InkDream - Supply And Demand I was in the doghouse. Again. “I ask you to do one, simple thing, Jack…” Honestly. You forget to bring home a gallon of milk and suddenly you’ve gone rogue. It was the little things that set her off. Not putting the toilet paper on right, washing the laundry on the wrong setting, forgetting the milk. In my heart of hearts I knew it was the pregnancy making her crazy, but I’d given up trying not to provoke her at this point. It would pass. I shuffled into the convenience store, no need to rush. Emily needed time to stew and I needed time to lick my wounds. The place was stocked like a sardine can--merchandise everywhere, the dairy towards the back. A moment later I had a gallon of generic milk in my hand while I stood puzzling over the chewing gum selection. Melon twist or the tried and true peppermint? It was the little things. I heard raised voices towards the checkout. There wasn’t time to turn around and see what it was about. There was an eardrum ripping explosion and it was like the hand of God had curled into a fist and punched through me, leaving fire in its wake. I was staring up at the water stained ceiling, cold tile at my back, before it occurred to me that I had been shot or that I was dying. My chest was heavy, each breath a victory won. The man that worked behind the counter had taken off his shirt and pressed it to the wound to slow the bleed. “Help’s coming” he promised “they‘ll catch the bastard.” I saw the doubt in his blue eyes and wished they were hers instead. Then again, I was glad she wasn’t there to witness it. It wasn’t how I’d want to be remembered. Thinking of Emily hurt. It hurt more than the gaping hole in my chest. I looked around as much as I could, but the man wouldn’t let me move. I lie in a puddle--my blood made thick, crimson swirls in the milk from the jug I’d dropped. Breathing was getting harder but the pain was less. Actually, I really couldn't feel my body much at all. It felt like I was drifting, like leaning back into calm waters to just float. I was floating away, eyes closed, when the man slapped me. “Stay with me.” he demanded. “They’re coming. You just hang on.“ I didn’t know the guy. He’d worked the cash register every time I came in but we never exchanged pleasantries, never had the semblance of a conversation. We exchanged goods for money and that was the extent of our relationship; supply and demand. It seemed odd now that he would be the one fighting for my life, covered in my blood, waiting with me as I die. It was strangely intimate--I didn’t even know his name. My eyes lazily flicked to his nametag. Alex. Alex the Great, I thought. A good name for a good man. Even if I didn’t make it his kindness made all the difference. I would not die alone. There were sirens, I could hear them screeching in the distance like a banshee calling me home. --------------------------------------------------------------------- yellowm&M - Smile Tick. Tick. Tick. What if you only had a minute? Just 60 seconds? And after that minute your life was over. What would you do with it? Tick. Tick. Tick. The question bounces around in my mind searching for an answer to stick to; an answer that isn’t there. Each bounce against the walls of my head keeps time with the ticking time bomb of the clock behind me. Each movement of the hand is a step closer towards the end of that minute. Tick. Tick. Tick. I’d never noticed before how both unsettling and yet oddly soothing the sound of a clock is. It calms my racing nerves making it easier to stay sitting in this chair, not that there is a choice of leaving anyways. I don’t look at the clock hanging behind my back. I don’t want to see exactly how many second are left. Tick. Tick. Tick. You’d think that I’d be trying to find a way out of here. Normally people don’t just sit around waiting for their life to end. Yet, here I am doing just that. It’s definitely not a position I ever expected to be in. Tick. Tick. Tick. Don’t get me wrong, what I’m doing is not suicidal. I like life; I love it. It’s not by choice that I’m sitting here waiting for it all to disappear. Of course whether or not it’s by choice is irrelevant, because regardless I’m still here. It’s what I have to do. Tick. Tick. Tick. Maybe I should be crying or something. You know, showing some kind of emotion. This isn’t exactly some simple little walk in the park that I’m going through. But I’m not. I just feel strangely calm, though my heart is still racing in my chest. Tick. Tick. Tick. The seconds go resolutely by. My eyes are locked on the window directly in front of me that faces my little neighborhood. It’s very pleasant and peaceful out there. I’ve always loved this house mostly because of the neighborhood. In months past I would sit in this room and watch the people who walked by, now I’m watching for her to walk by. Tick. Tick. Tick. The question is still swimming in my mind. What would you do if you only had a minute? But I’m no closer to an answer. You’d think I’d know, especially right now when I only have a minute, but I don’t. Tick. Tick. Tick. Out of everything that is happening to me, do you know the hardest idea to handle is? What if she doesn’t walk by? What if I don’t get to see Hannah in these final seconds? She’s supposed to come by. But what if she doesn’t? Tick. Tick. Tick. I wouldn’t blame her for not coming of course. It’s not exactly the most pleasant thing to some see someone when they’re in my situation. I’m still bizarrely unfazed by what will happen as soon as those ticks reach sixty in number. I’m already about halfway there as it is. Tick. Tick. Tick. My heart starting beating a little faster and I can feel my nerves starting to fray a little more. It isn’t from my impending loss of life, however. It’s from the idea of not seeing Hannah again. It’s making my heart beat quickly and my blood run cold. Tick. Tick. Tick. The seconds seem to be both speeding by and inching along slowly. Still I don’t have an answer. What would I do? What should I do? Even now in that theoretical minute I can’t find my own answer. Tick. Tick. Tick. More second pass as I struggle to find that elusive answer. Tick. Tick. Tick. I keep staring at the window before me. I’m still desperately hoping for Hannah to walk by my window so that I can see her. Tick. Tick. Tick. I listen for the sound of voices and footsteps. However all I can hear is the echoing tick of the clock. A soft wind blows by my window and it carries with it sweet, young voices. My heart lifts in my chest. Tick. Tick. Tick. And there she is. Smiling and holding the hand of her two daughters. Her husband is standing in front of the three of them laughing with the two little girls. And even though she’s with him and not me I feel no sadness or regret for what could have been, only overwhelming joy. Tick. Tick. Tick. While her family is happily occupied with each other she turns and looks at me. Her eyes and smile are sad and as beautiful as ever. I take in her face greedily and I can feel my very soul lighting up. Tick. Tick. Tick. I am seized with the need to tell her one thing before I am gone. Not out of pain, but out of the simple need to let her know. I mouth the words “I love you,” through the glass that separates us. Her eyes grow sadder still and she mouths back “I know.” In her face there is the slightest hint of longing which makes a sad smile curve my lips as I reach out my hand slightly towards her. Tick. Tick. Tick. And suddenly I know the answer to my question as the blackness begins to curl around me. Tick. What would you do if you only had one minute? Tick. I’d tell her that I loved her. Tick.