When you only have mere seconds of consciousness left, it is amazing the sorts of thoughts that run through your mind.
Time seems to stop, yet on some subliminal level, you are aware that it is ticking down at an incredibly quick pace.
In that first second, I become aware of the shape of the moon in the sky overhead. I can barely make it out, my vision is already so blurred, but that orb of light, bright against a dark expanse above me, can’t be anything else. Was it night, before I came to be like this…?
…No. In the next second to pass, a memory came over me. Grilling hotdogs at the park. Suddenly, I could smell them, that potent scent of cooking meat and grease hitting charcoal with that little hiss filling my nostrils. Ah, how nice it would be to get to taste some grilled links one last time. I always charred them nice and black; not because I was a bad grillmaster — on the contrary, I’m pretty proud of my skills with a barbeque! — but because that’s how April likes hers. Cooked until there is nice, crispy black skin on the dog. That child always has had interesting tastes…
Oh, April. In that third second, I became awash in my feelings for her. I guess it’s wrong to think of her as a child anymore, but she’ll always be my baby, even if she is grown now and has a son of her own. I always thought she would resent me when her mother left, but she never did. That girl had a maturity beyond her years, to understand the complications of human relationships. Though there was never anything complicated about us. I loved her and she loved me and that was that.
In the fourth second, I felt guilty. What had she must have thought, to return from taking Max Jr. to the bathroom to simply find me no longer manning the grill? I bet she made that face. That one where she squints one eye and scratches the side of her head and tries to come up with a perfectly logical explanation. But she’s never going to get that logical explanation. By the time anyone finds me — if anyone finds me — I’m not going to be able to give it. Oh, my baby girl. This would all be so much easier if I could just spare you all that pain. The loss. The unknowing. Little Max having to grow up without his grandpa, his namesake…
In the fifth second, that guilt leads me to regrets. Should I have told someone, what I overheard that day in the library? Would anyone have believed me? The Landgraabs are the most powerful family in Oasis Springs. Surely the police would have laughed in my face if I told them about the plot I overheard… I bet the Landgraabs would have just found me sooner. I bet they have a mole working for the police. And if I’d told my dear April? No, that would’ve just put her life in danger, too. No, it really is better this way…
In the sixth second, I wonder just where they’ve taken me. I remember the black truck speeding off at the same moment pain rushed into my head, blurring my vision. I don’t remember much of the landscape. I’m aware of the sand beneath me, so it can’t be too far from home. But searching the deserts around Oasis Springs can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack if you don’t know what you are looking for. Will April and Max Jr. even get a proper funeral?
The sand beneath my left hand feels damp. The blood from the shot in my back must be pooling there. And the moon, so bright in my fuzzy vision, has started to dim.
In my final second of life, as my eyes shut against the moon, one last memory comes to me, of my baby girl, playing her acoustic guitar. I haven’t remembered the words for years, yet I can still remember the melody. As the image begins to fade in my mind, becoming ever darker, the song becomes more clear, louder. And I can make out the words, once again.
I dream of a stairway to the skies
My angel is coming down from heaven to take me
I reach out but then you fade away
Whenever you call for me
Know that I’m only one step behind
And then, the pain is gone, even the aches from my elderly bones are gone. And the fuzzy moon is nowhere to be found. I manage to stand, and find myself at the little fishing hole that April and I would spend long afternoons at together, every Sunday.
I picked up the pole, and cast the line.
It was quiet, the sky was clear, the water calm, and I felt completely at peace.
This was written for the April Monthly Short Story Challenge from the Sims forums, which tasked folks to write a story in 500-2000 words using one of two pre-determined sets of screencaps (no, I still don’t have Sims 4, for those that saw the visuals and were confused, hahaha!) Obviously being a completely different game, it is an entirely stand-alone story, and doesn’t feature any characters from my other stories.
This story takes some inspiration from the song Stairway to the Skies by Within Temptation, one of my favorite bands; the title of the story comes from the opening line of the song, and the song lyrics featured later in the story are also from this song. If you are interested in listening to this song, please check it out here!