Jerold was sitting in the same chair, at the same window, staring outside, waiting.
The first snow was falling, and he remembered the time when he’d played out there with the neighborhood kids all those years ago. He remembered it so vividly that afternoon.
The sun had been bright, just like today, but its light didn’t reach him. Not anymore. Not up here, in this ghastly room.
He didn’t even notice the single tear that streamed from one of his eyes. Thick, yellow, and almost syrupy, it carved a path down his sunken cheek.
The shaking came over him like an avalanche, burying his thoughts. The pain that follows was worse, cutting through him hot and ragged.
It lasted for almost a quarter of an hour.
The third time since noon, the seventh since he awoke this morning. It’s gotten so much worse this past year.
“You there?” he called out when as he watched the few lonely snowflakes twirling through the air.
“Of course,” a rattling voice reached him.
“So, is it finally time?”
The voice behind him turned into guttural giggling.
“No, Jerold, you aren’t ready yet.”
“Oh goddammit, I’ve been ready for the past three years! I’m ready now, so why don’t you just take me already?”
“Were they ready, Jerold?”
He was about to reply, but a terrible, wet cough rattled through his body, shaking every brittle bone in it.
“Damn you!” he screamed, but he got no reaction to his outburst.
He tried to dig his fingers into the armrest, tried to will himself to get up, but, however much he tried, there was nothing. He had no energy left, no muscles to serve him.
And so he stayed where he was, in his terrible, lonely prison.
Slowly anger rose inside of him, burning anger, fiery, hotter even than the pain he’d felt mere moments ago.
“Why don’t you just take me already?” he screamed at the quiet room.
“You know why, Jerold,” a bodiless, grim voice whispered into his ear.
“Yes, I know, but I couldn’t help it! I tried, but couldn’t wait anymore, I just couldn’t.”
“You murdered them, Jerold. Three little boys, whose life you cut short that afternoon,” the voice continued.
“I know, goddammit, I know! I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, so take me already! Just, please, please let me move on!”
“No Jerold, you’ll wait and you’ll continue to wait. For I’m going to let you live in their stead. What time you took from them, I’ll added to yours,” the voice trailed off, a hint of devilish glee hidden behind its words.
“I shouldn’t even be alive anymore! The heart attack, the cancer, this rotting body here, there’s-“
But he broke up, for he knew he was gone again.
Once more, the Reaper had abandoned him, and once more he’d left his soul to linger in his own rotten body for yet another year.