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Flatline

Was it unusually hot? His fingers shook with every move. Sweat raced down his brow. The wires were in place. The monitor would flatline in exactly five minutes. In five minutes a woman’s life would end. Not her biological form of living, no. The life she’d spent twenty-three years tolerating. He was, by request, going to end her story.


The rhythmic beeping continued. It was a symbol. A symbol that represented power. The man had the power to end a life. The woman had the power to persuade him to do so.


All of this was happening in the gloomy cell of a building. This building was a place that welcomed the sick and those in pain. It appeared as a dark place in the minds of those who knew of it. This building was notorious for the slipping away of lives.


The woman was sick. A kind of sickness that couldn’t be fixed with medical miracles of today. She hated her soul. It was a reflection of how she had lived her life. She didn’t want to be recognized as that person anymore. She spent what seemed like an eternity convincing this doctor, with a 98% success rate, to kill her. He in turn finally agreed with her persuasiveness.

Just one more minute remained before the machine would flatline. One more agonizing minute until he would have to break it to the woman’s family that she had died.


The sound of the monitor faded until it was nothing more than a dull noise. He had done it. Her life had ended, and he now had to make the journey into the hearts of those in the waiting room to tell them the tragic news.


They of course would question it. Everyone does when they lose a loved one. He would take them to the broken machine and the surprisingly still body. They would ask for the body so they could have a funeral, and he would steal the nearly identical, unclaimed body from the shipment about to go to the crematory.


He walked for what seemed like forever. Every step made a small tap on the wooden floor. He noticed how clean the building smelled. Just one more hallway to cross through until he would see the big eyes of those desperately waiting for news of loved ones. He rounded the corner. The old chairs were almost empty. What time was it? How long had it taken to come up with the plan? He peered out the window. It was later than he had thought. No wonder the room seemed so much more unoccupied than it was earlier that day. He located the woman’s mother and husband. The woman’s daughter was nowhere to be found. Slowly he approached the two. He cleared his throat.

“Excuse me.” He spoke softly.


The woman’s mother looked up longingly at him. She then started sobbing into an overused tissue. They knew. Was it the look on his face? How could they have possibly known? He wasn’t used to this being such a successful doctor.


He sat down next to the woman. The chair was warm and felt like someone had been sitting in it. The only sound that was heard was the steady flow of gasps from the crying mother. The three sat in almost total silence for a few minutes. The husband seemed shocked. He sat unmoving while nothing was said. Finally, the husband spoke up.

“Can I see her?” He asked hanging on to every word.


The man slowly breathed a deep breath before answering with a sad ‘yes’. The man was worried. What if the husband could tell that the woman wasn’t dead? All would be lost.


The man took the mother’s arm and escorted them down the hallways towards the room. The door was closed, a soft light shone from inside. The light was coming from a lamp that sat next to the ‘deceased’ woman.


The husband gasped. Had the monitor started working? What had gone wrong? Had they found out? The man was asking these to himself. He glanced at the object of the husband’s vision. The woman who lay on the bed was what he had reacted to. Did she portray signs of life? Was that why the husband had reacted?


The husband turned away in horror. He hadn’t recognized the fake death. He had only seen a nightmare that had haunted him ever since he found out about his wife’s disease.


The mother had gone silent. Her eyes were blood red. The tissue she had been using was ripped in various places and hung loosely from her hand.


The husband slipped away into the hallway. The silence was only penetrated by violent sobs from where the husband was.

Why was the room so quiet? Was this normal behavior for those that have just lost someone close to them? Was this the effect the sad soul called death had on people?

***


How had he moved the wires? What went where? The man was worried, you could tell from the look on his face and the fear in his eyes. The monitor was inoperative. It was a trick. It now fooled anyone who believed it was ordinary. It would play like a lifesaver. Carefully telling that one was alive by listening to the music their heart made. Then when all was calm it’s southing sound would stop. The monitor (which was only used for those weak in their heart’s “song”) would “kill” them. It would pretend that the individual’s song had ended.

The team would do their best. They would scurry around that bed in which lay the poor soul. Trying desperately to feel a pulse and do anything to bring back breathing they could recognize. They would, only after all was lost, pronounce the person gone.

***

What was this feeling in the man’s stomach? Was this what guilt was? The man had let an innocent person get buried alive, all because he was to proud to admit his mistake.


The child was weak. Enough where without the monitor one would assume the worst. The monitor was hooked up to him and flatlined. The child was trying hopelessly to wake up and tell every one that he was alive. He was, however, too late. When the child awoke he was in a coffin. A wooden box that would be the end of him! All because the man was too proud fro his own good.


The man attended the funeral. The sun was blazing down on the cemetery that had been around for so many years. He was the last to leave. He was also the only one not to shed a tear.

***


It continued. The patients that were too weak and the monitor that killed teamed up in an unfortunate way.


Each time one was buried the man could not breath. Was this because it was his fault? Or was it because the patients were breathing their last breath and this was his punishment?



The man was getting better at covering his mistake. Each time the dull noise ended someone’s life he would carefully make sure no one questioned the machine. He would make sure no one questioned why he spent so much time with the equipment. He was now skilled at deception.


His new goal was to kill. He enjoyed covering his tracks attending funerals and acting like he was still the perfect doctor. His success rate had dropped, from a 98% to a 64%. How many people had to die before he would realize what he was doing?

***


The night shift in the unwelcoming building was slow. The man was exhausted. Would anyone notice if he slipped away into a unused room and rested? The man doubted it.


He entered the room where the original wires were changed. The room that changed him. Flashbacks of the husband and the mother raced through his head. He quickly shook them away. He sat on the bed next to the lamp that shone through the door so long ago. He was a different man now. He was a killer. He got comfortable and closed his eyes.

***


He awoke. Every patient that had been killed because of him was staring at him with unblinking eyes. Each of them was part of a semi circle that surrounded his bed. Some were hollow looking and their stench was overwhelming. Some were dressed nicely and seemed to have trouble breathing. Different stages of decay, must have been why they were all so different.


The man sat up slowly careful not to startle any of them. He cleared his throat has if about to speak. The first victim, also the youngest, held a finger to his lips. It was cold and partially decayed. The man nodded and stayed silent. Then all at once the deceased began to move.


Each seemed to have a job. One got a piece of notebook paper out of a drawer and handed it to the man. He stared blankly at it trying to decide what it was for.


The victims gave the man some water. He drank the entire glass. It tasted stale as if it was older than him. The paper was no longer blank and had long note written in the man’s writing. It read:

My Dearest Reader,


By the time you read this it will be to late. I no longer wish to live the life I have chosen. I in turn will choose death. I have taken enough medication to save hundreds and enough to save me from myself. I do wish I could explain more but I am feeling very tired and know that when I lay down my head and close my eyes it will be for the last time. Goodbye.


They planned on killing him. By the time the man finished reading the suicide note he was hooked up to the faulty heart monitor. The rhythmic beeping slowed as he fell into a trancelike state.

***


The man’s eyes fluttered open and he realized all the deceased coming to the room was just a dream. The man sat up and hit his head on what seemed to be a hard wooden surface. A coffin lid. He attempted to open the lid but it was shut tight and held by an unknown force. He screamed hoping someone would hear his plea for help. But no one heard him just like no one heard his victim’s screams. Just like no one heard them creep into his sleep or when they hooked him to the monitor. No one heard until they thought it was too late. No one heard until the flatline.



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