Never Coming Home by Hannah Mary McKinnon
The steady noise from the antique French carriage clock on the mantelpiece had somehow amplified itself, a rhythmic ticktick, tick-tick, which usually went unnoticed. After I’d been sitting in the same position and holding my ailing mother-inlaw’s hand for almost an hour, the incessant clicking had long wormed its way deep into my brain where it grated on my nerves, stirring up fantasies of hammers, bent copper coils, and shattered glass. Nora looked considerably worse than when I’d visited her earlier this week. She was propped up in bed, surrounded by a multitude of pillows. She’d lost more weight, something her pre-illness slender physique couldn’t afford. Her bones jutted out like rocks on a cliff, turning a kiss on the cheek into an extreme sport in which you might lose an eye. The ghostly hue on her face resembled the kids who’d come dressed up as ghouls for Halloween a few days ago, emphasizing the dark circles that had transformed her eyes into mini sinkholes. It wasn’t clear how much time she had left. I was no medical professional, but we could all tell it wouldn’t be long. When she’d shared her doctor’s diagnosis with me barely three weeks ago, they’d estimated around two months, but at the rate of Nora’s decline, it wouldn’t have come as a surprise if it turned out to be a matter of days.