliant white.
“Who are you?”
“My name is Anu,” she said, her voice musical in quality.
“What do you want?”
“I want nothing, dear boy.” Anu cupped Sonny’s face, her touch warm, intoxicating. “I come to fulfill your mother’s wish.”
“I don’t understand. My mother?” Speaking of his mother sent a wave of fresh, raw grief over Sonny. Tears welled in his eyes.
“Come,” she said, pulling Sonny toward her, resting his head on her chest, stroking slender fingers through his hair. Her touch brought memories of his mother, running her fingers through his hair while he was a boy. He sobbed. Anu put her arms around him, rocked gently until his cries faded.
“Your mother loved you very much. You did not know at the time, but you gave her a very special gift. The music box you presented to her is older than you can know. It holds my spirit, and the family which owns it three wishes I must grant.”
“Yes. Over many centuries I have granted wishes – victory in battles, riches beyond measure, long life. But your mother simply asked for two things.”
Sonny pulled away, looked into Anu’s eyes.
“Do you remember buying the music box with your father?”
“Do you remember where you bought it?”
“At a thrift store, because we couldn’t afford to shop anywhere else.”
“Yes. You were very ill. Your parents put all their money into doctor visits, drugs, hoping desperately to find a cure. You were dying, and there was nothing any healer could do. When I revealed myself to your mother, she wished for your health, and it was given back to you.”
“The second wish?”
“She held onto that until you went away to study. She wished simply for your success.”
Sonny reflected on his life. He had been successful, more than he had dared dream when he left for college. Studies came easily, unnaturally so, and after college more job offers than he could have imagined. He took what he believed to be the best, advanced quickly, soon found himself in the upper management of the firm, enough money to buy anything, to go anywhere.
He lavished his mother with vacations, gifts, cars, but she had never wanted to move from the simple house where he had grown up, so they remained.
Some said he seemed to live a charmed life. Now he understood why.
“The third wish?”
“She saved that for you. She set me free to roam the world, the only condition I return upon her passing, grant you the final wish.”
Sonny rubbed his eyes, leaned and rested his elbows on his knees.
“Anything I want?”
“Yes, my boy, but please do not ask me to bring your mother back?”
He stood, voice tinged with anger.
“You said anything. Any wish.”
“If that is your wish, I can restore life to your mother’s corpse, but it will not be her. She has passed to another world, across a great chasm I cannot cross. Raise her body? That I can do, but her soul will be gone. She will be gone.”
Sonny turned, paced across the room, hands atop his head. He whirled back to face Anu.
“Why do you torment me? You offer me a wish, yet tell me the one thing I desire I cannot have.”
Anu said nothing. Sonny stared, again struck by her simple beauty.
“No more death,” he said.
“Is that truly your wish?”
“Yes. Never again should anyone face grief. No more death. Ever.”
“It is so.”
For more of Mother's Last Wish and the entire collection THE ALCHEMIST & OTHER DARK TALES, click here to download to your Kindle, or here to download to your Nook.