[Update 02APR15]There are 41 installments total, with the longest chapter being 1,650 words and the shortest at 495 words. You’re basically reading a very rough draft. The draft submitted to my editor has additional chapters and many of them have been reorderd. On the site, you’ll read about 42,000 words. I submitted a 53,000-word draft to my editor and I expect the word count to fluctuate up as plot holes and other strange first draft issues are resolved. If you get lost or need to come back for some reason, the 16Sunsets tag will get you back on track – think of it as the 16Sunsets table of contents, but with a few extras. Be sure to comment on any individual installment, as the 16Sunsets novel is still being edited.[/Update]
* * *
“Have a seat.”
“No thanks, doc. Hit me with what ya got.”
The oncologist adjusted the name plaque on his desk. Glare from the open window obscured the writing while he fidgeted with it.
“Doctor Flax, I already know I have cancer and not much time to live. How long? A year? Two? Three?”
Doctor Flax cleared his throat, stood and walked around the desk. “Two…” he said quietly.
“Two years? Medicine can move rapidly in two years.”
“Kristof.” The doctor clasped Kristof’s shoulders. “Not two years. I’m sorry, but you only have two weeks to live. Sixteen days at the most.”
Kristof sunk into the chair he had rejected only moments before. “Sixteen…” he started to say before clamping his hand over his mouth.
“I can go over the x-rays if you…”
A waive of Kristof’s hand silenced the doctor. The two men shared a poignant silence for a few minutes. Kristof stood and clasped the doctor by the arm. “Sixteen days. I’d better get going.”
“Kristof, do you need me to call your wife?”
“No, man.” Kristof smiled, “I’ll talk to Krystal myself.”
Kristof walked to the office door and grasped the doorknob. He turned to the doctor. “Thanks for your concern. I’m gonna be all right.”
Kristof stepped through the door and made his way to the parking garage. A slight drizzle had started while he was at the oncologist’s office. He found his sedan parked close to the exit ramp. A sharp beep startled him as he realized he had pressed the disarm button on his car key. His hand on the door handle, he stared at his reflection in the tinted glass of his car door. The rain had intensified and he was aware of raindrops bending and distorting his reflection.
Kristof shoved his keys in his pocket and walked through the garage’s pedestrian entrance. He stared up at the sky and as if on cue, the heavens opened up loosing a deluge to match his mood.
* * *
Kristof’s footfalls splashed and echoed as he walked the streets. Awnings formed walls of rain, but he was oblivious as he walked. He didn’t have a destination in mind, he just walked. Four hours had passed since he abandoned his car. He didn’t recognize the neighborhood he had found himself in, but he did recognize the red-orange disk cleaved by the horizon.
Fifteen more sunsets. He thought. Tears formed, but they were indistinguishable from the torrent of precipitation. He stared at the sinking disk. Aloud, he said, “I’ll see you tomorrow, my friend.”
“If you live that long.”
Kristof spun at the sound of the voice. He sized up the knife wielding thug with his empty hand extended. Kristof chuckled, “You’re robbing me?”
“I sure as fuck ain’t inviting you to the prom. Gimmie your wallet.”
Kristof rolled his eyes, but complied with the thug, reaching for his wallet.
“You eyeballin’ me bitch?” shouted the thug.
“No, man.” He held out the wallet. “Here’s my wallet. Take what you want.”
The thug snatched the wallet from Kristof’s hand, opened it and stuffed the wad of bills in his pocket before pulling out credit cards, receipts and other paper Kristof had accumulated over the years. When the thug pulled out a photograph of Krystal, he smiled. “Who’s the pretty lady?”
“You got your money, how about you let me have that.” Kristof reached out to grab the photo of his wife.
The thug stepped back. “Hold on now, son.” He pulled out Kristof’s driver’s license. “Maybe I should pay your lady a visit.”
Kristof dropped his hand and the thug cackled with glee.
“I bet she’d like a visit from a real man.” He stared at Kristof. “Or at least one with a car.”
The thug laughed at his own joke. “Maybe me an my homies show her a good time.”
The thug pocketed the photo and Kristof’s driver’s license and tossed the empty wallet in the gutter. Kristof watched it float and heard the thug laugh again. The thug turned his back to watch the wallet float away, his merriment louder than the rain.
Kristof launched himself at the thug’s back. He tackled him and they both fell into a heap on the wet sidewalk. Kristof was the first to recover and stood over the sprawled thug. Kicking the thug and flipping him onto his back, he placed his foot on the thug’s neck.
“I’ll take my photo and license now.”
The thug stared up at Kristof, but didn’t look him in the eye. “What’re you staring at?” demanded Kristof.
The thug was silent and Kristof followed his eye line to his abdomen. He was aware of pain emanating from the same location. He reached up and felt the blade protruding from his belly. His hand was covered in blood and his jeans had changed from blue to a deep red. Collapsing into the gutter, Kristof watched, hopelessly, as his life blood mixed with the rainwater and flowed down the street.
So much for those sunsets, thought Kristof as he bled to death in the gutter.
* * *
“Two units O-negative. Push another milligram of atropine.”
Kristof tried to speak but something kept him from vocalizing.
“Resuming chest compressions.”
His consciousness faded and Kristof died again.
* * *
“Ten blade please.”
Kristof heard the steady thrum of machinery. A beep preceded each breath he was forced to take.
“Damn it. Tie off that bleeder.”
Kristof died on the operating table unaware of the surgical staff scrambling to revive him.
* * *
The high-pitched whine echoed in Kristof’s ears.
“Doctor! The patient is flatlining.”
“Settle down. Just watch.”
The whine grew in pitch and intensity until it was the only existence Kristof knew.
* * *
“I’m going to remove your breathing tube. On the count of three, I need you to breathe out hard.”
Kristof blinked his eyes and followed the doctor’s orders.
“Don’t try to talk. You’re in a medical facility.”
“You’re a puzzle to us.”
Kristof tried to rub his parched throat, but realized he was bound.
“You’ve been pronounced dead fifteen times since you were found.”
Kristof whispered something unintelligible.
The doctor leaned in and positioned his ear close to Kristof’s lips.
The doctor straightened up. “I don’t understand.”
Kristof sat up and freed his arms, tearing the rails off his bed. He undid the straps and stood beside the now mangled bed.
He grabbed the doctor by the lab coat. “I have fifteen days left to live. I’ll not spend it here.”
He pushed the doctor to the floor and leapt straight up through the ceiling and six other floors.
He stood atop the building surveying the darkness. In the distance he saw the first rays of the sun rising like the Phoenix from the jagged horizon.
Kristof ignored the commotion below and watched the sun rise. “Greetings my friend.” He regarded the glowing disk, “we’ve got fifteen more days together.”
[1170 words]I wasn’t sure how to do the challenge this week. I read comics when I was younger and even found myself in one or two of them. I hadn’t thought of ever writing a superhero story, but once I started, I knew I would have to finish this. Consider this the origin story and keep an eye out for me to finish it at a later date.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to do this in less than 1000 words, so I didn’t even try.