Father time runs his heavy, calloused hands across my once supple, lithe body. The dust of another era courses through my bloodstream. I force a futile cough in his face causing the corners of his mouth to move upward into a slow, certain grin. We do not speak as he winds a lock of my brittle hair through his fingers and leans forward to clamp the whole of my useless tongue between his stained and crumbling teeth.
Thick salty fluid fills my airway just as I release a guttural cry of pain. The scarlet hem of my life stains the very whites of his eyes. Fury envelopes the atmosphere around us. I remain defiant yet powerless, awaiting his next move. He loosens his grip on my scalp, but not without snatching away another small tuft of my identity in his palm. Staring tenderly into my eyes, as if searching the core of my soul, he licks his coarse, wiry fingertips to fervently wipe away the aftermath of my silent screaming with his fermented saliva; before it even had time enough to dry and cake in the creases and folds of my face.
A moment of peace in the midst of rage. A flicker of hope that he will finally show me the mercy I have long longed for and offer me the grace I have always craved. I imagine that if I can find a way to hold his gaze that it would be so for ever after.
Before I can finish the thought I am thrown backward into a cold concrete wall by the strength of his foot in my chest. The crackling sound of shattering ribs echos loudly up the dark and narrow passage. As I struggle to find breath his laughter fills my ears mocking my childish hope. His jagged nails pierce the center of my neck and tear through the paper-thin skin leading to my clavicle.
I drop to my knees as if to beg for an end but keep my eyes fixed on his, reminding him that I will never give up and tempting him to test me further. His jagged titanium nails rip through my sternum with great ease and fierce agony. I dare not look away. I dare not blink.
Swiftly he carries my limp and nearly lifeless body across a wide, quiet span of emptiness and lays me to rest in a bed of stargazer lilies while my beating heart is left exposed to the elements and the burning sun. With a soft kiss on my forehead and the gentle caress of his hand across my cheek he whispers that which I have always known, "This is how it must be."
I have been here for what seems an eternity now, with the disturbing comfort of those final words ricocheting relentlessly through every synapse and sinus in my skull. Alone, exposed, and praying for rain.
There has been an occasional passer-by who came along to poke and prod at the universe reflected within me. Always blinded by the darkness of the barren trees looming overhead or the brilliance of their own luminous ego, not one of these has yet to offer a genuine understanding or acceptance of my existence and only time has been willing to hold my hand in my most dire moments.
While I am content to stay here in the grasp of time's choke hold, Orion beckons to me and offers a mystical escape. Though I know his often deceitful nature, it is but his steady calling that keeps me breathing and hoping that there is more to living than enduring the torture of time's brutal tests while waiting for him to drop his final, most rapacious blow. There may well be an eternal love for a mortal soul hiding among that glorious belt of stars prancing about in the night sky for the lilies fresh bloom and the ether in my eyes, or perhaps it is already streaming from somewhere deep within me simply waiting to find another infinite helix to bind itself to.