“Angela? Angela! Wake up!?” Sydney fumbled shaking fingers onto the neck of her patient, no carotid pulse to be found, “Shit! Kelly, call a code!” Sydney jumped on top of the motionless body of Angela, feeling the crack of her ribs as she compressed into her sternum.
The sweat was starting to drip down her face, exhaustion overtaking her when a flurry of staff flooded into the room.
“Swap out the nurse, her compressions aren’t deep enough!” It was Dr. Leelah. Angela stepped back as two hefty men stood on either side of her patient, compressing with ease.
“Apply pads to patient’s bare chest,” the defibrillator was on, and a nursing aid was squeezing between the men, positioning the pads to the right upper chest and then below her left breast, leaving her exposed.
“Analyzing heart rhythm, do not touch the patient!” the AED anounced, the two men and the respiratory therapist providing rescue breathing stepped back…one second… two seconds. Sydney looked at the monitor, the heart line was flat, she was in asystole, her hope fading quickly.
“No shock advised, begin CPR.” The monitor yelled out emotionlessly.
The large men started once more.
“Count your compressions out loud, please! Prepare one milligram of epinephrine.” Dr. Leelah directed.
“I have one milligram of epinephrine ready!” It was Amelia, the rapid response nurse.
“Give it now.” Dr. Leelah instructed.
“Giving one milligram of epinephrine now.” Amelia replied.
“One milligram epinephrine given at 1946, we can repeat the dose at 1949.” Tammy, The charge nurse projected.
“Please don’t ventilate so fast, Billy, prepare for intubation.” Dr. Leelah directed.
Sydney brought a blanket over Angela’s body. She peered into the pale face, a trickle of dried blood next to the gaping mouth that held an intubation tube. Her lips a deep purple blue, and her eyes, wide and fixed, her pupils dilated leaving almost nothing left of their deep green iris.
A hand gently landed on Sydney’s shoulder, she flinched.
“It’s not your fault, Sydney. She’s been here a long time. After the autopsy, we’ll know for sure, but I’m guessing she had a pulmonary embolism.”
Sydney looked up to the eyes of Dr. Leelah, and then cast her gaze to the floor, “She was doing so much better, and she has a little boy at home…”
Dr. Leelah’s hand squeezed her shoulder, “I’m very sorry, Sydney, I know you have been her primary nurse for several weeks now. Would you like me to call her family?”
Sydney gazed back at Angela, as hard as she fought, a tear escaped her, landing on Angela’s hand, “Maybe that would be best.” She replied, her voice croaking slightly.
“I’ll give you a moment with Angela while I go and inform them.”
Dr. Leelah left the, the door open halfway. Sydney could hear the muffled sounds of a call being placed and the sympathetic apologies coming from Dr. Leelah.
Sydney walked unconsciously towards the sink, moistening a washcloth and returning to Angela’s side. She wiped her face, clearing the blood. She removed the IV’s, changed her gown to a clean one, but left the tube coming from her mouth. She would prepare the body, wipe the look of agony from Angela’s face. The room though, she left in its chaos from the failed attempt of reviving a life, the mess of death she needed family to see, so they knew they had tried.
She returned to Angela, and reached a gentle hand to her eyes, closing them. She placed her hand in Angela’s and whispered to her, “I hope you are at peace. I am so so sorry Angela, I’m so sorry I failed you. I was supposed to help you get home, but I failed you, and I failed your little boy. I’m so sorry.” The tears took over, she had no rein on them, their warmth burnt her cheeks as they trickled down, dripping once more onto Angela’s arm.
Suddenly, the hand clenched tightly onto Sydney, she shrieked, but could not pull it away, she looked at Angela, who remained motionless. The floor suddenly felt as though it was giving way. A loud shattering sound filled the room and Sydney could not free her hand, she attempted to scream, but nothing escaped her lips. She felt herself pulled, plummeting into blackness, through the broken floor, no view of the bottom in sight. Sydney looked up to see the room above fading away.
Sydney opened her eyes, her vision was blurred. The light around her was muffled. She felt something slimy in her hand as she tried to stand. She withdrew it with repulsion, but found that mostly where she touched had the same texture. She pulled herself into a standing position, blinking her eyes several times until her view came into focus. She was in a patient room, but everything was in a grey-green hue. The bed and floors were draped in some sort of seaweed like substance. Angela was not in the bed, but Sydney jumped at the sound of a creak. It echoed jarringly through the room. Sydney looked at the doorway to see Angela standing there starring at her.
“Angela?” Sydney whispered.
Angela did not speak, her green eyes sharp against the grays of the atmosphere, she lifted a hand and gestured Sydney to follow and turned, almost floating out of the room. Sydney cautiously followed, peering out the doorway, and jumping back in a startled fashion as someone brushed in front of her. Sydney saw something dark trickling out of their ear and staining their hospital gown. Sydney reached out to touch them, alert them to lie down, but her hand went through the man. Sydney pulled her hand back quickly, looking down at it, her hand was its normal copper tone.
Sydney looked up to the man who had turned to face her. She had touched his shoulder where the black fluid had been seeping. For a few seconds, its color blazed red as blood and slowly faded back to black. He gave her a somber look and turned, gliding away. Sydney’s mouth gaped, her eyebrows raised, she felt frozen, but she felt a soft touch, like a cool breath on her skin. She turned to see it was Angela touching her arm. Angela’s hand transformed to a creamy white texture but returned to grey as she let go of Sydney.
She gestured once more for Sydney to follow her. She slowly followed Angela, her body tense. The hallway became steadily more crowded with similar faces of dismal expressions walking aimlessly around. Angela led Sydney to a staircase that led to the hospital roof. She pointed up the stairs.
Sydney looked at Angela then to the stairs, “We need to go to the roof?”
Angela slowly shook her head, but then pointed at Sydney then up the stairs once more.
“Me?! But what about you?”
Angela reached out to place a finger through the doorway, but a sudden blast of wind chucked her to the wall behind them. It did not phase Sydney, and she held her footing. Angela slowly stood, and walked gracefully back to Sydney. She pulled something out of her pocket, it was a photo of two babies. Angela looked with longing at the picture, then showed it to Sydney and pointed once more at the Staircase.
Sydney took a sharp breath at the photo, “Are these your children?”
“But…I thought you only had a little boy, who is this little one?”
Sydney looked up to see the agony in Angela’s green eyes, and then realized it, “You had twins?”
She nodded once more.
“Oh, did something happen to the other?
Angela gazed away, but nodded slowly, then pointed up the staircase once more. Sydney nodded, although she did not understand. She lifted a shaking hand to test the doorway as Angela had. She held her breath but what she felt was not wind. It was an invisible jello like barrier. She pushed her hand through forcefully, it was about six inches thick and her hand erupted on the other side to a chill cool air, causing her to realize the heavy humidity she was in currently. Sydney took a deep breath and pushed the rest of herself through. She looked back, making eye contact with Angela’s sharp green eyes, but then saw them suddenly fade to gray. The lights to the staircase flickered, she looked back to find Angela for reassurance. Angela seemed to look right through her now, and floated away apathetically.
Sydney felt the heaviness on her heart deepen and a stair cracked beneath her. She looked up the stairway, and slowly ascended it, holding her breath. As she came to the top landing, she discovered the door was removed. She stepped out onto the hospital roof and gasped. The hospital was gray and floating over a chasm of blackness, but far across this abyss in all directions was a land of color, and the distant sound of laughter.
“Lovely isn’t it?” an oily voice purred.
Sydney turned sharply to see a young handsome man sitting on a revolving chair. He was also in color, just like Sydney and the land beyond, but faded.
“What is this place?” Sydney asked.
“The Beyond. Well, out there is. You are at a pit stop. How do you like it?”
“The hospital, it is rather perfect.”
“What do you mean?”
He looked at her suspiciously but sneered, “Who are you?”
“I’m Sydney. Who are you?”
“I’m Aivat, King of lost souls.”
“Yes, a hospital is the perfect confinement for a soul to be trapped. Plenty of people with unfinished business, cannot let the Before go. I’m guessing you’re here for a similar reason. Regret is a heavy weight, it pulls us all down, but sometimes it traps us.”
Sydney noticed a necklace suddenly on Aivat, it glimmered of green and silver. She frowned, “How are you here?”
“I imagine the same reason you are.”
Sydney was silent at this, why was she here? She looked out at the colorful land of Beyond, “Who did you fail?” She asked suddenly.
He smiled in a cruel way, “You learn fast. Little Coby brought me here. I miscalculated his drip rate for his potassium replacement, killed him. He was five years old.”
“You don’t sound that sad about it.” Coolness now in Sydney’s voice.
“I was at the time. I apologized to his cold dead body, sobbing in a pathetic fashion, and here I fell. I was not the first King of souls. The previous guy, he let them pass on to the beyond much too liberally.”
“So you keep them trapped here?”
“Well, I can’t go over there, and I can’t go back. Why should they get to? It’s the perfect punishment, you failed someone in the Before, so you get to stay here forever, at least until the weight eventually is too much and you fall to the darkness.”
“What happened to the one before you?” Sydney said with a slight stutter.
“I imagine he is still falling in the abyss. There can only be one King of souls.” He glanced at his nails as he said this then gave her an uncanny smile, “I wouldn’t object to a Queen of my own though.”
Angela flashed in her mind and the laughing face of her little boy, her brow furrowed, “not a chance, you bastard.”
He sighed, “Well, then, if you insist.”
He jumped from his chair, kicking Sydney hard in the chest at full momentum. The air in her lungs forced out, she couldn’t take a breath in. She pulled herself onto her hands and knees but he kicked her once more, sending her over the ledge of the roof. She grasped the ledge with only one hand. She felt the sudden burn of his shoe heel digging into her fingers. She looked into the abyss, and up at Aivat who flickered a gray hue for a moment. A thought struck her, “Coby wasn’t actually dying was he? He was getting better?“
The triumph on his face suddenly melted to a look of sudden remorse. He took a step back, releasing her fingers. Sydney grasped the ledge with her other hand and pulled herself up enough to see him, “That’s what pulled you down here? You took the life away he was winning back.”
Aivat fell to his knees, “I’m so sorry Coby.” He whispered.
Angela struggled, but managed to pull the rest of herself back onto the roof. “Where is little Coby?”
“He took him!” the nastiness back in his voice. Suddenly though, he grabbed his chest over his heart where the pendant dangled and let out a cry of pain. His color was transitioning to gray, spreading rapidly, he screamed, “No, No! I cannot! No! I’m sorry Coby!” He started sobbing, he was now solid grey and beginning to harden like stone, cracks formed all over him. Sydney pulled herself up and watched as he burst into dust. A loud clank hit the ground, and she saw the necklace with the glimmering stone.
She approached it slowly. She reached down, touching it lightly. A soft pinging sound started and grew in volume. The building shook, knocking Sydney down once more. She saw sudden bridges jutting out in all directions from the hospital to the land of Beyond. She peered over the ledge to see souls pouring out at rapid speeds across the bridges, their grayness fading and the color returning to each of them. A sound of joy rang from the Beyond as souls reunited. Sydney watched in awe, the tears once more falling from her. She felt a sudden hand in hers and turned to see Angela.
“Thank you, Sydney.” She smiled, a sudden bridge jutted out from the roof and Angela walked across.
Sydney waved to Angela, watching as a little girl with pig tails ran across to embrace her. Suddenly though her vision began blurring once more, she cried out, “wait, no! Angela!” She watched the colorful image disappearing beneath her. The blackness returned, she screamed once more but could not make a sound, her consciousness soon fading.
“Sydney!” a muted voice yelled.
“Sydney!” it was clearer now.
Sydney opened her eyes to see Dr. Leelah looking down at her, his eyes a piercing silver and the look of worry over every wrinkle on his face. She pulled herself up, “What happened?”
“I’m not sure, I heard a loud thump and rushed in, you must have fainted, we need to get you some….what is this?” he trailed off, pointed at something around Sydney’s neck.
She looked down to see the necklace, shining brightly, but with numerous colors. She froze, looking around, she saw the lifeless hand of Angela hanging from the edge of the bed above her and looked at Dr. Leelah once more, but was surprised to find him smiling.
“Well done, Sydney.”
“What?” she uttered.
Dr. Sydney reached into his lab coat pocket, pulling out another necklace of beautiful rotating colors.
“You…you’re the old King of Souls?” she whispered.
“Oh, is that what Aivat called himself, we are soul snatchers.”
Sydney paused, looking at Angela’s hand once more, “She made it to the Beyond.”
“Well done, soul snatcher.”
“Yes you did, and you set it free. You set them all free.”
“But, how am I here? Why did I return?”
Dr. Leelah helped Sydney to her feet, “forgiving one’s self has its buoyancy I discovered, regret is a heavy weight, denial is its lethal weapon.”
“Did you snatch Coby?”
Dr. Leelah gave a sad smile, “Yes. I sent him to the Beyond. Aivat wanted to take him back to the Before which is a trap for becoming a lost soul.”
“Yes. I tried to do the same thing to the person I failed, and instead damned them.”
They were both silent for a long moment, Sydney broke the silence, “What am I supposed to do?”
“Well, now that the door has been opened, we make sure the souls that tend to get trapped in hospitals find their way to peace in the Beyond.”