Short Story: “Only Once”

April 14th, 2009

Teaser: On your deathbed, will you regret the things you haven’t done?

He turned on the water and watched the water go through his hands. As it flowed, he looked at his own reflection and felt the realization that he as going to die soon. He couldn’t feel the death, but it was coming. Slowly, internally, taking over everything that he had grown into. He never cared, but as his nose began to bleed and he slowly lost consciousness, the desire to do something about his demise became overpowering. At least it was enough to keep him alive until his unconscious body was found and he was in a hospital.

All his life he wanted to be something. An author, an explorer, whatever. Just something. But the true hurdle was the act of doing the work to become the title. He didn’t want to slog through years and years of study and practice and work. He wanted to be the something, and that’s all that mattered.

The first thing that came back was hearing. He could hear the machines keeping his body operating, and he could hear his wife quietly talking to his brother. They were making the arrangements for his funeral, and the subject was enough to get him fighting, causing another fainting spell.

When he awoke and he could hear again, no one was speaking. He raced through what he knew about the condition for a quick diagnosis of what was going on. He was slipping in and out of consciousness, which wasn’t indicative of the illness. So there must have been an operation! He wept with the joy of a lifetime of regret, but no tears came and no sobs could choke. He tried to remember, remember the things for which he regretted and he vowed to fix before he died.

It was at a bar late one night just after he was done with college that an idea came to him. It was the concept of writing a chronology of the stories of all the great things he had done during college. The parties, the women he knew, the adventures he had (like the time he was thrown in jail for filling the entrance to the police station garage with plaster cows that exploded with confetti), the joys, and the heartbreak that he felt. Surely someone would want to read about that and wish they could live the same life. And who knew, maybe he could turn some of the stories into great fiction which could become the classics of an era. But the excitement of the plan only made him drink more and he put off starting the work until the next day.

And the next day.

And the next week.

Years later he would remember his plan, and realize that even more interesting things had happened and places seen – perhaps he could write about his travels. Or even better, a collection of his travel adventures.

But it never happened. And here he was laying in a bed in a hospital, being kept alive by machines in a most direct way, with no way to write down his stories.

And while he couldn’t keep track of the time, years went by as he lived in a semi-vegatative state, aware of his existence, free in his thoughts, but unable to move or communicate. He lost his chance to tell his tale, and now it was too late.

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