Ghosts of a Past Fixation

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A nurse enters the intensive care unit, taking care not to startle her patients. Pulling out her stethoscope, she checks their weak vitals. Neither patient shows much improvement. Shaking her head, she tacitly lets a small sigh escape her clenched jaw. Death is a factor this intern has yet to experience; today it feels as if death is flowing in through the windows, filling the small room with its fetid aroma. Her sneakers squeak as she strides into the fresh air of the hallway.

The left bed holds a teenage boy, watching a sleeping girl in the adjacent bed. Her rosy lips contrast her sickly pale cheeks. Wishful thinking does nothing to remedy their ailments; however he disregards his realistic tendencies and yearns for the means to pull the last remnants of life from his body and deliver them to her, this beautifully fading girl.

“We’ll both be angels soon.”
He sighs and lets his head fall back onto the lumpy pillow. Death is no longer an untouchable entity. He can feel it on the sheets; he smells it in the pillows. Death is coming for them. Somehow, he isn’t afraid; he welcomes the release. He’s tired of the false hope, so sick of the pain.
Cautiously, he traces a singular pink scar just below the IV. The crescent scar sparks fresh memories of reckless assumptions. He can still hear his brother’s ominous voice, slurs incorporated as a part of an addicted dialect.

An hour later, the nurse arrives on cue. This time the girl is awake, watching the boy rest. The girl smiles as she watches his chest slowly rise and fall. His curly red hair falls placidly on his face, hiding worry lines. Lightheadedness and vertigo overcome her, and she struggles to stay alert. As the spell passes she slowly lifts her head, only to receive another sharp pain to the right side of her face. The pain is quickly replaced by a duller throbbing sensation. This time her vision is conquered by a swarm of blue dots, and ringing fills her ears. The blue dots collaborate into a singular profile. Her mother’s silhouette smiles sympathetically, and tears join the speckles to cloud her vision.

The hallucination passes and she motions to the nurse, who dutifully approaches. “I’m going to sleep now,” the girl warily says, “If I don’t wake up will you give him this?” She hands the nurse a small paper note.

“Yes of course, Claire” the nurse replies, “but there’s no need to worry. You’re going to be fine,” The nurse’s eye twitches subconsciously, a nervous habit. “You’re going to be fine.” She repeats softly.

Eased by the nurse’s attempt to soothe her, Claire shuts her eyes-notably comforted.

The click of the door signals the nurse’s departure. Claire notices the boy’s sleeping face turn slightly. Her heart locks into an iron hold, and her lungs feel as if they are in a vacuum. The dizziness returns, worse than ever, but she disregards the nurse’s call button. As her vision fades, her peripheral vision says the boy’s chest has stopped rising. “Julian…” The whisper turns into a sigh as her eyelids collapse and her body slackens.
Dual cardiac machines beep steadily. Beep… Beep… Beep… Beep-Beep.. Beep-Beep.. Beep-Beep.. Beeeeeeepppppp….. The machines drone on a single note, the last note in this pair’s symphony. Had the nurse been in the room, she would’ve noticed Claire’s face mirroring Julian’s faint grin.





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