A Welcomed Death

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Short story about a man's life being reflected in his mind even though he lies medically unconscious in a hospital bed.

Submitted: June 30, 2017

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Submitted: June 30, 2017

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A Welcomed Death

By Neaz Subhan

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Paramedics yelled frantically at each other as they raced down the hospital corridor to the Emergency Room.

“I am losing his pulse”, one said worriedly.

“Hurry! We don’t’ have much time”, another screamed as the gurney burst through the swing door into the room.

“Hook him up. Get everything on”, the senior aide demanded. “It looks like a massive heart attack Doctor”, he relayed with much concern in his voice as they lifted him onto the bed.

“Let’s stabilize him. Get the Fibrillator. I don’t want to lose a patient today”, the doctor sternly ordered.

In a flash, the curtains slid around the bed shielding from the stares of others the desperate but focused efforts to save a life. This structured chaos was routine for the medical staff and in many ways not unique for the patient. He has experience in such environments when illness strangled him in the past.

As he lay motionless at the mercy of the medical experts, in his subconscious, he knew this is the end. While grateful, he was convinced their efforts would be an exercise in futility. Being devoid of any ability to warn them, he also knew that even though the result may be a foregone conclusion, they had an obligation to remain faithful to their oath. He wished they didn’t.

As control over his thought process waned, he took comfort that there are still good people in the world, for the efforts of those around him were profoundly convincing. In his mind, he recited his final prayers hoping to convince his maker to grant him a pain-free abode for he felt he had done enough. He is prepared for the final voyage.

The hours swiftly rolled by and the dark sky was now a welcome respite from the earlier steaming sun. An eerie silence prevailed in the hospital broken only by the beeping of machines. It signaled that life has not yet made its final journey. With the lingering tranquility forged by restful patients, it becomes only human as the Nurses involuntarily slumped into a needful nap; at least for some; especially those assigned to Room E.

Deciding whose slumber was most needed was difficult. As night aged, the silenced deepened for the crickets dozed and the trees stood still, aided by the absence of a gentle breeze. Coincidently, even traffic outside ceased as if out of respect for the quietness. The ticking of the clock in the lobby reminded that time didn’t freeze.

The disheveled and unrecognizable Nabil Handal lay unresponsive on his back with wires connecting his body to machines that hummed with an unambiguous directive to sustain heartbeats and brain power. Barely alive was he; only in mind. His lips were apart; as if stuck in mid-sentence of failing to deliver a prior warning. Its appearance reeks of absolute disappointment.

The pulsing sounds from the equipment tortured his mind harassing attempts for a final rest. The decibels exacerbated with the faintest of bleep. A volcano rapidly grew inwards overpowering whatever sanity was left. While an eruption could ease the suffering in mind games, he wanted none of it.

He felt the excruciating pain as the body closed in knowing that the time has finally arrived. He begged for the agony to lessen and the process swift. Without a twitch, he screamed silently in joy demonstrative of gratitude that his long held desire is about to be realized, despite unreservedly burdensome. He was in the tunnel; spiraling downwards in the cruel darkness closing his eyes to avoid any thought of the proverbial light. An appreciative smile plastered his inner face.

Suddenly, his irrepressible mind churned violently, channeling and forcing his thoughts and emotions to scrape through a narrow pathway, choking just before erupting.

“No! No! Don’t blow! Don’t blow! Let me go! Turn back!”, he pleaded, but in vain.

His sudden gasps shattered the blissful silence jolting his upper body forward. Wires snapped as the machines announced danger by beeping uncontrollably out of its desired patterns.

Like a starting gun, it snatched the Nurses from their fantasizing dreams hastily gliding them in synchrony to that room as if their minds were on strings. Like a boomerang, Nabil’s body crashed back onto the bed; motionless. The Nurses scrambled to make vital reconnections, cognizant that the efforts of their colleagues earlier must not be in vain.

Their instructions were clear; he has to live. The still of the night was ruptured. Patients groan, trees swayed and vehicles raced by blaring horns for no apparent reason. Nabil’s ward now mirrored the ER.

“Get the doctor”, a Nurse screamed as the others frantically tried to restore order.

Blood oozed from his chest. The sudden jerk had strained the area where an incision was made earlier. Unaware, he was spared the grisly image for his eyes remained tightly closed.

Soft moans were involuntary and intermittent, instilling fear into the Nurses that they are quickly losing him.

“Why the hell don’t they just let me go?, he fretted unknowing to those around.

In his mind he repeatedly cursed death for taunting him and painfully delaying the inevitable.

“Why? You selfish bastard”, he shouted at death. “Have your victory! Gloat!”, he snapped, staring at death’s mocking grin. Sadness overwhelmed, for him, even death has proven unfaithful.

The shift doctor ensured the restoration of order for both man and machines, made easier for the patient given his comatose state; or so they thought. His feeble whimpers subsided and calmness returned; for the staff. Life was visible from the undulating lines on the monitor.

“Damm you grim reaper. I lack the desire and strength to repeat this cycle. Stop playing; please. Smite me”, Nabil pleaded as he desperately hoped for the machine to flat-line as the caring eyes of a Nurse peered totally oblivious of the conversation.

Two days later a small article appeared on an insignificant page of one of the daily newspapers. “Former senior banking official battles for life”, was the headline. A pen photograph of Nabil was just below. The article detailed Nabil to be a successful bank manager steering the entity from one of minimal financial returns to hundreds of millions in annual profit. It became the second largest financial lending institutions in the country giving critical support to the housing market.

It pointed out that Nabil was a reformist and developed into one of the most successful Chief Executive Officers courted by overseas companies during his zenith. With his success publicly acknowledged, and being the face of progress, he refused lucrative offers opting to dedicate his loyalties to the institution.

After twenty-five years, twelve at the helm, he was devastated by the public fallout with the new Board of Directors. The acrimonious relations between himself and his new bosses made it untenable for him to continue. The difference in approaches with the new powerful and politically empowered Chairman on how to sustain the bank’s progress was the catalyst. The ensuing spat was unpleasant. Scarred and embarrassed, Nabil retreated. The article also mentioned that nothing was heard of him over the past five years.

The Clerk at the Information Desk looked at Nabil’s photograph in the newspaper and could not believe the horrific transformation; plump, clean shaven, well-groomed hairstyle and dapper, to long uncombed hair, an overgrown and repulsive beard and lean. She questioned in her mind whether his departure from the institution could have led to this tragic outcome. Strangely, she wondered what else.

As she searched for answers, a sixty-five year-old man approached.

“Good morning”, the six-foot tall affable but noticeably distressed Harry greeted.

“Good morning. How can I help”, she politely asked.

“I am here to see Mr. Handal”, he responded.

“Are you family or friend?” she asked.

He paused and reluctantly replied, “Friend”.

“I am sorry sir, but only family members are authorized to see him”, she respectfully said.

“Ok”, Harry dejectedly muttered.

Sensing his disappointment, the clerk said, “I am sorry”.

“Is he alright?”, he courteously questioned.

“I am not supposed to say sir”, she said.

“I understand. Thanks”, Harry replied and slowly began to walk away.

She watched as he sadly departed with a newspaper in his hand. Constrained by professional ethics, she was clearly touched but helpless by what just transpired. She left her desk and ran towards him and said, “Sir, wait”.

Harry stopped and turned not knowing what to expect.

“I didn’t mean to upset you. I am just doing my job”, she said.

“No need to apologize”, Harry replied and turned to continue his trek.

“Look, this may sound strange and I do not want to get into any trouble with my job, but you are the only person to have come to see him since he was admitted. I find it a bit strange”, she related.

“Sadly, I don’t dear”, Harry calmly replied.

Her shock was visible which rendered her uncomfortable to ask any further question. Cognizant of the sudden awkwardness, Harry tried to offer a way out.

“Don’t worry about it. I know he is in good hands”, he calmly said.

She recalled Harry’s pause before he answered whether he was family or friend and suspected there could be something more to it. 

“Who are you?”, she insisted.

“I was his driver. I had to come after reading the newspapers this morning”, Harry explained.

“I read it too and find it odd that someone so prominent would have no visitors before you, especially family. Maybe they are not aware”, she said.

“I am sure they are and you probably would want to believe that he would have done something terrible to cause this upon himself?” Harry enquired.

Knowing how plausible it sounds, she tries to steer herself away from it.

“I guess it’s natural, but I am not here to judge”, she said.

“That’s comforting”, Harry replied. “Let me leave you to your job”, he added.

“No. It’s fine”, she quickly replied. “Look, I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but if you really want to see him, I can say you are family, a cousin maybe”, she suggested.

Pleasantly shocked, Harry was unsure how to respond. Not skipping a beat, she said, “Come. It’s Room E. Go. I will take care of it”.

“Why would you do this for someone you don’t know?”, Harry curiously asked.

“I guess I have seen a lot while on this job. You came. That says a lot”, she calmly said.

“I haven’t seen him in two years”, Harry noted.

“Here is your chance now. Go. Down the corridor”, she politely ordered.

Knowing the risk, she felt a sense of compassion and joy that she reversed Harry’s disappointment. She noticed as he turned the door handle he stood for a while before entering as the familiar ring of the telephone reminded of her primary function.

She was restless waiting for Harry to return and felt troubled over Nabil and the absence of his family at his bedside. It made her unable to fully focus as she grapples to dismiss the thoughts that raced in her mind.

A short while after, she saw the day Nurse approaching. “Hey, Nabil’s cousin came. He is in the room”, she nervously said.

“That’s great. I guess others would be coming later”, the Nurse responded.

Shortly after, Harry emerged. Eager, the clerk walked briskly towards him. Harry hadn’t time to wipe the tears before she reached. She held his hand and guided him to a waiting chair and sat him down. Sitting next to him, she offered comfort.

“It’s ok”, she said.

“He is going”, Harry replied.

“The hospital has done all it could”, she said consolingly.

“I hope it’s quick”, Harry sadly related.

“It will happen at the destined moment”, she said.

“He doesn’t deserve this pain”, Harry said firmly.

“No one does”, she responded. Hesitantly, she asked, “Can you wait a bit in the lobby? My break is in half hour. I would love to hear more if you don’t mind”.

“Why? Who are you?” Harry curiously asked.

“Just a clerk. Would you wait? Please.”, she seemingly begged.

“There is nothing else to do”, Harry responded as he tries to figure out her intentions.

As he waited, guilt weighed for abandoning Nabil. He recall his delighted when the hefty bail was posted after spending two days in the filthy lockups for killing a ten year-old child in an accident. Doomed for an incarcerated life, it was Nabil who changed fate by aiding with a prominent defence Attorney and approved a non-collateral loan for Harry’s wife to defray the costs. When the new Chairman zeroed in, Nabil’s unethical generosity was exposed forcing him to reimburse the sum to save face.

A cataleptic Nabil sensed a ray of hope as images of his life flipped through his mind. He knew of the cliché of it being a precursor to the final moment and wondered whether it was just another trick played by death.

“Harry, Ryan developed symptoms of the common cold last night. He said it’s because he walked through the rain to get to the car. Kindly ensure they are protected”, he told Harry who didn’t need a second reminder for he didn’t want to say that the elder sibling, Marlin, took the umbrella when she was dropped off.

“Harry, do not pick the children up late”, Nabil instructed.

“What about your meeting. I was thinking to drop you first and…”.

Nabil interjected, “I will have the service driver take me”.

“Harry, the boss is asking if you can work late over the next two weeks for the children have evening classes”, Brenda asked.

Nabil always marveled at his secretary’s firm politeness. He could have asked Harry, but preferred Brenda at times since it allows her some sense of control over the staff of his secretariat.

Everyone in the office knew Ryan and Marlin. They watched them grew from toddlers to young adults. Nabil was always mindful of the genuineness of Harry and Brenda’s approach to his children’s welfare. He knew the rest of the staff admired the priority he placed on his children even if he was inconvenienced. He never compromised and even when Harry unintentionally slipped at times, Brenda unapologetically reined him in. The children’s routine unquestionably took precedence. All had to fall in line. 

Images of him being deeply satisfied at their excitement on receiving contemporary and costly gifts flashed. He could feel the emotions he experienced during those times brought on by a profound sense of fulfilment of providing what he knew they desired; things, which as a child, were beyond his parents financial capabilities. A joyous tear flowed unseen by the Nurse.

“Thank you daddy. Thank you. How did you know?” an overly excited Marlin asked on opening her gift on her eighteen birthday.

“Dad always knows”, he lovingly replied as she smothered him with affection.

Nabil knew how priceless those moments were and lived for their recurrence even though Ryan was always more conservative in his exuberance.

“Boss is going to out of the country for a week and he wants you to be fulltime with the kids”, Brenda preached to Harry.

“You don’t have to tell me that. I know what I have to do”, Harry snapped back.

Brenda concealed her smirk for Harry was right, but she was just doing her job.

“Those children were his life”, Harry said to the attentive clerk who rejoined him moments before. “He took them to different parts of the world as often as he could. Tell me again why this interests you”, he asked.

Seemingly caught off-guard, she unconvincingly said, “I am doing a paper on family relationship for one of my courses at University”.

It didn’t matter to Harry. Someone had to be told.

“Is he in”, Marlin asked Brenda one day.

“Yes”, was the reply.

After getting clearance, Marlin entered. “I want to go to the Jazz concert tonight. Lizzy is picking me up”, she said to Nabil.

“So you have made your decision already?”, he asked.

“Well, I didn’t think you would have any objection”, she responded with a smile.

“No. you can’t go”, Nabil sternly said.

“Why?, a surprised Marlin questioned.

“Never assume I wouldn’t have objections.

“But Lizzy is…”, she tried to slip in.

“Stop. I don’t care whether you are an adult or not. I am responsible for you, not Lizzy”, he scolded.

“Fine”, she sarcastically muttered and stormed out.

“He protected them as much as he could”, Harry said. “Around that time, Ryan wanted some similar privileges and boss refused. Things weren’t the same from then”, he added.

“Wasn’t he too harsh?, the clerk asked.

“Not for him. One is a female. His priority was for them to focus on building capacity for good jobs”, he explained.

“Didn’t understand they were changing as the world did?”, she pressed.

“They are his world”, Harry said as a smile squeezed on his face.

Nabil ached for the flashing images to end so that death would have no excuse. It didn’t and the torture was unbearable. The newspapers headlines about his fallout with the bank floated broadsiding him once again. The consequences were telling.

“Don’t worry boss, you upheld your principles”, Brenda said.

The damaging headlines had caused the public to become suspicious about him and raised questions on how he achieved success. He couldn’t cope and as the new Chairman built a case, job opportunities were scuttled.

“I cannot be blamed for the slump in the housing sector”, he told the staff just before leaving what became like home.

Reporters swarmed him as he made his way to the company’s car one final time. Even Harry couldn’t ward them off.

“They were unfair to him and hard times hit. Those who showered praise left him out to dry. I hate politicians”, Harry said in anger. “He had a mortgage and other expenses to meet”, he added.

“What about his children?”, the clerk asked.

“He got them good jobs before the new Chairman took over. They were able to stand on their own”, he said.

“They could have helped. Couldn’t they”, she enquired.

“Boss was a proud man. He encouraged them to save before he lost his job and wasn’t prepared to change when out of one”, he replied.

“But isn’t that foolish? I am sure they understood the change in circumstances”, she blurted out.

“You don’t know him. He wouldn’t be a burden and believed that a father must provide, not take”, Harry related.

“Family is about helping, isn’t it?, she asked staring in his face.

“Maybe he never had one”, Harry coldly responded.

The depressed images of when Nabil imprisoned himself from society flicked. Emotionally battered, his despondency grew over time fuelled by his inability to provide the good life to his family. He wasn’t spared the haunt even for a moment. An image of his bank balance reminded of his weak and unsustainable financial position. He didn’t accumulate much wealth for he plowed his savings into his home and to provide the best for his family. Whatever he had put aside was hemorrhaged by the mortgage burdening him to meet other necessary expenses.

As he looked, remorse saturated him for the frustration he vented to those he dearly loved for he had become a puppet of his dire circumstances. He wished for an opportunity to correct if time travel would allow. As he stared in hindsight, the way things worsen, unfolded. His wife died two years after and having no income, a year and a half later, he was penniless. Negative publicity over the fallout with the bank persisted in some sections of the media for it became a political football.

Another painful image stared at him; one when the children left. The pain rushed back forcing tears drenching his pillow. He shed many trying to prevent them from leaving.

“Don’t go”, he begged as Ryan wheeled his bag towards the door.

“I have to do this”, Ryan said.

Nabil looked how he cried alone uncontrollably for weeks; a grown man over two children.

“He never heard from them again”, Harry said as a tear trickled down his cheek. “They turned their backs on that man. They should have known he needed them.” he stressed.

“There must be a good reason?”, the clerk asked.

“Freedom; that’s what they wanted. They saw an opportunity and took advantage of it with no attempt to reconcile”, he angrily replied.

“Maybe they couldn’t adjust to the new life. Not everyone can cope in such situations”, she tried to explain. “Are you sure there isn't something else?", she probed.

“What else could it be? Pride? Maybe. He needed them. He wasn’t going to beg and they never took time to understand how he was affected”, Harry firmly stated.

“But did they deserve to be the object of his frustration?”, she insistently asked.

“Did they deserve him?”, Harry countered”.

The blank images that now confront him were the unending moments when he yearned for Marlin and Ryan. As time passed, his wishes were unfulfilled. Diabetes and hypertension overwhelmed and his troubles had seemingly ejected life from him. As his body shrunk, he felt completely worthless and every passing minute became a stroke of punishment.

“What were my efforts for? What do I have to show? What’s the use of breathing? he asked himself as the desire for death churned inside.

Feeling used, deprived of sleep and with appetite banished, he scraped valiantly for hope. The dearth was astounding and without mercy, he lost his home to the said bank within three and a half years. As he watched how his world closed then, his anger grew over why it hasn’t now.

“Come back death. You Bitch! Don’t desert your post. Take me”, he shouted.

He watched how his efforts to fast-track the process failed. With a knife to his chest, he lacked the determination to guide it through. With the bathtub filled, the willpower to bury his head eluded him. With a cord around his neck, the house lacked a fulcrum. He hated Harry for he refused to bring him potent toxins in which his happiness lay.

“I couldn’t do it”, Harry sobbed. “I knew he sought refuge in that. I couldn’t live with it. I couldn’t bear it, so I stopped visiting”, he added. The clerk just stared at him. “What?” Harry blurted as guilt overpowers him.

“Nothing”, she said.

Forced into a public shelter, too many eyes held Nabil from aiding death. He took comfort that the inmates didn’t recognize him. He wondered if they did but were too consumed with their own burdens to bother. He was grateful for fast-growing facial hair and grieved over how his life sadly evolved.

“Go home”, he said to the Nurse who didn’t flinch. “Go live your life. Learn from mine. Come look at my pictures”, he advised.

She remained engrossed with the pictures on her phone.

Four days later and without any visible improvement in his inactive state, Nabil was overjoyed for death finally delivered on his wish. Why it was delayed he never understood.

“I could never forgive you. Give me strength and I would suffocate you”, he shouted at death.

He couldn’t accept being late than never, for him, there is no never. He had excited death but lacked the courage to do the job before. Being the spokesperson for the “Save Life Foundation”, a suicide preventative group at the bank, stifled his bravery. Even in sadness, he knew he could not betray a cause he championed. While the irony had intensified his depression, death’s memory remained flawless.

“Forgive me Harry for even asking”, he begged as he acclimatized in his new comfortable dwelling. “Thanks for the shave”, he said with a smile. “Thanks George. You would never know how much I despised your action. You recognized me though.”, he said as he goes through his list to acknowledge.

George, the hospital’s CEO was a good friend who lost contact and who passed when he collapsed on a City street. The bills were never a worry.

“Guide them master. They tried to teach me; to fortify me; but I was blind, I was weak, I was stubborn. Break my mold. Make me the last”, Nabil prayed, grateful that his torment has been halted. The hard fought solace should bring peace, at least so he hoped.

“Harry, convey my pains of death. Let them know so hearts can be unstiffened for they will bring forth child”, he added, as usual trying to get the last word in.

The uncommon stillness for an afternoon in May probably went unnoticed. The clerk and Harry stood silently staring at the mound.

“He died twice before this”, Harry said as they slowly began to exit the bushy cemetery.

The images of when he visited Nabil a few days ago rushed. He went to rid his guilt by fetching poison hoping his old boss was capable of discreetly imbibing. Over time, he was haunted by his inability to return a favour. He forcedly hardened against the moral consequences and was prepared for the legal ramifications if caught. His loneliness compelled there was nothing to lose is showing gratitude.

His guilt was deepened when he was confronted with Nabil’s visible unconsciousness rendering the toxins useless. The burden of feeling responsible for his benefactor’s prolonged suffering amplified. He was tormented and felt ungrateful leaving the hospital that day as worthlessness consumed when he dumped the toxins in a nearby canal. He was harsh on himself for being a failure and knew he was incapable of carrying this new burden much longer.

A few days later, the proverbial light he sought blinded him with the news of Nabil’s death dissipating the weight that saddled him.

“So, you never told your name and why were you interested in my boss’ story”, a relieved Harry said.

“You never asked my name. It’s Karen and my brother is dating Marlin two years now”, she softly replied.

A shocked Harry sought refuge in the comfort of her car.

“I was surprised when she said he deserted them, a man of his stature. I paid no attention for it wasn’t my business. I couldn’t resist after reading the article and then you turned up. Why would you? I was urged for my brother is dear to me. I just wanted to hear the other side. If you had known, you probably would not have poured your heart in”, Karen said as she held his hand.

“They came and kept distance like strangers”, Harry said in disgust as he tries to assimilate what he just heard.

“At least they came”, Karen replied.

“They did this, you know”, Harry insisted.

Karen glanced at him unable to counter pondering if Nabil’s troubles were self-inflicting. As they drove away, Harry was disturbed over one of life’s mysteries. In the end, strangers stood by the man who was just buried. “What if?” he asked himself as the distance between the grave and him widened. With freedom from his ungrateful thoughts of wanting Nabil to quietly slip away after deserting him, he silently questioned whether he would be forgiven by the mortal and the omniscient.

“Did it make a difference he was their step-father, Uncle Harry”, she asked.

“Easy for them. For him, he was dad. If he wasn’t society would have been unforgiving”, Harry irately responded now understanding why she kept her familiarity with Marlin as he tries to shut out the echoing bank’s accusations of Nabil’s unscrupulous practices there.

The note on the card read, "Rest. Goodbye”, without any indication of its origin. Confused, nervous and afraid to be embarrassed, Marlin gradually placed it back into her bag as she left the graveyard. Nabil was unsure how to interpret her action.

THE END


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