Above, Blinking Hell!, read by the author. You can follow the reading below.
“Next!” the doctor called out.
An old woman entered, closed the door and shuffled forward, unsteady on her feet. Her old-fashioned dress hung loosely over her emaciated body, swaying at each step. She halted hesitant in front of his desk.
“Take a seat,” he said. He’d never seen her before. If he had, he would have remembered those sunken, haunted eyes.
“What can I do for you?”
She laid her hands slowly in her lap, linking her gnarled, bony fingers in a cradle. “I can’t go on,” she said, her voice cracking as tears formed in her eyes.
“How old are you?”
He must have misheard. “Sorry?”
“Eighteen,” she repeated.
“You like to joke, I see,” he said, smiling.
“It’s no joke, doctor. I was eighteen three days ago!”
He’d seen a few cases of premature ageing, the proximity of a massive chemical plant had some unfortunate consequences, but nothing like this. He leant forward as if compelled to get closer. “When did it begin?”
“On my last birthday.”
Had she been exposed to the plant? Or maybe it was in her family. “What happened?”
“Nothing much at first. I just felt tired. My muscles ached.” She ran a hand over her eyes in a weary gesture. “Then I saw the wrinkles and I was a so tired even the simplest activity exhausted me. I thought I’d caught a virus.”
She was tense as if every muscle strained to hold on. He had the impression she was struggling with an invisible enemy.
“It’s time,” she whispered. “It’s not running right.”
Her words alarmed him. The idea was terrifying. Of course, he couldn’t rule out craziness. Her story might be an invention, a pathological nostalgia for lost youth.
“You don’t believe me,” she said, shaking her head. “Nobody believes me.”
He was reminded of a joke about two psychiatrists trying to convince each other the other was crazy. “Tell me,” he said, hoping he sounded reassuring as he leant across his desk and laid a hand on her bare arm. Her skin was icy cold.
She didn’t reply immediately. “Every time I blink,” she said, “time flashes by. Minutes, hours, days.” She stared at her hands. “It’s not the ageing that’s the worst,” she said after a short pause. “It’s missing so much. My life is full of gaping holes. It takes an enormous effort to have even a short conversation.”
All of a sudden he understood why she appeared so tense. She was battling to stay with him the length of their conversation.
“Where do you go during the holes?” he asked, acutely aware how misplaced his curiosity was in such circumstances.
“Nowhere. It’s as if I didn’t exist.”
What a nightmare! He hadn’t the slightest idea how to help. He looked up, another question on his lips, only to find the chair empty. She’d gone, blinked out of existence.