The first chapter of the short story Mr Time, published on Amazon as part of the Azrael Series.
Chapter One The Countdown
She never noticed his burning, sapphire eyes. His eyes held the wisdom and knowledge of life for over ninety-five years. He was a man who knew many secrets. He did not have a humble, insignificant life, but one of spirituality, strategy, family, love, service, and statesmanship. His life story had seen the fall of two grand empires, and in his time, he witnessed the essence of what made a man a human being.
The nurse couldn't see past the fact that he had soiled himself again. She chided him for what he had done.
“I suppose I have to clean you up,” she said with a huff and a wrinkled nose.
He did not respond to her acrid tone, as he knew it was her job—a job for which his children paid her nursing home bosses handsomely. He did not even know her name. She had no idea how significant she was to him: she was his only connection to the living.
In the curse of old age, he discovered that his children had abandoned him. They were lost to an ideal of the family being a small nuclear unit and to a consumerist mentality, which, in its extreme, included disposable people. He was a victim of their modern ideology. Preoccupied with their ideals, they conveniently forgot him in a nursing home. They paid to get rid of their problem. Behavior such as this was unheard of fifty years ago. It was understood that because a father raised his son in his tender years, the son would protect and serve his father in his later years. This was the natural cycle of life. This man knew better than to impose his historic ideals on his only son who still lived in England with him. All his other children had left the country to chase dreams around the world, and the distance between them grew. He accepted that his life was based in the past, and he could not push his children to view the world from his perspective.
The nurse knew nothing of the vulnerability and loneliness he felt, and every day, he experienced her growing contempt for him. Theirs was a love-hate relationship: in his own way, he loved her, and she grew a little seed of hate for him in her heart.
She left the room, and he knew she would come back before the end of her shift. She would let him sit in his feces until then, his nose assaulted by the smell. Later, she would come back to strip the bedding—and him of his last ounce of dignity. This was fast becoming their nightly routine.
He felt triumphant sitting in his own excrement. She would come back. As she left the room, he smiled wryly knowing that he would have more time with this objectionable woman. He smiled because she was another human being to spend time with.
His family had dumped him here because they believed that he was losing his faculties. Maybe they were right. Although this theory neglected to mention that his daughter-in-law had discovered that he thought she was a mean-hearted woman because she had secretly listened to his private telephone conversation. As a result, he had ended up in the nursing home with increasingly rare visits from his son, in his fifties and still not a man. The grandchildren stopped coming altogether, each busy with different classes and sports. His complaints were purposefully superficial, as they masked the fact that his heart was broken.
His son loved his mother more than Mr. Time. It was natural for mothers and sons to be close, which any anthropologist will say is the root of the daughter-in-law and mother-in-law conflict. His wife and son’s relationship wasn't something Mr. Time felt the need to compete with, but he wished his son saw value in him, too.
Vain wishes aside, he knew he had lived a full life, typical of a man with great wisdom. He could guess a person’s character from a hundred yards based on their interactions, behaviors, and gestures. These were the essence of a man.
Character was the single most valuable asset a man could possess in the world, and Mr. Time knew character was based on how a man had been raised. A good family was fundamental to developing a great and productive society, and he had a great example in his own father. In his elderly state, he longed to feel the cool touch of his fathers' hand against his skin. The blessing of having parents was that you knew everything would be all right. Parents offered stability.
As Mr. Time sat in his dark room awaiting the return of the nurse, he longed for those he had lost over his long life. The longing overwhelmed him, and tears ran down his leathery cheeks. He was fighting to stay in the world of the living—or was it that he had no choice at this particular moment? He knew he did not belong in this era of constant connectedness, fast talking, and multiscreen watching. He longed for the end, but this terrified him, too.
Should he pursue his will to live? Was living really that important? He was ninety-five and filled with pain; he had nothing other than Death to look forward to. The next question he always asked himself was whether he was ready. He didn’t know the answer. Ninety-five was a blessing, as it had given him ample time to assess his life and be grateful for it. He felt more fortunate than those who had lost their lives at earlier ages, but what did that mean for him? He knew that achieving an age like this meant bidding goodbye to everyone, and he had. Everyone was gone. Only the nurse was left.
He wasn't a man built to be lonely. He had always craved company and actively sought the companionship of the most powerful men who moved and shook the world. Sitting in his bed now, he had become the thing he feared: an insignificant old man who regularly soiled himself. His awareness came back to his present state, and he begged his Creator to accept him into the next life, the next stage of existence. He sorely missed his wife, his friends, his brothers and sisters, his parents, and friends. Everyone was gone.
The first inkling that this prayer might have been accepted was when the nurse returned to the room. She stripped him naked and removed the sheets from the bed. She moved her wet cloth in between his creases and wiped him down. In his vulnerable state, he pondered the fact that he was a shell of the man he had once been: his leathered skin hollow where muscle used to be, his brittle nails, his white hair, and the smell of old age clinging to his body like a cheap cologne. His declining state made his prayer more intense.
She had changed him, but he felt more disconnected from her than he ever had. His change is attitude to his only companion should have been his first clue. When she finished, she flicked off the light, but a small, white light entered the room and hovered at the corner above the door, like a small torch. The nurse left the room unaware of the light, and then Mr. Time knew that he wasn't alone anymore.
He smiled. The nurse thought it was due to the care she had shown him. She was unused to him acknowledging her, and she left him feeling that maybe in the future she would have more patience with him. A glimmer of compassion entered her heart and started to eat away at the bitterness.
End of chapter one, the story is available on Amazon.