Life after Death: Part 3
Hello all! If you're having it, happy long weekend! My kids each have a four-day weekend, and the break is WONDERFUL. (That wasn't sarcasm, either, I really am really happy for the break.) The only thing we celebrate at our house for this holiday weekend is chocolate and family time, two of my favorite things ;)
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3. Lost Battles
Liam looked around at the scorched hallway and wounded men. The place this door had been in really had once been a hospital, if the abandoned and twisted gurneys could be believed. The younger Davis, recognizable to Liam only because of his eyes, crawled on his elbows to a wounded friend. Both of their mouths were moving, but sound hadn’t returned yet. The scene didn’t need sound. Liam watched Davis’s friend scream himself to death as the younger Davis tried everything he could in the thirty seconds he’d been given to save the life in front of him, and failed.
The old Davis reached out from where he was lying, tears running as freely over his wrinkled face as on the taut cheeks of his younger self. The few survivors collecting themselves and what they could, communicating through slaps and shoves and silent-movie yells to encourage and order themselves forward into the room ahead. Liam pulled Davis up, mirroring the soldier pulling the younger Davis to his feet, and stumbled after the survivors into… the grey.
The room they’d run into cracked and shattered like glass, dusting away before Liam could see anything about it in any detail. Only the after-effects of the bomb on their hearing and the clinging smell of burning plastic remained. Liam helped Davis crumple to the catwalk safely and held onto him as he cried, the returning ability to hear bringing only the broken sobs of an old man lost in a horrible worst day. Davis stopped crying sooner than Liam figured a memory like that deserved but, as with every other part of Davis’s visit so far, whatever had developed in his old age to steal his memories took this one away, too.
“Did I fall?” Davis asked, looking up at Liam.
“Just a stumble,” Liam assured him. “We landed together. Are you hurt?” he asked.
“I don’t think so,” Davis replied, sitting up straight and checking his limbs and torso. The checking motions quickly transitioned to searching pats, as if his pajamas had pockets, and Davis started looking around. “I’ve lost my glasses.”
“I’ll help you find them,” Liam answered. A new door only a few steps away had shiny, brass numbers and a window made of safety glass. Cheery sunlight was shining through the glass. “Maybe you left your glasses in your room?”
Davis looked at Liam as if only seeing him for the first time, and then squinted up at the door with the bright window. The tears staining his cheeks were completely forgotten.
“Oh. Yes. I must’ve left them there,” Davis muttered. Liam stood easily and then held down a hand to Davis.
“Can I help you up?”
“Oh, yes, thank you. What a nice young man,” Davis smiled and accepted the assistance.
Liam restarted talking about university on the short walk to Davis’s second door. Just like with the first door, sound and light burst around them as soon as Liam opened the second one; this time the hospital hallways that appeared were quietly in use and the urgent voices from the room were a hard contrast to the sunny day outside the large window facing outside. Davis followed Liam in, a nurse rushing just ahead of them and accounting for the door being opened here in reality. A woman near to Davis’s age was being restrained away from the bed by one nurse as other nurses and a doctor rushed their best to even out the erratic heart beat showing on the monitor.
“Goodness. He’s in bad shape,” Davis commented.
“Do you know him?” Liam asked.
“Nope,” Davis stated, looking at himself with a stranger’s pity.
The woman who was being restrained back attempted to reach around the nurse, stretching for the limp hand on the bed that she’d been holding, and ended up folded into a careful hug. Liam could see that she and the nurse were both crying.
“Please, just someone hold his hand so he knows he’s not alone,” the older woman pleaded before resting into the shoulder of the nurse supporting her.
“That’s… she’s… oh, Heltie…”
Liam turned his head to see Davis get sucker punched by a lucid moment. The older man backed out of the room, fresh tears on his face, and twisted away around the door to flee down a right-angled hallway before Liam could stop him. Liam skidded to a stop on his knees at the edge of the catwalk, his hand reaching in a sad parody of how Heltie had been only moments ago. Davis fell through the grey, growing smaller as he twisted and clawed at the nothing around him. The terrified expression on his face had been rendered invisible by distance when his shape dusted away.
Liam stared at the spot where Davis had been. In all his time here, in all the lives and deaths that had passed, Davis was the first visitor to fall. Liam sat on the catwalk and tried to process what had happened. He didn’t know how to feel.
The urgent voices of nurses and the unbroken tone of the heart monitor pulled his attention back to the hospital that was strangely still around him even though Davis was gone. Liam stood up and walked into the room. Heltie was sitting in the nearest chair to where she’d been standing, her hands wrapping her mouth and chin as tears poured over her cheeks to run down her wrists into her sleeves. After a few more minutes trying to bring Davis back, the doctor stopped his attempts, kissed Heltie’s head gently in wordless comfort, and then quietly left as the nurses began to turn off the machines and monitors. The same nurse that had hugged her before returned to hold the newly made widow.
Liam crossed the room and stood at the end of the bed so he was nearer to Heltie. He knew he could interact a small amount with reality, but didn’t know what to do because he could usually only touch objects; never people. She stopped the helpless crying with a sigh and a bow of her head, leaving the few errant tears waiting to fall only leaking and staining her features with sunlit grief. Liam watched as the nurse offered a brave smile and some tissues, the few words exchanged were too quick to hear well, and seemed to be the end of a familiar conversation between the two women. Nods, smiles, another hug and a few more tears were passed back and forth, and then the nurse returned to her shift and Liam was alone with Heltie.
She didn’t seem to know what to do with her hands, twisting up and ripping apart one of the tissues and then another. Her words didn’t seem to know what to do, either. Her mouth opened and closed a few times but the expected sounds never made it past her lips.
“We were supposed to do this part together,” she finally accused the room, staring at her lap as she started ripping up another tissue. “Getting old,” she stated, and then sighed. “Maybe we did and that’s why we’re here now,” she added, a few new tears adding to the etched paths on her face.
She reached out toward Davis without moving from the chair and Liam realized she’d been on the same side of the bed this whole time; on Davis’s left. He stopped her motion half way by folding her hand into his, the fact that he could feel her skin a surprise that brought tears to his eyes. The jolt shocked through her and she stared at the curve of her hand wrapping around fingers that she couldn’t see. She squeezed tighter and smiled.
Liam’s opposite hand lifted and was held. He stared at his fingers, the skin pressed by an invisible force matching the feel of Davis’s bigger hand, and squeezed gently tighter to Heltie’s hand to try and pass on the grip somehow. The room twinkled to dust, the grips on both Liam’s hands fading with the sunlight until he was alone in the grey.
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A weekly blog updating on Fridays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!