Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1776665-Danger-in-Closeness
by Grey
Rated: ASR · Other · Other · #1776665
Friendships that grow too quickly can come to surprising ends...
Some time ago my father had suffered a massive heart attack, and after fighting in the hospital for five days he finally surrendered to death's embrace. He had spent his whole life fighting, and so at long last the final bell rang. However the bell's sound had been drowned out in the chorus of beeps and the sounds of machinery that permeated the hospital.

Each of those five days had seen a multitude of visitors around the old man's bed, mostly well wishers with little hope in their eyes. My dad's breaths had been numbered ever since the heart attack. There was nothing of a positive outlook from the doctors, and so all of us knew better than to hope for a miracle. But still, we waited. Family, old friends, acquaintances, we all kept watch diligently over the white haired man until the day he passed from beneath our silent gazes.

And through it all there was a woman sharing my father's room, the area around her bed devoid of visitors. She sat in silence, leaning on a large pillow with her weary eyes curtained by the wispy grey hair sparsely covering her head. Her wrinkled visage was that of a person who had been defeated by life itself. Or at least so it had seemed to me upon seeing her for the first time. Regardless, I had sympathized with her from the very first time I passed her bed on the way to see my waning father.

Our first conversation had been brief, merely comprised of a few simple exchanges of good will. But even then I had seen a change in the woman's face. It had been a fleeting thing, yet I was certain I had seen a momentary flicker of joy in her eyes as we talked.

The next day we talked about life and the things we all tend to take for granted. The conversations grew longer, and more personal.

After my father's death I returned to the hospital, unwilling to end my newly forged friendship with the old woman. She had proved herself to be witty and charming as well as unconcerned with her health problems. Despite all of our talk she had never mentioned what it was that confined her to the hospital bed, and I never pressed the issue. One day, family became the topic of conversation.

"I had three children, you know..."

I looked up from the checkerboard, my brow still furrowed from concentration. She was a formidable advarsary in checkers despite her age. Focus gave way to curiosity as I pondered on her words.

"You say you had three children. So they're..."

"They left me."

The words hung heavily on the air between us, bringing about a silence that seemed thick with emotion. I wasn't sure what to say, and it was partially because I wasn't sure what she meant. Had they died, or simply abandoned her? I shrugged mentally, putting the questions out of my head. Asking them might cause unwanted pain, and Sheila was becoming as close as family to me. Closer, in fact. Just that morning I received an angry phone call from my mother, concerning the fact that I hadn't spoken to her or my brother since the funeral. In fact Sheila had become the only person I spoke to at all. But the thought didn't bother me.

"Well, don't worry Sheila. I'm here now."

She smiled, a big smile that increased the already numerous lines crisscrossing her face.

"I will remember it."

Watching her, I suddenly felt a new sensation. Frowning, I realized I could not place it. Was it contentment or unease? I shook myself, laughing inwardly at my own expense. I was acting stupid, perhaps I needed some sleep. I rose and said my goodbye, intending to return the next day to resume conversing with my closest friend.

Only when I returned, she wasn't there.

"I am sorry, but it appears she has slipped into a coma."

I looked at the doctor with my eyes wide, yet I didn't comprehend what he had told me. Or maybe I couldn't accept it.

"She's in... a coma?"

"Yes, since this morning. It is unclear when... or if she will come out of it. I am sorry."

I brushed aside his hand of consolation and moved to the bed. She was there, her eyes closed and a peaceful expression on her face. But it didn't make sense. The day before she had been full of life, beating me repeatedly at checkers and even going so far as to taunt me playfully. She had laughed at my jokes, and recalled events from her youth with enthusiasm and effortless recollection. And now she lay in a coma, closed to the world.

I don't know why I continued my daily visits after that, all I really did was sit there looking at a face that in all likelihood would never stir again. The nurses and doctors walked past her without a second glance. It was as though she had become a piece of furniture, something that was just simply there.

It was on my fourth visit since Sheila entered the coma that my frustrations finally reached the breaking point. I had seized her frail wrist, shaking it violently in the hopes of waking her through the strength of my will alone. And then, even as the heat of my outburst subsided and I loosened my grip, I saw Sheila's startlingly blue eyes peering into my own.

There was darkness.

I awoke facedown on a white floor. It was so white it almost seemed painful, white enough to injure eyes that were unaccustomed to such sights. I rose shakily to my feet, noting the whiteness that now surrounded me entirely. The walls, the ceiling, the floor, they were all the same shade of bleached white. There was a small doorway before me, leading to yet more infinite paleness. Alarmed, I spun around to see a very large door, also white, but it was the lone object of interest in a world comprised almost entirely of smooth white surfaces.

I debated leaving through the door but felt a strong pull from the opposite direction. A powerful urge had begun beckoning me deeper into the world of whiteness, and I found myself powerless to resist. I walked through the doorway opposite the large door and found myself looking into a familiar face. But it didn't look like Sheila at all.

The lined face was the same, the thin hair was as it had always been, but yet there was still a distinct difference from the woman I had been visiting in the hospital. She walked closer, dressed in a robe that was of the same shade of white as the walls all around us. It was now that I realized what was different about her. Those blue eyes, so often alight with kindness and intellect, now sparkled with something else. The smile, delivered so often upon greeting him, was now a thing of coldness to match the malevolence peering out from blue eyes that now resembled chips of ice.

I stumbled backwards through the doorway, feeling a penetrating cold creep down my spine. I did not know where I was, nor did I want to know. But I had to get out. Remembering the towering white door I turned... to find myself facing a stretch of blank wall. The door was gone.

Now visible on the floor in front of the bare expanse of wall were three forms, standing out sharply against the paleness of the ground. After I drew closer by a few steps they came into greater focus, and I recoiled as I saw them for what they were.

Skeletons. All three sprawled in the same manner, arms extended towards the bare wall in front of them. Except... the wall wasn't so bare after all. I recognized a set of scratches in the white wall, and while my heart hammered a dent into my ribcage I saw embedded in one of the furrows a fingernail.

I looked from the claw marks on the wall to the remains of the three people, horror stealing the breath from my lungs.

I had three children, you know...

Sheila's children had not abandoned her.

They left me.

I found myself instinctively reaching for the wall, pushing it, pounding against it with my fist, using every ounce of strength I possessed. It was hopeless, but I felt the eyes of the dead watching me from the floor. They were knowing eyes, eyes that saw a man who would soon be joining them.

"Why are you trying to leave, friend? You're going to be staying with me."

I whirled around to face the old woman, recoiling at the expression that encompassed her features. Sheila's smile remained fixed on her face, as cold as ever.





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