Swallows are in the sky again. I can’t see them, but the swoop in the air is unmistakable. My eyes struggle with the light, sending my brain lazy signals of muscular strain. My brittle fingers stroke the cave walls that I know by each grain. My skin is like fragile paper, and I’m careful to bear no weight on any part of me for too long. I can’t stay still, or move too fast. I have a responsibility to live. My vocal chords dried so long ago I no longer miss talking. Who would I talk to anyway?
I could draw you a schematic of every coastline and mountain, every building that existed in the last 6, no, 7 millennia. I know where each piece of furniture sat in your house and it’s highly probable I touched the trees that made them. What else was there to do? The world became smaller and smaller with every passing decade. I can only revisit places now, there’s nothing new.
How many of you wished for one more day? In the end, at the end, would have settled for a just a minute longer. To feel the soft contact of a hand in yours. To use your vehicle of flesh to dance, make love. To sing. To eat. To say all the words you’d meant to. Just one more minute was all you needed. I have so many of them. You thrust them upon me willingly and non transferably, so sure you were that I’d give them away in kindness.
The gifting created a phenomena. By the time everyone had connected the dots and saw I was the common denominator, I was already in hiding. It was emotionally impossible to cope. You all wanted to help me live, the outpouring of love filled me up a million times over. It was agony to keep breathing when you collectively changed the meaning of my name.
It started with a dwindling class of altruistic art students. Their passing wasn’t with screams or struggles in pain. They just stopped living mid conversation. The students still standing thought it was a stunt, and watched in anticipation for the next move. Those that had donated 10 minutes were spared witnessing their friends die. The few that didn’t donate watched their classmates inexplicably take a rest while the room rattled itself into destruction as the earthquake hit. There was no escape. Of course, those that had donated more didn’t even make it to class, still tucked up, asleep for eternity.
I had an insatiable need to fix. I could (with time) solve almost any problem. Electronics were easy and made logical sense, but programming offered me an artistic outlet. It made my soul sing through its trivial usefulness. It was never going to change the world, it was as futile as fashion. Out of date quicker than it could be appreciated.
I was never very good at maintaining friendships but I ached for companionship. If you needed anything I would’ve found a way to give it to you. If I couldn’t fix your problem it would eat into my skin like rot. So doubtful of my likability when I wasn’t useful, I’d soon believe that you merely tolerated me. We all suffer at some point, by grief or natural deterioration. I would wake in the night clambering drunk from sleep to scribble down dream theories that would fix pain. I once mapped out the conditional logic of pain that covered my entire living room floor. Reviewing it again after a deep satisfying sleep, so sure I’d discoverer something of real value, I realised I had been only semi lucid. It was as useful as a poem.
Or so I thought.
It took a few more decades, but my living room floor became the first building block on which I eventually mapped the body in its entirety, down to the nerves never seen before in any previous research. I never found a way to solve pain, but I did cure a number of conditions that no longer exist. Getting the paperwork to proceed with human trails would’ve wasted years and that’s an expense I felt none of you could afford.
Known the whole world over, my name was said aloud in sentences in every language. I didn’t want fame, that was never my intention. But I loved being loved. Withered and close to death from the chemicals and self performed surgeries, you crowdfunded to give me back all I had given. Time.
No one could’ve anticipated what that meant. I will remain hidden, moving undetectably and perpetually in the shadows. I’ll stay here alive without life until your last minutes are spent.