He props his collar up, puffs his scarf to cover all exposed skin; all that dead, gray skin. He tucks his gloves down over the wrists and sucks on the butt of his last cigarette. Damn things never last. His wife used to say it'd give him cancer, not that it matters now. He lowers his woolen packer hat over his brow and stares at his reflection in a shopfront window. He used to recognize himself, now what is he?
It had all happened so fast; the heart attack; cracking his head on the tile floor; the ethereal sensation that he was losing life, as though it were seeping out of a hole somewhere. And then the doctors. The nurses. The scalpel. He saw it all, from outside his body. He watched as they operated, trying so heroically to save his life, but in the end the line went dead.
So what the hell is he doing back on Winthrop street in high Winter, and how did he return?
The door to the shop swung open and closed to a chime of bells. Instinctively, the man flicked his cigarette to the ground and stamped it out. He turned from the window to face a young woman.
“Hello, John,” she called.
John stared at her awhile. He had lived in this town for most of his life and frequented Winthrop Street, but he did not know this woman.
“I didn’t think you’d recognize me,” she continued, beckoning him to join her.
John stumbled forward, his legs stiff and robotic. With each painful step he took, he stared at the red-haired woman before him. She gazed at him with warm eyes and her thin lips formed a half-smile.
When at last he reached her, she took his hand and led him off Winthrop onto Northup Lane. They walked silently past farmlands with overgrown pastures but no horses there to graze; past a lake where a fisher had cast his nets but no fish there to be caught.
They ascended a hill and reached a wooden bench overlooking those vast, empty acres. “Why did you lead me back here?” John ventured.
The woman dropped his hand. “This,” she cautioned, “is your last chance.”
(First two hundred words by Shane Vaughan. Posted for http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/11/29/flash-fiction-challenge-200-words-at-a-time-part-two/.)