by Than Pence
In the coma wing, someone is trying to stay alive.
|Her fingers shook softly, annoyingly. She clutched them tightly, feeling the skin slide over the old bones in her hands. Looking down while chewing her lip, she wonders if she can afford the price of restoring herself, her hands, her heart and life.
“I’m not through yet,” she mumbled. Spittle escaped her mouth and she drew her sleeve to catch it.
Before her in the bed was her savior, her victim. The clipboard said his name but she didn’t need it. She didn’t want to know it. All she needed to know was that he’d been attached to machines for too long now, and there was little hope for him.
Brain damage was the word used in polite circles, but Heaven only heard brain dead. Before her, in a bed within room 409 of the comatose wing, was the man that would save her life.
Heaven looked to the machines, the tubing, the wires that protruded from places unseen. Her savior was a cyborg, a man-machine hybrid. It beeped and wheezed and hummed. It was a cacophony of sound assaulting her ears; a symphony of electronics playing a fool’s overture, trying desperately to keep this sap alive.
Her awareness attuned, Heaven knew that most people didn’t notice sounds as well as she did. It was often a curse. The machine beeped softly and she could almost hear the man’s actual heart beating in time to it.
The smell was almost the worst of it. She’d wear a gas mask if she could, but knew it would hinder her wicked words. The man’s piss was collected in a bag, connected to a tube that looked questionable: she felt she could smell it.
She squirmed thinking about such an act as replacing a catheter. Removing, reinserting, the agony that must accompany it. In a former life, she remembered the burdens associated with having genitals that protruded. Her other lives where she spewed out children were no comparison, but Heaven recognized that so few people could compare the sensations.
Her hand started to shake again and she knew she had to do this now. Her borrowed time was almost up and she had to absorb this comatose man’s soul.
Moving to the side of the bed, Heaven’s knee brushed against the urine bag. It swung heavily and she worried it might slip and splatter on the floor. The imagined-scent wafted up and made her wrinkle her nose in disgust.
With a pinch, she closed her nostrils and contemplated the words, the scripture, the coda she’d have to whisper to this unresponsive man.
Bending forward, putting her lips to the man’s ear, she whispered as if to a lover fanciful words too wondrous to say aloud or print. A tingle rolled down her spine as she felt his essence trickle into her.
With his soul, she saw flashes of his former life. Old pets. Old girlfriends. A sibling. A parent. Cars and money but not a lot of either. Enough to feel content.
Heaven slumped into the chair next to the man, the coma man, the man who broke up sentences of life. The process would take a while. Not as long as transferring into a whole different vessel, but long enough to be wary. The electronic symphony accompanied her steady breathing,
In these late hours, orderlies were scarce, especially in the coma wing. Heaven knew she’d have plenty of time. Time for her to rest.
The air around her seemed to sizzle and her once-weary joints and muscles demanded less attention. The most crucial of moments was upon her in no time: if the man woke up now, the spell would reverse drastically and leave her powerless. Soulpieces almost shimmered before her mind’s eye as she worried. It had worked every time she’d ever done it before, but Heaven knew of Casters in the past who met their demise when they came across more spritely targets.
A new sound entered the fray: a spasm. The man’s leg jerked beneath the blankets. It startled Heaven, sending pangs of fear through her body. Was the man waking up? Had she foreseen it with her worrisome mind? Of course I did. I’m more powerful than ever, now…
Heaven slumped into the chair, her newly claimed soulpieces retreating, abandoning their captor for a more familiar temple.
With a forceful jolt, Dirth felt his surroundings solidify, his mind electrify. He also felt the awful tubing in his throat. He tried to make a sound with his mouth but nothing happening. His eyes were taped shut and he couldn’t manipulate his arms properly to remove it.
Flailing his arms about like a fish flopping on the dock, he felt something activate in his bed and a pinging sound joined his beeps. An eternity of moments passed before someone came to his side. It was quiet, bodiless voices at first and free-range hands moving all over him.
Someone mentioned an old woman and Dirth wondered if his mother was there.
When the tape was finally removed and he felt brave enough to embrace the light, he slowly opened his eyes to take in the room. It wasn’t glamorous but his mother was there, as was his brother and a young Asian woman in scrubs. It was a defining moment, a once in a lifetime moment.
His brother stepped to the bed. “Hey, lazy. Where you been?”
Dirth tried answering, the tubing now free, but his throat was raw.
“We’ve missed you, bud. Me and Mom.” His brother and mother shared a serious glance. “We’re not sure how to tell you, but there was a woman in here, in that chair. She… died.”
His mother stepped forward. “No one knew her, and I guess you couldn’t have seen her to begin with. This hospital’s lousy with irresponsible night workers that it’s any wonder more people don’t turn up dead.” She pursed her lips and shook her head. “But you’re safe now, Dirth, dear. Back with us, and safe.”
Word Count: 997