To be frank, hospitals freak me the hell out. And yet, here I was, sitting alone at my younger sister's bedside, as if holding a silent vigil.
In a way, I could have been. Perhaps not consciously, but when the Silence crept up on me I found myself thinking one of two things: Please wake up, and How I wish I weren't here.
It was disturbing, to say the least. The place had a chill in the air, no matter what floor one was on. The air itself-the very atmosphere, even-was too crisp, too sterile. Whenever I'd leave for home, the smell of cleaning supplies and Universal Hospital Scent lingered in my clothes, and I'd immediately have to shower to get the smell out.
The situation would be different, though. Earlier today during breakfast, I'd fought Mom tooth and nail over coming, but while I'd won the battle, she'd won the war. Before now I'd come during the day, and Mom spent the night at Sophia's bedside. This time, though, I was spending the night.
Despite the selfishness on my part, I still hated the situation.
Over the intercom, an alert broke into my internal monologue. I jumped at the crackle and looked up toward the noise. When I heard what the message was, I gripped the arms of my chair.
"We have a Code Blue. A Code Blue."
A Code Blue. Flat-line. A patient's heart stopping, essentially. I'd learned as much the first time I'd visited my sister. Knowing how close Sophia and her friend, Leslie, were to death when they were admitted, the announcement of a Code Blue had never failed to disturb me.
I glanced back down at Sophia again. Despite myself, my eyes wandered down her arm to the IV. In truth, it looked very different than those on TV. The location was the same, but there was a plastic swirl of tubes, similar to those Crazy Straws that fast food places sometimes sold, with a small stopper coming out. A needle was inserted into this stopper, which fed the drip into her system.
Blood had been drawn earlier, leaving behind a dark stain on the tubes. My stomach churned at the sight and I had to look away.
Along with the tubes were wires attached to adhesive nodes on her body. This helped to monitor her vital signs, but to me, they made her look like some kind of robotic thing. Here in this bed, she was hardly human, hardly my sister.
"Shit." I was about to jump out of my skin, discomfort reigned supreme. "God damn it."
I shot up out of my chair and strode into the hall. I didn't know where I was headed in this god-awful maze of sickness, nor did I care. Sophia was unconscious. What did it matter if I was somewhere else?
Not all who wander are lost.
Eventually, I realized where I was going. As I stood before my destination, a smile spread across my face. I guess in this time of tension and fear, even the smallest things could make me smile.
I stood before the machine, gazing at the different choices. Two of my favorites-Butterfinger and M&Ms-were in this one, and my smile twisted into a look of mild dissatisfaction. I only had enough for one.
The intercom crackled again, and an unpleasant feeling welled up in the pit of my stomach.
"Code Blue. We have a Code Blue."
I looked up once more. But this time, something…awful…lingered in the air. It wasn't the normal sense of awful that I got every time I entered a hospital, but something other than that sense of discomfort. I wasn't sure what this was. The best way I could describe it was as dread.
The temperature dropped. A puff of mist appeared before my face with my nervous exhalation. Gritting my teeth, I frantically looked around. That's when I saw it.
He stood behind me in a dark pinstriped suit. His black hair hung long and straight, framing his angular face. His skin was a pale white, almost sickly. But his eyes, dear God, his eyes. Purple eyes blazed beneath a swoop of inky black bangs.
His gaunt face had a tiredness to it, as if he hadn't slept in days. But he didn't seem to care. His eyes shone, really shone, and it unnerved me. I held back a shudder. I had never once seen eyes of that kind of intensity.
The man's thin lips twitched upward at the corner, turning into a smirk. With long white fingers he tipped his hat at me. I couldn't tell if it was a show of manners or if he was being sarcastic.
His smirk grew into a smile at the look of confusion on my face. I absently punched in a random combination, grabbed my candy, and stepped aside.
"Sorry if I was in your way…" I began.
"No, not at all," he said in a smooth voice. Ice ran through my veins.
Shouldn't you be out stabbing innocent girls in a shower? I thought to myself, watching him walk down the hall.
"Code Blue. We have a Code Blue."
He looked up toward the voice, and something-impatience, perhaps?-flickered in his eyes. Then he looked back at me. Another smile. Another tip of his hat.
I'm not sure why I did this, but my instincts were screaming at me to do so. Like a man possessed, I numbly followed him down the hall.
The twists and turns we took soon became familiar. Once I realized where we were headed-where he was headed-I felt cold all over again. Whoever this guy was, I didn't want him anywhere near my little sister.
I wanted to yell at him as he approached the curtain separating her room from the rest of the hospital. The scream, which would have been a jumble of curses and angry nonsense (as well as a comment concerning his mother's taste for army boots), became lodged in my throat when I opened my mouth.
All I could do was stand there in the middle of the hall and watch as his fingertips brushed lightly against the curtain with a freakish grace. I was outraged and scared out of my mind. I knew I should call Mom, call security, call anyone, but his eyes burned bright in my mind, and I lost my nerve.
Now, he hardly noticed me. Even if he was aware of my presence, it wouldn't matter. I was clearly unimportant to him.
He passed over Sophia's room and glided into the room beside it-Leslie's room. Through the slightly parted curtains I could see him bending down over Leslie's unconscious form. My stomach clenched as he stroked her hair. The way he did it, gently, as if he were her lover, made the action almost sickening to watch.
Then everything became surreal. A team of Doctors and RNs entered the room. Just as the man ignored me, he, too, went unnoticed. The sound of Leslie's flat-line sounded in my mind as a faraway buzz. Looking back on it, I can honestly say that I checked out at that point.
In a moment, it was over. The attempted resuscitation was a blur of movement and urgency, with the man watching the team intently. To him, this must have been a sport, and if it was, then it was alien to me.
He drifted away from Leslie's bed and back to Sophia's room As he did with Leslie, he bent over Sophia's bed. His spider-like fingers moved over her hair. I wanted to look away from this, to scream, but I could do neither. All I could do was watch with numb horror.
This time was different, though. A look of distaste twisted his features and he withdrew his hand as if he had just stuck it into a pot of boiling water. He frowned, tapping his chin. Whatever had stopped him made him bend down to look at Sophia again. He drew his lips together in a thin line, gazing down at her sleeping form. It was as if he was inspecting fruit or a choice hunk of meat at a grocery store. I was at a loss as to what he was studying, but whatever it was, it clearly puzzled him. With a silent sigh he straightened, crossed his arms, and shook his head.
The man strode out of the room and back toward me. Our eyes met one last time, and again he smiled.
"You needn't worry, Thomas. She'll be fine," he reassured me in his silky voice, patting me on the shoulder as he passed.
Then, he was gone.
I had no idea who, or what, he was. But whatever his origin, I would never see him again.
When the warmth returned to my body, I darted into Sophia's room and collapsed at her bedside. The entire hospital floor smelled of jasmine.