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Playing the Part This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


You walk in, holding your head up just enough, lifting your feet the right amount. You couldn't possibly look more casual; you're playing the part perfectly.

She's sitting on the blood-stained bed, fingering the sheets as though they're a rosary. She's sick, so very sick, and you know it. She knows it. They know it. She just refuses to acknowledge it.

“Sam?”

It's not even your real name, but it sounds comforting and safe. She coughs and drops of blood stain her sheet, stain her tomb.

“I'm here, Jennifer. How are you feeling?” There we go. The perfect blend of compassion and pity. You have this role down perfectly.

You're sitting on the edge of the bed, keeping your distance, just like last time and the time before that and the time before that. This way there's a barrier between you, a barrier that can't be broken with words or tears.

She talks about miracles, about feeling better, about God's will. You know the words are all lies, but at the same time, you want to believe them. You want to believe she's getting better; you want to believe that you don't have to do this.

She reaches for your hand and you let her. It wasn't in the training, but you like to keep them happy up to the end. For some that's a hug, for others just a few words. Her hand is freezing, contrasting your sweating palm. Does she notice? Does she know what you came here to do? Does she care?

“Do you want to see the bite?”

You nod without thinking. You always want to see the bite. You want to see what could be your fate tomorrow.

She pulls up her sleeve and you see the mark that sealed her fate and condemned you to yours. The skin is green, and the blood has changed to a black, tar-like mixture. She says it looks like it's healing, and for a second you want to laugh, to show her the lies she's spinning. But no, you cannot, you must not break the illusion.

You let a patient live once, let Henry live. He was five, and you couldn't kill a child. You just walked out of the room and closed the door to his whimpers. You felt better; you thought you had given one person another chance. Of course you ended up having to kill three more because of Henry. All of them trusted you; all of them thought they were getting better. The others hadn't known it was you who let Henry live. They thought it was one of the others. As he was pushed out of the camp, you learned your lesson: Never let them live. For better or worse, they have to go.

Too much time has passed. This always happens. You always talk to them. It's kinder that way. But you know it's wrong. It just makes the inevitable that much harder.

You stand and turn as though to leave. Between coughing fits, she asks if you'll be coming back. You feel a lump in your throat as you say, “Yes, yes, I'll be back.”

It's time. You reach into your pocket; you pull out the gun. One fluid motion.

The sound hangs heavy, the finality of it. She lies on the bed, not coughing anymore, not talking anymore.

You're shaking, though you've done this many times. You take one last look at her, at Jennifer, and you walk out, closing the door. You mark it with a red X. All the doors that came before bear the same mark of shame. All the ones ahead will be marked sooner or later.

You shake your head, clearing your mind of her. You turn to the next room and open the door. The gun is in your pocket and a smile is on your face. You're playing the part perfectly.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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This article has 8 comments. Post your own!

whiterose said...
May 4, 2013 at 4:19 pm:
Whoa!! This is perfect. You kept me on the edge of my seat wanting to know more.  Keep writing :)
 
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Sreeram V. said...
Dec. 2, 2012 at 9:56 am:
Awesome work!  i would like a sequel of this story!
 
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lzcelloplayer said...
Feb. 13, 2012 at 4:55 pm:
Awesome! I just couldn't stop reading this piece. I was captivated till the very end. I can't wait to read more of your work. I absolutely think that this could have been the beginning of a great novel. Congrats on getting this piece into the magazine! This piece will really play the part perfectly in the magazine. :D
 
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avb1234 said...
Jan. 5, 2012 at 9:30 pm:
"Playing the part" was the perfect way to put how he was acting for the "patients" or the "victims" of the disease. I only wonder, does he feel remorse for his actions or is he does he believe it is the right thing to do? Either way, really attention grabbing writing. Looking forward to reading more of your work!
 
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otherpoetThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jan. 1, 2012 at 4:35 pm:
Wow. This is incredible! I would love to know more about what happens next. To me, this is like chapter one of a fantastic thriller - all I want to do is keep reading!
 
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ImaginedangerousThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 31, 2011 at 4:02 pm:
Vampires? Or zombies? Or something else? Either way, this is brilliant. I love how you start out with a regular hospital room and then just make it creepier and creepier...
 
Jonathon M. replied...
Jan. 4, 2012 at 8:09 pm :
Zombies. And thank you
 
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TouchOfARoseThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Dec. 23, 2011 at 1:05 pm:
This is absolutely mind blowing! You have such talent at building suspense. You give the reader a horrible feeling of trepidation as it slowly dawns on them what's about to happen. I was literally latched onto my computer screen, reading and reading until I got to the last paragraph. Your summary was a perfect mixture of finality and closure, with cliffhangers. This was a tremendously good read, and I can honestly say I can't spot any mistakes of any kind in this. You have amazing talent, keep ... (more »)
 
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