Texts at three o’clock in the morning are never good news. A MOOC assignment. (Take 2!)
I was just in the right spot to catch the eventual sunrise, but I wasn’t scanning the sky anymore. Though I was wrapped in a sleeping bag and hoodie, the dark air was chilly and my breath came in small white puffs.
I stared blankly at my phone, seeing but not really seeing the most recent message from one of my closest friends.
Sarah passed away this morning.
My heart was cold in a way that had nothing to do with the temperature.
She had problems on Sunday, and then never woke up. I’m using Sarah’s phone to send this message to all her friends. Please keep her family in your prayers. ~ Jennifer
Trembling and trying not to panic, I had shifted through my contacts to text Alice, another friend, hoping against hope that it was a cruel joke, a prank, something that would make this awful thing not true.
Waiting for a reply, I now gazed out into the blackness, which was lightly tinged with grey in the east. I had seen Sarah only a week ago, right before her gastric bypass surgery. She had seemed nervous, but confident that all would be well.
Tears slid down my cheeks, and a raspy sob tore from my throat, the noise explosive in the still air. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t fair. She was just trying to be healthy, just trying to get her life together. Now she was gone. Her family had lost a sister and a daughter – and I had lost a friend.
Alice replied—too quickly given the early hour—and confirmed everything. The surgery had taken too great of a toll on Sarah’s body. Sarah, who had survived countless colds, walking pneumonia, and sudden appendicitis, had finally been unable to withstand anything else. I exchanged reminiscences and grief with Alice for the next two hours, and when the sunrise came, it took me by complete surprise. Its spreading light and color were radiant in their brilliance, and warmth washed over my sitting form. I stared at it, not having managed to stop crying yet, and though it wasn’t as cold anymore, I was still shaking.
A helicopter flew overhead, and I was startled to hear its engine suddenly splutter. I watched it anxiously until it disappeared, presumably making for the nearby airfield. There the problem would be identified, and parts repaired. Soon, it would be flying again, good as new.
My phone, clutched in a half-frozen fist, beeped again.
To Hayley: She always did say she was going to die before she turned 20.
As you can see, this is a revision of one of my previous flash fictions. The assignment was not just edit a past piece, but transform it, change its tone or pace or structure. “3AM Text”, I had been the least satisfied with, and I felt that a more introspective tone was better suited for the subject.