This is an extended ending to one of McKnight Malmar's short stories, "The Storm"
. If you would like, you can read the full story online at a variety of sites, one of which is http://shortstory-theboythatis.blogspot.com/2006/09/storm.html. I tried to make my ending relatively self sufficient, so you might not need to read the rest of the story. I wrote it for my Literature class, but since it's one of my few attempts at fiction writing, I would appreciate some constructive criticism. Thank you.
Janet raced out into the comforting blackness, desperate to be anywhere but in the house with “him”. Though the rain chilled her to the marrow and the wind howled past her ears like a train, Janet was strengthened by the knowledge that she would be hidden in the darkness of the storm. She fled into the nearby woods, crashing through brambles and saplings in her rush to escape. Janet ran onwards into the deepest recesses of the forest until her limbs were leaden and her lungs ablaze. She stumbled into the marginal shelter of a fallen maple and sat shivering in the cold, straining her ears for the sounds of pursuit. Nothing could be heard above the roaring of the wind and the beating of the rain, now pouring down on her meager refuge in a rhythmic deluge like the beating of a drum or the pounding feet of an army. The cacophony grew in strength, speed, and intensity, taking on the resonance of a two-stroke watch or…no; it was the sound of a heartbeat. There was no mistaking the “THUMP-thump” of the rain pounding down in sheets all around her like the incessant racing of blood through veins. The clamor grew yet louder, an all-consuming throb from which there was no escape. Janet curled in a ball, hands clasped tight around her head, trying to block out the noise, yet it brought no peace to her tormented mind. Then, above this sanguine bellow; or no, not above it, but through it, came a faint voice, more like a whisper than a word.
Her name, spoken in Ben’s voice. Instantly, Janet was on her feet and running again, though she had long sense given up on any sense of direction. Always moving forward, she stumbled on, but the overpowering beating of the rain, accompanied by the lightest brush of the whisper, followed her wherever she went. Slowly, ever so slowly, a subtle change began to occur. Though the rain was falling as hard as ever and the wind was raging just as fast, the heartbeat had slowed and became less pronounced while the whisper grew in strength and clarity. Janet turned to the left, then the right, then doubled back on her trail, but the voice grew louder and louder as the heartbeat faded.
“Janet, come back to me. I’m here, waiting for you. Come back”
Over and over, Ben’s voice pleading, entreating her to return. Finally, Janet exhausted the last of her strength and collapsed in a disheveled heap. The heartbeat had faded to a mere murmur, while Ben’s voice rang out like a minister’s from his pulpit.
“Janet, I’m here. Come with me. I’m not going to leave you”.
She raised her weary head and looked at her surroundings. Somehow, though it seemed impossible, she had returned to her house. Through a haze induced by the rain and sheer exhaustion, Janet saw a figure loping towards her. As it grew nearer, she could make out the features of its face, a face she had seen, kissed, loved, and longed for through the past fifteen months. Ben. As he bent down towards her, she vainly struggled, trying without hope to get her feet moving again.
“Janet, stop. You don’t have to worry anymore. I’ll take care of you”.
Desperate, dying, Janet stopped feeling the rain, the wind, the terror, the sadness, even her concerns drifted away. With only the faintest beating of the rain audible in the background, she cast her arms away from her body and uttered one, final word before she passed into darkness.
And then she awoke. She raised her head up, gazing at her surroundings. She was lying in a bed, sheets and blankets tucked in tightly around the corners. A floral pattern chair with matching footstool. A decorative lamp with an oriental shade. A rough hemp throw-rug tossed haphazardly in the middle of the floor. It was her sister’s room, though her sister was no longer the primary occupant.
“What happened?” she muttered.
“Janet dear, you’re awake. You had us worried for a while there. When I left last night, your fever had climbed to one hundred and four degrees, with no sign of stopping. After you worked so hard for me, I almost couldn’t bear to leave you, but your husband, bless his heart, stayed up the whole night with you.”
Her sister’s flighty chatter, along with the mention of Ben’s name, dragged Janet’s attention solely to the center of the room. There she was, a little paler than Janet remembered, but obviously fully recovered from her sickness. And there, standing beside her, was Ben.
“Janet, you have no idea the scare that you’ve put me through. All through the night, I kept calling your name, telling you not to worry, but it didn’t help. It was like you were running away from me; you kept thrashing about the bed. The doctor came and said that your heartbeat was so fast he was surprised you were still alive.” As he said this, Ben moved closer to stand beside the bed and clasped Janet’s pale hand in his own.
“Then, probably around two in the morning, you stopped suddenly. For one terrifying moment, I thought you had died, so I moved towards your mouth to check for breath. I heard you say just one word, but I couldn’t make it out. Whatever it was, your fever broke and you’ve been on the mend ever since.”
“Then, I’ve not gone home yet? Ben, you came to take care of me?” Janet asked with a mixture of relief and fear.
“Of course I came. Janet, you mean more to me than anything. I’d have come no matter how far away you were.”
With these words of trust and love, Janet sunk back into the pillow, knowing that all was as it should be.