create | encounter

winning submissions & honorable mention pieces

2nd Place: Megan's Spring

October 22, 2017

Author's Note: Megan's Spring was written as a reflection on the choices the elderly and the vulnerable may feel pressured into making. I wanted to show how a person who is so full of life, despite her advancing years, could feel as though all her choices are taken from her by people who don't even know her. I hoped to demonstrate how words could seem almost reasonable to Megan even as people sought to take her life from her.

 

“10 o’clock. Have you considered meditating yet today?” a voice chimed softly in the background. The garden clung to its last vestiges of cool and quiet for the morning. Megan always tried to finish breakfast early so she could come out and sit before the swarms of others descended, disturbing the birds and scattering the flower petals. She stroked her knitting with a gnarled hand and sighed deeply, looking up at the sunlight filtering through the branches from the glass dome above. She wanted to go out again; they’d let her a few birthdays ago, but it was deemed too much of a risk now. At her age she might catch an infection. She picked up her knitting and hummed a birthday tune to herself. Maybe James would visit from off planet. He occasionally got leave still. Her hand twinged at her knitting and she winced, stopping to massage it. 


“We’ve detected some pain, would you like relief?” her medical bracelet asked her. 


“No,” Megan sighed. If they kept stabbing her with needles she’d be nothing but a bag of holes. She smirked at the mental image and picked up her knitting again. It was going to be a present for her great granddaughter. James thought they were naming it after her. The oldest resident on the planet. They should have a parade for her birthday. Megan smirked again. They better let her get her hair done first. 
An aide arrived in clean-pressed blue scrubs. “Megan? I’ve come to fetch you. Your case manager would like to see you.”


“Now?” Megan blinked at her knitting. “Oh well, I guess.” She tucked her knitting into the pocket on her walker and pushed hard on the bench. The aide slid to her side and lifted her with a hand under her arm. Megan clutched at the walker and swayed but remained standing. 


“Take your time,” the aide said, waiting with one hand under her arm and the other behind her back. 


“I got time,” Megan cackled. She started to push her walker down the petal-dusted path. 


“They’re beautiful this time of year,” the aide offered.


“My favorite time of the year.” Megan took a deep breath, inhaling the fragrance of the blossoms. 


“You just like your birthday.” The aide squeezed her arm with a smile. 


“Best time of the year.”


“Anyone coming in to see you?”


“Oh sure, James and his wife at least. They always come every year.” 


“Right, and then little Eliza too.”


“And Sam came the year before.” Megan nodded as the doors slid open and a rush of even more canned air hit her face. The smell of inside was colder somehow, made her wrinkle her nose and pull her cardigan tighter around her shoulders. “Did they say why they wanted to see me?”


“Come on, that’s way above my pay grade,” the aide chuckled. 


Megan frowned; what was her name? She’d seen her often enough. She’d helped her to breakfast just that morning. Hannah? Sarah? No, it was something else. 


Her face brightened as she saw a familiar form being pushed down the hall in a hover chair. “Clark!” she called. 


His stooped form lifted its head as best he could and he waved a veiny hand. He was younger than her by a decade or two, and his roguish blue eyes never failed to sparkle. 


“Hello, beautiful.” He winked. 


“Going to the garden?”


“Can’t miss the blossoms. Though I feel as though the most beautiful one has just left.” 


Megan blushed and grinned. “You old dog. Get out of here. I don’t want to talk to you.” 


They pushed him past, but he turned in the chair. “Are you coming back?” 


“I’ll just be a minute,” she responded as she pushed her walker squeakily down the hall. 


She paused, panting for breath. 


“Do you need some time?” the aide asked. 


“Just, just a second.” 


The aide pushed the walker’s seat down and Megan turned to sit. “Not as young as I used to be.” She grinned and licked her lips. “But you won’t see them pushing me around in one of those chairs. Not I.” 
The aide knelt next to her. “Maybe you should. Therapy has some concerns about your balance lately.”


“I’m fine.” Megan waved a hand. “That’s what I have the walker for.”


“It won’t stop you from going over backwards,” the aide pointed out. 


Megan blinked and squinted at her face. A couple decades ago they all wore name tags. Whatever happened to the name tags? Not like she could see it without her glasses on anyway. But still. 


They sat in silence for a moment longer but Megan heaved a sigh. “Well I’m not getting any younger.” She slid off the seat and, turning around, shuffled off down the hall. 


The case manager's office was brightly lit and festooned with an absurd number of houseplants that crowded in around the main table. 


“Megan!” The case manager looked up and gave her a tight smile. Her doctor was here, too, and a woman that Megan didn’t recognize at all. There was a tension in the air and her doctor was leaning towards the unknown woman with narrowed eyes. The case manager stood and offered her hand.

 

“Megan, I’m Claire, your case manager, of course you know Dr. Stevens, and this is your family’s lawyer, Janice. Come, sit down.” 


The chair she offered her was a hover chair. Megan curled her lip at it but sat. 


“We’re here today to talk about your future,” Claire started. “And to congratulate you on your past. Your longevity is the stuff of legends.” 


Megan smirked. “I know.” 


“We all want to know your secret.” She laughed. 


“Sleep well, eat well, and don’t drink.” Megan had never touched a drop of liquor her whole life. 
“Yes, well, your family is very proud of you,” Claire said, still smiling, “but they’ve decided that it’s time to let go.”


“Let go?” Megan blinked and glanced between them. “Go where?”


“Megan, your family loves you very much, but your current state puts an immense strain on their physical, mental, and emotional well being.” Janice leaned across the table towards her, wrinkles snaking their way up her extremely pressed suit. “Not to mention financial.” 


“My current state?” Megan glanced between them. “I don’t understand.” She looked over her shoulder for the kindly aide, but the woman was gone. 


“You have been here for,” Janice looked at her pad, “over a hundred years. That’s an awfully long time to not contribute. When your family put you here they were anticipating a shorter stay.” 


“I can’t help it if I stayed this long.” Megan felt very small in her seat as it hummed beneath her. “Elderglen is my home. I-I don’t have anywhere else to go.”


“We understand.” Dr. Stevens laid a hand on her arm. “And I think it’s important that you understand all your options. You’re in excellent health for a woman of your age, and there’s absolutely no reason you couldn’t remain here for a handful of years more.” 


Claire looked down at her own pad and flicked through a few pages. “Your finances are still in order, and there is no problem on the part of Elderglen with you maintaining residency.” 


“But,” Janice said, “her family has made a request and it needs to be brought to her attention. Megan has the right to let go if she so chooses. She has the right to know that it is her family's desire that she do so.”

 
“My family? I’d like to talk to James,” Megan said. James would know what to do. 


“Megan,” Dr. Stevens started, but Janice interrupted him. 


“Megan, James has been dead for years. You remember him passing, right?” 


Megan looked between them as tears filled her eyes. “James is dead? Well, I-” She looked between them. “I’ll talk to Sam, then. He’s got a good head on his shoulder’s; I didn’t raise him, raise him to...” 
Her voice faded as she saw their expressions. 


“Megan,” Claire said with a sad smile and a shake of her curls, “they’re gone. They passed some years ago.”


“What would Eliza do without them though?” Megan’s heart beat fast in her chest and she huffed for breath. “What about little Eliza?”


“Eliza grew up, Megan,” Claire said. “She grew up and had children of her own and she passed, too.” 
“It’s her descendants that are requesting you pass on,” Janice said, pushing a pad across the table to Megan. “They feel that it’s gone on long enough.” 


Megan glanced down at the pad, but her glasses were still in her room and it kept blurring. She looked up. “They all signed?”


“Many of them,” Janice said. 


“Even,” Megan paused and licked her lips. “Even little Megan?”


Janice smiled. “There’ve been a few Megans and yes, some of them signed.”


“You have many years ahead of you, Megan. You have time, a life here. If you choose to sign you need to be aware that you’re giving up your life.” Claire brushed a curl out of her face. “You’re a light here at Elderglen, and we all love having you here.” 


“If you do chose to go, though,” Dr. Stevens said as he turned the coffee cup in his long-fingered hands, “it will not be uncomfortable Megan. Just another poke with a needle and you’ll fall asleep.” 


Janice shook her head and sighed. “I’m so sorry, Megan. But you should do the right thing. Don’t make the rest of your family suffer any longer than it has to. All you need to do is sign. Make life better for your descendants.” 


Megan swallowed and glanced around the table. Dr. Stevens wouldn’t look at her as he turned the coffee cup, but Claire gave her a smile that didn’t quite iron out the wrinkle between her eyebrows. Then she looked at the edge of her knitting poking out of her pocket on the walker. She wouldn’t want to make any new little one suffer because of her. Pulling the pad towards her, Megan signed. 

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@2017 by Aimee Murphy and Encounter Youniverse project collaborators.