Their Days Are Numbered is a new year-long project authored by the collective Entropy community. It is a collaborative online novel written by the Entropy community on a weekly basis. A different author will write the next “chapter” each week, to be posted every Tuesday, following the previous post from the previous week, and following a very limited set of guidelines (that each author has one week to write the next piece after the previous week’s installment goes up, that installments should range between 150-1500 words, and that pieces should somehow incorporate a real-life occurrence, current event, news item, or other happening from that week).
Follow the entire “novel” here: Their Days Are Numbered.
The fifteenth installment is presented this week by Michael J Seidlinger.
I wake up expecting to see my nightmare unfolding before me. Instead, walls, white walls, and the smell of sweat, my own, the tense breathing, the worry ever-present that it still isn’t the day.
When will it finally be here?
Instead—the same: blurred vision, aching in the joints, feeling that something more than my body has been bruised. And then the routine—here, I’ll be getting ready for the inevitable walk to where I’ll be required to stand and take their punishment.
There isn’t a whole lot else to be said that won’t be later spoken from their mouths as they pillage me with propaganda.
Eight and a half hours later…
I walk the way I came; every step matches the one I had made to arrive on time. I can see my footprints with every repeated step, the ash dispersing as I match my own steps, which causes me to wonder why no one else has walked where I’ve walked.
I see night’s arrival and I assume that my days are not as numbered as everyone thinks they are. I begin counting the minutes approximately two hours before that moment when I know they’ll get me. They’ll force me to sleep.
I count at the same time as I watch the sun beginning to set. There is nothing else on my mind but the days, how many days… how many days are left? How many days will I have? How many days are guaranteed to me with a clean bill of health before the nightmare finally gets me? The nightmare, I call it “the nightmare” because it’s the only one I’ve ever had. It’ll eventually be what becomes of me.
I witness my demise every night.
The path I walk, why is it only mine? Shouldn’t there be at least someone else walking with me? Shouldn’t there at least be someone else blurring those footprints in the ash?
Not long now.
The sun hides behind a far cliff. I imagine that it’s a week away. It’s a week ahead of me, and when I get there, I tell myself that the nightmare will be gone. It’ll be in the past, and somehow, one week will have made a difference.
As the sun begins to set, I become restless, pacing the length of the house, the body’s attempt to curb the anxiety that comes with the night, any night. I know what’s going to happen. No matter what, it will end precisely the same way.
It’s like my days are numbered, and yet, every single one is an extension of what I have yet to live. I am living my days in advance and I can only hope that I can make good with each day so that my debt won’t consume.
I am right here…
The sun finally sets and I turn on every light in the house.
I sit in the brightest room and I pretend that I won’t ever have to return. I won’t ever have to sleep. I build intricate towers of language and I let them topple over, collapsing in beautiful cascades.
I watch them with vacant enthusiasm. Blink and it’s gone yet I can’t help myself. I look for more. I prolong what’ll happen: the night, the pulling way from one for the next, the yawn, the shedding of clothes, the intense stare in the mirror, the would-be cleansation, the yawn, always the yawn.
And then the closest I am to being at odds with the nightmare, in bed, covers pulled over my face, and the darkness breathing. I listen and wait. I listen, and I distantly hope that it won’t arrive. I don’t want to give into the yawns but…
There is only so much to a day.
And the night, it’ll reveal as much as you’re unwilling to expose. It will show you and in that way, you’ll see that, for every yawn, for every step, you are moving on your own. You are still moving towards the inevitable conclusion.
You are the days you have lived.
You are the days you will live tomorrow.
Though they are limited, they will breathe.
They will beckon—
At least for you, some meaning between the same.
Be it the nightmare that continues, ceaselessly…
Or the path that seems to only involve a dozen steps forward and a dozen steps back.
You have the day.
How many days?
I ask myself as I begin to fade.
How many days?
How many days until the nightmare is finally over?