Like a clock, the monitor kept a steady rhythm to mark the passing time. One could go mad listening day after day as the heart beats ticked by in their unbroken, relentless march. All that kept sanity within reach was knowing that when the sounds stopped at last, she would be free.
Jonathan sat beside the hospital bed, stroking his wife’s hand, watching and listening to the various monitors. So many tubes and wires were violating her body and he wished he could rip them out, gather her into his arms and take her away from this at last. Day and night he had sat here in this very spot. The doctors and nurses were always saying that people in comas had no sense of their surroundings, but he knew his wife was aware of him. He knew.
Today was different than the usual watching and waiting. Today another came, one Jonathan had long waited to see; the cool shadow that entered the room and stood beside him.
“Please,” Jonathan said, looking deep into those eternal eyes of oblivion. “Please, take her.”
The voice which replied was at once a thunderous roar and yet gentle as a breeze. “I must wait for her appointed time.”
He looked back to his wife, tears wetting his eyes. “But- she is in such pain. I cannot bear it.”
“For a moment only; it will not be long.”
His wife’s face – once so beautiful and full of life – now sunken and pale, her spirit holding to a mere thread of life. He closed his eyes, resisting the grief that threatened to spill down his cheeks. When he spoke again, his voice was cracked. “Is there nothing you can do?”
“Death is not within my power, either to gift or to withhold,” the visitor said. He brought his hand to rest on Jonathan’s shoulder, joining him in the bedside vigil. The monitor’s rhythm became the only sound in the room again. Only the break in its steady pulse roused Jonathan to look up again at his companion.
“Yes, Jonathan,” he confirmed. “It is time.”
None of the doctors noticed the two watchers as they rushed into the room in response to the alarms that sounded. The graph began to waiver, the erratic echo of her heart’s beat drawn out in a jagged map of extreme peaks and valleys. Despite the efforts of the medical staff, the line lapsed into a glowing green horizon which stretched across the starless sky.
“Beatrice,” the solemn voice called. “Bea, come now. Your husband has waited for you for many years. It is time to come join him at last.”
Beatrice rose from the bed. She no longer looked ill and beset with pain but radiated a glow from deep within. She glanced briefly at the doctors trying to revive her, then turned and smiled. “I knew you would wait for me, Jon.”
Jonathan exhaled at last, wrapping his arms around her and burying his face in her neck. She smelled wonderful, like he always remembered her, of rose and lavender. “I am going to take you home now, Bea.”
She held him in return and nodded. “I’m ready.”
They followed behind the collector of souls as he led them through the barrier that divided their existence from the mortal realm.
Death knew they would not be burdened, not have to linger between worlds to seek revenge or wail at some injustice. Jonathan had waited for his wife, but now both were ready to pass on. A smile tugged at the edges of his mouth; these were the days he liked his job.