The Brink

Photo by Marta Siedlecka used with permission from Pexels

Photo by Marta Siedlecka used with permission from Pexels

Osborne Lopez, Writer

I’m sitting here, lost in my thoughts, when all of a sudden…

“Hey, you,” some random guy calls out. He’s storming towards me; arms swing frontwards and backwards. I can’t tell if he’s mad though. He actually looks kind of…concerned. Am I supposed to know him or…? 

“I’m sorry,” I ask, confused as he stops in front of my table. “Do I know you or something?”

“Excuse me,” he says as a look of confusion spreads across his face. “Oh, right. I forgot about that.” He chuckles, but I’m genuinely confused. Who is this man? “Just know you can trust me and that you know who I am, even if your mind tells you that you don’t.”

“No, I don’t. Maybe you have me confused with someone else,” I ask, hoping that he will leave.

“No…I know who I’m talking to. Look, I have something to tell you.”

He sits down. “You’re-”

“Yeah, no.  This is kind of weird. You have a good day though.”

I put down my cup and get up to leave. I don’t know what that was, but I’m not naive enough to stay here. He could be a creep for all I know. 

Something in me shifts as I reach for the door. I feel tired, like I shouldn’t leave. Or more like I can’t.

“You do know you can’t leave right,” he calls out.

 As I reach for the handle, I fall to the ground. I’m in pain. Excruciating pain. My chest burns, and my heart beat slows. What is happening? Then…it’s dark. 

“Look who’s awake. You okay,” the mysterious voice asks as my eyes open. It’s the same guy from before. We’re back at my table from earlier. What did he do to me?

“Who are you?” I whisper, trying not to make a scene. “And no, I’m not okay. Some stranger drugged me and tried to kidnap me.” 

I’m scared.

“We’re still here. What kind of logic makes you think I want to kidnap you? And thank you for being kind enough to ask my name.”

“Oh please,” my voice says in a whisper, yet somehow louder than before. “I don’t care to know your name. Leave me alone.” I get up to leave again. Pacing faster than before. The door is clear in my mind. I’ll make it this time. 

“Did you not learn from the last time? Or are you just insane?”

“Insane?! You do not get to call me insane! I don’t even know who you are,” I say as I turn away from the door to scold him further. A total stranger, who I just met, called me insane. The absolute nerve.

“You don’t know who you are either, do you?” He turns around to meet my eyes. 

“Excuse me,” I say as my eyes widen. Why would he say that? “Of course I know who I am. My name is-”

My words falter.

“Go on. I didn’t hear what you said.” 

He puts his right hand up to his ear, as if to hear me better. Condescending jerk. “Your name is…”

“What did you do to me,” I yell, prepared to lunge at him. 

“Nothing,” he says as he puts his hands up. “Nothing, I promise. But you’re going to want to listen to me, okay? Now, look around. Do you know where you are? Do you see the table and walls, the people, maybe even the ceiling?”

“What are you talking about,” I ask, looking around in the process. “Of course I see-” I pause. I am just now becoming aware of my environment. Aware of the gray walls, the white marble tables, the high seiling. But, most importantly; I am becoming aware of the people. The people who wear a look of dread across their faces and are unmoving. They are forever still. 

“What do you see?” 

“How did I not realize where I was?”

“That’s not what I asked. What. Do. You. See,” the man commands.

“The people here, they have no idea where they are, do they? They’re in pain.” 

“Good use of your critical thinking skills. You were just like them before I approached you. You’re welcome by the way.” He casually salutes me as if he did me a favor. I guess he did.

“What? No, that can’t be possible. I remember where I was before you approached me. I would know if–” 

He interrupts me. “If what? If you were stuck in a constant state of agony? Sit down.” He beckons me back to my seat. “You’re not going to want to be on your feet for this.”

“Why should I trust you, hm? I just met you. For all I know, you’re the one who put me here.”

“I think we’re passed that. I mean, come on. I’m the only one who has given you any type of information. I woke you up!” He chuckles a stressed chuckle. “Please just sit down. Would it help if you knew my name? Huh? Would it?”

I approach the seat. “You’re going to tell me anyway so get it off your chest,” I say, raising an eyebrow. I realized too late that the eyebrow was a bit cringe.

He chuckles in response, lifts his eyebrow to mock me, and says, “My name is Andrew. Andrew Mallon.”

I pull the chair out to sit. I hope it isn’t a foolish decision on my part. “Well, Andrew, speak.” 

“Ah, she sits! Finally,” he says, lifting his hands. “Now, what do you want to know? I’ll tell you anything.”

“How do you know me? How did you wake me up? What is this place? What-”

“Woah! One at a time please,” he interrupts, passing me a napkin. “Here.”

“What am I supposed to do with this, huh? Blow my nose.”

“There’s no need to be rude.” He taps the napkin. “Read it.” 

I look down at the napkin and read, “The Brink.” I pause to think for a moment. “Yeah, I still have no idea what I am supposed to do with this.”

“I think I’ll explain that to you later. You’re not ready for that,” he murmurs under his breath. “But that’s the name of the place-”

I clear my throat. “I’m not ready for what? I heard that. What am I not ready for?

“You didn’t hear anything.”

“Come on,” I say, my voice getting louder. “You just tell me the name of the place but not what it means? You said you would answer all of my questions.”

“Okay, fine. I really don’t feel like arguing anymore. Here it goes.” He holds his breath and, in that brief moment, I feel like I might have made a grave mistake. 

“You’re dying. Everyone here is.”

“What?” The word comes out bland, like I didn’t just hear something life-changing, or, in this case, life-ending. Maybe he’s lying?

“No,” I laugh, not willing to face the harsh fact that he may be speaking the truth. He can’t be. “You’re lying to me, aren’t you? Yeah, no, I’m alive and well; thank you very much.”

“Comas, passed out in an ambulance, in the middle of a life-saving surgery,” he says. What does all of this mean? “Whenever someone is lying on the brink of death, they come here. Or, their souls at least.”

This is too much for me to process. I don’t want to believe it. A lump develops in my throat. I’m frozen.

“I knew this was too much. You don’t believe me, and that’s fine, but-”

“No, I believe you. I think a part of me has always known, ever since you woke me up, that my life was being taken from me. I don’t exist anymore,” I say, my voice barely able to form the words. I clear my throat and wipe away a tear. “Tell me more. I want to know more.”

“What do you want to know?” He sounds sympathetic; it’s embarrassing. I wish he would have just left me like the rest; not knowing of my coming demise.

“Anything.” I pause to consider if this is what I really want. “Yeah, anything is fine.”

“Well, I’ll start by telling you about the process, if that’s fine with you?”

I nod.

He clears his throat and stares off into space, as if deciding where he should start. “Ok, yeah. So I guess I’ll start from one of the most important parts. Since you’re on the brink of death, your brain can’t comprehend much; it’s slowly dying. It’s the reason you didn’t know about the people here until I told you, or why you don’t know who you are. Your brain won’t allow it. I know, it’s cruel, but I think it makes the process a bit easier too, because you don’t know what you’re leaving. Take solace in that.”

I sit and listen as he tells me of how my breath will start to slow. I’ll find it hard to see at one point and then…nothing. As he speaks these things, they come alive to me. At this moment, I realize how much I don’t want to go; I don’t want to die. I can feel myself leaving. My breaths are becoming shorter, and I’m weak. My light is starting to dim. 

I close my eyes.

“Please, let me stay,” I whisper. “Please, it’s not fair. I had so much more life to live. I may not know who I am, but I know that. I feel it. I just want to breathe one last breath. Please.”

As the tears fall, my life slips farther away from my grasp; farther and farther. Soon, it’ll be gone.

“There is one more thing I want to describe to you. Or a couple more things,” Andrew says as he takes my hand. “I want to tell you what I look like.”

I chuckle. “Of course, I don’t know what you look like. Wow, that’s weird. I knew the expressions your face formed without knowing who it was that was forming them.”

He smiles a pitiful smile. “Well, first, I have short brown hair and a huge nose. If you like that let me know; I’m single. Just kidding by the way.”

I laugh. He’s funny, I think. I know he’s trying to make me laugh, and it’s working.

“I have dark brown eyes and pale skin. Never liked it, but that’s how it is. And my voice,” he laughs. “Ah, my voice. I’ve always hated that too. It’s deep but not as deep as I’d like it to be.”

“I think it sounds fine,” I say through closed eyes. “Familiar actually.”

“I thought that may be the case.” He taps my shoulder. “You can open your eyes now. You don’t have to be scared.”

“Thank you,” I say, smiling in relief; a half-smile, but a smile none the least.

As I open them I see a familiar face. “I know you, don’t I? Something about you is familiar. Hmm, I can’t seem to figure out what it is. Is that why you helped me? Did you know me when-”

I didn’t even think about it. He’s- I don’t know what he is. Shouldn’t he be like the rest? 

“When I was alive? Yeah, I did. I died a few years back; or what I think is a few years back. Time moves differently here. I’m dead, so I left this place a while ago.”

“Where did you go? Once you died, I mean.”

“I’d rather that be a mystery,” he says. “I think it’s better that way. Listen, all that matters is that I’m here now to make the transition a bit easier.”

Suddenly, I feel pain. Like a million bolts of electricity panging at my heart. I’m going now. Where will I go, I think to myself. My vision blurs, and suddenly, I can’t see.

“Andrew.” I feel around for his hand. I can barely speak. 

I don’t want to go.

“No,” he says anxiously. “I thought I had more time. Lacey, stay with me.”

The pain lasts for only a moment, and then, it’s gone; I feel myself drift. 

“Lacey. Is that my name,” I ask, as my last breath leaves my lungs. 

“There’s something else I have to tell you. Just wait a-”

“She’s awake,” I hear someone yell. 

Footsteps. One after the other in what sounds like a stampede. 

“Lacey,” my mom yells, hugging me. My mom. How long have I been asleep? “I’ve missed my little girl. Oh, seeing those light brown eyes again makes me so happy.”

“My goodness, Lacey,” my dad says through tears. “You’ve been asleep for months.”

“What,” I reply.

The nurse stands off at the other end of my hospital room. She nods at me with a warm smile and then chimes in. 

“You’ve been in a terrible accident, Lacey,” she says as she folds her hands in front of her. “Don’t worry about the details now, but just try to spend some time with your family.” She leaves the room soon after that.

“Wait,” I grab my mom’s arm. “Married. Him and I were married.”

My mom looks at me with concern. “What? Are you feeling okay?” She feels my head. 

“Yeah,” I clear my throat. “I’m fine. I don’t know what that was.” I laugh to prevent any further discomfort.

She kisses my forehead. “Okay, just making sure. Because the only man you’ve been married to was Andrew and-” Her eyes dim.

“Yeah, I know.” I stare at a picture of a man, framed on the bedside table next to me. 

“I know.”