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art by Jonathan Westbrook

A Special Day

Shannon Fay has tentatively started blogging at toomuchsugarnotenoughwriting.blogspot.com. She is a freelance writer living in Nova Scotia.

I looked up from my bio notes to see some blonde girl grinning at me.
"Yo, Moria!" she said. "Fancy meeting you here."
She had long, straight hair and just the right amount of blue eye shadow. A ski pass dangled off the zipper of her winter coat. I pegged her as a snow bunny who spent more time on the slopes than in class. I figured we must have had a course together or something because she kept smiling at me. Her eyes dropped down to my mug.
"Oh, you're almost out! Let me buy you a coffee."
"Um, thanks," I said. I hoped I remembered this girl's name soon or else things were going to get awkward. She took my mug and went up to the counter. I was sitting in the university library's atrium. It was busy as always, students talking and studying, a janitor sweeping in the corner. The girl came back with my coffee and a cookie.
"They didn't have cake so I got you this instead."
"I don't eat refined sugar," I said. The girl looked down at the cookie with a frown.
"But thanks for the coffee." I took the mug from her hands. "It's not even my birthday."
The girl sat down. I cringed. I had an exam coming up and I wanted to go over the last chapter again, not make small talk with some girl I couldn't even remember. She grinned at me as she nibbled at the cookie.
"No, of course it's not. Even a keener like you would take a break on her birthday," she said. "Humans are good for observing things like that. Birthdays, anniversaries, memorials. But there's one day every year that people just flat out ignore."
"What's that?"
"The day of their death."
I paused, the coffee mug resting against my lip. I put it down.
"Think about it," ski bunny said, leaning in. "There's 365 days in a year, and on one of them, someday, you're going to die. And every time you pass that date, instead of the years adding up they get smaller and smaller until--" She clapped her hands together, making me jump. She shrugged. "I just think it's kind of sad. Everyone has their own special day but they have no idea. They just go about their business, not realizing what the date means to them. But I guess that's what happens when you can only perceive time linearly."
"Look, do I even know you?" I said, trying to sound angry instead of scared.
She shook her head, smile still in place.
"No, we haven't met yet."
"Well, I think I like it that way," I said. She laughed, but it was cut short by a scream from the other side of the atrium. The janitor had collapsed on the floor. Students crowded around him. A girl pushed through the crowd.
"He's having a heart attack! Someone call an ambulance!"
Thirty different kids got out their cell phones and dialed 911. I looked at the girl across from me. She gave me a wink.
"Oh, I better get to work. But I'm glad I ran into you. I don't get a chance to celebrate with people often."
She stood up.
"See you later, Moria. Why don't you relax, go do something nice for yourself? It's a special day, for you--" she nodded towards the janitor. "And for him."
The next second, she disappeared into the crowd. I stayed in my seat. I didn't even move when the paramedics came and took the body away. Finally, I looked down at my notes. I knew this stuff, I realized. I didn't need to study any more today. With shaking hands I gathered up my stuff and headed out. Even though it was winter there was still some sunlight left. I wasn't going to waste it. Today was a special day.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Author Comments

Last Halloween I went with a pagan friend to a Samhain ceremony, an event where people honour the dead. The lady leading the ritual made a comment about how every year we pass the day of our death, and from that idea this story was born.

- Shannon Fay
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