Ananke by Thomas Robins

“Mom, what is it?” Megan asks. She knows her mother’s arthritis is burning from the effort made to hold her palm open and display the orb. It is the size of a golf ball, but smooth and dark. Gold seems to float and swirl at its own whim inside.

“I call it it Ananke, the name for Chronos’ consort from my mythology text in grammar school,” Harriette replied.

Megan reaches for the orb. She expects it to be made of delicate glass, but it has the heft of a lead weight. It feels cold. Cold and important, like the world is waiting for her to decide if it should keep turning because she held the Ananke in her hand. She feels herself drawn in.

Her mother’s monitor beeps and Megan shakes the enchantment.

“Where did you get this? It’s beautiful.”

Harriette answers, “I found it while I was looking for arrowheads in Opa’s fields. He told me it was a paperweight when I showed it to him, but I knew there was more. I knew it was a gift

I’d treasure my entire life.” As if on cue with the words, her monitors start sounding an alarm.

The hospice nurse rushes into the bedroom in under a second, as she does every time.

“Mrs. Younger, can you hear me?” she asks a mere inch from Harriette’s face while taking her pulse. The nurse reaches up and turns off the alarm.

“You don’t have to yell, Janet; If I’m dead I can’t hear you and if I’m alive I can hear just fine. I’m dying, I can hardly move, I’m going blind, but I’m not deaf,” Harriette says to nurse.

Janet turns to Megan and mouths “Soon.” Megan tries to keep her eyes from showing worry, even though her mother’s eyesight can’t pick up the detail in her expression. The nurse leaves to allow them these final moments together.

“Meg, I love you to the sun, but I need you to listen.” Harriette’s speech has more force, more strain, than it had moments earlier. She pats the back of her now­clawed hand on the orb Megan holds. “Ananke controls time.” Harriette pauses and tries to discern her daughter’s face, but her cataracts don’t allow her enough detail to know how Megan reacts. Her daughter does not respond, so she continues.

“Hold it so the sand inside is falling and follow the spinning sand with your finger and you will stop time for everyone but yourself. It is wonderful if you need a break, or want to travel alone for a while. I even used it to get sleep when you were an infant. I was the most well­rested new mother you ever met.”

“Mother. Stop, this is no time for joking,” Megan says with a crack in her voice.

“Just give it a spin. Don’t worry, you won’t age while you’re there. Humor an old woman won’t you?” Even with her blurred vision, Harriette sees her daughter vanish and reappear across the room.

“Momma!” Megan exclaims.

Harriette struggles to take a deep breath into shallow lungs. “You need to at least try to stand where you were when you start or people will get quite a fright with you disappearing and springing up all over the place.”

Megan vanishes and reappears by her mother’s side. “You’ve had this since you were a child?” she asks.

“I feel like I’ve had it for three lifetimes. I’ve spent more years than I was allotted on this Earth by putting the world on pause. There is something else, Meg. If you turn it so the sand falls up, you can choose to pause another person. I’ve rarely used it, but it did come in handy when you had that awful attack when you were ten. I don’t think we would have made it to the doctor’s office in time if I hadn’t frozen you in place while we took you to town. Daddy thought you were dead in the car­­he called it a miracle when you started moving again at the hospital. I never told him about the Ananke.”

Megan walks next to her mother’s bed, but does not take her hand. “Mother stay with us a little longer. There might be a cure just around the corner.”

Harriette smiles at her daughter, “Don’t you worry about me, It’s my turn to die. I’ve lived more than I deserve already. You go live your life now, let the Ananke give you some rest when you need it. I once traveled to Europe and turned the world off so I could sit on the Eiffel Tower in peace for hours. It was beautiful.”

“Just stay with me a little longer,” Megan says. Her voice is strained. Different.

“Honey, it’s okay. I’m ready to go and I will die happy knowing I gave you this gift,”

Harriette says.

“Just a little longer,” Megan’s voice is definitely changed. Aged.

Harriette tries to take in her daughter’s face as best she can and she can see the hair is greyer. Older. “What are you doing? Don’t waste Ananke on me. It was to be my legacy to you.” Harriette starts to gasp for air, panic mixed with old age takes a hold of her fragile heart. The alarms are sounding, but no one comes.

“Just a little longer,” an old woman says to her, nearly her age.

Harriette gasps, “What have you done?”

The mother finally feels her daughter take hold of her hand, it is older than hers. She lets her head fall to the side to see her daughter lying in bed next to her. She is gasping for air worse than Harriette ever has.

“I thought…we could save…just a little more…time…” Megan’s breath stops. Her hand gives a cold release.

Harriette whispered, “It was my turn.”

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