“Ellie,” I say, “I can’t do this.”
She tugs my arm. “Please, Blithe, please. I can’t anymore. I can’t.”
Her left leg has found its way out from beneath the bedding, and the smells of decaying flesh consume the air in the room. The gangrene has taken every toe. It slowly works its way up her foot. Some of the blisters have reopened, staining the sheet with viscous fluid.
Ellie moans. “I can’t,” she starts. “I can’t, I can’t.”
Killing is difficult. Watching a loved one suffer is killing. It is a slow go. Wondering how the singularity will arrive, waiting for it to arrive, is unbearable. Every muscle in the body contains a memory of time spent with that person. Open wounds.
With Ellie, it is no different. As I sit beside her now, letting her squeeze my hand, all I have are memories. It has been a wonderful life in spite of all the hard things we have to endure here, at the end.
“What about the hospital?” I ask.
“No more,” she says, violently shaking her head. “I can’t.”
I stand and then kneel, reaching for my strongbox underneath the bed. I open the box and grab the revolver resting inside. Its cylinder and body shine. I’ve never used it. I’ve never had the need.
“Honey, I can’t do this. Ellie,” I say. She places her hand on my head. I look up from the gun to her. “I can’t go on without you.”
“Blithe,” she says. “Do it. Please.”
Rising to my feet, I place the gun’s grip in her hand and close her fingers. “I can’t, honey. I will stay with you, though. I promise.”
“Yes, you can, Blithe,” she says. “You’ve always taken care of me.” She loosens her grip on the handle, letting the gun fall on the mattress. “You’ve always taken care of me.”
“You’ll be okay, Ellie,” I cry. I bring her hand to my lips, kissing many times. “We can get help.”
She turns her head away. “I can’t. Take care of me, Blithe.”
I grab my pillow in one hand. “Turn to me, honey.”
She obliges, and I turn my body to face her, and we look upon one another. She blinks more slowly than normal, as if nodding to me. I place the pillow over her forehead and eyes.
She moans again. “Blithe.” She folds her hands atop the blanket, just above her chest. “We’ve had a good life together.”
“The best life,” I say. “The best life.”
Her body lurches. “Please, Blithe.”
I pick up the revolver and place the nose of the barrel onto the pillow’s face, pressing just enough to let Ellie know it is there. This gives her peace. She begins to hum "The Best Is Yet To Come." I know the tune. It is our wedding song.
I start to cry uncontrollably. “Please, Ellie, don’t. Don’t. I can’t.”
“Yes, you can,” she says softly between notes. “You can.” She writhes for a moment, clenching her teeth, tightening her muscles. Then, she is calm.
I click the gun’s hammer into place.
Ellie takes a deep breath. “Is this going to hurt?” she asks.
Without thinking, I quickly lean in and kiss her, wondering where all our kisses have gone. It wasn’t like this in the beginning. Everything had seemed far off, in another time and another world. And yet, here we now are, dangling precariously on one final phrase.
“You won’t feel a thing,” I say, backing my head away from hers. “You won’t feel a thing.”