“The Final Frontier” by Doug Hawley


Sally got home from her nature guide conference after being gone for a week.  She was surprised to see an envelope with her name on it in Duke’s handwriting propped up on the phone.  He used to send her little love notes, but with his recent problems, he had dropped the habit. Could he finally have some good news?

“Sally, there is no way to make this easy.  I’ll be dead when you get this.”

After the first line, Sally sat down and started to cry.  It was five minutes before she could resume reading while still sniffling.

“I didn’t tell you how painful and humiliating the first dialysis was.  You may think that I had some hope of getting a kidney transplant. I was able to keep other health problems from you that ensured that I wouldn’t be around long.  I also have liver cancer. No idea why I bothered with dialysis, I won’t be around long, so why keep hurting when the end is near?”

“You were too good to tell me ‘I told you so’, but I certainly deserved it.  Every time you tried to keep me from smoking, drinking and overeating, I fought you.  The hacking and coughing, the blood in the urine, there was nothing that I wouldn’t ignore.  It is all on me.”

“Besides trying to protect me from myself, you were so good to me in so many ways.  When the DMV wanted to pull my driver’s license, you went to bat for me to keep my license.  When I wanted to invest half of our money in my crazy brother-in-law’s get rich scheme, you talked me out of it.   You saved me from having the crap beat out of me by the neighbor that hated the loud music I played in the backyard.  Eddie forgave a lot for your scrumptious apple pie.”

“If you knew how dire my situation was, you probably would have wanted a few more weeks together, but you know what a whining baby I am.  I would have been miserable, and I would have made your life miserable. That is why I’ve been on my best behavior the last few weeks. No whining about your hair or the time you spend on the phone.  Finally, I’m acting as I should have all the time that we have been married, so I hope that I get a few points.”

“You shouldn’t have to deal with the grim details.  I will take a bus out to the Gorge and get off somewhere, and then climb up, avoiding trails as much as possible.  Do you remember I wondered if there was any place in Oregon no one had ever set foot? I hope to find such a place where I’ll never be found.  I was able to get enough fentanyl to kill me. Remember how much better I felt at emergency when I got it in the IV? I hope that and the brandy I’m taking will get me a feel-good passage to oblivion.”

“I loved you since we met.  You deserved better than me.”     


The author is a little old man who lives with his editor Sharon and cat Kitzhaber in Lake Oswego, Oregon USA.  He spends his time hibernating until spring, but sometimes emerges to do volunteer things and hike.  His hundred or so publications vary by size – under 100 words to around 20,000 and by subject – memoir, essay, science fiction, crime, horror, drama.  Major publishers (besides Cartel) include Story Shack, Fiction On The Web, Yellow Mama, Short Humour, Dirty Pool and Literally Stories.

‘I Dream of Satan’ by Doug Hawley

sc july 18

As a young boy, I was moved from the bedroom that I inhabited with my older sister to the room in the attic that my father had finished. I continually imagined monsters coming up the stairs to get me because of my isolation. As I got a little older, the monsters left me alone.

As I went through school, I was on cruise control. Good grades, a sequence of fine girlfriends, nothing serious, but very satisfying. After I got my Master Of Fine Arts, specializing in illustrating, I got a job at Space-Time Comics. I advanced quickly and after a year I had my own comic, Universal Journey.

Luck, bad or good, sent me to an exhibit at our art museum “Art In Speculative Fiction” featuring historic and current paintings and art from or inspired by science fiction. I literally bumped into a beautiful woman at the exit to the museum coffee shop. After exchanging “excuse me”, we started to discuss the art. Megan worked at a local gallery and had read classic science fiction for years – H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne. She also knew many overlooked female writers. I’d like to give the details about our courtship, but those details are too painful now. All you need to know is that we were married two months after meeting.

Married life was bliss after years of casual dating. Without trying, we split up chores equitably and with two good incomes, money was no problem. Two years later, I was thinking that with our stability, it was time to start a family. My parents were definitely thinking that it was time. The day before I was going to start Megan thinking along the same lines, she called me from work.

“Duke, I’ve tried to think of how to do this and there is no good way. I’m in love with Santos from our gallery. I hope that we can have an amicable break. If we can’t, I’ll just get the divorce on my own.” I dropped the phone and felt sick. I don’t remember the rest of the call except that I begged and cried to no avail.

When she called after another week, I had painfully accepted reality and agreed to divorce.

The night after the divorce was final; I had the first nightmare since I had been in grade school, or at least the first on that I could remember. It was sufficiently vivid that I recognized the male as some combination of Satan and Santos, and the woman was a caricature of Megan. It looked like the illustration from a lurid science fiction pulp magazine except that it was exaggerated anatomically and X-rated. As the two of them went about their antics, they seemed to be looking and laughing at me.

Santos’ appearance as Satan was easy to explain. Santos was quite muscular; reddish skinned and had a widow’s peak.

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