Elder Things - Episode Zero

“I refuse to lose the battle.” Robert Dawson is about to lose. But losing a battle doesn't mean losing the war.

Elder Things - Episode Zero

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Elder Things - Episode 0 - Narrated
Read this story: https://www.themythtraveler.com/et0/“Fearless First” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 Lice...

Robert Dawson prided himself on being the kind of man who doesn’t take any shit. As a younger man, he’d served in the military. He tucked his corners and stood with a straight back. He raised five children to do the same.

As an old man, his shoulders had begun to round, and try as he might, he just couldn’t whip the staff into shape. Those damn bedsheets were consistently loose.

“I refuse to lose the battle.”

Robert would have kept a close eye on anyone who resorted to mantras or meditation, but in the privacy of his own room, from the comfort of his own recliner, he ironically repeated this phrase any time his breathing became erratic, or that damn arrhythmia sent his heart racing in his chest. Most of the time it seemed to come out of nowhere. Merely a byproduct of living so long that your body falls apart. Here at the home, it had gotten more frequent. And he knew why.

The staff would expect him to report this latest episode. He would do nothing of the sort. Robert considered any sort of medical disclosure to be an undignified admission of weakness.

“I refuse to lose this battle.”

He MIGHT, if the mood struck him, confide in his poker buddies. Despite his history of solitude, Robert had begrudgingly made friends here at the home. He had told them things he’d never told anyone, even his cockamamie theories about the groundskeeper.

“I refuse to lose this battle. I refuse to lose this battle.”

The worst part had arrived, his pulse had reached its peak. Robert’s heart rumbled in his chest, pummeling against his rib cage as if it were trying to escape.

“I refuse to lose this battle.”

Any minute now it’ll slow down.

At least he told himself that.

This is the worst of it. Rock bottom. Where else is there to go?

Well…Actually, he thought he just might know.

And still his heart raced on, carrying the creeping doubts with it. What if it didn’t slow down this time? He had to admit it was a possibility. There may come a day when his heart speeds up and refuses to return to a manageable number of beats. How many battles can a man win, after all? We’re guaranteed to lose at least one, aren’t we?

He felt his anxiety stretch beyond his control. This was it. The battle he’d lose.

And just when he started picturing the faces of the people he’d miss most…and the people he might be about to see who had been lost to him for decades…his heartbeat began to slow.

Thank god.

He was going to be okay. This time, at least.

Glued to his recliner with sweat, the fear still hadn’t left him, and neither had his awareness that any minute might be his last.

But there was another thought mixed in with his feelings about mortality. An image came to mind. An impossible image, that he knew was somehow true.

Robert rose to his feet so quickly he became lightheaded, but in the nick of time he steadied himself against the recliner, while his eyes locked on the window. The beginnings of rain trickled down each pane of glass.

For a man who once ran miles without breaking a sweat, Robert was often surprised and frustrated by how shuffling his walk had become. What should have taken three steps from the chair to the window was now an agonizing exercise in begging and cajoling his feet to work with him.

But finally, Robert’s long journey was complete, and, gripping the windowsill, he squinted to see through the gathering storm until he saw exactly what he expected to see.

As far as he was concerned, this was the confirmation of every theory. Every silly conspiracy he’d shared with his poker buddies. There, in the mounting rain, standing stock-still even as lightning struck somewhere close enough to rattle Robert’s nerves, was the groundskeeper in the middle of the lawn, staring straight up to Robert’s window.

An odd thought passed through Robert’s mind as the groundskeeper raised an outstretched hand toward him.

“I told my friends about you, you son of bitch” he whispered, in his empty room, thinking of his tidily ordered journal. Even now, Robert wouldn’t take any shit. He hoped his uncharacteristic confidence in his friends would benefit someone, somehow.

The groundskeeper’s hand became a fist, squeezed tightly, and Robert straightened his back one final time, with pride…or the closest approximation he could muster, as his heart began its pounding again. This time it would not slow down.

The groundskeeper would make sure of that.

“I refuse to lose this battle.”

With a dull thud, and another lightning strike, the storm was only just beginning.

Elder Things - Episode One
“I love you, but I hope I never see you again.” Daisy Flanagan has just moved into a retirement home. She’s no longer on her own.

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