View Full Version : Everlasting

Matt Gannon
December 19th, 2010, 05:19 AM
Hey everyone,

I've been trying to find an active writer's forum, and I think I might have come to the right place :) This is a short story I wrote inspired by a poem written by Robert Burn's entitled "John Anderson, My Jo". It's about an elderly couple who are faced with death, and they come up with a plan to make their love everlasting. Sorry for the formatting.


"There are those who measure life by the amount of money they can make. They would have beautiful houses and expensive cars. Maybe theyd actually be happy, too. But there are men in this world, like me, who measure their lives by the love they give to another. If a man has given his heart to another woman, completely, unconditionally, his life is complete. But what of the passing of time? How does Time affect the heart? Does love prevail, or does it diminish and wither?

The pain started, and it was too much for Malcolm Warner to continue with his writing. He dropped the pen on his desk and rubbed his hand, looking for some relief from the fire burning under his skin. The pain eventually faded and when it did, he closed the leather journal and put it in a drawer in his desk. Malcolm looked out the small window in his study, and realized the sun was setting; it was time for his pills. He sighed, and bracing himself on his desk, stood up. His knees didnt feel strong that day. Regardless, he was able to shuffle along to the kitchen without falling.
Ready for your pills, sweetheart? His wife Alice asked. The kitchen smelled of fresh onion, and the blade of a knife rapidly slapped down onto a cutting board, chopping up a thin stalk.
As ready as Im going to be. He said, pulling out a stool at the counter. Alice handed him eight capsules, each one a different color than the next, along with a glass of water. Malcolm stared at them. He despised how they made him dependant. It meant he was no longer in control of his life.
Do you ever wish we were young again? Malcolm asked. Alice stopped chopping the onion stalk.
Sometimes, I suppose. Why do you ask?
Do you ever wish we had kids? He said, ignoring her question.
Sometimes, she sighed, setting down the knife, there are days when I wonder what life would be like if we had, but its best not to worry about the what ifs in life. Why do you ask, honey?
I hate taking these damn pills. I hate having arthritis, and I hate being stiff and sore. I used to love the sunset. He said. Now it just means its time to take my meds. Malcolm submitted against his will and swallowed them a couple at a time, chasing each swallow with water.
Youre just sulking. Being older isnt so bad. Wisdom comes with age, you know. Alice said. She set the knife down Malcolm pulled her into him. He rested his face on the familiar billows of her breasts.
Whats the point of being wise if you cant even run without falling and breaking a hip, or stay up past 10? He said into her chest. The words were slightly muffled. Our lives are getting shorter, and were losing everything...one sickness or pain at a time.
Dont be so melodramatic, Malcolm. We have each other, and we always will. Alice stepped back while tilting his face up to her. She kissed his withered lips before kissing the tip of his nose. Isnt that enough?
Its more than enough. Thank god I have you. I dont know what Id do if I didnt.
Alice smiled at him and went back to her work. Malcolm watched. A few moments later, the knife fell to the counter, a bang of metal on stone. She began to rub her hand.
Honey, can you get me that cream? She continued massaging the joints of her fingers while Malcolm got the cream for her. He applied the ointment to Alices hand.
Got you too, huh? It flared up for me earlier when I was writing. Gotten worse. Malcolm said.
Yeah... its really hurting me. Her voice seemed smaller than usual. It wrenched Malcolms heart. He wanted to do whatever it took to help his beautiful wife get better, even though he was suffering from the same thing.
Im sorry, sweetheart. I cant do much more than this. Malcolm raised her hand to his lips and kissed each knuckle. Did that help at all? He said, smiling despite the ache in his own hand. When he smiled, Alice thought that it seemed to melt away the years Time had aged his skin.
A little. She said. Thank you. Malcolm nodded and then looked away.
Whats wrong? she asked.
The wrinkles of his face pulled into a frown. What would you do if I died, Alice?
Why are you asking me this? She leaned towards him. A ray of golden light caught her eye; radiant blue, still bright. But there was fear there.
Ive been doin a lot of thinking, Alice. he said.
What is it?
I dont want to live without you. He said with a tone of doubt.
And I wouldnt want to live without you, but why are you talking like this?
Lets face it, Alice. Im eighty-six years old. I aint getting younger-- He said. just older and sicker. Alice wasnt getting his point; she was frowning now, too, confused.
Old people die, Alice. Malcolm could see her eyes start to shimmer in the light.
Stop talking about this, please. Youre scaring me. A tear trickled down her cheek, magnifying the deep wrinkles of her skin one at a time. Malcolm wiped it away. He took both her hands in his and brought them to his lips. They were warm now, smooth to the touch.
I dont want to live without you. Im scared. his voice broke, and he bowed his head so she couldnt look directly into his eyes.
I know... Alice said. Im scared, too, but we said till death do us part. Now, here we are-- wrinkled and white-haired. He looked up at his wife as if it was the last time he would ever get to see her-- fine white hair flowing behind her ears, pinned at the side, and her wrinkled face, beautiful and warm. Those brilliant blue eyes, a defiance of time, gave him solace in the fact that age couldnt take her beauty.
There was a special place in his heart for every one of her wrinkles. He had grown up loving her, grown old loving her more, and now he will die loving her more than he ever thought possible.


I imagine death coming to me in so many different ways. These thoughts are beginning to play over and over in my mind every day now. I dream of heart attacks where Alice is there, but she feels helpless. I try to tell her to call for an ambulance, but she cant understand. She just stands over me and cries. Or sometimes I will just go in my sleep with Alices arm draped over my chest. In my dream I am already dead, and I can see my body in bed with her. She wakes up and shakes me, but I dont move. She knows Im dead. She cries over my lifeless corpse, knowing that now she is alone, and I am gone forever.
Malcolm finished his writing before any pain stopped him. It was early morning and he took advantage of the time he had. He returned the journal to the exact same spot he had before, tucked away neatly in his drawer. Sitting back in his chair, he thought more about his dreams. If he died, shed have nobody. Shed have to live without him, the rest of her life full of sorrow and grief. Malcolm knew in his heart she loved him too much to move on. He then thought about what would happen if Alice died. The suffering he would go through would be too much to bear. He knew that if Alice left this world, he would follow. Malcolm would not live without her.
The day passed on seemingly like any other. Alice gave him his pills when the time was right, and she folded laundry when her hands let her. They sat together in the hours of the quiet summer evening. Alices attention was focused on a game show on the television, but Malcolm was tormented by horrible thoughts. It was hard to pay attention in his old age; his vision was slowly fading and hearing out of one of his ears was getting difficult. Thoughts of their deaths were rooted deep in his mind. Malcolm wanted to protect Alice, but he didnt know how. How could he save her, and himself?


Malcolm was in bed with Alice, her head tucked into his shoulder. The rhythmic sensation of her warm breathing on his neck lulled him into a state of flickering conscious, lost to reality. Even though he was an eighty-six year old man, in his mind he was young again, following a beautiful vivacious brown haired girl through a forest. Every so often she looked back at him and smiled. She was always smiling. That was part of what attracted him to her. They made it to their destination. The young girl took off her clothing and told him to follow her in. She burst into a run and launched herself off the cliff, screaming in delight. She plummeted, and Malcolm heard a splash. He ran towards the sound, and then he was flying.


Dawn broke through the darkness and washed over Malcolms face, gently prodding him out of his dreams. He could feel the comforting weight of Alices body next to his, and he blinked his eyes to focus his vision. When he got up, he cradled Alices head so she wouldnt awaken. She didnt move. Why wasnt she moving? Pure fear had him in its grasp, and his heart threatened to burst within his chest. He tried to say her name, but the words were trapped somewhere in the depths of his throat. His leg bumped the mattress, sending a tremor through the springs. Alice opened her eyes. Relief overwhelmed Malcolm, nearly bringing him to his knees. She yawned, and then smiled at him.
Morning, sweetheart. How was your sleep? She said before noticing the terrified expression on his face. Are you ok? Alice sat up in bed. Malcolm plopped down beside her and hugged her tight to his body.
Just a bad dream, thats all. He lied, pressing his face into her neck. She smelled of faded perfume and powder. Alice, I need you to know something. Youve made my life better than I could have ever hoped for, and I love you. The sudden affection surprised Alice, but it made her happy that this was how she was starting off the day.
I love you too, Malcolm. We promised each other, forever.
The couple held each other as the sun slowly raised further into the sky. Then, Malcolm thought of something that sent ice through his veins; a way out, a chance to escape their fate.


Malcolm became a victim of his own mind in the days that followed. Hed get a moments reprieve, but his thoughts would stray, making him vulnerable. The thoughts would rush back into his mind, targeting the cracks in his defences. He didnt dare share what he was thinking or feeling with Alice--not yet, anyways. But Alice knew something was troubling him deeply. Malcolm walked slower, and he ate little. He tossed and turned in his sleep, and he seemed distant. Alice could take it no longer.

Malcolm needed a glass of water, but he only made it as far as the doorframe leading into the kitchen. Alice had cornered him.
Malcolm, we need to talk. Alice said. She was at the kitchen table. A chair was already pulled out for him to sit. He looked at it. The air seemed thick with tension as Alices eyes bore into him. Malcolm felt as if he was being probed for information. He was.
About what, sweetheart? Malcolm stayed where he was.
Just please sit down, honey. Alice pleaded. Begrudgingly, he went to her and sat down. She took his hand. He felt so guilty he could barely bring himself to touch her.
The past few days... she carefully worded what she wanted to say in her mind before speaking again, ...you have been different, and I want to know whats going on. Its scaring me. Youre not eating, and youre barely sleeping, but worst of all, you dont talk to me anymore. Malcolm fixed his gaze on the floor. He couldnt lie if he was looking into her eyes.
I just havent been feeling very well lately, honey. My arthritis is getting worse, and I cant stomach any food. Its not you. I promise.
You know you can tell me anything. She kissed the top of his hand. And I mean anything at all. Malcolm tried to fight away the guilt. He took a steadying breath before speaking.
I cant tell you... he said. Alices heart sunk. Im sorry. I just cant. I dont know what you would think of me after I did.
I would love you still, and whatever it is, we would get through it together. Please Malcolm. Tell me. Her features were twisted into an expression of fear and sadness.
I dont want to have to live without you, and I dont want you to have to live without me. I know that if you ever left me, I wouldnt be far behind.
Alice was silent. The clock on the wall ticked away Malcolms resolve.
Even though my will to live is strong, I can still feel it coming. I dont want you to have to suffer after.
Alice was silent still, her face wet with tears. Malcolm knew it was time to tell her the truth.
If ever there was a time where we were in danger of losing each other, I know a way out.
He told her everything.

She needed to know what I was thinking, regardless of what I wanted. The odd thing is that she never told me she wouldnt do it. I held her as she cried. She knew I was right.


He said 'if ever there was a time we were in danger of losing each other'. Is it possible he found the medical records? I hid them well, in a place he never goes. Maybe he was trying to tell me he knew there was something wrong? If the time came, I would do it."

Alice buried her journal amongst the socks and other garments. This is one place Malcolm wouldnt look. He respects her too much to invade her privacy. But what if he did? He would find out, and he would know what Alice had been keeping from him. If he already knows, maybe that would explain it. Alice would not allow herself to be tormented by what if. She would tell him.

Malcolm was sitting in his lazy-boy chair in the living room watching T.V. It was up loud because he couldnt hear as well as he used to, so he didnt hear her footfalls as she entered the room. Alice could feel her heartbeat start to quicken at the anticipation. She could feel that little surge of adrenaline making her muscles tense. She sat down on the couch next to him, unsure of what she was going to say. There seemed to be an air of awkwardness between them, but perhaps it was all in Alices head.
Hey, sweetheart. Is everything ok? You look a little tense. Malcolm said.
No I have to tell you something. What you said.... I cant imagine what you were going through.
Malcolm shut off the T.V and braced himself as he shuffled his body into a sitting position, favouring his left side. He looked at her, waiting for the worst.
What is it?
Alice didnt speak-- she was giving him a chance. She expected him to be angry with her, or break down or something. He didnt. He just sat there and looked at her. He didnt know. Or if he did, he was hiding it.
Alice, what is it? he repeated.
I was thinking about what you said. She felt dizzy, and there was a pain throbbing behind her eye, making it hard to focus. I have to tell you something.
Silence. Alice took this as a sign to continue.
I remember when we first met. Your parents brought you to my house when you first moved into town. Do you remember that? Alice said.
I was ten. Malcolm said nodding. You had the brownest hair Id ever seen, and you smiled the whole time. I remember I was shy to be around such a pretty girl.
I could tell. It was adorable. I kissed you that day, in the tree. Suddenly, Alices features darkened. Malcolm could sense something was seriously wrong. I love you so much, Malcolm, and I just dont want to see you hurt. She took his hand. She had to tell him now. She lowered her gaze to the floor, trying to figure out how she could possibly tell her husband of seventy-five years that she could die at any time. The first tear fell from her eye, and she broke down. Malcolm, Im dying.
We all are, sweetheart. Thats what I was telling you. Thats why--
No. She cut him off. Thats not what I mean.
Well what do you mean?
I have an aneurysm. My brain. She said. Her crying subsided.
An aneurysm. Malcolm said.
She stood up and crawled onto his lap, resting her cheek on his shoulder.. He rubbed her back, but he didnt understand what was going on. Alice... you have an aneurysm? His voice was dull and flat. He couldnt process it.
I just couldnt bring myself to tell you. Im so sorry.
No, you cant. Im the sick one.
Its true, Malcolm. She said quietlythat same small voice that hurt Malcolm so deeply. I went to the doctor when a pain started in behind my eye, and I started becoming more sensitive to the light. Alice said. I wanted to tell you, but I just couldnt.
Youre dying?
If it ruptures I could die. Its unpredictable, though, Malcolm. She said, trying to give him hope. Maybe she was trying to give herself hope, too. It could rupture tomorrow, or it could never. Its all a matter of chance.
What if it ruptures? Malcolm said.
I just told you, sweetheart. If it ruptures, I could die. Why was she telling him this? Malcolm thought that maybe she was trying to let him know something deeper than that.
About what I told you
It scares me. She said, But I know it would be the best way.
Do you think you could do it?
If I had to. She said, My life started with you, and I want it to end with you. They sat in silence, Alice letting what she told him process in his mind. Could you do it?
I know I could. Malcolm answered. But only if you were with me."
There was a something Alice knew needed to be asked. She was afraid.
How will we do it? The question hung in the air, suspended between them.
Quick, and... Malcolm hesitated. ...peaceful.
The tree; its still standing. Thats where our love first began. Its the only place to do it.
Our first kiss. Its been seventy six years, and its still standing. That must mean something. Despite everything, Alice smiled. It felt wrong to her.
There was still that question hanging between them. They both knew the answer, but were too afraid to say it. Alice felt panic rising in her chest.
When, Malcolm. When will we do it? She already knew his answer.

There was a tree on a hill over a century old. It endured many storms, with its roots plunging deep into the earth, gripping rocks and dirt with an iron fist. Its boughs spanned great lengths, sheltered by its leaves. It was a child of Nature, kept healthy and strong to withstand the passage of time. Its thick bark had been the home of many markings done by couples in love. It became a symbol of existing love, but for Malcolm and Alice Warner, it was a symbol of new love, un-relentless and pure.
Tires crunched over twigs and old gravel as the car rolled to a stop in the shade of the giant tree, made larger by the setting sun. For a few moments the engine rumbled, low and dangerous. Malcolm cut the engine, and there was silence. No bird song, no breezes ruffling the leaves-- just the realization of what Malcolm and Alice were about to do. Then, two doors opened, breaking the silence. They got out of the car. Malcolm had a large hose and a roll of duct tape. Alice couldnt tell, but Malcolms hands were trembling. She walked to him, hugging him close to her body. Malcolm realized something. His dream was right, sort of. In his dream, he himself had died, and Alice was left alone. But in reality, his other half, his soul mate, would be the one leaving him forever. His dream had been right, but it had shown him the wrong half.
Alice, if you want to stay in the car
No. She said, I want to be close to you every moment we have left. She took his hand, steadying the shaking. They savoured everything they could. The tree towered over them. They felt small.
There it is, sweetheart. Hasnt changed much. Alice said.
Can we get a closer look? I want to do something first.
Of course, honey. As they walked, Alice put her head on Malcolms shoulder. It caused a pain to shoot down the muscles of her neck, but she ignored it. She was close to him. Thats all that mattered.
In a short time, they were at the base of the tree, close enough to touch the rough bark. Its bark looked like a sea of hearts and initials. Malcolm sifted through each one with his eyes, trying to find a specific marking. At last, he found it. Look, honey. Remember this? He ran his fingers over the aged words.

Malcolm Warner & Alice Parker
July 14th, 1933
I will always love you, Alice. Even after this, it wont truly end. I dont see how something as strong and unyielding as our love could just simply vanish.
She kissed him then, soft withered lips gently embracing another --more real, more loving than most people could ever know. They parted, and Malcolm pulled out his pocket knife. He unfolded it, and found their marking again. He carved a new date, trying his hardest to push through the pain in his hands.

Malcolm and Alice Warner
July 14th, 1933-August 3rd, 2009

Alice stared at the addition. It marked the end, but of what? Not the end of their love, but... their physical being. As if reading her mind, Malcolm engraved one last word under their mark.
Malcolm stretched the rubber hose over the cars exhaust pipe. He wrapped duct tape over the edge to secure it, and then fed the hose into the trunk. Malcolm had punched a hole in the back wall so he could run the hose into the car. He slid it into the hole, and made it air tight with more duct tape. Alice watched from behind, unsure of how to feel. Happy that she no longer a slave to her sickness, or thankful she would die with the only man she had ever loved? They were walking into the unknown, and it terrified her.
It was dark now. The sun was gone.
Inside the car, Malcolm pulled Alice in close to his body to kiss her forehead. He smelled lavender on her skin. He inhaled, filling his lungs with his sweet, beautiful Alice. He held her in darkness, not wanting to let her go.
Thank you, Alice.
For what, sweetheart?
For loving me, for being with me, for giving me a happy and full life.
You did the same for me, Malcolm, even if you dont realize it. So, thank you, too, for giving me your heart, and giving me everything you are. She paused for a moment. No regrets?
Even now? she asked.
Even now. There was a moment of silence. Her eyes held him captivated. Malcolm imagined her as the young girl he married. She was beautiful then. She was even more beautiful now.
I think its time. Alice said.
Malcolms heart started to beat faster. Fear came to him then, unmasked and in its full intensity. Alice, Im scared.
I am, too, but we can do this, honey. Together. Alice gave him the courage to get in the car. Now it was just them. She placed the letter they had written together on the dashboard. He gripped her hand, hoping to draw strength from her. Are you ready? His voice was shaky and uneven, and he could hear his heart beating, faster now.
Im scared of whats going to happen. His wrinkled hands trembled, and his eyes were wide.
I love you more than you could ever imagine, Malcolm. It will be over soon, and everything will be ok. I promise. She shuffled her aching body closer to his, resting her head on his shoulder. The scent of aftershave lingered on Malcolms neck. Memories came back to her like long-lost friends. She breathed it in, and as she remembered, she cried, tears landing silently on his shirt. He kissed her forehead again, tenderly wiping them from her cheek with his thumb.
I love you, too. Malcolm took both of her hands in his, savouring the feel of her skin. He desperately clung to these moments. Alice could feel his body shaking. She kissed his neck and massaged his hands, somehow able to dismiss the throbbing pain deep in hers.
Calm down, sweetheart. Were together, and thats all that matters. This is how we wanted it. Alice said. Malcolm took a stabling breath, country air flooding his lungs. It chased the fear away.
Ok, he said. Im ready.
They rolled up the windows after taking their final breath of air, sealing their fate. Everything outside of the car disappeared for them, and the only thing that mattered was the existence of each other.
I love you, Alice. He held her close.
I love you, Malcolm.
He turned the key. The engine started.

December 19th, 2010, 03:18 PM
Hello Matt

I'm not really a reader as such, more look at the writing of words, but there are plenty of people here that can do both so no worries :)

In the opening para, the italic, I think you should base it less on a particular gender. You have 'men/man' when those emotions should be included to both sexes. This is just an observance, others or you may and can disagree of course.

You can, and I advise it, go back into your story and put the spaces in manually. i say this only because as a critiquer and even as a reader online, the long string of words makes it hard on the eyes...that you are aware of that is great, I am just saying that you can fix it even now with the 'edit' button.

on to the writing :)

Your opening line:

The pain started, and it was too much for Malcolm Warner to continue with his writing. He dropped the pen on his desk and rubbed his hand, looking for some relief from the fire burning under his skin.

'with his writing' - could be removed because you mention a pen, his hand and such so it can be assumed without telling me again.

take a look at the beginnings of your first sentences..... The pain.... The pain... is there a way around this?

One thing I am noticing right away(and its an easy fix) is your speech tags. They seem abundant when with two characters they can be relaxed and speech possession can easily be understood. This would rid the feeling of 'tell' in this piece.

I hate taking these damn pills. I hate having arthritis, and I hate being stiff and sore. I used to love the sunset. He said. Now it just means its time to take my meds. Malcolm submitted against his will and swallowed them a couple at a time, chasing each swallow with water.

If you look at the last statement try to see a way to lessen the repetitive nature...ie

....against his will and swallowed them a couple at a time, chasing each with water.

the swallow can be understood without saying, you have to remember that the reader isn't blind to who things go in life and can use their own experiences to fill in what doesn't need to be said.

...billows of her breasts... - I can see billows being used, but because its close rhyming sound to another term used with breasts ie 'pillows' it feels like a typo rather than intentional.

the part about what's the point of being wise when you can't run... - to mean the comparison doesn't seem to match the point. what has wisdom got to do with running and a broken hip...at least for me this stood out.


Yeah... its really hurting me. Her voice seemed smaller than usual. It wrenched Malcolms heart. He wanted to do whatever it took to help his beautiful wife get better, even though he was suffering from the same thing.

you are telling me when you have the opportunity to show me more with just small adjustments.

Her voice; smaller than usual, wrenched Malcom's heart even though he suffered the same.

try to keep the emotions centered on them and their like pain, though he wanted to 'do whatever....' the fact that her pain wrenched at his heart, shows the reader this and that he despite his own suffering, still cares for her. You don't have to tell me this also, as you've shown me in words.

At the beginning of the second chapter/break, you might consider another way of distinguishing between what is spoken and written. You use " " for both, maybe ' ' for written? to show a separation?


So little things like this. Your piece is a bit long for me to critique fully, but to be honest I don't really need to see a complete piece to see a writer's style. The story is a sweet one of love and nicely told. for me, it could be touched up here and there, but as this is a writing site for just that purpose, it is to be expected.

thank you for the read, welcome to the forums.


Matt Gannon
December 19th, 2010, 05:11 PM
Thanks very much Sync :) This is all very helpful. I will definitely apply your advice to the writing.