"Hello again, old friend." My voice was frail, tired. The cancer had been eating away at me, pulling parts of life and livelihood as a child would pull apart a blanket by the loose threads. My skin was a thin, papery thing now, my eyes betrayed no vibrancy or fire, and were some unknowing passerby to see me, surely he would assume that I had been like this forever. I was an echo, a hollow reverberation of the man I once was. I mustered the strength to speak once more, perhaps my companion had not heard me. "Old friend, I see you there, present as before." I knew it had heard me, even though it had not acknowledged it. It was unnaturally tall, one arm gimped up beside it; the other inhumanely long. Its face was lengthy and grotesque, the grey skin pulled tightly over sharply angled bones, its eye sockets deep and sunken in. Deep within those pits glistened two shining, glistening golden eyes that looked onward indifferently, passionlessly.
Whatever this being was, it had been with me for decades, ever since I was a child I had seen it. The macabre creature had come to me one night when I was very young, it had not spoken nor had it approached me, it simply stood there, watching. I couldn't find no sleep, seek out no rest for fear of it when I was a child. My parents refused to believe me when I was young, and when I grew older I was laughed out of every psychologists office I went to, for I bore no other indicators of mental instability that would suggest I was hallucinating. Still the creature came to me, knight after night it would be present in my room, standing silently against the wall with its gleaming golden eyes. As time passed I became less and less afraid of it, it had done nothing to harm me, after all. Eventually, around the time I was twenty-three or twenty-four I think, I gave him the name 'Wither.' I didn't know what else to call him, but his thin frame and taunt skin made the name seem to fit.
I would communicate with him, or at least, I would speak and presume he listened. Wither would stand there quietly, as he always did, and watch with disengaged persistence as I told him of my life. Details about my day, problems with relationships, success at work, anything and everything. Still, Wither would just stand there. I wondered if it was aware of me, if it knew I was there, or was even capable of such a thing. I had grown comfortable around the creature, and the sight of it standing its silent post against the wall of my room eventually came to bring me comfort.
When I was twenty-five I landed a job as an accountant at Wells Fargo bank and finally had the financial stability to move away from my parents and get my own place. My girlfriend and I had often talked about moving in together once we had the money, and this was our chance. My bags were packed, the date was set, and in the morning I would begin the short trip into town with all my worldly possessions loaded into the back of a U-Haul truck to begin my new life with the woman I loved. Everything seemed perfect until the night just before the move.
As I laid in my childhood room for the final time, I looked up and saw Wither, standing there silently as always, and I was met with a wave of odd guilt. I knew nothing of the creature, or what would become of him when I moved away. Would it stay here, standing post in my old bedroom? Would it come with me and take up its watch in the apartment somewhere? Would it fade from my life entirely, a memory to be left in the past? I had no idea what the future held for my strange companion. "Old friend." I spoke quietly. "I'm leaving town tomorrow, got myself a nice place with that girl I keep telling you about. I'm not quite sure what will become of you when I leave in the morning, but seeing as how I'm the only one that can seem to see you, I'm sure Cathy won't mind you being around our place. You are welcome to visit anytime, you know." I waited for a response, but just as always, Wither was silent.
I moved in the next day and that night wither was nowhere to be found. Maybe it was attached to my childhood home in some way, or maybe it was an invention of my mind, whatever it was, it was gone now. In a way, I missed the odd creature. Time passed, years upon years of it, and eventually Cathy and I got married. Two kids, a decade passes, new house, another decade, kids go off to college, more decades then more after that. Life passed by in such a blur that I nearly forgot about Wither, it was so distant from me that I began to wonder if I had just dreamed that whole experience. I must have just dreamed it.
One day I looked up and realized I was sixty years old, realized how long I'd been alive and how long I had been married. It was an odd feeling, somewhere between melancholy acceptance and joyous remembrance. However, the perception of my age became one of horrible realization when a six inch wide tumor had been found on the lining of my stomach.
The treatments did little other than steal all my hair away, that and wreck my body into a frightful state of submission to the terrible disease. My wife was by my side every day, except for today. Today she had to pick our children up from the airport so they could say goodbye. See, there it is, there is that horrid realization again. I had been vibrant, so full of life regardless of my age, up until now. Now I was an erosion, a shell of my former self. I was made of brittle bone and paper skin. I wanted to die. Then, when my loneliness had reached its zenith on this day that I knew to be my last, my dear old friend Wither retuned to visit me.
Wither looked just as it did when it I left it all those years ago. It's frail, elongated frame standing there silently, as always. "I missed you, old friend. What have you been doing for all this time?" No response, which was fine. I tried to find another question to ask it, but my breath was stolen by a rack of pain shooting outward from my gut into every part of me. I groaned loudly, shrilly, my faded voice fighting for some volume greater than a whisper. I could hear the scrambling of feet and the excited chatter of what must have been the orderlies. Amid the incomprehensible mess of noise I found the word "morphine" was being repeated over and over by the voice I knew to be the lead doctor. There was the stick of a needle, the sound of liquid filling a space, then my vision was washed in a light so purely, coldly white that it could have been a fresh blanket of snow. I saw outlines and edges, but couldn't make out any details. None except for the grey form of Wither, his post against the wall unchanged. I heard the frustrated voices of orderlies and nurses, then the ring of a flat-line covered them in its piercing, droning cry. All was silent. Silent. Silent. Silent. More and more silence. Then I heard the voice of Wither, the unmistakable voice of the quiet creature. "Come friend, we have much to do."