For An Author
were all there, at the end, even if it did make the room very
crowded. On the bed the dying old woman wheezed slightly, her
closed eyes flickering open just for the briefest second. Several
of the assembled figures looked nervous at that sign, but she only
closed her eyes again and wheezed some more.
happens?" someone asked in a hushed voice, as though
embarrassed to be breaking the sepulchral silence. "I mean,
go to heaven, or so they say," a faintly cultured accent from
some western European country could be heard speaking above the
thick silence in the room.
I mean, to us…"
was all the cultured voice said. It didn’t have an answer for
her, and neither did the others gathered in the room.
the bed the woman wheezed in an exceptionally loud breath, then
coughed it out again. "Daniel… are you there?"
man stepped forward, and the crowd parted to let him past. He
knelt down by the dying woman’s bedside and patted her old,
frail hand gently. "I’m here, love. We’re all here."
smiled slightly, still not opening her eyes. "I know. I can
feel you there." She chuckled, and it had a raspy and
rattling quality to it. "I can feel you all there. But
you’re not as loud as you usually are. Cat got your
tongue?" And she laughed quietly again. Some of the group
smiled, and some chuckled to themselves. Others frowned slightly,
thinking the joke in poor taste, and perhaps it was. Daniel
here too, you know."
woman chuckled again. "She would be."
old woman did not speak again. It was another hour at least,
perhaps two, before she died, but she never again regained
consciousness. The man she had called Daniel held her hand until
she died, and then he folded them gently upon her breast and stood
that’s that, then," a voice in the crowd said, anonymous.
now what happens?" the first voice wanted to know.
suppose we’ll find out," Daniel said quietly. They all
stared at the dead woman, as though she had the answers, but of
course she no longer did. Then again, she had never really had any
of the answers in the first place. They had always had the answers
to all her questions. She was just the one who wrote them down.
nurses came. They recorded the time of death and prepared the body
the gathered crowd returned to her house, unsure of what to do
next. Somewhere along the way a few of them got lost, and this
made the rest shift uneasily about the house, as though fearing
that they, too, would be next. Many of them stayed. Daniel took
charge of the younger ones, herding them like cats and making sure
that they did not make too many alarming noises and startle the
remaining group. He was, after all, the oldest among them.
a few days the family arrived to take charge of “the effects.”
Daniel rather thought that this was a silly term; weren’t they,
after all, the effects? Them, and the house, and all the other
things; they were all the effects of what she had done over sixty
some-odd years. So, he supposed, perhaps the term was correct
family began to pack up her computer, her piles and piles of
notebooks and notes. One of them, a young girl, sat down and began
to page through the books.
"Don’t touch those, Meg. That’s
hard-copy, and it’s not very durable." That would be her
mother, Daniel thought. She spoke with the absent-minded tone of
someone who is used to being obeyed because what she says is
correct, of course. Meg ignored her with the usual air of an
adolescent who is sure that she knows best.
Meg squealed with delight, which made several of the others look
up sharply. Some of them were already beginning to look faded
around the edges. "Look!" The girl showed her parents
the book excitedly. "It’s all the notes for
father blinked a bit. "Aren’t you a little young to read
Maelstrom?" he asked.
horseshit." Daniel looked sharply at the speaker, although
Meg hadn’t seemed to hear. "Well, it is. She was writing
things more graphic than Maelstrom when she was at least as old as
Meg." Daniel hushed the man and turned his attention back to
Meg said, holding up several computer disks. "I found these,
I wonder what’s on them." The mother put the first disk on
the stack into the computer, started it up again, and waited. It
ran through its routines, and then she pulled up the list of files
on the disk. Then her eyes widened.
is it, Momma?" Meg leaned over her mother’s shoulder. Her
father leaned over the other shoulder. "Let me see."
my…" was all her mother could say.