I heard the sobs, but I mistook them for the sighs of trees. You know how it is.
Around the corner, I saw them both. A young woman kneeling next to a young man, holding his hand in the tight ball of her fist. They beckoned me over, this weird marriage proposal. His head lolled on his neck, loose. Her mascara ran like drunk Roman Numerals. She was crying.
I looked at the boy. He breathed in without ever breathing out, and every dose of oxygen seemed to weaken him further. His white shirt blossomed with scarlett just below the shoulder, and a trickle ran from one corner of his mouth. I knelt down beside him, grabbing his free hand, but he wrenched it away to stroke the jawline of this young woman I didn’t know.
When he spoke it was to humanity, so we listened carefully. I watched his eyes staring up at the town clock above, before rolling back into his head. He told us he was scared, he’s scared, scared. I’m scared. So we both clamped on his hands and he fought, like the Reaper had pressed cold bone against warm flesh.
The boy asked the time. His friend looked confused, so I spoke instead. Quarter past midnight. I saw the pupils lock on the minute hand of the clock.
When the clock stops, I’m gone, he said in terror. I assured him the clock always ticks. Then his eyes closed. The clock is stopping, he cried.