Flashes of Life

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Hospice

Submitted: August 07, 2019

Reads: 216

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Submitted: August 07, 2019

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 (Nuclear Power Plant, eighteen years ago)

The people in my team stared at the rising temperature gage with alarm. Red warning boxes started popping onto the computer screen along with the constant beeping from several instrument panels warning us of some impending disaster.

Everyone jumped at the sounds of ear-splitting klaxons blaring, adding to the cacophony of sounds. Ominous sounding announcements from the speakers echoed throughout for all personnel to evacuate the power plant immediately and get as far away as possible.

“Everybody out! Out, out, out! Isabel, let’s go!” I shouted as the young technician was tapping furiously on the keyboard.

“Wait! Wait, I think there’s a way I can stop the … let me just …”

I ran over and grabbed her shoulders. “There’s no time. We gotta go!”

“Let go of me. I know I can stop this before …” Her eyes widened in surprise. I turned around and saw the automated containment doors closing sideways.

 “Ruuuun!!!” I shouted.

As we ran towards the closing door, Isabel tripped and fell to the ground. I immediately turned around and tried helping her up, but she had twisted her ankle. I put her arm around my shoulder and headed for the door. We’re not gonna make it. Shit, we’re not gonna make it. In a moment of pure desperation, I shoved Isabel through the door as hard as I could right before the door closed trapping me inside.

Isabel limped to the tiny window and stared back at me with terror in her eyes. “Julian! Julian, how do I open this door? Tell me how to open this goddamned door!” she screamed.

“You can’t. It’s too late. Isabel, you need to get out of here. Get out of here now!”

Tears were rolling down her face as she pounded on the window. “Julian! Julian …!”

(Bright Meadows Hospice Center, present day)

“Mr. Edwards … Mr. Edwards ...”

I woke out of my nightmare with a start as I stared bleary eyed at the nurse shaking me awake. I looked around the patient waiting room a bit disoriented. I must’ve dosed off.

“The doctor will see you now,” said the young nurse with a curt smile.

 “Ahem, yeah I heard you. You don’ have to shout, you know,” I mumbled. It’s been almost twenty years since the accident, and I can’t believe I’m still having nightmares about it.

The nurse tried to help me out of the chair, but I impatiently shooed her away. I walked slowly to the doctor’s office and looked at the nameplate on the door. Dr. Melanie Grayson – M.D. I straightened up my collar, adjusted my geezer newsboy cap, stood up straight with my head up high and knocked on the door.

The doctor opened the door and put her hands on her hips. “Oh no, not you again,” she said with a frown.

“Cut the crap doc. You’re the one who summoned me, remember?”

“I’m regretting it already. Might as well come in.” She walked around her desk and sat down. “You didn’t give me much of a choice. You’ve been here less than a month and you’ve already missed half of your appointments. I had to send out the hounds looking for you. May I remind you that I can come to you instead of you insisting on coming to see me?”

“No, no – if I’m gonna be seen by a quack, I’d rather it be on my terms, not yours. I prefer to walk, thank you.”

“A quack?! You’re full of shit, you know that?” she spat.

“Well, I do need to go potty, so yeah. I guess I am full of shit.”

 She gave me an icy glare. “Well, aren’t you gonna take a seat? You look like hell,” she drawled.

“Pfff … And I’ve seen you without your makeup, remember?” I shot back.

“Touché.”

I looked around her office in distaste. It was impeccably organized and quite immaculate. I ran my finger over the side of her desk and there wasn’t a single speck of dust. Then I looked at the quite attractive doctor sitting in front of me. She had silky auburn hair that flowed straight down with one side tucked over her ear. As tired as I felt, I didn’t want to seem like a damned invalid in front of her. “I think I’ll stand, if you don’t mind,” I said grumpily.

“Fine. Have it your own way,” she said sighing in annoyance. “First of all, how are you feeling today?”

“How am I feeling? Seriously? I have like what, two or three months to live and you’re asking me how I’m feeling? Oh well, now that you ask, I feel as fit as a fiddle. I think I’ll head over to downtown this weekend and go run that marathon. Maybe I’ll hike it over to the mountains and do some rock climbing. Hell, I’ll even make it easy on you guys. Just dig me a grave somewhere out in the desert and when I go skydiving, I’ll just plunge myself straight for the damned hole and let the impact tremor fill it right in!”

She crossed her arms and gave me a blank stare. Then she started snickering. As much as she tried to hold it in, she couldn’t stop her giggling. Pretty soon she was laughing hysterically with tears coming out of her eyes. Her laughter was so boisterous that I started laughing myself. This juvenile bantering between Melanie and I had become routine during my appointments with her. It was one of the highlights of my visits.

She walked over and brushed my cheek tenderly with her hand. “Oh Julian, you were never good at being over dramatic, but you sure do know how to make me laugh.”

I turned to look directly at my ex-wife and realized just how much I missed that damned laugh of hers. It had been almost ten years since our divorce and despite both of us being forty-eight years old, she still looked as beautiful as ever. And me, well the last time I looked at myself in the mirror, most of what used to be my voluminous mop of brownish hair had already fallen off from all the chemotherapy. What used to be my muffin top waistline had slowly transformed into a frail-looking frame full of cancer lesions. Let’s just say that this cancer in my body won’t be winning me any modeling contracts any time soon.

“Well, if that’s how you feel, I’ll make sure to come visit you in spirit during the nights and tickle your feet,” I said painfully trying to sit down. “And why do you always keep your damned office so cold?” I said with a shiver trying to regain my grumpiness.

Melanie knelt down and brushed the few hairs I had left over my ear. Her eyes started pooling with tears. “I’m sure gonna miss you, you cantankerous stubborn old coot.” She gave me a hug and started wiping her tears. “Come on, I’ll walk you back to your bed.”

“Mel, I’m sorry,” I said sadly cupping her hand. “I’m sorry about everything. I shouldn’t have … I just wish things could’ve …”

“That’s alright Julian. You don’t have to say it. We both had our careers to worry about. I had my doctorate in medicine and you had yours in physics. It was hard to make time for each other with our different schedules, we had different priorities and we were just incompatible at that time. It was as much my fault as it was yours. But it was for the best for both of us. Let’s not dwell on the past okay?”

Although I hadn’t voiced any objections at the time we got married, it still bothered me that she had decided to keep her maiden name. She insisted that it had been a business decision more than anything else.  “Can I ask you something? Mel, how come you never remarried?”

“To be honest, I don’t know. I guess I was married to my job. Maybe I was hoping that in time, when the time was right and we were both settled into our careers, that you and I could …” She got up and grabbed a tissue from a shelf to wipe her tears. “I’m sorry Julian. I’m being inconsiderate.

“If you would’ve remarried, you could’ve had children of your own. I’m sorry I couldn’t give you any when we were together like you wanted. You did want them, didn’t you?”

“Julian, we’ve talked about this over and over again. You need to stop beating yourself on the head over this. The accident is what made you sterile and it was not your fault.”

“But what if it was Mel? What if it was my fault? I’ve gone over this hundreds of times. If I hadn’t gone back for Isabel, I would’ve …”

“You would’ve gotten out before getting those high doses of radiation and … and Isabel would’ve died. Julian, you had the technical expertise of knowing how to override that door and get yourself out before the radiation killed you. Isabel didn’t have that advantage. You put someone else’s life ahead of yours. Someone that you hardly even knew. What you did was a noble and unselfish act of heroism. You should be proud.”

“I should be proud? And what do I get for being a hero Mel? I’m gonna die – that’s what I’m gonna get. Yeah, that makes me feel really proud. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t gone back for her. I have as much right to live as she does, don’t I? If only she would’ve just listened to me the first time I ordered her to leave. She’s the one who should’ve stayed behind, not me.” I pounded on the desk angrily. “Dammit Mel, does that make me such a terrible person?”

She leaned against her desk in front of me. “No Julian. It only makes you human. I’m sorry. I don’t blame you for being angry. I won’t patronize you by telling you I know how you feel because I don’t. But I can try. Come on. It’s getting late and you need to get some rest.”

“Mel, I’m not dead yet. I think I can make it back on my own.” I started pushing myself up out of the chair and I almost collapsed from the sharp currents of pains shooting through my body. She reached out with concern, but I waved her away as I waited for the pain to subside. “And would you please inform Miss Nurse Hatchet that I’m gonna want an extra blanket tonight and she better not sass me about it. And how am I supposed to get some rest if your damned nurses keep waking me up all night with their damned potions.”

“Alright dear. I’ll see what I can do about that okay?” she said with a sympathetic smile.

I was determined to make it back to my patient room unassisted. Call it stubbornness, call it pride – call it whatever. I still had my dignity, dammit. But now I was beginning to regret not accepting her offer of getting me a wheelchair or even a walking cane. These spouts of pain in my body come and go, but now they seem to be lasting a little bit longer.

As I was walking by the Visitor’s Lounge, I noticed a little boy sitting on top of the coffee table. He had sandy brown hair going down to his eyes and looked to be around four or five years old. What caught my attention was that he was busy plucking thorns and splinters off of his bare feet. Where did he get those from? And where were his shoes? He was wearing a plain white tee shirt and some worn out jean shorts.

The only other person in the room was a young lady standing in front of the TV listening to the warnings of an upcoming snowstorm. She started gathering her belongings and stuffed them in her large purse. When she started walking off, I raised my hand to get her attention. “Um, excuse me miss, is that little one with you?” I asked pointing at the boy focusing intently at his little feet.

The lady looked where I was pointing. “Is who with me? I ahh … I don’t see anyone,” she said looking around.

“That little boy on the table,” I said pointing.

The lady looked perplexed. “I’m sorry, I don’t … Are you feeling okay sir? Would you like me to call someone?”

“No, that’s okay.” The lady walked off shaking her head.

The boy looked up at me and smiled as if he recognized who I was. “Julian! Julian, can you stay? Pleeeease!” he asked excitedly with a toothy smile.

Suddenly, I started getting a feeling of vertigo. I could hear the beating of my heart in my ears. I started feeling woozy and I could feel myself losing my balance. I felt myself collapsing on the floor as I plunged into the deep darkness of unconsciousness.

The next thing I knew, I found myself standing on a grassy meadow with bright puffy clouds overhead with a slight morning breeze in front of a playground. That same little boy was sitting on the grass plucking the thorns and splinters off of his feet, exactly how he was doing it in the Visitor’s Lounge. He was wearing the same shirt and the same shorts.

Where am I? What the hell’s happening here?


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