The Lives we Live

Entry for the Young Movellist of the Year competition.
Who are we? What comes after us, the human race? And how do you put a value on a single, human life?
And so begin the wonderings of childish, fourteen-year-old Cassie Clarke, who, when she learns that her best friend Mika is dying, attempts to help him achieve 'eternal happiness.'
In pursuit of happiness, she discovers things that shouldn't be possible, the identity of her father, how to let go, and that joy isn't obtained through bucket lists and grand plans.
In fact, happiness is found in the simpler, more unexpected places in life.

[Does contain some adult language.]

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1. 60 Days

60 Days Left

 

You know what makes me sad? Life is short. Life is really, really short. You may think that all those hours of procrastination and boredom make our lives incredibly long. But they don’t. They really don’t. One day, we’re all gonna die, and some bigger, mightier race will look down on us, the way we look at slugs.

 

The fact that I’m one, tiny bit of carbon, and my life will be short, and insignificant, really makes me sad. I know that sounds silly, because of course, things like that should make you feel sad - but this sadness is like . . . a feeling of unimportance. I won’t be able to accomplish much is the whole grand scheme of things, and will probably never influence the universe in big ways.

 

We are all going to die one day, and death and dying happen all the time. It’s a common part of life, and yet we ignore it. We sort of ignore all the times that another person has been claimed by death, or been influenced by an ending of a life. We all carry on and pretend nothing’s happened and worry about all the pointless things like mortgages, cars, horrible school uniforms, and itchy socks. We all ignore death, until, quite literally, “his hand is on your shoulder.”

 

This is just another bit of how this sadness feels. It’s a feeling of fragility.

 

Life hangs in the balance, and we walk a very thin line.

 

Do we care?

 

No.

 

Wars rage all around us. In far-off lands, the smallest fights become the biggest, bloodiest battle in centuries and millions of people, innocent or not, die. It’s not fair and it’s not right – and yet we still let it happen.

 

Take this example; yesterday, on the news, eleven civilians, including two children, were killed in a suicide bombing. I wouldn’t have noticed, or even remembered that, if things hadn’t gone so wrong. If my life hadn’t been turned upside down.

 

I tap my foot. I know it must be so irritating to everyone else but a strange little part of me sort of enjoys it. It’s so silent in here, provided you don’t count the quiet sobbing of Mika’s mum in the corner, the secretary tapping her pink, fake nails on the desk, the clock ticking quite loudly, the warm air being pointlessly blown around by a dusty fan, and the occasional dropping of a pen.

 

It’s funny how much you really listen when it’s quiet.

 

A doctor appears in the doorway to my left, and I’m praying. No, I do not believe in god, nor am I religious, but at this point it really didn’t matter. If this doctor could hear my thoughts, he would be deafened by my inner screeching.

 

Please. Please. Please. Smile. Anything to let me know he’s okay.

 

“Mrs. Foster?” Mika’s mum looks up.

 

“Yes?”

 

“Could you come with me, please?” His voice was grave. As they walk off down the corridor, I can’t help but wonder, ‘How many people were told they were dying today?’

 

No. No. No. NO.

 

This was not happening. My eyes get all watery and I bite my lip. I sigh, to try and get rid of the lump in my throat.
 

Mika’s mum reappears, Mika in tow. The doctor does not reappear. Mika smiles upon entering the room and I almost want to break down and start crying right there, on the waiting room floor.

 

“Hey!” I attempt to sound cheerful but fail miserably, my voice cracking.

 

“Hey,” He smiles. He’s not mentioning it. He’s choosing to ignore it. Thank god.

 

“So . . . what happened?”

 

“Well,” he rubs the back of his head with his head, giving his hair an almost fluffy look. “I’ve got a day at most.”

 

My jaw drops as he laughs at me.

 

“Jesus Christ, your face. I’m kidding doofus.”

 

“You’re joking at a time like this?”

 

He smiles sheepishly, and shrugs. Frustrated, I think of the best insult.

 

It’s very effective.

 

“You and your sense of humour need to . . . to go die in a hole!”

 

He smiles his lopsided smile. “Well, I think that can be arranged.”

 

I can’t choose between giggling and sobbing uncontrollably, so I opt for attack-hugging him. Apart from the small suffocating noise upon impact, he seems pretty relaxed. We draw apart.

 

“Seriously, though, what’s . . . happening up there?” I tap his forehead gently. I glance over at Mika’s mum and watch as she gets paperwork signed. I look back at Mika, who suddenly seems incredibly interested in the floor.

 

“Well,” he starts, not daring to meet my eyes, “It’s a brain tumour.”

 

I roll my eyes. “Yeah, I really couldn’t have guessed.”

 

He smiles, before continuing. “It’s advanced, so their doubtful treatment will work at such a late stage.”

 

My whole face tightens, in an effort to not let any emotion through.

 

“Oh.” I say quietly. He nods.

 

“Are you sure there’s no cure, or something?” I know it’s dumb, we know all about cancers, viruses, illnesses, diseases. People die. It happens. But not us. Never us. You just assume its fine; those people grieving, they’re fine, because they’ll get over it. But what if you yourself won’t, when the time comes?

 

He smirks. “Well, until you discover one, I’m screwed!”

 

I give him a small smile. Not enough for him to see how forced it is, but enough for him to not feel awkward.

 

“So, um . . . how advanced?”

 

This silence is too long.

 

Tick, tick, tick.

 

 Why is that clock so bloody loud?

 

“A month, maybe two at best. At worst, weeks.”

 

I stop breathing. Just for a second, I think the world might freeze. Stand still.

 

Completely frozen.

 

When I finally find how to breath again, all I can do is cry.

 

Pathetic. Completely, and utterly, pathetic. I cry silently, to myself, into my hair, into his hair, into his shoulder. I’m still sniffling when my tears have dried up. The car journey is filled with a horrible, horrible, horrible silence. I hate it. I hate this. All of this.

 

The worst thing is, I’m ashamed of crying. I shouldn’t be the one bawling my eyes out. I’m not even dying. It’s not even me.

 

My best friend is dying.

 

And it’s ending my whole world.

 

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