The Death Coach
by Mimi Nguyen
It is midnight. The streets of Cohoes grow silent as the citizens turn off their lights one by one and go to their well-earned rest. The night is dark, and the wind whispers softly, touching the trees and houses, rattling a window pane here and there.
In one house, a woman sits beside her window, waiting silently for the doctor to arrive. Her beloved husband lies on the bed next to her. In the light of a single candle, she can see his emaciated face. He is in terrible pain, which even the drugs prescribed by the doctor cannot abate. She clutches his hand tightly, feeling the cold creeping through it. He is barely breathing now. She knows he is slipping away. One part of her is thankful, for she cannot bear to see him in so much pain. Most of her wants to scream out in desperation, begging him not to leave her alone.
Outside the house, the soft rumble of wheels and the clip-clop of hooves echo through the still night. The woman tears her eyes from her husband's face and looks out of the window, expecting to see the doctor's curricle pulling into the street. Instead, she sees a dark, closed coach with black gaping holes where the windows should be. The shafts at the front of the coach are empty, yet she can hear the sound of invisible horses' hooves, as the coach moves slowly down the street.
She draws in a deep breath and exhales slowly. It is the Death Coach. Her husband had told her it would come for him that night, but she hadn't believed him. Hadn't wanted to believe him. Yet there it is, rolling slowly up to the front of the house to stop by the front gate. The sight terrifies her, and she clutches her husband's hand tightly. He opens his eyes and smiles feebly at her, trying to squeeze her hand.
"Is it here?" he asks, his voice barely a whisper. She nods.
"I love you," he says to his wife. She leans down and kisses him, feels his last breath on her lips. The grip on her hand loosens, and she knows he is dead. She straightens up, looking tenderly at his dead face through her tears.
A movement by the door causes her to look up. She sees her husband's spirit standing at the door. He gazes first at his dead body, and then smiles at her. Then he turns and walks down the stairs. She moves at once to the window, flinging it open and leaning out, hoping to see him again. The front door opens, and her husband steps out the front porch and walks slowly to the Death Coach. The door opens, and he pauses for a moment to look towards the window, knowing she is watching. He waves and she waves back, tears streaming down her face. Then her husband steps into the coach and the door closes behind him. Slowly, the Death Coach rumbles down the street, turns a corner, and is gone.
"Goodbye, my love," she calls softly, as the Death Coach disappears. Her husband's pain is over, but hers has just begun. With a heavy heart, she closes the window, and goes down the stairs to telephone the doctor and tell him her husband is dead.