An Imperial Affliction

As I repeated the words in my head, promising somebody who was dead that I do like my choices, I could feel the silence creeping up on me. My ears drowned out the noise of the TV and the video playing idly in the background on my laptop. Something inside of me snapped and everything stood still.

Scanning quickly over the room, I found everything that reminded me of Augustus and everything that ever would and got up, dragging my oxygen tank behind me, the squeaking wheels, silent for once.

By the time my Dad came into the room, my fingers were already wrapped around the small figurine, fragile in my hand as I moved my arm back slowly.

"Hazel?" a voice questioned. I turned on my heels and stared at my father, his head slightly tilted and eyes focused on the figurine in my hand. Busted. My heart began to race, something not healthy for my already crapping out body, my brain struggling to find an excuse. Before I could begin, I was already interrupted, "you should go to bed."

Or pretend to.

"It's late, you need rest- if you're going to go to the Cancer meeting?" his voice trailed off. He didn't want to say the word Cancer. Nobody ever wants to admit to Cancer.

My father watched as I rolled my oxygen tank across the room, squealing behind me, until I stopped, picked up the laptop and started to squeal again, straight down the hallway. He watched me- making sure I didn't fall or faint- until I was in my room. He cared. That's all that mattered. He cared


"Are you sure you want to go?" my mom said. Her eyes were trained on the building. The Cross still sat on top of it, slanted slightly to the side from too many storms. The building didn't really need a cross, but I suppose they thought it was a nice feature- just to let you know the building was shaped in the four arches of Jesus' plaque.

In the midst of my thoughts, I said, "yeah." And got out of the car, bringing the tank of Oxygen squealing behind me. Today, I took the elevator down- doing the last round for Augustus- then sat down in the circle of trust. The faces had changed, like was expected with a circle of Cancer patients. From the corner of my eye, I could see Patrick stepping from the elevator, a look of despair and boredom.

From the first day I had wondered what kept Patrick motivated to keep coming back; something to do with his brush with death, I suppose.

"Hello," he announced, sitting in the circle before he started to spurt on the regular list. Only, at the end Augustus Waters was tacked on. My heart still did a jolt when I thought of him as dead. Although it wasn't hard to believe.

"Introductions," Patrick announced, nobody but me noticing the elevator door sliding open and revealing a tall blond, a stick in his hand, moving around on the floor to try and find where he should be. I watched as his hand went up to the wall, trying to find the number. When he did, he tried to find his way to a seat. Nobody was going to help, so I did. I jumped out of my chair and whispered quietly, "hey Isaac."

"Hazel," he mumbled, wearing the same smile he did when we were with Augustus.

Across the room, a chair sat empty, only one of us could sit. So I led him over and let him sit, pretending that I was sitting as well. Lying to a blind person is bad, but hell, what they didn't know, couldn't hurt them.

For a while, we listened to others around, sharing what their cancer was, who they were and how they were feeling.

"Isaac," Patrick announced, pointing to him. Everybody who was under ten stared with wonder- like they had never seen somebody who was blind- unaware of the looks, Isaac smiled and nodded his head, leaning against the cane they provided him.

"Isaac, seventeen, I'm doing okay." His voice sounded like a robot- we were trained to say something around this every time we saw new people, new victims of a life to death. My eyes found Patrick's for a brief second, confirming that I was to go next.

"Hazel, I'm seventeen- my lungs are crap right now, but I'm doing okay," I said. My voice sounded too much like a smoker- if that makes any sense- a smoker that's never smoked. I didn't care though- a side effect of dying.

"Isaac- did you want to share anything about Augustus?" Patrick questioned. He didn't really care, I knew that both Isaac and I could hear it in his voice- I could even see it in his facial expression. Isaac nodded his head and stood up, cane in hand. He swung it around to catch attention of those he didn't have before he said, "Augustus Waters was an asshole-" a wide grin spread across his face as he began"-but he was my asshole, also Hazel's here, but he was mine longer..."

A few people had snickered at Isaacs way of saying that Augustus was a friend.

"It use to bug me how he never thought of anybody else, but now, I don't care too much because he started to care about Hazel over here- so I think Hazel has to say something too-"

Eyes averted to me, the transparent nubs tickling my nose as it drizzled oxygen into me. The girl to my right was regular- she looked normal- almost as if she was waiting for her turn, to brag that she was feeling strong, like she had every week.

"Judging a lot of you talk, I'm going to take the plunge and say that a lot of you are ignoring death," I began, then took a deep breath to fill my crappy lungs with Oxygen then continued, "stop ignoring death. If it's already licking at you- getting a taste for what it can have- you're not going to be ready when it starts to devour you. Stop ignoring it- Augustus did- it hits harder when there's no warning. You might go crazy and try to write a book. Like Isaac said, he's an asshole-" present tense, rethink it, "-was an asshole. Don't be like Augustus. We don't need another hero." Then I sat down. Nothing more to say about his death. I glanced at Isaac, who had a slight smirk on his lips; only he knew I was referencing to Augustus constantly saving video game victims.

"Good, good," Patrick mumbled. I looked up, watching as he thought through what else he could say to the support group. His dirty, brown eyes grazed across the floor before he launched into his story about how he lost his balls and his girlfriend, all because of his rare cancer. One in which he would never have died from in the first place. I let out a huff of air. Isaac answered it with a smile and dramatic sigh.

We were back to square one.