“I knew my body would fall apart in time,” he said, “but I didn’t know it, you know what I mean? All those core strength exercises I ignored till my back started hurting and my belly wouldn’t stay in place. I started them too late. You shouldn’t put those things off.”
“So you say,” I replied. “But it’s not like it matters with you.”
“Of course it matters!”
“Only because you’re still so vain.”
“Not so. You think it’s been easy being me?”
“Well, as a matter of fact… yes. I do think it’s much easier being you than it is being me. And I think your vanity has no bounds.”
“For someone who thinks she’s had such a tough time of it, seems to me you’re being rather snarky.”
“And so? It’s not like you can do anything about it in your condition.”
“I think you’re lacking in sympathy.”
“What if I am?” I made as if to spit but with no follow-through, of course. Manners count.
“That’s so petty of you.”
“So I have no sympathy and I’m petty. At least I’m not falling apart.”
“There is that,” he sighed.
“Besides, you’ve been around a long time. A long time. So it’s not like this is some sudden tragedy.”
“Easy for you to say. You’d feel differently if you were me.”
“But that’s just the point,” I said. “I’m not you. You’ve had it all and I haven’t. So your whining is… just whining.”
He didn’t have much to say about that, though I could tell from his expression I’d pissed him off. He was used to great masses of people hanging on his every word.
Now it was just one people, me. Waiting as he fell apart. A little bit of me that I wasn’t proud of wanted to help him along. Not help him get better, mind you. Help him get on with the falling apart business. I’ve got as much patience as the next person, but the clock was ticking.
“Someday you’ll understand,” he said in a voice thick with phlegm.
“I suppose I will. But that’ll be a long time from now.”
“You’ll be just as surprised as I am now.”
“Maybe. Probably.” I looked at my wrist. How much longer?
A squishy sound caught my attention. Another part of him sloughing off, though nothing essential, not yet.
“You’re female, you know,” he said.
“That makes it harder.”
I shrugged, though he probably couldn’t see subtle movements anymore. “I’ll manage.”
“I’m sure you will.”
We waited in silence. More of his flesh oozed off of him. It was a rather unpleasant sight. The smell didn’t help. I’d been at his side for long enough that it shouldn’t bother me anymore. But it did.
“You remember what to do.” It wasn’t a question, not anymore.
“How many times have you told me?” I asked.
“Hah. How about once a day for oh, maybe a thousand years?”
“You haven’t known me a thousand days much less a thousand years,” he pointed out.
“A figure of speech, meaning enough times that there’s no way I could possibly forget.”
A slight splash when the tip of his nose fell into the puddle his tissues had melted into. I stepped back, not wanting the noxious liquid to touch my naked toes, even though that wouldn’t matter in a while.
“It will be very soon,” he said, as if he had read my mind. For all I knew he could do just that. Three years was not long enough to have gathered even a crumb of what he knew. Fortunately I would not have to wait till I was as old as he was now for all to be revealed to me.
Any moment now. At least I hoped so. I was getting a chill.
“Get ready, child,” he said.
“I’m no child.” He snorted in amusement, as I meant him to, but there was nothing behind it.
“Remember to–” he began, but the words became a wheeze as his whole body collapsed on itself and bodily fluids splashed over my legs. I gritted my teeth and stepped into the steaming muck, kicking at the big bones that were taking too long to dissolve, hunting for…
There. I forced my fingers into the disgusting mess, snatching the walnut sized lump before it could escape. The bloody blob burned my fingers as I held it, waiting as the pulse weakened and slowed.
I waited… waited… the timing was precise. A moment too soon and disaster for me. A moment too late and true death for the both of us.
And then I felt it quiver: the thrill of a soul on the cusp of fleeing the physical. I popped the lump into my mouth, my tongue shrinking away from the nastiness. I gagged it down and cried out as it burned its way to my stomach, where it promptly seared through the muscle and aimed itself at my heart.
I steeled myself for the possibility of death even as I prepared for the agony of metamorphosis.
Thy will be done, Master. My will be done.