Death’s Breath

Oct 07  |  Andrea Goyan

The living call me the Angel of Death. They’re wrong, caught in a web of silly sentiments about dying, constructed around riddles too complex for them to comprehend.

I am the Angel of Mercy.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

I adjust your I.V. roller clamp, increase the flow.

Your husband sits alongside your bed, holding a cup of tepid vending machine coffee. He takes a sip and gags.

“Hospital coffee–the stuff of nightmares,” I say, taking your vitals.

Tears fill his eyes. “My wife makes great coffee.”


He cannot see me for what I am.

You can.

When I lay my fingers against your wrist, I feel your heartbeat flutter beneath your thin skin, begging me to make it stop.

Your husband picks at the edges of the Styrofoam cup. “How is she?”

His thumb nail leaves a perfect half-moon shape before he tears the piece away.

I squeeze your wrist gently. “Today’s a better day.”

Today I’m going to liberate you.

“Where’s Nurse Julie?”

I smile. “On a break.”

Technically, it’s true. I caught her in the breakroom ridiculing a terminal patient’s daughter. “That cow thinks her tears will keep her mother around longer. Please, Mommy, wah-wah-wah.” Beneath her pristine façade, Nurse Julie was rotten. Like something already dead. So, I took a little detour, went off script, and did the world a favor. They’ll find her later in the laundry chute with the rest of the soiled unpleasantries.

Your husband takes another sip and winces.

“There’s a lovely coffee shop across the street,” I say.

He furrows his brow. “I should stay here.”

“Nonsense. Real coffee will do you good.”

He rips away another piece of Styrofoam, squeezing it flat.

“You won’t be gone five minutes.” I press a button on the remote and raise the bed until your closed, sightless eyes are almost level with my face.

He nods. “You’ll be here? With her?”

“Where else? She and I still have work to do.”

“Okay. Right back, love,” he says, kissing your cheek.

The door closes behind him, leaving us alone. The room is quiet save for the hum of the machines monitoring your vitals. I slip a vial from my pocket.

“Not long now,” I say, pitching my voice to blend into the ambient noises around us.

You’ll be gone when your husband returns, as will I.

I administer a paralytic and force my breathing to match yours.

Slower. Slower. Slower. Sweet mercy.

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