Sometimes help comes from unusual sources.
Pop Rischer had not led a virtuous life. In fact, he was one of the most hated men in the city of Larsan. Any low down, dirty thing you can think of, Pop had done it, twice. For a time, he was even more hated than Emil Sorn, Larsan's most infamous criminal.
When he became so sick that he had to go to the hospital, there were whispers from those who knew him that any malady he contracted would be well deserved. Some even went so far as to say the more painful and horrific, the better.
They got their wish.
Once he had been diagnosed as terminal, traffic through his hospital room went down significantly. Visitors stopped altogether. The steady stream of pastors that had come to see him soon dried up. Even nurses tended to him and left as quickly as possible.
Pop's death was destined to be as miserable as his life. He had long heard whispers of, 'No hope', and 'Waste of space' when the nurses thought he was asleep. His outlook became quite grim.
The doctor who came to see him looked like he could've laid down in the next bed. He was tall and thin to the point of emaciation . His white hair framed his thin, gaunt face.
"How are we today?" the doctor said looking at Pop's chart.
"Miserable and dying," Pop whispered.
"I agree, you are miserable and dying."
"Are you allowed to say that?" Pop rasped.
"What difference does it make? You've already given up."
Pop just sighed.
"I'll be back to check on you."
Sure enough, the next day the doctor was back.
"Let’s see how you're doing today," He said, peering at the chart. "Ah, progressing nicely, keep up the good work."
"I don't feel any better," Pop rasped.
"Trust me, you're making fine progress. I'll check on you again tomorrow."
This went on for a week. Each day the doctor said he was happy with Pop's progress. Each day Pop didn't feel any better.
He asked one of the nurses if his condition was improving. She skirted the issue.
That tells me everything I need to know. If it wasn't bad, they would tell me. So why is doc so happy with my progress? Maybe the hospital needs the bed.
That's when Pop became angry. Not the 'barroom brawl' angry, but the slow burn.
Son of a bitch wants his bed? Well the only way I'm giving it to him is to walk out the front door.
The next day when doc visited, Pop's demeanor had changed.
"How are we feeling today?" doc said.
"Much better," Pop lied.
Doc flashed a knowing smile.
"That's good, keep up the good work."
The following day doc checked Pop's chart and a frown crept across his face.
"What's wrong, doc?"
"Nothing, just your numbers are a bit troubling."
"Really? I feel better than I have in a long time."
"Umm...that's good. Who cares about numbers, right?"
"Come on, doc, shoot straight for once, how am I doing?"
Doc had a pained expression on his face.
"I'd say you've got two days left."
Pop's face fell.
"Wow, it doesn't get much straighter than that."
Pop extended his hand.
Doc looked at it, then reached out and slowly shook it.
"Thanks for the honesty."
"You’re welcome," he said haltingly. "Now, must go tend to others."
He released his hand and turned to leave.
"Will I see you again, doc?"
He paused in the doorway.
"I guarantee it," he winked and was gone.
Just then a nurse walked in to take his blood pressure.
"Who were you talking to?" she asked as she attended her duties.
"Which doc, we have quite a few."
"You know, older guy, tall, thin, white hair."
"Doesn't sound familiar, and according to your chart you haven't been seen by a doctor in over a week."
"That's not possible, he's been here every day."
The nurse looked puzzled.
"Could you describe him any better?"
"Well, his hands were ice cold, and he wore a lapel pin."
"Did he have a name tag?"
"I don't remember seeing one."
The nurse pulled out a pad and pen.
"Here, draw what his pin looked like."
"I'm not exactly an artist."
She smiled. "Do your best."
When he was done, she took the drawing and said, "I'll look into this."
The next day, that same nurse came into his room and sat in the chair beside Pop's bed.
"How are you feeling today?" she asked in a mechanical voice.
"Better than I have in a while."
"Did the doctor come see you today?"
"No, as a matter of fact, he didn't," Pop said, looking at her with concern. "Why?"
"Did this doctor do anything to you, examine you in any way, touch you at all?"
"We shook hands, other than that, no."
"Would you say this doctor helped you?"
"He pissed me off, seeming like he wanted my bed. It was after that I determined that I was gonna walk out of this hospital."
"Really? So, you're saying the doctor motivated you to get better?"
Her already white face managed to turn a shade paler.
"What's wrong? Am I dying?" Pop growled, "Please, just give me a straight answer."
She took a deep breath.
"You were dying a week ago, it was only a matter of time. And then something changed, you started getting better. We had no explanation for it. It started right around the time you said this doctor motivated you. I would say he saved your life."
"That's great. Did you find out who he was? I'd like to thank him."
"That's ... gonna ... be ... difficult," she said with a distant look.
"Why, doesn't he work at this hospital anymore?"
"Unfortunately, he does."
"What? Make some sense, woman."
She sighed deeply.
"I looked up the drawing you made of his lapel pin. All the results came back the same, it is an ancient symbol for ..." her voice trailed off.
She summoned her courage, and looked him in the eye.
He furrowed his eyebrows.
"What do you mean, death? You mean like black robe and scythe, death?"
She slowly nodded.
They sat in silence for a few minutes.
"He told me I'd be leaving in two days," Pop said quietly.
"He was right. You're treatment has run its course, and you're well enough to leave."
Pop looked at her, opened his mouth, and then closed it without saying anything.
"I know," she said, standing to leave, "I won't tell anyone if you don't."
She smiled back, nodded, and left the room.
Word Count: 1111
Featured in the "Horror/Scary Newsletter (January 20, 2016)"