The End

The Phalanxifor has stopped working, and there's nothing they can do. For Hazel Grace, perhaps death is just the next great adventure.

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1. The End.

"Hazel Grace." His shining blue eyes swim above my face, his sweet voice murmuring in my ear after so long. For a moment I allow myself to escape to this fantasy world of long ago, when everything was perfect and  we didn't let cancer get in the way of anything. I reach out to him in desperation, my heart plummeting into that endless black hole of despair as my fingers grasp at empty air. I force my tired eyes to open and shift slightly against my pillows, wiping my damp eyes and catching my breath. It wasn’t real. My mom sleeps on the bed beside me, her usually stressed face peaceful as she rests.

They never leave me alone now, not even for one minute. I don't blame them- I'd want to be there for my kid in her dying moments too. The BiPap forces my lungs to inflate themselves, sending tight stabbing pains through my chest and then through the rest of my body. A sickly brown liquid drips down the tube from my side into a bag strapped to my bed. Cancer fluid, constantly building up in my lungs and drowning me from inside. I’m exhausted. I want it all to stop.

The door to my room swings open and my dad steps in, a mug of black coffee clutched in his pale and shaky hands. "Hey sweetheart. Not tired?"

"Stupid question." I mumble through the BiPap mask as I pat the other side of my bed, motioning for him to join me. My lips feel numb when I talk, and I can see in the tiny fraction of my face visible in the mirror above my desk that my skin is tinged blue with under-oxygenation. However despite the pain and the inevitable knowledge that this time there is no miracle and no wonderful recovery, I can't help but feel that this moment is a perfect one. My Dad sits on my left with his steaming mug of coffee resting on his knee, and my Mom lies smiling, tucked up under the covers on my right.

I pull the BiPap away from my face, my swollen fingers stumbling over the fiddly straps. My face is cold and my fingers refuse to work, and it’s so frustrating and I want to scream but I know my lungs couldn’t handle it, and I don’t want to die but oblivion is inevitable, and I just want…

"Hazel… what are you doing?" His voice is soft with care and injected with worry as he rests his coffee on my bedside table and covers my hands with his own. “Stop.” The warmth from his hands melts through my skin, and he holds onto me as he lifts the mask from my face and rests it on top of the blanket.

"I just… wanted to… smell it… One last time…" My chest aches as I desperately try and breathe with my useless lungs, and my limbs throb immediately from the sudden decrease in available oxygen. I can practically feel the tumours growing, destroying me second by second. The scent of his coffee fills my nose and my body shivers with nostalgia. Black coffee: his smell. Just breathing this in now hurts more than the cancer ever has. This is it. My days have always been numbered, and now the final grains of sand in the hourglass of my life are slipping away.

Because you see, I've had enough. After Augustus died, I thought I was okay. That was before I went for a PET scan, and what I'd been secretly suspecting since Amsterdam was confirmed.

The Phalanxifor had stopped working.

They told me I had two choices: to undergo countless sessions of chemo, or to let it take me. Seeing as I didn't particularly fancy spending the next several weeks drugged up to my eyeballs and constantly throwing up, putting on weight and losing my hair and basically just extending my eventual demise… I chose to die on my own terms.

They offered to let me go to a hospice or to stay at Children's. I considered it, too, but did I really want to live out my last few weeks in a building with a bunch of other patients who had reached the same stage as me? Did I really want to spend the rest of my short life constantly reminded of my impending and certain doom?

No.

My parents agreed. I think they just want it to end. They don’t want to see me suffer anymore. I know this because they let me have my way for once, and they didn’t fight my decision to die, but I understand. We stopped the Phalanxifor, the chemo and all the other cancer drugs. It was just painkillers, my BiPap and the drainage line from there on out.

It doesn't scare me. Death, I mean. Augustus stared it straight in the eye and embraced it, and so will I. I shall walk into death's open arms and welcome it with a smile, because if I am in the minority who die, then my spot amongst the majority who survive is given to someone else. Somebody else gets to live, gets to fight this thing and actually win. That’s the way I look at it, anyway.

Dad helps me to get the mask back on. It isn't until it's fixed securely over my face that I realise just how out of breath I get without it, how oxygen starved my body becomes in just a minute or two without being constantly forced to breathe. Mom stirs next to me and opens her eyes wide, flipping over to stare at me and make sure that I'm still here. It takes all my resolve to smile at her reassuringly, to ignore the pain as she wraps her arms around me and pulls me into her body. She smells like sleep and seems unable to stop the silent sobs and little gasps of grief that escape her mouth as she traces the outlines of my bones with her fingers.

The hardest part of this isn't that I won’t get to see tomorrow. It's the realisation that wherever I end up, my parents won't be there with me; to stay by my side and hold my hand and let me know that everything will be okay. I was born to die. They were born to survive.

When you're dreading something, time tends to do this really awful thing of speeding up exponentially, so that the closer you get to whatever it is that you’re dreading, the faster time seems to pass. Time is such a slut. I smile, thinking about a time long ago and his voice in my ears. She screws everybody. When Doctor Maria told me I'd have about a month left without further treatment, it seemed like a long time. Now that month is almost up and it feels like a lifetime ago, and I've finally learnt the value of living. When my eyes drift closed for what I know will be the final time, Mom and Dad sit at my sides. Their cool hands are all I feel as I drift towards the void, my body feeling heavier and heavier until I know I’m too far gone to wake myself up.

Despite this, I can’t let go. I can't tell if it's something to do with the BiPap constantly forcing oxygen into my lungs or if there's something deep inside me still clinging to that last shred of life. Please, just let me die. I beg the strings of life to snap. Augustus himself wills me to let go, to fall into his waiting arms. He's right there, always just out of sight and always watching me. His icy hand strokes my sweaty forehead as the remaining life inside me battles it out with my willingness to die.

My Dad kisses me gently on the cheek. His lips are rough and dry, and his tears drip onto my skin and his stubble tickles me, but I don't mind. My Mom clutches my hand in hers and runs her fingers through my hair. Why is it so hard to let go?

Gradually the feelings begin to fade, and their voices slowly quieten until I hear nothing at all.

And then my lungs start to burn.

They ache and burn and fiery tendrils rip my chest apart from the inside. My heart pounds against my ribs, getting in as many beats as it can before it has to give up. I struggle to catch a breath but it's not coming- nothing will work. And then I realise that it's finally here…

The End.

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