The Ninth Night [Excerpt]
If you had the chance, what would you say to your loved one before they departed the earthly realm forever?
For the fifth morning in a row, when she walked into the kitchen to brew her first pot of coffee, the fluorescent light was on.
The first time it happened was the day of the accident. When she returned from the hospital at 11am, and walked zombie-like back into the house, the kitchen light was blazing. It didn’t strike her as unusual, though. After all, when she’d received the phone call it was nearly four in the morning; she must have switched the light on when she’d been frantically searching for her car keys, and forgotten to switch it off before she ran out the door.
The second morning she was hungover. Having spent the previous evening watching home movies and polishing off two and a half bottles of cheap Malbec, she’d stumbled drunkenly into the kitchen in the early hours to throw the empties into the recycling and run the wine glass under the tap. Clearly she’d been too inebriated to care about switching the light off. Understandable, all things considered. By the third day, though, she had started to wonder if there was something else going on.
She had initially thought it could be the starters, or perhaps that the bulb needed replacing, as she knew that the fluroes in the house started to behave in all kinds of strange manner when they came to the end of their lives. But surely if that were the case, the light would be flickering, or even refusing to start up at all. There was no one else in the house, of course, who could be leaving it on. She’d purposefully (mindfully, she corrected, wistfully, in her head) flicked the light switch to the 'off' position, and left for her appointment with the funeral director. Save for a couple of trips to the en suite bathroom, she hadn’t got out of bed at all on the fourth day, and so had no way of knowing if the light had magically come to life again that morning.
"For godssake," she muttered upon entering the kitchen on Day Five, and flicked the light switch a few times. It behaved entirely normally, no sign of flickers or imminent fusing. She sighed, set the switch back to the off position and fired up the Aeropress.
She took her cup of Columbian roast through to the next room and sat staring at the grain of the dining table for about thirty minutes before remembering she’d even made the coffee. She would need to iron her black dress shortly. She should have done it yesterday, but she just couldn’t face the world outside the bedroom then. There was ample time this morning, though. The service wasn’t starting until 3pm.
Many traditions believe that the souls of the recently deceased remain earthbound for nine days after their death. If you had the chance, what would you say to your loved one before they departed the earthly realm forever?
A short story about life and death, love and loss, and saying goodbye.
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