A man is transferred to a haunted nursing home.
| The Home |
People die hard.
The myth about folks just closing their eyes and falling asleep is really nothing more than that . . . a myth. Death isn’t anything like we've been told, or even imagined. God doesn’t reach down and gather us up into His arms. Oh, hell no! Death is more like a dramatic wrenching and tearing away of the soul, an out-and-out battle to stay alive. People die hard because they don’t want to die. They fight for every breath, every minute . . . every second. That’s what I believe, and I know it to be true . . . that, and the fact that I never thought I’d end up in a nursing home.
Hell, I felt as fit as a fiddle. Well, as fit as any seventy-year-old fiddle can feel. Sure, I had my aches and pains, but what old geezer my age doesn’t? If it hadn’t been for that stupid lap-dog of Rose’s jumping up on me, I never would have fallen and busted my kneecap, and I sure as hell wouldn’t have ended up at Mercy House.
Mercy House is where my beloved Rose died.
When I lost her, I thought I’d lost everything that was worth living for. I felt my shoulders slump, my gait slow, and I often found myself crying on the inside where it felt safe to cry.
But this wasn’t the first time I've felt more dejected than angry at what God had taken from me. And I suppose I had decided—-perhaps on a subconscious level—-to just give up the fight. One thing was for sure, Rose’s death made me painfully aware that everything was temporary . . . everything but that damn dog.
Rose loved the mutt—-God knows why—-always jumping up on everybody. It happened when I got up from the kitchen table, after my usual coffee and cigarette, just like me and Rose used to do every morning.
There’s a kind of routine—-a ritual of sorts-—that old folks tend to develop after living with each other for so many years. For Rose and me, it was sharing that first cup of coffee in the morning. I figured there was no reason to stop now just because she was gone. Besides, it gave me a moment to think about the good old times, time to think about her.
I will always miss her warm smile, and that faint scent of lilac I used to smell when she greeted me every morning. But all that's gone now, and it's left me feeling, I dunno . . . haunted.
It's more than just missing her. It's like a part of me has died with her, and it's made me feel thin inside like a crumbled-up piece of paper someone has carelessly tossed into a waste-paper basket.
I struggled with her death, always remembering the night she died, always recalling with dread that something inexplicably strange had happened. It was something worse than frightening . . . it was horrifying.
In the back of my mind, a little voice kept telling me this just isn’t natural; when people die it’s not supposed to be like this. Even now, as that thought—-that voice—-begins to rise again to the surface, it fills me with an icy chill, a shiver passing through me from head to toe, like an eerie sense of knowing something bad is going to happen. I think they call it precognition.
I try to push the thought away, like a dream you can’t quite believe or remember correctly. But I can't. It's always there and has taught me to stay wary—-ever watchful—-prepared for death to come at anytime, and more so, to always expect it when your back is turned.
After the surgery, I left the hospital for Mercy House and prayed for some unforeseen bit of luck--some divine intervention--to prevent the inevitable. I knew, as sure as I’m breathing that there was just something wrong about the place because my memory of what happened there scared the living hell out of me.
Looking back at it now, I have to blame it all on the dog.
I got the mutt for Rose at the local animal shelter about the same time she started getting real bad. She had always wanted a dog, but I had been immovable on the subject, knowing that I’d be the one to have to take care of the filthy beggar.
“I’m not going to clean up after it, Rose," I said, "so you can forget it.”
But eventually I gave in, just like I always did. Rose meant everything to me . . . everything.
Sure enough, she fell in love with the dog right away and named him Winston, because that’s the brand she smoked, and because that’s what the doctors said caused her cancer.
It was as good a name as any, I suppose, and it stuck.
But I believe to this day, it may have been the cigarettes that made her ill, but it sure in hell wasn’t what killed her. It was something else—-something evil.
It was warm out the day I fell, one of those days when the struggles of life seemed worth waging. I put on my plaid shorts, the ones I hated but wore because Rose had bought them, and then grabbed Winston’s leash hanging by the backdoor.
The dog was beside himself with joy at the prospect of a walk, and he jumped and ran in-and-out between my legs begging me to hurry. In an attempt to avoid stepping on the mongrel, I stumbled and tripped, and then the next thing I knew, I was toppling forward and coming down hard on my right knee.
I felt it go, exploding beneath me like a ripe melon while my head cracked hard into the corner of the kitchen table.
A wave of sickening numbness washed over me then, and I saw a wheel of stars spinning across my vision. Cradling my kneecap and sucking air between clenched teeth, I cursed the dog something awful.
When I looked down at my knee, I saw a splinter of bone sticking out through my pasty white skin. And then a cool tingle coursed through me and I felt my guts churn. It was weird, because the pain itself felt surprisingly bearable. I closed my eyes and let my body go numb, and then fell into a little sleep, a dream of blue skies, lilacs, and Rose.
When I finally came to I was in the ambulance. The paramedics told me my neighbor, Jenny Steps, a retired nurse, had heard Winston barking like crazy. When she came to investigate, she found me lying on the floor unconscious with the dog lapping at my face.
One thing led to another, but all in the wrong direction.
I spent the next week in the hospital, and after a major knee replacement, Doc Thornton told me I’d definitely need therapy before I could walk again, but that I’d more than likely carry a limp for the rest of my life.
That was fine, I could deal with that. It was the goddamn nursing home I hated—-Mercy House. In a way, it was ironic I’d end up there, but that didn’t make things any easier—-only harder-—and I thought about Rose more than ever and what had happened to her while she was there.
Mercy House sits upon a knob of a hill just north of town and looks like one of those aged southern mansions you might see in an old movie. It's a large, two story building with raised columns in the front and a wrap-around veranda that had been modified with several wheelchair ramps for easy access. Whether the home was made of wood, brick, or stone, was hard to tell, because over the years it had turned a dull yellow-brown. Here and there, alkaline encrustations limed the edges of the drab walls making the house look as if it were slowly sinking into the hill. It sported well-landscaped grounds, a small parking lot, and a pointed wrought iron fence that surrounded the property like a stockpile of spears.
Waiting for me at the Home was a plump Mexican nurse pushing a wheelchair. I was transferred to the chair as painlessly as possible, and then the nurse smiled with her chipped front tooth and welcomed me to Mercy House. As we approached the front door, I felt as if I was on my way to my own execution. “Dead man walking,” I said aloud, and then gripped the armrests of the chair like the safety bar of a non-stop roller coaster.
The electric door opened onto a long corridor lit with fluorescent ceiling panels. The walls were scuffed and marred from wheel chairs bumping into them, and the floor was yellowed tile.
But the first thing you notice when entering Mercy House is the smell . . . it literally stinks. It smells of urine and feces, and failed attempts to mask it with disinfectant. But no matter how much they try to mask it, it's impossible to hide that unmistakable smell of fear . . . the fear of dying.
In bitter retrospect, I realized that this is where we all come to die. There's nothing for it. Where else can old-timers go when the hospitals kick them out so early? Back home? Not likely. Who would take care of them, change their diapers every day?
The answer is, no one.
No one wants that burden. Your mom can change your diapers when you’re young, but it's a whole different story when it comes time to change hers.
And that's the truth of it.
The Mercy House corridor seemed to stretch on forever, past a nurse’s station with a supply room on the left and a bathroom on the right. I could hear the nurses chatting, gossiping, as we wheeled by. They turned to look at me briefly with an air of condemnation, and then went back to their conversation. It felt as if I was nothing more than fresh meat to them, just another bag of bones to clean up after.
Directly across from the chatting help, a man called out, “Sheila? Sheila!”
I looked toward the open door.
He was propped-up in a hospital bed, reaching out to me like he wanted to embrace. His skin hung thick and heavy from his outstretched arms, as if his flesh were melting off the bone. But what was odd, was the way he looked at me with those deep sunken eyes and that unmistakable plea for help. I felt sorry for the old fella, and wondered why the staff chose to simply ignore him.
And then something strange happened: the man changed before my very eyes—-transformed. He sat straight up in bed with an unexpected energy; the stupor in his eyes took on a whole new focus and lucid gaze. He stared right into me and said in a gravelly voice that sounded as if it came from the depths of Hell, “Evil is roused and ravenous and you cannot renew its slumber. Soon it will come for you. It wants you!”
The voice nearly made me jump out of my wheelchair. I immediately looked around at the reaction of the nurse, but she behaved as if she hadn’t heard a thing.
Looking back, the man appeared old and feeble again.
“Sheila?” he yelled once more. “Sheila?”
I cranked my neck around to look at Maria. “Who is that?” I asked her.
“Oh, that’s poor Mr. Reynolds. He’s been like that ever since his wife died.”
“When was that?”
“She died here about two years ago. Now everybody he sees, he thinks it’s his dead wife, Sheila. It’s very sad, but the doctor says there’s nothing that can be done.”
The episode, though frightening, hit home with me. Still, I knew most of the residents here were drifting in-and-out of a pharmaceutical dream land. Their so-called, medical-plan-of-action was probably concocted by doctors who were too busy to help someone already destined for the cold, wet earth.
As the nurse continued to wheel me toward my room, I could hear others coughing and moaning, calling out for someone.
It’s no way to die: just lying in bed praying for an old memory to come and take you home. But that wasn't the saddest part. The worst of it was, no one came, and no one ever would.
It’s funny how ol’ farts just kind of lose their place in life, kind of like a bookmark that has fallen out of a book. And then, eventually, who or what they were yelling for becomes more and more incomprehensible, a gurgling kind of sound a person makes when they’ve forgotten how to speak.
I guess it's part of the long journey home, one foot stepping closer to the grave, while the other lies chaffed against freshly peed sheets.
I did some research on nursing homes before my Rose ended up in one. Statistically, they are all crowded with women. Men just don’t seem to last long once their dignity is taken away. They just become cantankerous and stubborn: too mulish to eat, and too damn ornery and pissed-off to continue on without a fight. So eventually, statistically, they simply starve themselves to death.
It’s no way to die. No damn way at all.
As the nurse wheeled me into my room, I saw two beds, each sectioned off by one of those wrap-around curtains that hang from metal rings and slide noisily along on an oval steel track fixed into the ceiling.
While she painfully transferred me from the wheelchair to the bed, I noticed the old lady.
She was an odd sort of bird, who watched me intently from behind sheets she had pulled up to her eyes concealing most of her face. It was as if she were terribly afraid of something—-like a child peeping out from over the covers when awakened from a bad dream. It also reminded me of how Rose looked the day she had died.
To be friendly, I gave her a nod and smiled, but she held the sheet tighter to her features and snarled. I figured if looks could kill, the fangs of her eyes would have had me withering on the floor right then and there.
Although I couldn’t see her face, there was something strange about the woman’s eyes, something there wasn’t a word for, almost like a yearning—-a hunger.
“There you go, Mr. Williams,” the overweight nurse said as she tucked me in. “Just relax now and get some rest.”
“I’m not tired,” I said.
“You will be." She laughed. “Once the swelling goes down and we start your therapy, then you’ll wish you had never met me.”
I had already wished that, but didn’t say so. “You know, if it will get me out of here any sooner, then we can start right now.”
“All in good time,” she clucked like a Spanish mother-hen. “First, we’ll get you situated, and then bring you some dinner.
I gave in and finally laid back. “Thanks, Maria,” I said, reading the name tag that was pinned to her over-sized breasts.
She smiled lamely.
As I glanced over again at the woman in the bed next to me, I noticed she was still peeking from behind her sheets with those pissed-off eyes.
Why does she keep staring at me like that?
It seemed my notice of her only sharpened her glare, and turned her gaze into a collection of knives. I felt a chill run through me. What I saw in those eyes felt like a reoccurring nightmare I’d been having of late, where I was stuck inside a dark and never-ending hallway that wouldn’t yield its secrets, and where there was only something terrible and hideous waiting for me at the other end.
“What’s her problem?” I whispered to Maria as she finished tucking me in.
“Who?” she asked.
I hitched my head toward the other bed. “My roommate over there. Why does she keep looking at me like that?”
Puzzled, the nurse looked around the room with a startled expression, and then crossed herself like you see superstitious people do sometimes when they want to ward off evil. “What? What do you mean,” she asked, more than a little frightened. “There’s no one here, but us.”
I turned my head and looked over at the other bed.
It was empty and neatly made.
“Well, doesn’t that beat all,” I said. “I could have sworn . . . .”
“It’s probably just your medication,” she said. “You need to get some rest now.”
But I saw the fear swimming in her eyes. Then she quickly turned and was out the door moving faster than I would have thought possible for a woman her size.
I looked back at the empty bed, shook the cobwebs from my head, and then sighed as I settled back into my pillow.
"God, I hate this place," I said aloud.
Closing my eyes, I thought of Rose, and how she must have felt the first time she came to Mercy House. It was not a happy thought. But what was worse was that now it was my turn.
Finally, I slept.
I came to see Rose everyday at the Home. I told myself it was mostly because I loved her and missed not having her at the house, but I knew inside it was from the guilt I felt for putting her there in the first place. She knew it too, and so whenever I visited, she just laid there in bed with that stench-ridden cancer eating away at her vitals like a ravenous wolf and never talked, never showed any pain, and never forgave me.
I tried to explain it to her, begged her to listen to reason. “Rose, what if you fell again, and I wasn’t there? What if you had hit your head, or broken your hip? What then, huh? Honey, you have to understand, I’m doing the best that I can for you.”
I still remembered the first time she took a fall. She made me promise then (as if she knew what was coming) that I’d never send her to a nursing home.
As I struggled to get her up off the floor, and when I had finally managed to do so, I made the promise to keep her with me, no matter what. But even then, I knew it was a lie.
Days later, she took another fall, and then another, the last one broke her hip with a loud sickening pop.
I called the ambulance, and then just let things naturally slip out of my control. I knew I was just too inexperienced to take care of her. Then, as I knew they would, the doctors made the decision for me. But, damn it to hell, I let it happen.
Before she had fully stabilized, they released her to Mercy House, the nearest nursing home in the area. And I still remember the look on her face, when they took her there: a look filled with a disbelieving hurt, and eyes full of mistrust.
She never spoke to me after that, up until the very night she died. She knew I had betrayed her.
Of course, after she died I still felt responsible, but I kept my guilt tucked away inside a forgotten pocket at the back of my mind. But now the burden of that pocket had become too heavy for the fabric to contain, and the threads of the seams had finally begun to break loose.
Rose didn’t last long, a month, maybe. I was there at her side when she finally spoke to me again. It was Halloween.
Her face was drawn, her body shrunken, as if Death, in a sneak-thief mood, had begun days ago to steal the substance of her, little-by-little, ounce-by-ounce. I could see her drawing strength from somewhere deep within just to speak.
“Bob, you gotta get me out of here,” she said suddenly, her voice sounding thick and throaty. Panic swam in her eyes and lapped at the edges of her face, but her desire for my attention was as clear as a cry.
“What?” I asked, startled at hearing her voice again after her long silence.
“I said, take me home.”
“But Rose, you’re sick,” I said. “Real sick.”
“Listen to me,” she insisted. Her eyes had taken on a focus that I had not seen in weeks. She demanded that she be heard. “There’s something not right here," she continued. “There are ghosts. Ghosts everywhere."
She tried to swallow before going on. “Everybody knows about it. They try to hide it." Her head fell back into the pillow as she gasped for air. I could see her intensity slipping.
“Rose, I don’t understand. What are you saying?”
“They're here, damn it!” Rose clutched my arm with amazing strength. “Everybody’s afraid! I'm afraid!”
“But Rose, that's nonsense. You’re sick, honey, that’s all. They’ve given you a lot of medicine."
“Listen to me, you old fool! Everybody that's ever died here is still here.” She grimaced and closed her eyes until a wave of pain passed.
“But Rose, I don’t understand . . .”
Her eyes shot open. “The dead, they’ve . . . they’ve never left. They're all still here, hanging on. They're all here, Bob. All of them.”
An unbearable coughing spasm shook through her. I grabbed the cup of water that sat on her nightstand, desperately trying to ease her pain. She took a small, helpless sip, and the moment ate at me with cruel teeth.
“They want me to join them,” she finally said again. “Keep me here, forever. Please, Bob, take me home. I don't wanna die here!”
I felt powerless to help.
“Please, Bob . . . please.”
I crushed her hand to my chest and bawled like a baby. “I can’t, honey, I can’t.” I lowered my head as if defeated, and then finally told her the truth. “I’m so sorry, honey. I can’t save you from any of this. I can’t take care of you anymore.”
Her last act upon this earth was to squeeze my hand as if in forgiveness.
From out of nowhere an unexplained wind blew through the room. I smelled it: a nauseating odor, sour and putrescent beyond anything I had ever smelled before. It swirled around Rose’s bed like a little dust dervish, and then fell upon her.
Violently, her body arched. It was as if she were being lifted up by the waist, her head and feet still touching the bed. I watched in horror as an invisible force seemed to hold her up like some ghostly lover even though every muscle in her body fought and strained to push it away.
Then there was a terrible licking sound, like a bear lapping at the last bit of honey from the bottom of a deep jar. Rose thrashed her arms and legs.
Immediately I shot to my feet. “Nurse!” I screamed “Nurse!”
Then Rose collapsed back into the bed like a doll that has been thrown to the floor, never to be played with again.
I stood there stunned, horror drowning me in cold currents that robbed my breath and left me gasping for air.
Something invisible had come into the room. I knew it as sure as I knew my wife was dead.
Rose lay upon the bed, broken and lifeless. As a woman, she had loved and given of herself her whole life. Now Death, unimpressed with her selfless giving, had just cruelly stormed into the room and took what was left.
The wind stirred within the room again, and something unseen whispered in my ear.
“Behold the rotting corpse.”
I jumped from the bedside, fear gripping me like a cold knot in my stomach.
”She’s with us now. No doubt the worms will be waiting for what’s left.”
I cried out, startled, flailing backwards, and then tried to look in every direction at once.
The nurse rushed in. “What is it? What’s happened?” Then she looked down at Rose. “Oh my, bless her soul,” she said, as if she had spoken from a canned and well-rehearsed script. “I’m afraid she’s gone, Mr. Williams. I’m so sorry, but there’s no more pain for her now. It’s all over.”
To me, Rose looked as if her exact likeness had been set in wax. Her skin, almost translucent, appeared penciled with small blue veins like a long-forgotten map to her heart.
I could still hear the voice inside my head. Behold the rotting corpse. The words echoed in my mind, and I felt as if worms and maggots had crawled inside my head.
The nurse stepped in front of me, breaking the spell, and tried to pull the sheet up. Though she gave it a firm tug, she was unable to pull it completely over my wife's head, and it stopped just below Rose’s eyes.
I crumbled back into the chair, holding my knotted grief, and then put my head upon the white sheet that covered her breast.
I didn’t want to cry, but did anyway. I wept as if I were being torn out of myself by the roots. When I finally stood, my face was drenched in tears, and my chest shook with the effort of stifling sobs.
And that was it. She was gone.
I opened my eyes from the daydream and tried to dismiss the memory. Now I was at Mercy House and it was my turn.
Looking out the window at the far end of the room, I saw the evening sky drenched in that peculiar California light that is perfectly clear but that seems at the same time to have considerable substance.
The days that followed passed uneventfully. I never saw my ghostly neighbor again and eventually pushed the thought out of my mind chalking it all up to a drug overdose. I worked hard in therapy, and my knee was getting better. There was even talk of me being released soon.
That night Maria arrived with dinner. I could smell the hot food even before she opened the lid to the tray. “Here you go, Mr. Williams. We made a nice hamburger for you. There’s even talk that this might be your last night with us. The doctor will be here in the morning to check you out.”
She set the small tray on my lap. It held an overcooked, paper-thin patty and a clump of half-frozen french-fries. There was even a plastic cup filled with pudding.
Maria appeared uncomfortable with the room, and pulled the curtain around my bed for privacy as I ate. Then as quickly as she appeared, she scurried away again.
I was famished and dove right in, nearly choking on the dry burger.
Then something very strange happened. It started with a faint voice.
“Bob . . . ?”
Something disturbed the stillness, a rustling, and a heavy sigh. Then a vague, shuffling, scraping noise, a dry sound, like an old withered leaf crunching crisply under someone’s foot.
It was nearer now than it had been.
I stopped in mid-chew, tried to swallow what felt like a mouthful of ash.
Something was coming across the room toward the bed.
“Bob . . . are you in there?” The voice sounded as unsteady as a windblown flame.
I set the food down, the color fading from my cheeks, my heart beginning to hammer.
Someone was moving around the bed. I could see their shadow through the thin fabric of the curtain, like water pearled and moving beneath ice.
“Who is it?” I managed to croak. “Who’s there?”
“It’s me, Bob. It’s . . . Rose.”
My fear was visible, my sweat like wax upon my skin; thick tears stood in my eyes.
A hand, mottled brown and green, slimy, and riddled with weeping pustules, gripped at the curtain and slowly pulled it open enough to reach inside.
“It’s been so long Bob . . . so long.”
The room stunk like a ripe, moldy cheese. I could taste it on my lips.
The shape of the head on the other side of the curtain nodded and bobbed as if it were an enormous rose bloom caught in a breeze.
“I’ve come for you, Bob. I’ve come to give you something." The voice sounded tortured and mournful. "They . . . they told me to give you something. Something to keep you here. They don’t want you to leave.”
“Jesus, Rose,” I cried. “It can’t be you. You’re dead.”
The stench was now so ripe that the air seemed to be flavored with it. The grotesque hand that held the curtain reached-in and lightly touched my bad knee. Pain shot through me as intense as the first time I had fallen.
I wanted to scream. I wanted to yell for help, but couldn’t find my voice. A throbbing ache drummed through my entire body. There was no place I could hide from it. My head swam. Sweat poured off my face and neck.
Then the bark of a dog broke the spell, as Winston bolted into the room.
“Bob?” Jenny Steps, my next door neighbor from home, called out. “I hope you’re up for a couple of . . . Bob? Bob, are you all right?”
I was clutching my leg and rocking back-and-forth with pain.
“Call the nurse,” I said flatly. “Something’s wrong.”
“Nurse!” Jenny yelled through the open door. “Nurse! Get your ass in here!”
I kept looking toward the other side of the bed, afraid that a hideous body would throw the curtain back at any moment and lunge at me.
The dog continued to yap at something on the far side of the room.
“Winston, would you please shut up!” Jenny slapped her hands at the dog. “Come here, boy. Come here!” The dog came grudgingly over, turned to bark once more, and then jumped up on my bed. He made a couple of quick circles then curled in at my feet.
Two nurses rushed in.
“What is it? What’s the problem?” the older one asked.
“He’s in pain,” Jenny explained as if she were talking to a couple of monkeys. “Just look at him. What the hell’s going on around here?”
The younger nurse turned to me. “What’s wrong, Mr. Williams?”
“What do you think is the matter?" Jenny said. "Can't you see he’s holding his leg. It’s swollen twice the size it was when he left the hospital.”
The older nurse turned on her. “Who are you? Are you a relative or something? I know you're not his wife.”
“No . . . no, of course not, I’m his neighbor.”
"Then maybe you should leave, and take that dog with you."
The younger nurse was already taking the wrap off my knee. The stench was terrible, and my fear was quickly replaced by the intense pain I felt in my leg.
When the last wrap came off, I saw my bulging knee had turned a horrible yellow-green color and oozed pus.
“My God,” I heard Jenny say. “It’s totally infected. That’s gangrene! What have you people been doing?”
The nurse's features grew pale and hard as though they had transformed into a plaster death mask. Turning to the younger nurse, she said, “Call Dr. Thornton immediately. This leg’s gotta come off.”
The other nurse ran out of the room to make the call.
"Hang in there, Bob," Jenny said. "You have gangrene and your heart is pumping the infection through your body."
"No, Jenny, this can't be happening," I said. "Listen, I'm . . . I'm supposed to be getting out of here today. I've gotta get out of here. This place is filled with ghosts, Jenny, and they're all trying to keep me here!"
"Jesus, Bob, ghosts? That's got to be the infection talking."
Then the nurse came back in. "I left a message at Dr. Thornton's call center. I don't know how long it will take him to get it. Maybe not until tomorrow."
"We can't wait that long!" Jenny screamed. "If that leg doesn't come off, he could be dead within the hour. Isn't there a doctor here?" Jenny asked. "Aren't you supposed to have at least one doctor here at all times?"
I saw Jenny's training kick-in and she reacted. "Listen carefully," she told the nurses. "Get an antibiotic IV started and another of morphine. The three of us are going to take that leg off."
"No," I said, "not my leg. It'll be okay. I just need to rest a bit."
Even as I said that the room began to swirl. I felt as if everything in my range of sight was being flushed down a toilet. Shadows swam in and out of view--hundreds of them. It was like a flock of black birds swiftly altering their flight path to catch a sudden change of wind. Darker . . . darker . . . darker.
People die hard.
The myth about folks just closing their eyes and falling asleep is really nothing more than that . . . a myth. Death is more like a dramatic wrenching and tearing away of the soul--an out-and-out battle to stay alive. People die hard because they don’t want to die. They fight for every breath, every minute . . . every second.
Mercy House is my home now. I feel like I've been here for years. When I look down at my bed, I see one leg under the covers. It feels like two, but I only see the one.
The door to my room is always open and I watch the people walking up and down the hallway. Some are dead, and some aren't. It's hard to tell which anymore.
"Rose! Rose? Is that you?"
I lift my arms toward her. "Rose? Rose?"