The Woman, The Room by Michael Thomas-Knight I’m writing to you about a place I had visited only once before and only for a brief moment since I’ve been ill. Cancer is a corrupting disease. It’s destroying my bones and I am afforded only slivers of timed relief to write between doses of pain medication. The place I write about is the epitome of gloom, but it’s soft and peaceful, a welcome invite from the pain and discomfort of my condition. It’s a serene slumber few can imagine, one with no dreams, no thought, and no interaction of any kind. I had not entered through a doorway or a tunnel; the room just came into being. No light source pervaded, but I could see subtle shapes and veiled detail. A room lay before me, adorned with bulky hard-wood furniture, each garnished with Victorian ornamentation. Large chairs loomed like monolithic towers and a dining table stretched like a black plateau into opaque infinity. Crystal chandeliers and baritone table lamps adorned ceilings and shadowed corners, mute of light or reflective properties. I sensed souls or beings, weak signals of undercurrent in the halls and rooms. The thought occurred to me that the undercurrent of these entities emanated from the pieces of furniture. Was that possible? Was there a life force in these inanimate objects? I concluded that if I chose to stay here, I too would become rigid ornamentation decorating these sepulchral halls. It was not an unwelcome concept, to become an inanimate item, strength in design and function, yet void of the painful realities of the illness engulfing my body. As this solemn desire enticed me, a woman appeared. She had a dark green complexion, rotted pursed lips, emaciated nose and no eyes. She communed with the part of me that needed privy to her domain. She was the end of hope and the state of acceptance. She didn’t call to me; she just waited with the patience of a thousand saints for me to accept this new state. My decision to let go came and I felt the tethers to ideas, functions, and memories of my old world wane, then slip away from me. It was a magnificent un-burdening to be released from the cage of pain my body had become. I felt a hardening of my legs as they turned to wood stanchions with ornamental design. The pain fled from my toes and ankles as the change took place. Something went wrong. I was on my way to the darkening when I felt a sharp tug at my core. For a moment I heard a man’s voice, but I managed my way back to the mysterious room. My lady had faded considerably and I wanted to call out to her. Before I could make contact, I felt another sharp tug and a lightning bolt of pain shattered into my chest. The ancient room ripped away, replaced by harsh white light. I heard my wife, Alicia. Her crying voice pierced the blinding veil. I felt her pain commingle with my own and wanted it all to be over. A doctor in a light green uniform depressed a needle’s worth of chemical into my arm through an IV. I tried to scream, “NO!” but air would not move through my vocal chords. I closed my eyes and concentrated, but the shadowed room was gone. Then I heard my wife’s voice pleading with me through the darkness. “James, please. Don’t leave me. I love you; I need you here with me.” When I heard my wife’s voice, I was struck with sensibility. She needed me. She needed me to be there with her, to help raise our daughter, to help pay the mortgage, to have a life companion. Why was I ready to give up? The doctors said there was hope. They said I just needed more time for the treatment to take effect. Was I being selfish? I was looking for the easy way out. I had to be strong. I had to think of my family. I tried to move my hand, to give my wife a sign that I was still here. I needed to be back with her, to show her we could get through this together. I tried to open my eyes again, but I could only see an impervious black cloud before me. Then a rotted green arm punched through the fog and the woman’s gnarled hand grabbed my forearm. She had returned to drag me back with her; back to her domicile of death. I felt the cold emptiness ahead and struggled to escape her grip. I felt pain as my arm turned to petrified wood. It felt like hundreds of razor-sharp tendrils, slashing and jabbing my human flesh. My wife’s voice called to me again, but it was distant and weak. I struggled to scream but no sound escaped my mouth. I was drowning in a tumultuous sea of black water, struggling in vain to get free from the iron grip of the cadaverous woman. I turned from her face searching for my wife, the woman I loved. Electric fractals raced through my being once more and the green woman’s grip faltered. She retreated into the black fog of anonymity and I heard my wife’s crying voice more clearly. Although the bright lights were painful, I forced my eyes open a slit. I saw Alicia’s distraught face hovering over me. A tear fell from her cheek and hit me in the chin. It warmed my heart to the core. I heard the doctor explaining to my wife how they had lost me, but then saved me from death. I realized that Alicia was holding my hand. With all the energy in my being I forced my hand to move. I squeezed her hand. She burst into a new round of tears, tears of relief as she smiled.