Room 43

I skittered across the hospital floor, glossy tiles flying under my feet. Room 43, Room 43, I thought to myself as numbers whizzed by me, their figures blurring into the same things, a black blob in my vision. I must've been muttering because a nurse passing me stopped and asked me if I was alright. This being a hospital, she figured I was upset and let me be. The white tulips in my hand blended in with the white sensation clogging my path of sight. The only thing I could think of was her; compressed, complex and convoluted, my thoughts all whirred into one.

I could see it now, black hair limp and matted; pale skin bruised and marred emerald eyes puffy and swollen. Crooked smile deflated and teeth yellowed by smoking chipped and bleeding. Perhaps she was wrapped in casts, plaster coating her body in a meek attempt to hold it together; gallons of air whooshing out of machines, desperately trying to keep her quintessence afloat. Speaking of death, I could smell it. What does Death smell like, one would ask?

Not the physical smell of decaying flesh, but of sadness, loss, anger and pain. Death congested these sparklingly clean hallways, infecting all that it may touch with grime and sorrow and filth. Death smells of formaldehyde and crying children; it smells of tears and blood. Once golden figures, shining and healthy, are suddenly infiltrated by the black and life-sucking parasite that is Death; it leaves no survivors.

I couldn't let this happen to her.

After an eternity of fretting, I found her, lying pale and shallow-breathed on a hospital gurney, its bars like Death s vice grip around her being. Her eyes fluttered and she moaned quietly as I took her limp hand gently in mine, its surface like sticky ice against my heated skin. I couldn't stand to see her like this: bruised and broken, tattered and torn. Like a forgotten flower, a beautiful rose blooming in a vase, slowly wilting in the sunlight; too soon to die, not its time.

I kneeled on the ground near the edge of the bed and put my forehead on the soft white sheets, sickly sounds seeming to erupt uncontrollably from her partially open mouth. I looked up and a curl of smoke snaked its way up to the ceiling vent from a multi-colored candle shaped like a mountain, perched awkwardly on top of the bedside stand. A flame licked at the drips of wax, eating them away and leaving them dripping like hot sugar from a spoon onto the glossed wood.

A thin line of smoke of a different kind, its smell acrid and pleasing, drifted its way into the room from the open window. The smell reminded me of her. How she was. How she smelled of vanilla and smoke. How she so carelessly tossed cigarettes into a teeming lake. How her blue-painted toes swung gracefully from sandals as she swung on a swing.

Her eyes didn't open; she didn't know I was here. I wished she did, but the only things she knew were her thoughts: silver and shining, chaotic and cacophonous, missing and molted.

Her breathing hitched and I pressed a kiss to her temple, pushing back the raven s mane behind her delicate ear. Too-skinny legs convulsed and curled under the paper sheet. The descending peaks of the LCD took her a little farther away from me with each shrill sound, piercing the heavy air like a scream in the night.

Death cackled with laughter in the sound of a beep as her heart frantically sped up and I held her close to kissing her lips one last time as the line went flat, laughter dying out in smug satisfaction.

A single tear slid down my cheek and rested where her heart once moved, but was now still, frozen as a snowflake in the coldest winter of my strongest discontent.

The candle blew out in a flurry of wind, and my tattered soul went with it.