Fragments of a life not lived

This flash fiction story follows the final steps of the unnamed heroine at the ultimate crossroad of her life: the choice to fight or accept the malignant tumour growing in her abdomen.

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1. Life One

     She often thought about dying. Since she had been a child, she had dreams of dying. Sometimes she died when an arrow struck her in the chest as she faced an enemy. Other times, she either drowned at sea as a storm raged over the deep black ocean, or was blown into oblivion when she stepped on a landmine in her dream.

     Now she faced another type of death, one that haunted her waking life in a far more potent manner than the death in her dreams did.

     Her doctor had told her that the chemotherapy was doing its job. Nauseous, tired, and emaciated as it was making her, the chemotherapy had shrunk the tumour that ate away at her lower abdomen.

     This coming summer she would make a point to go more frequently to the beach and swim in the warm current of the Indian Ocean. And if she became too tired to swim or wade, she'd lie on the white sand and watch the surfers bobbing like seals among the waves, waiting for the perfect current to send them towards her.

     Why wait? The question trod lightly into her mind. She had something to celebrate: she was alive. Life is so short and uncertain.

     She wanted to do something radical to feed the energy of being alive. She remembered the hotel her family used to stay at on the Durban beach front. She should go there - it's close to where the surfers congregate.

     The only trouble is that her bank balance was as depleted by the chemotherapy sessions as her energy levels were.

     Perhaps a day trip would suffice. By bus, Durban was a mere two hours' ride from her home.

     She took the earliest bus to Durban, wearing her favourite red dress, beach towel and a book in an over-sized bag. The dress hung loose, now three sizes too large on her frame. She had to tie a scarf around her middle to make it fit better.

     Her bus stopped two blocks away from the hotel her family used to stay at. She walked slowly, pacing the little energy she had available.

     At the hotel, she walked in as if she was a guest returning from an early morning beach outing. She ordered breakfast at the restaurant, telling the maître d' to put her order on room 504's account, praying room 504's inhabitants haven't ordered breakfast yet.

     She ate slowly, savouring each bite, enjoying the thought that now at last she was able to keep her food down. Through the restaurant window, the promenade was getting busier by the moment. The sky was a deep, clear blue, bordered by the white surf and the bobbing seal heads of surfers.

     It was a perfect day.

     After her stolen breakfast, she made her way slowly along the promenade, watching the sun seeking crowd growing as the shadows of the palm trees along the promenade grew shorter. She found a quiet spot on the beach and took out her book from her bag. Behind the dune, the crowds along the promenade could not be seen. In the distance, a male was shading his eyes, his body turned in her direction.

     Oblivious to his approach, her concentration deepened into her book.

     The coroner's report estimated her time of death between 10:00 and 10:30 a.m., given the fact that the hot weather had attracted a large crowd of holidaymakers to the beach that day and that an individual could not have had much time to commit a murder. In his report, he noted death by strangulation. The victim's purse was found a few meters away from her body, emptied of cash and credit cards.

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