Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat.
Every hour wounds. The last one kills. —Popular Latin inscription on sundials.
She woke up with a pounding headache, and slowly, the memories from her dreams the night before start trickling in.
A woman on her deathbed. Her eyes are bleak, and her skin clings to her bones. An eerie, gargle-like sound escapes her lips—the “death rattle,” they call it.
Once a week, she watches the woman die again and again. This isn’t how she wanted to remember her aunt, nevertheless, she relives the pain every few days like clockwork.
Her subconscious is creative, yet takes comfort in patterns. The family members present vary slightly, but the woman always dies the same way. Her breathing slows down to a standstill, and her heart stops. A quiet, unassuming moment ignorant of its own profound significance.
Most of the time, her aunt wakes up, only to die again.
She might say a few words before sinking back into that fatal slumber. Other times though, she enters a cruel limbo between life and death. A silence punctuated by unearthly screams, a high-pitched distressed cry mixed in with that awful, gargling choking sound. The screaming doesn’t stop until the dreamer wakes up. Her aunt never survives the dream.
The hospice nurses had talked plenty about appropriate care and the telltale signs of imminent death. No one ever warned about the possible nightmares afterward or how to make them go away.
They say our loved ones who die never really leave us, but this seems like a perverted twist on that old platitude.