Room 2011 (a Uni7erse Short)


[AUTHOR’S NOTE] This is a short set in the Unlucky Seven universe (or Uni7erse). If you like what you read here and you’re not familiar with the source material, check the links on the sidebar to buy/borrow Unlucky Seven and the Obligatory Sequel. You won’t regret it!

[AUTHOR’S NOTE II] This short is dedicated to my late Grandfather on the anniversary of his death. 11/11/08.

 

A buzz broke the silence of the hallway in the intensive care unit.  One of the patients on the ward was hitting their call button.

The overnight nurse and her aide looked at each other.

“Room 2011,” the nurse said, “Guy in there is comatose and terminal.  He must have shifted onto his button somehow.”

“I’ll get it,” said the aide as he stood up and walked to the end of the hall.

He reached the door and turned in.  He jumped nearly a foot in the air when the man who he was just told was comatose and terminal was sitting up in his bed, trying to remove the respirator tube from his mouth.

“Helk ne,” the old man gargled past the hose in his throat.

The aide’s eyes grew wide and he sprinted down the hallway back toward the nurse’s station.

“We’ve got another one,” shouted the nurse’s aide as he skidded to a stop and turned back toward the room.

The nurse sprang out of her chair and ran with the aide back to room 2011.

The attending physician exited into the hallway from another room, watching the pair sprint by.

“What’s going on?” he asked, “Is someone coding?”

“No,” the aide answered, not breaking stride, “Someone is better!”

The doctor watched as they reached the door.  The aide entered.  The on-duty nurse stood in the doorway with her hand over her mouth.

“Better?” the doctor asked as he approached.

 

Rose woke up in the dark.

There was a heavy smell of bleach.  Her wings were cramped against narrow walls.

She shook her head violently, trying to bring herself back to her senses.  She remembered stumbling into this closet after healing the old man in Room 2011 just before she passed out.

She had seen him through the window of his room while flying outside.  She hovered there, watching his small family say their goodbyes after receiving what was the worst possible news from the attending doctor.  She decided from the look of depression on the face of the eldest woman, likely his wife, that he would be the next one.

Her stomach hurt.  She clutched at it.  Her hooded sweatshirt was soaked through, wet and sticky.  He must have had something removed, she realized.  She glanced quickly at his chart before she healed him and only saw something about terminal cancer.  She didn’t realize until she lifted her shirt to look at the wound that his maladies included a major abdominal procedure.

The wound was healed, now a fading scar from her naval to below the waist of her jeans.  She knew her body would eliminate the cancer within a few hours.  She had proven that the night before.  This, however, was a different feeling.  Her insides hurt and churned as if her guts had been shuffled and were now being put back in their proper order.  She felt things growing as her organs rebuilt themselves.

She fumbled for the door knob and found it.  She took a deep breath, composed herself as best she could, and cracked the door to look around.

Her vision was blurred.  The old man must have had some serious eye problems, she thought.  She saw some objects that could have been people, but they didn’t move.  She presumed the hallway was empty.  She felt an urge to escape quickly.  She had to make it out.  She knew what came next in her healing process.

 

“Stage IV colon cancer,” the doctor read aloud from the patient’s chart, “Metastasized to the lungs, heart, kidneys, and brain.  Septic infection due to a complication during a colostomy.  Patient diagnosed terminal.  Family signed a DNR per patient’s living will.”

The doctor looked at the patient, now calm enough to allow the aide to remove his breathing apparatus.  He turned back to the nurse, still standing at the threshold, both hands now covering her mouth.

“What did the aide mean when he said ‘another one’?” the doctor asked.

“Same thing happened last night,” the nurse muttered, “Woman with lung cancer on the fifth floor.  She was scheduled for a lobectomy.  They came to get her in the morning and she was sitting up, watching tv, breathing free and easy like nothing ever happened.  At least that’s what I heard.”

The doctor shook his head.

“That’s impossible,” he said, “Patients with that degree of cancer don’t just suddenly get better.”

“Normally, I’d agree,” said the nurse, “But, we’re seeing it with our own eyes.”

The aide removed the tube and was now trying to feed the patient water.  The old man with short white hair grabbed the cup from him and drank on his own, coughing briefly.

“Mr. Franklin?” said the doctor, glancing at the chart, “I’m Dr. Kalsmith.  How… how are you feeling?”

“Pretty good, actually,” rasped Mr. Franklin, “Except for having this tube down my throat.”

“Um,” Dr. Kalsmith started, pausing and searching for any kind of response before blurting, “Sorry about that.  Patients don’t typically come back from the dead.”

“I was dead?” asked Mr. Franklin.

“No, not,” Dr. Kalsmith stuttered, “Not yet.  You were pronounced terminal just a few hours ago.  Your family signed a Do Not Resuscitate order according to your…”

“Yeah, I know,” Mr. Franklin interrupted, “They were here earlier.  I could hear them talking.  They all said goodbye.  I knew it was the end.  When I saw that angel, I thought for sure God was taking me home.  Guess there’s other plans for me yet.”

“Angel?” Dr. Kalsmith asked..

“I know,” said Mr. Franklin, his voice raising in excitement and causing him to cough.  He took another drink of water before he continued. “She laid her hands on me and healed me!  I feel great now!  Everything except for this thing jammed into my neck.”

Mr. Franklin pointed at the port currently connected to an IV stand.

“We should probably get you off of that,” Dr. Kalsmith said, nodding to the aide who got the process started.

“This angel,” Dr. Kalsmith continued after a moment, “What did she look like?”

“An angel,” Mr. Franklin shrugged, “Just like you hear about.  Young, beautiful woman with giant wings.  She was wearing a hood.  Looked like an angel you’d see in those old paintings, y’know?  She touched me and everything was ok.  I can even see better now.  She must have got rid of my cataracts, too.”

“You do realize,” Dr. Kalsmith started, pausing again, “A portion of your colon was removed.  You have cancer with has spread to most of your major organs.  You were septic.”

“I heard you reading my chart,” Mr. Franklin said, “I heard one of the other docs telling my family all about it when they signed the DNR.  I know how bad off I was.”

“Would you mind lifting up your gown?” Dr. Kalsmith asked, “Let’s take a look at your…”

He was cut short as Mr. Franklin did what he said.  The incision from the colostomy as well as the stoma for the colostomy bag weren’t there.  The bag itself was lying on the floor, unsoiled.  Every piece of evidence that Mr. Franklin underwent a major procedure was gone.

Dr. Kalsmith looked down at the chart again.

“They had to do exploratory surgery to find the problem,” he said, “There should be a large wound.”

“What can I say, doc?” Mr. Franklin smiled, “It’s a miracle.”

The room was silent.  As the aide finished removing the IV port and placed a bandage, Dr. Kalsmith grabbed him by the elbow.

“Excuse us for a minute, sir,” said Dr. Kalsmith.  Mr. Franklin nodded.

As he walked out the door, dragging the aide, Dr. Kalsmith also collected the nurse who was still standing and hiding her gaping jaw with her hands.

“Is this some kind of prank?” Dr. Kalsmith shout-whispered as they got out of eyeshot from the front door.  His face was folded into a scowl.

“No way,” said the nurse, “No.  The chart was correct.  Everything on there was the truth.  This guy has been in here for the last five days fighting that infection, it was only a matter of time.  He even had his last rites delivered.  We told the family that he would probably pass overnight.”

“Angels,” Dr. Kalsmith muttered shaking his head, “No one came in or out of that room, did they?”

“Couldn’t have,” said the aide, “The doors are locked and secured after visiting hours are over and that was four hours ago.”

“I’m ordering a full battery on that man,” Dr. Kalsmith said, “I want him under every microscope in this hospital.  We have to make sure that he is who he says he is before we alert the family.”

“Seriously?” asked the aide, “It’s not like someone could have just rolled in here and replaced a terminal patient.”

“It’s also not like someone could have healed a man who was practically dead four hours ago, is it?” Dr. Kalsmith scowled, “Get the tests done and don’t breathe a word of this to anyone.  Not yet.”

 

Rose exited the closet, her wings folded behind her.  Shortly down the hallway was the emergency exit leading to the stairway with roof access.  It was conveniently located at the corner of the ICU hallway.  She pulled her hood up and moved toward the door.

Looking down at herself in the light, she saw the blood from the stomach wound covering the lower half of her hoodie and the entire front of her jeans down to her bare feet.  She panicked and looked back, realizing that a trail of bloody bare footprints was following her from a puddle of half-congealed blood now seeping slowly out of the janitor’s closet.

She sprinted for the door.  She felt her blood-soaked feet gripping to the floor with every step.

She made sure to close the emergency exit silently behind her and looked up the stairwell.  There would be just enough room between the stairs for her to thread the needle.  With one great push of her wings before pulling them tight to her body, she leapt up six floors and landed in front of the roof access door, barreling through it.  She stumbled and fell, skittering a few feet along the smooth flat roof.

She propped herself up on all fours, her face peppered with soot and ash.  Crawling slowly, with her wings pressed tight against her back, she peeked over the edge of the roof.

The parking lot was nearly empty.  It was too late for visitors and too early for a shift change.  She crawled toward the middle of the roof and slumped against a vent.

Her insides were still churning and twisting, working out whatever surgical damage had been done to the man in 2011.

She leaned forward and puked.  Gobs of yellow and brown slime came pouring from her mouth.

Pneumonia.  Infection.  Cancer.  All of it was being purged by her powers.  This happened the night before, but substantially less.  She continued, barely able to catch her breath in between.  She knew he was terminal but she was now convinced she had healed the most dire case on the ward.

It hurt.  All of it.  The entirety of her being was pain.  She clenched her fists, squeezing them until her nails dug into her palms.  Tears streamed down her face as she did her best not to make a sound.  More than a whisper could destroy the entire hospital and she wanted to scream at the top of her lungs.  Her body burned on the inside, her cells engaged in a hidden war.  The throb of her rapid heartbeat filled her ear.

She slid down the vent, curling into the fetal position on the rooftop.  She trembled and her entire body went limp before she blacked out.

When her eyes opened again, she was staring up at the sky.  The black of the night was becoming the deep purple of the morning.  Her wings had folded into a cradle beneath her as she lay flat on her back.

She was drained.  She needed to sleep.  She hoped she would have the energy to get back to the church before Chaucer and Benny were awake.  She didn’t tell them she was leaving and they would definitely be suspicious if they saw her walking in with these blood-soaked clothes.

She rolled over onto her stomach and tried to push herself up.

“Hello,” said a man’s voice, startling her.  She looked up and saw a man in his mid-thirties, rather handsome, wearing a white labcoat and blue scrubs.  He was sitting with his back against the roof access door, staring at her.

She leapt to her feet, adrenaline kicking in.  Her wings spread and she started to run.

“Wait!” called the man, standing up himself, “Wait, I just want to talk to you!”

She stopped.  Her wings lowered and she looked back at him over her shoulder.

“My name is Dr. Kalsmith,” he said, “I round down in the ICU.  I saw your footprints in the hallway and I came up here.  Don’t worry, I cleaned everything up after I found you here unconscious.  No one knows you’re here except me.”

Rose turned around, walking slowly toward him.  Her expression was very confused and tentative and she hoped her face was communicating that.

“Mr. Franklin,” he started, “The man in Room 2011.  You healed him.”

She nodded, still cautious.

“It’s,” he stammered, “It’s… amazing.  He wasn’t lying.  You really are an angel.”

She shook her head, her face betraying her desire to remain on guard as she blushed.

“Did God send you?” he asked softly, staring at her in awe.

She shook her head solemnly.

The silence was palpable, thick and full of unasked questions.  He shook his head as if waking himself up.

“Look,” he said, “I came here to see if you were real, but I also came here to tell you something very important.”

She canted her head at him.

“You can’t do this again,” he said, very plainly.

Her brow furrowed.

“You healed a man who was supposed to die tonight,” he said, “Healed him from a list of problems a mile long.  The kind of problems you don’t just get over or brush off.  Tests are showing him as negative for anything.  There isn’t even proof that logged surgical procedures were performed on him.  The hospital is going to do everything they can to keep this under wraps because if anyone ever found out about this it could cause a wave of religious hysteria!”

She looked down, her face saddened.  She turned to walk away.

“No, wait,” he called after her again, causing her to stop.  He approached her.

“You’re not a real angel?” he asked.

She shook her head, her eyes welling up with tears.  She took the notepad and pen resting in the breast pocket of his labcoat.

Something else, she wrote.  Just trying to help.

“I can’t even pretend to understand what you mean by ‘something else’,” he said, “But, people – normal people – aren’t ready for this.  They’re more apt to comprehend a death than they are to understand an unbelievable miracle that instantly brings someone back from the very brink.  I’m still having trouble believing it myself and you’re standing right in front of me, confirming everything.”

Power and responsibility, she scribbled quickly, like in the comics.

“I get that,” he said, “But not here.  There are too many people watching.  If they knew about you they would exploit you.  Try to trap you.  Pick you apart.  Use you in any way they could.  I understand your intentions, I really do.  It’s what I do for a living – trying to save lives – but this is too much.  It’s too public.  It can only bring trouble.”

She nodded thoughtfully, tears running down her cheeks.

“Whatever you are,” he said, “You are truly a miracle.  I hope you go on to help many more people beyond Mr. Franklin.  But, don’t come back here.  It’s too dangerous.”

She lowered her head and sighed soundlessly.  She looked in his eyes and they stared at each other for a moment.

“You should go,” he said, “Before someone sees you.”

She grabbed and hugged him close.  He reluctantly returned the embrace, briefly touching her wings.

She smiled at him through tears before running to the edge of the roof and leaping into the sky, getting high above the ground before taking off toward home.

She could feel a headache coming on.  She wasn’t sure if Dr. Kalsmith knew about it or not.  Regardless, she was sure he would live a much longer life now than he would have before they met.

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