The Drift of Eastern Gray
by Brat Farrar
Death but the Drift of Eastern Gray,
Dissolving into Dawn away,
Before the West begin—
“You are young, Ana,” they tell her. “Your husband and son need you,” they claim, and speak of experimental treatments, of those who have fought to live even as they looked death in the eye. “There is no need to resign yourself, every hope that you will survive this.” But they lie.
She knows this, can read it in their side-long glances, the looks the nurses give her when they think she’s asleep, the way they speak to her son. He dozes beside her bed, curled up in the hard-used chair like a loyal guard-dog, and studies every move the doctors make with untrusting eyes. If not for the weight of her body, the way the earth pulls down on her, she would worry for him. But each breath she takes is less certain than the one before, and she is selfish enough to wish her son to be the last thing she sees when she goes to sleep.
His grandmother watches over him, makes sure he eats, goes over his homework with him. Says, “John,” when he asks questions he can’t yet know the answers to. And John goes with her without protest, although he never leaves without looking back, Orpheus at age eleven.
(He will stand one day in the halls of a city his mother once knew, will feel it in his bones that he has come home, although he will not know why. He will bleed for the place, walking without hesitation through flood and fire and pestilence. He will be a man someday, and one worth the knowing.)
Ana would follow him, but she’s no Eurydice. The thing chaining her to the bed can’t be charmed with a song.
She cheated it once, long and long ago, when she had another name and wore another face. Fled from the frailty of her flesh, hid herself in the vastness of an expanding universe. Let time slide by her like water past a stone, watched vast civilizations crumble into ashes and dust. Hung suspended from a thought, content to be nothing more than a fragment of eternity.
But that’s behind her now—she chose this body, this human existence, found much joy in it. And much sorrow, but everything has its cost. She reminds herself of that as she lies on the bed, unable to do more than finger her stiff sheets and remember the hanging out of laundry, the brightness of a July afternoon.
Soon it will it be dawn. The world will wake around her. The sun will rise and cast light across another day. People will go and come, and she will see her son one more time, will listen to the doctors speak more words of false hope. Will kiss her husband on the lips, taste there the lingering bitterness of war and consider it sweet.
And then night will come, and she will close her eyes and dream.