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I killed someone today.
It's been weighing heavily on my mind all day, the dread it causes hanging like icicles in the cavity of my hollowed heart. I've been turning the scenario over and over and over. What did I do wrong?
I never meant to kill her. She was in so much pain, it almost seemed like she wanted to die. But I made a promise never to kill--today I broke that promise for the first time, and it will surely not be the last. After all, in a place where Death is the de facto leader, I have little say in his decisions. I can argue all I want, but in the end, if I try too hard, he'll shut me up and laugh in my face as he carries out his decree. Then I suffer even more. I don't like pain. I don't like to see people in it. That's why I became a doctor--a rebel, an anti-soldier of sorts; I don't fight to bring Death, I fight to drive him away. But like any warrior, I don't win always win every battle against this universal enemy.
I crashed on the couch as soon as I got home. I let it consume me, its moldy, sanguine serenity drying me of my sorrow. Though the television was on, and though my idol was busy being the mightiest warrior in Hippocrates’ army, saving a person through some momentary epiphany, I couldn't keep Hypnos from throwing me into Morpheus's gentle arms.
I saw her there, but she appeared as I had never seen her before. Bereft of wires and breathing tubes and intravenous needles, and garbed in a gown not of the sickly hospital white, but brilliant lavender, she stood before me in a sort of void, floating there in a flickering, lambent light put solely upon her; I was nowhere to be seen, trapped in the darkness at bay. I wanted to reach out to her, wanted to touch the flowing waterfall of ebony hair that she lost to Chemo--that venomous fiend who works only on compromise, on sacrifice.
But I couldn’t. The darkness kept me back, while she looked at me with those innocent, jaded green eyes. It was like she could sense my desperation to touch her, to realize the tangibility of her image. It was like she knew what I wanted, and knew what was best. She gave me a smile--something I had only seen once on her face, the night before she died when I told her I wouldn’t let Death take her.
And then he did, and she faded away.
My pager broke me from her smile. Within half an hour, I was back at the front lines.
And what a battle was being fought tonight.
I stood there stupidly, bullets flying all around me: stroke killed one here, an aortic aneurism killed another there, and the screams... Oh, the screams. Not just from the victims, but the soldiers trying to protect them. Screams everywhere, confusion, mayhem.
Where were the shots coming from? Where? One after another, wave after wave fell, no chance to succeed. And there I stood in the midst of it all, shell-shocked and unable to move. Boom! KIA by means of stab wound. Boom! KIA by means of cardiac arrest. Boom! KIA by means of severed carotid artery.
And then one of my allies shook me free from my trance. What did they need? Another resuscitator? Huh? Too late, he’s already dead? What’s that? Retreat? Retreat!
I ran from the ICU as fast as I could, taking cover in the trenches in the back of the battlefield. The enemy, he was simply too powerful, how could we possibly think to defeat him with our measly little medicines and emergency procedures? Look at the size of those guns! They’ll tear us down!
I reached down my shirt, and pulled out my precious crucifix. Oh, why did I sign into this? What good could possibly come from this? It was a stupid, childish aspiration! Glory, that’s all I thought about when I took up this role. But look at me now! I’m nothing but a coward. Oh God, save me please!
And there she was. Lavender gown and everything. Smile and everything. This time there was no darkness to keep her at bay; she reached out and took my hands and kissed them. “I am always with you,” is what she said.
And then she was gone.
But she did leave behind two things:
A fully loaded weapon.
Jumping to my feet, I climbed from the bed and dashed back to the action.
I killed someone today. But I’m still standing.