3rd A Date with Death

Friday evening, I arrived home frazzled, threw myself on the couch, and pondered the clairvoyant’s message. Not that there was room for ambiguity.

Between you and me, I think it’s all a bunch of hooey, but her eyes! Wide with an authentic terror, I’m certain she lacked the talent to fake. She said the signs were irrefutable. ‘Your time will stop at half-past nine on Tuesday morning. Put your affairs in order.’ Then she threw back her fee. Never known a charlatan toss away cash.

She’d draped the crystal ball with a blood red velvet cloth and shoved me out of the door as though I was contagious. Can’t recall how I got home, but I assume I trudged through the teeming rain because I was drenched to the skin, with that bone-deep chill which settles deep into your soul.

Cruise, my undersized tomcat blessed with an oversized ego, greeted me in his usual urgent fashion, demanding food, then ignored my existence until he wanted more. Whenever I’m ‘under the weather’, as my granny always said, he scrutinises me, and yowls his concern. Not for my well-being, but at the remote possibility his routine might be disrupted. Heaven forbid dinner might be late!

We’ve stared at each other a lot this weekend. He senses something is amiss. I should leave a note asking my sister to adopt him, but she’s more likely to bundle him into a sack and chuck him in the canal. They share a mutual hatred, and I can’t imagine them bonding in grief over my demise.

9:30 Tuesday couldn’t be more anodyne.

Monday, the start of the working week, brings dread, a wilting of the weekend spirit. Wednesday is hump day, halfway to happiness. Thursday involves preparation for Funtimes Friday, knock-off-early-and-forget-your-responsibilities-day. Saturday and Sunday provide opportunities for much needed indulgences after a week of slogging at a desk or whatever gruesome torture to which one submits in exchange for a meagre wage.

But Tuesday? Cheap Tuesday? An utterly boring, nothing-ever-happens-day. The day I’m allegedly destined to die.

Too many embarrassing methods to cark it in public. And if my time is up, I don’t want to be responsible for taking anyone else with me, so I can’t risk travelling to work. Imagine waking up dead and discovering you were responsible for a train derailment!

I called in sick on Monday. Well, sent a text, then switched off my phone. Couldn’t face talking to anyone. They’ll find out soon enough.

Went into domestic demon mode. My flat hasn’t been this clean since I first moved in. Nothing out of place, surfaces polished, windows gleaming, even though I’m keeping the curtains drawn. I’ve scrubbed the bathroom to showroom level, and the oven is gleaming like new.

She said 9:30, so I’d normally be behind my desk, deleting all the non-urgent emails and counting down to morning tea, but I’m not risking it. Besides, dying at your desk is such a sad cliche.

How does one dress for a date with Death? I dithered about staying in my pjs, but decided to glam up instead. I’d like to be remembered as put together, not as a shambolic mess. Charcoal trousers, a thunder grey top, and full make up. I even blow dried my hair, because, hey, who wants to pass to other side and spend eternity looking like a scarecrow?

Cruise is brushed, fed, and curled beside me, purring his satisfaction. Will he miss me? Or immediately transfer his fickle feline affections to whoever opens a can of tuna?

Grandmother’s ticking clock is the only other sound in my pristine apartment. I hope she’ll be pleased to see me, or at least, not too disappointed at my lack of outrageous success. She had high hopes for me. I thumb away a solitary tear. Crying over missed opportunities is a bit pointless now, and I don’t want to smudge my mascara.

9:29. I realise I’m holding my breathe, and force myself to exhale.

Cruise sits up, instantly alert. He leaps onto the bookshelf, Mission Impossible style, to chase a gecko.

Grandmother’s clock crashes to the floor; smashed glass, delicate springs, and tiny cogs skitter across the immaculate tiles.

Cruise swaggers back to the warm spot beside me, a gecko tail held proudly in his murderous maw. He drops the writhing appendage on my lap, indifferent to the destruction of the antique clock.

The hands point to 9:30.

The clairvoyant was right. Time stopped.

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