The Hospital

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The air was thin and cold, making it difficult for Kathy to breath. She saw the world go by, whisking in its daily routine, yet she was alone, stuck in the deepest crevasse of human existence, witnessing Death murder the innocent around her. She saw them, and heard them die. Time froze. The shriek clouded her mind, taunting her.
They will die, painfully, and you will watch.
This is a game that can’t be won for fate will always follow.
The words rang in her head. She couldn’t cry. No, she was stuck. All seemed lost and then time began to play out its normal course. The ground disappeared, exposing black emptiness as the scenery around her began to melt, like wet paint dripping down. She found herself on the top on a high building. The wind shook her, violently pushing Kathy closer and closer to the edge. She would have fallen if the ledge hadn’t extended a few inches more. Somewhere from above a voice called for her. Jump. Jump. Jump before all is lost. The words were cold and barely a whisper. She looked down and saw a bright light. Pleasure surged through her, giving her warmth and happiness, as she looked down. Kathy tilted forward and began her descent down the building. The heat continued to rise until it was unbearable. The light too began to intensify until all was dark and cold. She smelt the sickening sweetness of rotting flesh. The odor came from her. Her senses were dulled, she felt nothing, but faint footsteps crawling up her arms and legs, and then they were upon her.
She was awake. The night terror left trails of tears down her cheeks. She remembered nothing of the night previous but the words of the shriek were ringing in her mind. She collapsed onto her pillow; her head was aching.
She got up, stiff from the night’s attack. It was early, three in the morning, only four more hours until her morning rounds. She went into the bathroom. The cold tile sent a chill up her feet, and to the rest of her body. She was cold. She looked up into the mirror. She saw a stranger, barely recognizing the face in the stained mirror; it was not the Kathy Bloom she used to know. Her hazel eyes were bloodshot, and her black hair was matted. She looked old and worn down for thirty three. Kathy looked down at the sink and turned on the cold water and washed her hands and then brought them to her face, cleaning it of the past, ready for the fresh experience of a new day.
She left the bathroom, and began changing. She felt stronger, more in control. Today felt like a good day. Kathy was ready for work with a little more than three hours to spare. She sat down on the old leather couch, turned on the T.V. and began flipping the channels. Finally she stopped at Animal Planet and began to relax. A group of monkeys stood in a line, grooming each other, hunting down the families of insects that dwelled in their fur. She smiled. Life was so simple in the animal world. The bugs died together, eaten by foul beasts; yet their story will never be regarded as a tragedy. Their dying screams will never be heard.
We have mastered nature, making it our slave and now we struggle for our unpromised right of immortality or the closest thing to it, pushing its boundaries to the point where your skin begins to wrinkle and your mind begins to dissolve. They spent too much money on Medicare, money better spent on younger patients and medical research. Kathy sighed and continued watching the monkeys.

It was now five. Kathy got up, picked up the remote and turned off the T.V. She was hungry. She walked to kitchen, walking slowly. It was quiet, but it was always quiet. She went to the fridge and took out the milk. She looked at the label; it was skim milk. She smiled to herself, looking back at her past like one looks back at their childhood. The memories were blurry, but the feeling was fresh. Stuck in high school, she remembered trying to lose weight. That was why she switched to skim. She didn’t do it to look good, or to be healthy. She didn’t know her motivation. There was none. Maybe it was because her weight was the only thing she could control, with an abusive dad and a quiet mother. All she knew was she switched to skim milk and started running. Now she only drank milk.

She poured the milk in a bowl as with the cereal, finishing the box. She needed to go to the grocery store. She took out a spoon, sat down and began eating, grimacing at its repulsive artificial taste. Yet she continued to eat, in silence. Her family would eat in silence, as her dad wasn’t drunk yet. He was docile when he was sober, while his true hellish nature shined when poisoned by alcohol. She hated him. During the day depression consumed him, crippling his ability to express real emotion. Kathie didn’t understand him and she didn’t want to. Forever she will regard him as the drunken abusive Dad. It was easier not to pity. She tried to run away one night, when her father was out in the bar. With her little pink backpack she packed toys and cheerios, carefully erasing her tracks. She didn’t want daddy to beat her. The cuts gained the previous night, were still exposed as her father requested them so. She managed on her own for about three hours until a neighbor picked her up and took her home. Her dad was sitting at the table. His face was blank. It was cold, but it wasn’t harsh, as it usually was. Kathie was frozen in terror as her dad rose from the chair, which fell to the ground with his force. With his thick boots he approached and held out her hand as to hit her, but then he stopped. She began to cry, her hot tears dripping down onto the cold tile. He collapsed to the floor and he too started to cry. It was the only time he ever showed any guilt or reluctance to cause her pain. He stopped and picked up Kathie. He took her to her room and she drifted to sleep.
Her alarm began to ring. She checked her watch, six. She turned it off and stretched, her legs first and then her arms. She then walked around the cramped apartment. Then she stretched again. Finally she got her keys from the drawer and headed out the door, down the stairs and into the parking lot.
Her car was easy enough to find. She had an old beat up green Toyota Camry. There was a big dent in the front that had taken off the Toyota logo. It was good enough to go to work and the grocery store and that was all she needed it for. She got in started the ignition and backed out making her way onto the street. She liked to daydream while she drove. The morning was early and the birds were chirping. All should have been happy, but Kathy wasn’t. She was stuck. Her phone began to ring; she woke from her daze, swerving a little onto the other lane.
“Hello?”
“Oh thank God, Kathy, are you all right?”
“Yeah I’m fine. What’s going on? Is something wrong?”
“No. It’s just you left a message last night crying and screaming. I tried calling you but you didn’t pick up. I was just worried. I’m glad to see that you’re all right.”
“Did you say that I called you last night?
“Yes. Don’t worry about it. I was just calling to check up on you. You’ve probably haven’t gotten enough sleep. You need at least eight hours a night, Kathy. Any less than that is unhealthy.”
“I’m so sorry. Wow. I can’t believe I did that.”
“Maybe you should see a doctor.”
“Sarah, I’m a psychiatrist. I don’t need to see a doctor. Like you said I probably haven’t gotten enough sleep.”
“Kathy. Don’t be stupid. I’m your friend. I care about you. You need to see a psychiatrist.’
“I’m fine, Sarah.”
“It wasn’t just yesterday, Kathy. You’ve been a little down lately. I don’t know. I’ll talk to you at lunch.”
“I told you I’m fine. You don’t need to worry. Ok. Bye.”
Kathy continued to drive, a little faster than before. Sometimes she imagined herself dying. The daydreams were sick. They felt so real which made her nervous, but never scared. She was never scared. The most recent one was a man ripping her in half with a chainsaw. The images were like a recent memory, vivid and fresh.



She approached the hospital. It was seven stories high, and painted a dull grey. The main door greeted the patients to their fate, whether it be death, mercy, or crippling. The sign above the door read St. Andrews Hospital, but for her it was hell.
Kathy arrived in on time and began her routine. She was working hospital consults this month. That meant she would have to work mostly with depressed terminal patients. She had seen too many cases. She had seen too many good people break down before their death. For the most part patients acted in four ways. Her favorite were those who accepted their fate, ready to move on to the afterlife. She would talk about their past with them, reminiscing unknown memories as if they were old friends. Often she would envy these patients and their full lives. Maybe it was because they were happy, or maybe because they were dying. They were strong hearted, and accomplished great feats. Then there were the depressed patients. They would often refuse to talk, cursing. They were hard on the outside and soft on inside like a crab. It would take much therapy to crack them but once they were broken they became the third type of patient, moody and hysterical. They would often have crying sessions, begging for their lives. They were reduced to a miserable state. They were broken; the premonition of death shattered their very being. Sometimes they would try to kill themselves. Kathy’s job was to sedate them with heavy medication until, their death. Many innocent patients came by; they were common. Some were children. They were scared. Often they had crying sessions, as well as periods where they were in denial. They didn’t want to die. She would do her best with these patients, comforting them and their families, and that was all she could do.
She had about twelve patients a day, more or less. She spent a varied time with them, depending on how serious their case was. No case was exactly the same. It disgusted Kathy, maybe because she dreamed of dying so much that it tempted her or maybe it was because she had welcomed the death of her parents. She took care of her sister after her parents died. Kathy was glad she was seventeen when it happened. She had to spend only one more year in hell, while her sister had five left.
Kathy was paged a little after 7:00.
“Yes. This is Dr. Bloom.”
“Dr. Bloom, this is Karen Wilke, a RN on 3 North. Dr. Kirkland requested a Psych consult in room four thirty five. The patient is a 26 year old female who sustained facial trauma, requiring reconstructive plastic surgery after a car accident. She hasn’t said much after her surgery. Her vitals have been healthy and stable. Her bandages were removed yesterday. She was heard crying last night around 3:30 A.M. Dr. Kirkland was hoping you could take a look at her.”
“Ok. Thank You.”
Kathy reached the room and peered through the window. Inside was a nurse in polka dotted scrubs. She hated patterned scrubs. It added cruel irony to the sadness, collected in a hospital. She waited for her to come out.
“Sorry.”
“Oh. No problem.”
She swung the door open, and closed it shut.
The nurse left.
“Hi I’m, Dr. Bloom. Do you have a minute to talk?”

She smiled. Kathy smiled back.
“Yeah. No problem. Please. Go on.”
“Ok.”
Kathy shut the door.
“I was just wondering how you were feeling.”
“Fine.”
“You look great.”
She said nothing.
“You know that plastic surgery takes time to heal. You won’t know how you will look until a few months.”
Tears came to her eyes.
“No I won’t look the same. That was me. You wouldn’t understand.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“No.”
“Listen. It must be hard what you’re going through, and you’re right I don’t understand, but it’s my job to understand.”
Kathy waited for a response. It never came.
“Tell me what you looked like before.”
“It doesn’t matter now. That was how I saw myself. It feels like I have lost myself, like I am trapped in some alien body.”
“Do you feel any different?”
“No. I don’t know. My family came to visit me yesterday. They barely recognized me.”
There was a pause. Kathy sighed, ready to leave.
“I’ll talk to the plastic surgery staff. I have some connections, there, but don’t get your hopes up; you have already gone through a lot of trauma. Listen to them.”
Kathy pushed up on the chair, to get up.
“Thank you.”
Kathy opened the door and left, heading for the break room. She was already worn out. Today was going to be a long day. She stopped at pediatric wing. Sarah was reading to the younger patients. She was the closest thing Kathy had to a friend. Kathy left.
She went to break room, slowly shutting the door behind her and lied down for ten minutes. She couldn’t sleep. She wondered if she had insomnia but she didn’t care enough to seek help. She was a doctor she would tell herself as if that meant she was impervious to disease. Ironic it would be for a healer of the crazy to be mad herself. She counted the dots on the ceiling; it was an old habit she got when she couldn’t sleep in middle school. Her dad was dead by then, was drunk and drove into an oil tanker, good riddance. In her delirious state, her mom would cry most of the time when she wasn’t away from home. She was weak, frail, and unearthly thin and looked much older than she was. Her premature, balding, grey hair and arched back added to the effect. Kathy remembered the day she caught her mother, in a room full of smoke. She was laughing and crying at the same time, if it were possible. Her eyes were bloodshot, and foam was coming out of her mouth. Quickly Kathy shut the door and hid with her sister, praying to the god she hated for putting her in this mess for guidance.
Kathy’s pager rang, interrupting her counting.
“Yes. This is Dr. Bloom.”
“Yes. Dr. Bloom. Dr. Stevens has requested a Psych consult in room seven eighty nine. The patient has purposely overdosed himself with antibiotics.”
“Ok. I’ll be there.”
She got to the room and knocked on the door. His parents were in there talking to him. They didn’t look happy.
“Yes. Come in.”
She came in and shook the parents’ hands. The dad had a big beard, was heavy set, and wore a beer stained shirt. He reminded her of her father. His mother was thin, but not as thin as her mother. The expression on their faces was grave.
“Hi. I’m Dr. Bloom. Can I talk to your son alone?”
The mother answered back.
“Yes. You can. Michael. Please try to listen to this doctor. She wants to help you,” she stated in a patronizing tone, exemplifying her thick southern accent.
They left.
“Hi. Michael. Can I call you Michael?”
He said nothing. Kathy sat down and shut the door. She looked at his chart, twenty three, high school dropout, male, healthy except a mild case of asthma.
“Why did you do it Michael?”
She added a special emphasis on Michael, taunting him.

She knew why he did it. He did it because he had the guts to say his life sucked and face death, looking it right in the eye, something she couldn’t do.
“Michael. Look at your parents. They care about you. They love you. Are you that selfish to take away your life from them?
“I was stupid.”
“What?”
“I killed him, shot him right in the face”
He started to cry.
“Michael. Stop it. I took an oath as a doctor to keep my patient’s information confidential. So I need you to get a grip on it and tell me what happened.”
In truth she didn’t know what to do. Any other doctor would have consulted a lawyer, but Kathy didn’t care. She decided to spare him.
“I was drunk and he broke into the house. My parents were asleep. I heard a window break and I took the gun from my Dad’s office, and then, and then, I did it. My parents helped me throw the body in the river. I couldn’t take it. Please don’t tell my Dad I told you. He’d kill me if he found out.”
“Michael. Calm down. I need you to call me and we will schedule some sessions. I want to help you.”
She handed him a business card and they started to talk. They went on for an hour, discussing his relationship with his parents, his feelings on death, religion, philosophy. She didn’t pay much attention to the conversation. She didn’t need to; practice and skill had made the task easy. It was like soothing a baby.
Lunch drifted by. She ate lunch with Sarah and some other nurses. She apologized to Sarah after about her night episode and promised to seek help, but she was interrupted by a page. Kathy left to see a ninety year old lady about to die. She cried the whole time. Kathy prescribed her medication and left, wandering around the hospital. She saw Sarah; she was reading the bible to some of the older patients. She rolled her eyes and walked away, heading for the break room. She was in the mood for some Animal Planet.
She watched lions fighting for about fifteen minutes until she was interrupted by another blaring ring from her pager. It was 2:15.
“This is Dr. Bloom.
“Yes. Dr. Bloom. Dr. Rodriguez has requested a Psych consult in room four one seven. The patient is thirty and has cancerous tumors in the brain. He doesn’t have much time left.”
“Thank you.”
Kathy got up, turned off the T.V. and left. Without notice Kathy’s resolve plummeted, her. She felt weak, broken. She continued to walk, unnoticed in the busy hospital, unnoticed in the world. She got to the room and peered through the window. Inside was a man. It looked like his soul had been sucked from him.
She knocked on the door and came inside.
“Hi. I am Dr. Bloom, but you can call me Kathy.”
He forced a smile.
“Hi. Kathy. I’m Brian”
She shut the door.
“How are you feeling?”
“Absolutely terrible. You?”
“I’ve had better days.”
“Are you scared?”
“There’s not much to be scared of.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve had three years to get ready for this and now I’m ready. It’s finally gonna end.”
“You can be honest with me.”
He laughed.
“I’m being honest. It’s almost a relief, dying. All my cares gone. I just wish it wasn’t so painful.”
He groaned.
“Are you OK?”
“Yeah. I’m fine.”
“You’re brave. You know that. I’ve seen so many dying people that can’t handle this. It’s hard.”
“I still don’t want to die. Just thought you should know that. I just put it off so many things, too many late nights working and not enough enjoying life. Yah know. That sucks, but there’s nothing I can do now.”
They talked for while. Kathy didn’t bother to check the time; she was pitying and envying Brian, while admiring his fortitude. He would die and the label suicide wouldn’t soil his memory, still he would face death prematurely.
Death was an unknown. Despite its temptation, Kathy feared it. She didn’t know what to expect. The idea of an end was frightening yet refreshing, as finishing a sad book. Whether she liked it or not, when it ended life went on, without notice to its passing.
Her pager ended her conversation with Brian. She bid him goodbye and left. The other patients were all the same. Unlike Brian, they feared death. She hated them. She hated their moaning. She hated their crying and she hated their sadness. Luckily she managed to hide her emotions well, feigning sympathy better than any actress she knew. That was why she was still had a job.





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