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Image by Jan Huber

‘Sheila and the Universe’

Sheila finished writing, looked at herself in the large mirror and studied her figure marked by age and illness. She decided that her wrinkles and the sagging of her arms gave her an air of sober dignity. She stroked gently the bouquet of blood-red roses by her side, causing pale petals to fly like clumsy birds, and smiled, despite the pain that transfigured her. She gazed out the window at the full moon, claiming her like a lantern to a moth.

She stripped off her earrings and her necklace, put a light linen coat over her cotton dress, gracefully slipped off her sandals and headed out into the garden.

The chill of the autumn night gave her a slight shudder. She stared at the unkempt lawn dotted with a myriad of clover flowers that glowed in the moonlight like tiny terrestrial stars. An owl launched its call from some dark corner; Sheila took it as a sign and began to walk slowly across the lawn, feeling a delicious tickle on her thin bare feet.

Soon, she reached the geometric centre of the garden, bordered by a living curtain of ancient maples and oaks that played a kaleidoscopic dance of colours and shadows with their leaves dressed in ochre and scarlet. She turned on her heels and gazed at her little world, grateful that she had enjoyed an intense and vibrant life for so many years.

Then, she stood still, standing firm as a slender cane, performing conscious breathing exercises: three seconds to inhale and six seconds to inhale. She felt her pulse slowing along with her breathing rate. Little by little, she connected with every corner of her body, in an intimate communion that ran through her inner organs, her nerves and her skin, in an epiphany of self-knowledge.

When she had managed to make her mind go blank, a fit of coughing struck her. An excruciating pain pierced her from the middle lobe of her right lung to the tenth dorsal vertebra, where the metastasis of her untreatable lung cancer was lodged. It took her five hundred agonizing heartbeats to recover.

With an extraordinary effort, she crouched down, squatted, and then lay on her back. She outstretched her limbs in the form of a cross, as if she wanted to encompass the entire garden with her modest humanity. She felt at once powerful and defenceless, strong and fragile, eternal and ephemeral.

She entertained herself by drumming her fingers against the soft ground, to the sound of a lullaby she remembered from her earliest childhood, almost as if she were returning to the reassuring embrace of her mother or even the original warm womb. Her memories were expanding like a network that permeated her entire environment, in a beatific communion. She felt in each of her cells the vital energy that overflowed her and defined her wholly as a human being.

A solitary cloud obscured the moon, and the stars renewed their brightness. She stared up at the sky, knowing that each of her own atoms —including the evil ones— came from distant stars that had exploded long before her time. Eternity invaded her and flooded her soul with peacefulness.

Today, Sheila’s very atoms reunited with the Universe, fused with her linen and cotton clothes, the unkempt grass and the small yellow wildflowers.

In the gloom of the empty and dusty house, the large mirror in the bedroom reflects the light of a new full moon.
Next to the mirror, amidst a heap of withered petals of blood-red roses, still rests a yellowing handwritten note, an inspired poem that represents a moving ode to life.

Marcelo Medone (1961, Buenos Aires, Argentina) is a Pushcart Prize nominee fiction writer, poet, essayist, journalist, playwright and screenwriter. He received numerous awards and was published in multiple languages in more than 50 countries around the world, including Germany. He currently lives in Montevideo, Uruguay. Facebook: Marcelo Medone / Instagram: @marcelomedone


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