Most seventeen-year-olds don’t expect to be lying on a hospital bed, waiting to die, but Mat wasn’t surprised.

The rhythmic beeping of the machines monitoring his vitals was the only thing keeping him company. Entombed in a room smelling of lemon disinfectant, staring at the white ceiling as if it hid all the answers.

Why was he born with a congenital heart disease? Why did he have to die without ever getting a chance to live? Just why?

If the ceiling knew anything, it was keeping it for itself. Selfish bastard.

He’d been in and out of hospitals for most of his life. But this time was different. Mat knew he wasn’t going to get any better.


His only hope was in receiving a heart transplant, a feeble hope. He was going to die long before his name reached the top of the waiting list, and a compatible donor was found.

Putting his hopes on a last-minute miracle would ruin what little time he had. It was better to accept the inevitable and enjoy what he could.

Books were all the friends he needed. They narrated a thousand lives, adventures and mysteries. His mind could travel the whole world and beyond, to remote magical realms. Things he never got the chance to experience.

He didn’t fear death. Such was inevitable for everyone. Billions had died before him, many more would die after, unless someone nuked the planet and put an end to the cycle. Maybe a fifty-fifty chance at best. Luckily, it wasn’t his problem.

Mat would have the answer to the greatest mystery and know what came after. There might be nothingness, but there could be an afterlife. Either case, he would soon know.

Living seventeen years or seventy didn’t make much difference in the grand scheme of things. The universe remained indifferent. He was a little speck of dust that lasted a little less than usual. Even the Earth wasn’t going to notice.


He didn’t immediately realize he was crying until he felt the wetness of the pillow.

“Fuck!” Mat yelled, or at least tried to. There was no more strength left in him to raise his voice that much. His body had betrayed him one more time.

Despite years of trying to rationalize and find peace with himself, a small part hoped for a cure, a miracle. A bit of luck for once in his goddamn life.

Hope lurked at the corners of his thoughts, luring him in with reassurances and sweet, empty words. Promises that wouldn’t be kept.

The time for sweet lies was over, fate cared not if he didn’t want to die.

Mat felt like an idiot for getting mad at the unfairness of life. The world didn’t even pretend to be fair. Still, the anger he thought he’d let go long ago came back like a crashing wave.

He never gave it voice, never complained aloud. His family was always watching him with worried gazes, waiting for him to break. He dreaded their sorrowful expressions and pity. They wanted to help, but there was nothing they could do, he couldn’t be fixed.

Their pain only served to feed his guilt. Not only was his life miserable, he was also making the life of anyone who loved him worse.

Alone in his room, he gave voice to a long list of swears.

Normally he would have worried about what someone might think if they heard him. Now, for the first time in his life, he didn’t care.

He was angry at the world, furious. He wouldn’t even reach his twenties and the time he had lived, sucked.


A nurse came to check on him, but one glare accompanied by the continuous swearing was enough to make her retreat. He wanted to be alone.

Out of breath from the brief exertion, he stared at the ceiling again. At least it didn’t lie.

All people had to die, and this was his time. There was no hidden meaning. The only answer was that there was no answer. That was it.

Taking a deep breath, Mat cleared his mind and let the anger flow away. Soon his life would end, and that was fine. He would be free at last.

With a weak, genuine smile appearing on his lips, he truly felt at peace.

Not much later, he closed his eyes for the last time while his mother and sister squeezed his hands. He tried to smile. Not sure if it was for them or himself.

They were saying something, probably crying, he couldn’t hear them. Soon only a long beep remained in the room, announcing the end of his unremarkable life.