The Other Box: Chapter 11 (by Elliot Bowers)
...
The Last Dark Symphony
...
_____All of Delsea was colored by the warm sunset--deep reddish-orange light of
the fading sunlight... In the residential areas, the houses seemed to change
in color due to the low glow of this dying day. And the streets seemed darker,
because the trees cast long shadows.
_____And it was almost totally quiet here. The wind blew gently among the trees
and along the quiet streets. There were no cars on the roads now to upset the
quiet. No cars at all. Except for the occasional distant barking of a dog,
things seemed at peace.
_____At an edge of the residential area, there was the town's general hospital--
a place surrounded by planted trees on its own smallish estate. There was a
small upright sign at the head of the entrance road: DELSEA GENERAL HOSPITAL.
But the sign wasn't visible now because so many of them were standing around...
_____THEM, the black bile victims. And there were plenty of them. By now,
almost all of the townspeople were afflicted with the dark disease. Their
blood was changed, their minds began to rot, and they had become less than
human. There was no cure found for the disease. This town was dying.
...
_____Up in the hospital itself, Dr. Nova was taking refuge in the hospital
director's office--the third floor. It was not too lavish here--a filing
cabinet in the corner, a desk in the middle, the floor covered with brown
carpeting. The desk was in front of the window. The window, through which
dim sunlight came through. Dr. Nova was peering out of this window now.
_____He coulf FEEL fear in his gut. He could SEE them out there. He could
HEAR the wind howling--how-w-wling across the window... Or was that the
howling of the black bile victims as their brains rotted to nothing?
_____Half of those things outside used to be doctors, nurses, and patients at
this hospital, along with a healthy mix of other town inhabitants. Even from
up here, Nova could see that a dark oily substance soaked the fronts of their
clothes. But there were scenes like this all over Delsea--black bile victims
shuffling around the street, becoming aggressive and violent to anyone
unaffected.
_____Squinting his eyes against the slanting light of the setting sun, he looked
into the distance. There seemed to be plenty more of THEM coming, shuffling along
the road. Soon, there would be an entire crowd of THEM outside, standing
around, swaying slightly.
_____But those undead things weren't the only thing to be afraid of! He KNEW
that Gally would surely re-appeared in this town. And she would come for him.
And she would see him in the window.
_____An unsettling thought! He quickly turned away from the window and went
over to the light switch by the office door. Flick! No use, the light was
malfunctioning. Its flickering was more troubling than just a dimly lit room.
So he tried to turn it off, but couldn't.
_____He fiddled with the switch. Off, damn you! Flick-flick, flick-flick!
No matter how often he tried, the flickering light would not turn off. If he
had a screwdriver, he would most certainly have fixed the problem. That, or
risk being electrocuted by the wiring.
_____So he left the office, had to run down the hall to get past a dull-minded
group of black-bile victims--lying stupefied on the floor. One of them lashed
out with a hand to try and GRAB him, but fear made Dr. Nova swift! He managed
to get by without being grabbed.
_____Gally was coming for him, and he knew it! He had to hide! Maybe,
somewhere in the basement levels was safe... Maybe, maybe not.
...
_____Elsewhere in town, Dr. Nova's fear became true... When Gally snapped
back into consciousness, she had the most insane HEADACHE she'd ever had
before--worse than the headache from the last transition! It felt as if her
entire head was slowly being repeatedly THUMPED with the back of an old rusty
axe. A pounding sensation in her head, a pain that really hurt! And she
wondered why!
_____She staggered about and fell to her knees, shaking... Gritting her teeth,
clenching her fists. For now, nothing existed but her and this pain in her
head. Why? WHY THIS PAIN?
_____Maybe she was being punished? By WHOM? Who was causing her head to HURT
SO MUCH? As a bounty hunter, Gally knew the pain of a damaged body. And she
knew the pain of multiple damaged bodies; as a cyborg, she had changed bodies
more than once. But this was pain that seemed to grip her brain! There was
no escaping it. For just a moment, Gally considered killing her brain; killing
herself just to make the pain stop.
_____Then, ever so slowly, the pain began to lessen. It was fading from her
head, like the remnants of a deep dark nightmare. Frightened that the PAIN
could come back at any second, Gally remained huddled on the carpeted floor.
But it was still fading, going away... Then it was gone.
_____Her headache clearing, Gally opened her eyes and slowly stood. She first
noticed her body had become synth-flesh again--dressed in a fresh pleated skirt
and white blouse. Dark shoes were on her feet, to match her silken dark hair.
_____She was in a dimly lit bedroom... No, wait--in this reality, this was her
bedroom. She saw that dim, reddish-orange sunlight shone in from the window,
casting the inside of the bedroom in gloom. And the dim light seemed to distort
the way things looked. Her bed seemed larger and whiter in the gloom. Her
dresser-drawer appeared to be a large shadow. Her bookshelf, right of the
window, just seemed to be bigger. Sparsely furnished and chastely neat, this
was Gally's room--altered by the light of sunset. Her room, even if this was
not quite her reality.
_____As for reality? Gally clenched her fists, feeling her fingertips pressing
into her palms. Synthetic flesh over titanium bones... She could feel the
hardness beneath her "skin." And, most certainly, she would see to it that
Dr. Nova would feel it, too. He would feel the hardness of Gally's artificially
fleshed hands before dying a prolonged and painful death. And, this time, there
would be no damned interference. Gally would have her way with him.
...
_____When she was sure her headache would not come back, Gally left her room
and went through the short upstairs hall, going down the stairs. Her lightly
shod feet padded on the steps as she came down to the living room. It was just
so quiet in this house, and so dark. Were it not for the dim sunlight from
the dying day, Gally would have had to turn on some lights. But it was just
so peacefully and dark it would seem like blasphemy to turn on anything.
_____Standing in the living room, the window curtains opened, she could see
outside. And...breathing... She heard breathing. It was low but desprate
breathing from two people, as if they held their breath until now. Two people
on the living room sofa, sitting still. Male and female, those were her
"parents," sitting in the gloom.
_____She walked up behind the couch. Were it not for their breathing, she
would have thought they were dead--sitting as still as they did. They did not
even acknowledge her presence at first. But then, her "mother" spoke, a
weakened voice.
_____"Please... Please don't do it," said Gally's adopted mother, almost in a
whisper. "You just don't...understand. We don't really want...to...understand.
Just don't, please..."
_____Gally became slightly annoyed. Her false memories prompted her to show
respect to her parents, but she only had so much tolerance for this. "What
do you mean by that?" she asked, slightly flippant. It felt odd, talking so
loudly while everything else was so dark, so quiet.
_____This time, the "father" spoke. His voice was as weak as the mother's
voice. "We know...what you want to do. We understand now." He was silent
for a moment. "Just don't... Gally. For the sake of...everyone. Don't do
it. If you...understood, you wouldn't do it."
_____"Mother" added, "Don't kill HIM. Please...DON'T! No one...really
wants...to die." The rest of what she was going to say was lost in slight
sobs. The woman seemed too weak to even weep properly. Weeping in the gloom
of the room.
_____"Father" tried to raise his left hand to comfort "Mother." But he couldn't.
His left arm came up half-way, then it dropped. The man was feeling too weak
now. Then he gave a weak, wet-sounding cough. An unsettling one.
_____Something is wrong here! Gally quickly stepped around the sofa to get a
good look at the "parents." There was not much sunlight coming through the
window--because it was sunset. But her enhanced eyesight allowed her to get
a good look: night vision.
_____Apparently, both of her adopted "parents" were sick--very, very sick.
Something thick was dribbling from their noses, making dark wet patches on
their clothes. "Mother's" hair was in dissarray, and her head was tilted
downward. "Father" tried to look up, but his head just lolled--dark stuff
dripping from his mouth.
_____They had the black bile disease. They were both infected with the endemic
that was darkening this town. But, they were long past the stage of the illness
in which they were supposed to turn mindlessly violent and insanely strong.
They were just the opposite now: very calm and very weak. And now they looked
as if they were dying. Because they were.
_____Gally closed her eyes to the sight, refusing to believe what she was seeing.
These two people were NOT her parents! Though her childhood memories seemed
long-gone, gone along with her original body, she KNEW that these two were not
anything close to those who actually raised her. These two dying weaklings
are false! NOT her parent! No, no, no...!
_____"You are merely PRODUCTS of this reality!" she shouted, feeling a wave of
deep sadness rush over her. Her young voice shattered the peace and quiet of
this dark and quiet room. "You are NOTHING to me! Nothing...AT...ALL!" She
then felt her own artificial lungs seize up. Sobs were coming. "Your deaths
will...NOT shake...me! Do...you...understand?"
_____Her "parents" said nothing. They just sat there. Maybe, they were shocked.
Or maybe their brains were just too muddled and sickened for a response. Whatever
the case, they had no answer for Gally. Just two people, dying on the couch.
_____Gally turned quickly away, misery on her face. She did not want to see
this! They were going to die, and there was nothing she could do to save them.
So she dashed over to the front door, yanked it open. Nearly pulled tore it
off its hinges with her artificial strength. And she RAN, speeding away from
this house.
...
_____She ran leaning forward, legs moving inhumanly fast. That synthetic-bodied
girl speed through the dimly lit residential streets--everything in the ruddy
glow of the still-setting sun. That girl moved so fast that her shoulder-length
dark hair fluttered madly, her skirt and blouse flapping. There was the rapid
rhythm of her shoes pattering on the street and the sound of the wind blowing.
_____Where was she going? She was not sure. Seemingly at random, she sped
herself around turns--shoes slightly screeching on the asphalt. But she ran
on. In her mind were memory flashes of her "parents" on the sofa, lit with
the dying sunlight from the window... Noses dribbling with liquid darkness.
Lips parted slightly as more of the stuff came down from their mouths.
_____What were they trying to say? They said that she did not understand.
Understand what? And they told her not to do it. Do what? What was it that
she did not understand about all of this?
_____If the synthetic flesh of her head had included tear ducts, she would
have shed tears. But there were no tears. The wind would have blown her tears
away, anyway. She could only sob as she ran on through the dim streets.
Running, to wherever she was going... The wind seemed to howl in her ears.
...
_____Her seemingly random meandering eventually brought her to the border of
this residential area, where she brought herself to a skidding halt. She had
entered a semi-forrested enclave. A wide, three-story white structure was set
in this area: Delsea General Hospital. At least in full daylight, the hospital
would have appeared white. Now the dying light colored the building a dull
red color, a contrast to the darkening sky above. But this area was not
abandoned.
_____Black bile victims. There were at least thirty-six of them, standing
around with empty looks on their human faces. They looked human, but they
were no longer really alive. The black bile disease did that to them.
_____There was then a flickering light. Gally looked up and saw that one of
the hospital rooms was the source of the flickering. Someone was at the
hospital, and she had a very good idea who. But a hoarde of black bile
victims stood in her way and stood on the grass at the sides of the road.
_____The hoarde would not keep her from her target. Gally began to stride
along the entrance road that went towards the hospital itself, wind blowing
her clothes and hair, her fists ready. Walking this short road took her
straight to the crowd over there.
_____Six of the black bile victims turned to look at the petite, dark-haired
girl in blouse and skirt. Of course, their minds were too far gone to see her
as a person; they just saw her as something to DESTROY. Anything that moved
was alive and had to be killed! They ran at her, their mouths and noses oozing
with dark liquid.
...
_____When that group of six ran at her, Gally stopped. She waited for them to
come closer... Closer... Then she started the violence, enough of it to make
anyone's stomach turn.
_____She first did a very quick leap to the left, and all six of the onrushing
black bile victims bumbled past her. Some of them tripping over each others'
feet. Easily confused, they even began to attack each other, grabbing and
hitting...even biting. It was outright savagery, the way they attacked each
other. Sheer brutality, no skill at all.
_____Gally quickly stepped over to where the six attacked one another. She
wasted no time in dispatching them, simply struck holes in their bodies. For
every kick, her foot went through a victim's abdomen--dark liquid gushing out
and splashing on her skirt and legs. Her punches went through chests and
heads, making for darkened blood gushing onto her blouse and face.
_____Goaded by the violence and the gore, the rest of the black bile victims
began to attack each other. Hands began tearing clothes and hair, fists
bashing into faces and chests. It was a mad riot, insane and self-destructive
mob action.
_____Then a girl-sized figure ran in among those remaining black bile victims,
doing much more damage than any of them could. Her fists and feet blasted
through bodies as good as any high-caliber shotgun. Yet more black bile
gushed and splashed from the struck bodies, soaking everything and anything.
_____And she kept attacking. Punching and kicking, leaping and throwing. She
was acting without thinking, just acting. Though everything else around here
was so dark, her brain was alight with ecstasy! Sheer white pleasure as she
moved and struck. Every hit a spasm of heightening joy! Anything on two legs
was to be horribly mutilated. All the sound and fury, it was ultra-violence
in extreme.
_____When it was all over, Gally stood amidst pure gore--breathing heavily.
She was soaked from head to toe in darkened blood. And the victims were now
in PARTS. A headless torso here, scattered limbs there, the whole mess was
all around. Of all the participants in the dark and wet madness, Gally alone
stood here--soaked with darkened blood And she felt WONDERFUL...
_____Now, for Dr. Nova. She turned to look to the double glass-and-metal doors
of the hospital entrance. Wait, someone was in there--a white-clad figure.
Flittering up and down, he seemed to be dancing. It was hard to tell from
here. Curious, she walked over to the double doors and went in.
...
_____Inside the hospital, she was in a wide lobby--with a hard black-and-white
checkered floor. Left and right were halls, a reception desk before the
elevators and emergency stairs. Something was wrong with some of these
interior hospital lights, because they flickered. Where was he?
_____"Hah-h-h... Hah-h-h..." Gally looked to the right; the Kindly Old Man
was standing close by--wheezing that way of his. "Hah-h-h... You want Nova?
In the HOSPITAL! Follow me to FINISH IT ALL!" Then he dance-skipped over to
the metal door that led to the emergency stairs. But he didn't open the door.
_____He just danced right through it. This didn't shock Gally at all; she had
already been through too much to be disturbed by anything that happened here.
She went over to that metal door, which was frosted cold where the Kindly Old
Man walked through it.
_____After opening this door, she went into the stairwell. A small sign
indicated that the basement was below. And the sound of the Kindly Old Man's
wheezing came from down there--echoing against the walls, when the florescent
lights flickered. She went down, her dark shoes clicking on the solid stairs.
"Hah-h-h... Hah-h-h..." The Kindly Old Man's wheezing was still audible,
leading her on.
_____This brought her to a dimly lit basement hallway, lights malfunctioning
here. In the unstable lighting, she could see the Kindly Old Man standing by
a door. Standing straight-backed, he had an extremely serious look on his
face--right arm pointed at one door. An odd and misplaced breeze blew through
this hall.
_____Gally walked, going over to where the Kindly Old Man stood waiting, his
right hand pointing to THAT door--a door made of wood. Then he skipped on
through the door. And soon, she was over here as well...
_____Hmmph, the wooden door wouldn't open. She couldn't walk through doors like
the Kindly Old Man, but she had no problem in opening it. Her synth-flesh body
was not titanium-plated, but it was still quite strong. Her left foot lashed
out at the door handle.
...
_____THUMP-P-P! Dr. Nova was ducking behind a lab table, clutched his last bowl
of flan. He heard this laboratory's wooden door being violated. He KNEW that
she was finally here to do him. He took a spoonful of flan to calm his nervous
stomach.
_____Too bad he wouldn't live, because he now understood what was happening.
In the last hurried hour before Gally came, Dr. Nova had enough time to figure
out the last cosmological equations needed to analyze everything: THE box,
the Kindly Old Man, and how things were linked to Gally and himself. Everything
was connected. Everyone was connected as well. He was especially connected to
the Kindly Old Man. And these were not just intersections of karma.
_____Karma, with connections of intersections. Intersecting to connect, the
dialect will reflect what will be perfect. Genoflection on perfection. The
directions need recollections. These are recollections. Ha ha ha...!
_____"Ha ha ha... Whoop!" Dr. Nova ducked his head and took a spoonful of
flan to try and keep his own mouth quiet. He didn't want Gally to hear him.
That, though she probably already did.
_____But it all made perfect sense, if one understood. And when he was killed,
it was all going to come to a full end. The end of everything. Well, not
that it mattered too much, because THIS world was dying. Everything was doomed.
_____"Hee hee hee...!" In trying to suppress his laugh, a giggle came out
this time. He just couldn't stop it! The last of his sanity was burned away by
the combination of fear and intense understanding. Giggles and chortles spilled
endlessly.
_____And if that wasn't enough to have driven him insane, then the sight of
Gally now would have surely done so. She stepped around the lab table and stood.
From her participation in previous ultraviolence, she was soaked with darkened
blood. Her hair and clothes clung to her synthetic-flesh body, dripping with
still-wet blood. The smile on her face wasn't pleasant.
_____"Hee hee hee, hee hee hee...!" Dr. Nova giggled with insanity, even as
Gally took hold of him. She GRIPPED him by the collar and by the crotch as
she LIFTED him above her head--a person much bigger and taller than herself.
Dr. Nova dropped his last bowl of flan--the delicious stuff falling to the
floor and splattering all over.
_____Then Gally dropped Nova...onto her right knee! His back BROKE with an
awful meaty sound. Then a prolonged sound came from his open mouth. It was
a surprisingly familiar sound, too--a sound Gally had heard many times before.
...
_____Outside the hospital, everything suddenly faded into real darkness. As
if by magic, everything seemed to vanish. A pure shadow washed over the entire
town, sinking everything into a black deeper than a moonless night without stars.
No houses, no buildings, not even streetlights. There seemed to be nothing at
all.
_____Because, it really was the end of everything here. It was almost a
perfect quiet most everywhere. Blackness and quiet, with light gone away. It
would have been perfect quiet were it not for the sound of the breeze. The
breeze blew through this darkness.
...
_____In this single hospital room, this medical laboratory, Gally stood over a
now-broken Dr. Nova--his dying bent in a grotesque way. Her breathing was hard
and excited as Dr. Nova's wheezing breaths were dying away. Dying... The man
was dying now.
_____Everything began changing... The walls and floor faded into another tone
and color, changing from bright cleanliness to rough-and-gritty dark. All
around, the tiled walls mutated into concrete walls, with old gray paint
peeling off. And the smooth floor changed into a wooden floor, made of planks.
The ceiling changed as well, becoming dark-painted. This place was turning
into the dilapidated room: the dark realm of the Kindly Old Man.
_____Gally staggered backwards as things continued to change. The hospital
lab tables disappeared. All of the paraphenalia in this room faded away, in
fact. But one thing appeared in place of everything ele: a rusty metal
bedframe. A bed-frame to which Dr. Nova's dying self was tied, with rusty
barbed wire. But wait, Dr. Nova had become someone else.
_____Then Gally's own body reverted to its own metal type again. Her neat
shoes and dark socks turned into knee-length boots. Her skirt and blouse changed
into a bodysuit. And her deceptively realistic synth-flesh body became metal
again--the feminine curves of her body taking on the hardness of alloy.
_____And she felt a headache about to come on. "I... I do not understand..."
she said, her voice almost pleading. At this point, everything was too far
gone for her to comprehend. Her ultimate goal was to kill Dr. Nova and claim
victory. In sheer agitation and confusion at this all, she tilted back her
head and shouted! "I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THIS AT ALL!"
_____The dying man bound to the bedframe gave a hoarse answer. Now, Gally
wasn't sure who it was--Nova or someone familiar. But she listened to what he
had to say.
_____"There is no NEED to understand nightmares Gally. They...just...happen!"
He gave a gasping wheeze. "You can't stop...what's happening!" Cough, COUGH!
He sounded like the Kindly Old Man, but seemed to be Dr. Nova. Or, was he ever
really Dr. Nova at all?
______She didn't comprehend this... "But I so WANT to understand!" she
exclaimed. She knelt by the rusty bedframe, putting her solid hands on the
edge of the contraption. "If YOU comprehend this situation, then TELL ALL.
Or I will make your passing more painful than it already is."
_____"Hah, hah, hah-h-h...." went the man strapped to this bedframe. The barbed
wire bit deeper into the flesh of his wrists, arms and legs, blood flowing.
"Go on!" He coughed a few times, then continued. "Finish me off! It's what
I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR! Argh...! Ahem! Ack, ack, ack..." The rest of what he
said was lost in chest-heaving spasms. Red blood and spittle erupted from his
mouth. His eyes seemed to swim with pain.
_____Gally heard a door open--the right-side door of this room. Everything
in here was briefly brightly lit from the light beyond the door. Then the
door shut, setting everything in gloom again. Then Gally heard the rhythmic
sound of hard-shod foosteps--calm and confident steps.
_____Recognizing the newcomer, Gally stood. "Chief Thunderhorse! How is it
that you came here?" she asked. "This is a place beyond the city, beyond your
reality! Did the Kindly Old Man bring you here as well?"
_____Chief Thunderhorse was dressed more conservatively than normal. His dark
clothes seemed darker in this dimly lit place, the cut of his business jacket
and slacks seeming more square on his powerful-looking physique. Beneath the
jacket, he wore a black tie with a white shirt. He stood in front of Gally
and the dying person tied to the rusty bed frame.
_____"How did I come here?" he asked, rhetorically. "I walked, of course! Ha
ha hah... Ahem. As for the Kindly Old Man, he did not bring me. I chose to
come here myself--just to calm you for the exit transition. The transition
away from the end of this universe, Gally."
_____Gally looked discombobulated. What Chief Thunderhorse was telling her
now was unbelievable, impossible! She mortally injured a man. It is not as
if she killed a diety! Or, did she...?
_____"That's right, little cyborg-girl," said Chief Thunderhorse, perfectly
able to read Gally's thoughts. "A god is dying! Now, a universe is dying
away as well! No more troubles in the namelesss city! No more crime and
poverty in the Fringes, no more ritzy downtown streets, no more networks...
No more town of Delsea, either! Edison, 'Fonzie,' Theora, Bryce, even Max
Headroom! Everyone else is...gone. That is, except for you. You, you are
leaving this place.
_____Hearing this, Gally looked around. She walked away from Chief Thunderhorse
and the man tied to the rusty bedframe. She touched one of the four walls
here... Gray paint flecks came off from the touch of her solid hands. The
concrete beneath the paint was crumbling a bit as well. She believed that if
she just tapped hard enough, any of the concrete walls would easily give away.
_____She recalled what was once said to her. She remembered sitting on the
steps of the 1st Precint, and someone tapped the concrete. They declared that
reality was solid enough for them. Now, parts of it wasn't solid. Now reality
was crumbling.
_____"It is all dying," she said. She turned away from the chipped wall,
strode quickly back over to Chief Thunderhorse and the man on the rusty
bedframe. "Tell me!" she said, almost pleadingly. "What will become of us!
When the walls fall and the final darkness closes over, what will be the end
result? An empty end to existence?"
_____Chief Thunderhorse laughed a bit before answering. "Ha ha ha... Ahem!
Didn't you hear me? That person dying on the bed is A god, not THE god. If
you think about it, the so-called 'end' shouldn't really matter. You do not
originally belong to this universe. If you have no memory of belonging
elsewhere, then why should a return to another place be of any huge concern?"
_____Gally turned from Chief Thunderhorse. She trembled with a deep-cutting
sorrow. What was the fairness in this? What had she done to deserve this kind
of end? "This is injustice!" she shouted, then she spun around--her left leg
moving, lashing out against Chief Thunderhorse.
_____But her foot cut empty air. Suddenly, her intended target reappeared
behind her. "Sad, sad cyborg-girl! Change, transition, it is nothing to be
feared. Merely, it is something to be accepted. You will not remain here!"
_____"No more confusion for ME!" she shouted. And she turned again, coming
around with her left elbow swinging--intended to cut open Chief Thunderhorse's
abdomen. But, as before, he wasn't there. Annoyed, the cyborg-girl began
throwing fast and deadly punches at where Thunderhorse stood last. Her face
was distorted with misery.
_____But it was no use. So Gally stopped punching. No use at all... She
slowly lowered herself to the wooden floor--kneeling. This was going to be
the end of her existence. Even if she was just a dream, wasn't an original
being, she she still had a sense of self. Though everyone else winked out of
existence, she was still alive! And she was going...back to where she came
from, wherever it was.
_____Chief Thunderhorse reappeared, standing in front of the kneeling cyborg-girl.
He brushed some slight wrinkles out of his fine-cut dark clothing, then put his
hands behind his back. "Where do the dreams go when a dreamer dies? I'm sure
the Kindly Old Man told you something like that at some point. I can sense it
in your memories. Truth be told, dreams may or may not die." He knelt close
to Gally. "It is time to go"
_____"Hmm?" went Gally, slowly looking up. "But... Where is there for me now?
This is totality..."
_____Chief Thunderhorse shook his head twice. He reached down to Gally,
holding out his right hand. "Come with me."
_____Curious and with a glimmer of hope, she brought up her own right hand.
And she stood by his side. Then Chief Thunderhorse looked to the broken, dying
man on the rusty metal bed--who stood up!
_____He was no longer bound to the bed. His clothes glowed with white, the
wrinkles gone from his face. He was smiling as he accepted Chief Thunderhorse's
other hand.
_____And so it was. The three of them walked towards the right side of the
room as the walls began to show cracks. Darkness came filtering in through
the cracks, but then the right-side door opened. White light filled the
decrepit room, keeping the darkness from closing in on Chief Thunderhorse and
those he had been leading. Then they went into the whiteness beyond the
right-side door.
...
_____The Kindly Old Man lie in a hospital bed, a clean white one. But instead
of wearing white slacks and white shirt, he was dressed in a simple hospital
gown. There was a tube inserted into his wrist, and there was a vented
oxygen mask over his nose and mouth. From which, he got oxygen.
_____"Hah-h-h... Hah-h-h... Hah-h-h..." Though his breath sounded troubled,
there was no worry: He has been wheezing for quite some time now. That was
why he had an oxygen mask on; his dilapidated old body needed all the help it
could get. Then, something began to happen.
_____His wheezing breath, which had been so rhythmic before, began to become
ragged. The rhythm and steadiness stuttered, losing its smoothness. Yet, he
remained asleep. He was asleep all this time.
_____He spoke. Though his voice was muffled by the oxygen mask, his words
could be understood. "Wait for me..." Eyes still closed, he became agitated.
"I'm coming, Gally! Thunderhorse...! HU-U-H-H-H...!" The Kindly Old Man
gave a long, shuddering gasp, his body stiffening once.
_____The ECG machine next to his bed gave a long, frightened "be-e-e-e..."
sound. It was a sound heard in plenty of movies, the dramatic and simple
indication that a hospital patient was dead.
_____A tall, thin, red-haired nurse came running into this white hospital room
as soon as she heard the sound--her white uniform as white as the room's walls.
"Oh, DAMN!" she said. It was something she said out of agitation, not in
mourning. A dying patient was a real fucking inconvenience for her!
_____Now there she would have to go through the whole damned "help-save-the-patient"
routine! She went straight over to the bed and set her pale hands together,
placing them on the old man's writhered chest. She then began to rhythmically
pump the chest, just for the token sake of following procedure.
_____Then a female doctor came dashing in, a petite dark-haired woman in professional
clothing and white coat. She was Japanese, though she was in this country for so
long that she only had a trace of accent. "Do step aside," she said, "I will
take to his CPR. You are to assist the forthcoming help."
_____The nurse got out of the way. She looked on as that doctor, Dr. Yuko
Morita, did a more complex form of cardiopulminary resucitation. The nurse was
thinking, What the fuck? He's been in a coma for the past six weeks. The
geezer was as good as gone.
_____Another doctor and a second nurse came on in. One of them told the red-
haired nurse what to do while they went to work in trying to save the old man.
They applied electrical shocks to his chest. They tried injecting complicated
stimulants straight into his heart. There were all sorts of curt words and
hurried movements as they tried and tried and TRIED... Then there was just
Dr. Morita at work, trying to save the patient.
_____Dr. Morita did not want to give up. She kept at it, trying other on-hand
stimulants and more electrical shocks. And she continued CPR. Then the other
doctor put his big hands on her shoulders, almost pulling her away.
_____"He's dead, Dr. Morita," said the other doctor. "You tried. We all did.
But it's over. People die, and that's an inevitable fact of life." To the
red-haired nurse, he said, "Call it."
______"6:06 p.m." said the red-haired nurse, getting the clipboard and chart
from the wall to write down the time of the Old Man's death. "Yeah, he's
finally dead. Too bad." The nurse said that, but there was no real sympathy
in her voice.
_____"Ooh-h-h, you..." went Dr. Morita, closing her hands, forming fists.
She eyed the red-haired nurse. She wanted to say SO MUCH to that red-haired
girl! But this was not the time. Because she, Dr. Morita, felt that she had
failed. A doctor's job was to save lives.
_____The second doctor and the red-haired nurse left the room, leaving the
other nurse in here to start preliminary cleanup work. They gently closed the
door behind them. No use in keeping the door open now; there was no hurry.
_____Now Dr. Morita looked at what was here.... She looked at what remained
after the Old Man's death. The remaining nurse seemed to do the same.
_____The Old Man was HER patient. Dr. Morita truly cared for his well-being.
As he could not be too physically active anymore, he once spend some time watching
the old shows being replayed on hospital televisions. When he was feeling better
some days, he would read comic books. In addition to checking his physical
health, Dr. Morita got to know the old man by having conversations with him.
_____When she found out that the old man could read Japanese, though not speak
the language too well, she loaned him some extra graphic novels her little
brother bought her: GUNNM graphic novels, straight from Japan. Her little
brother really liked GUNNM and tried to get her to like them as well, by giving
some extras. Now the big comics were kept in a hand-crafted wooden box atop a
table, next to the old man's bed.
_____Indeed, in the weeks before he fell into his latest coma, that was what the
Old Man read. He read them like a man posessed by some kind of oni, seeming to
stretch the limits of his already frail health as he devoured the comics with
his old eyes.
_____Dr. Morita herself did not fully understand this love of GUNNM. Her
little brother and all of his friends seemed to like them. The old man had
been hooked as well... He loved them to the last of his own days. He said
the GUNNM novels were good for "happy days," whatever he meant by that.
...
_____The red-haired nurse opened the door wide enough to look in, then went
away. Yes, Dr. Morita was still in there, fretting over that old dead fart!
She then went back to waiting for some orderlies to bring the clean-up gear.
After this was all over, the dead body would just be stuffed in a long wooden
box and shoved underground. Dead and buried, where dead folks should be!
_____The red-haired nurse hated old people, really. She became a nurse to
help cute and young kids, not wrinkled-up old fogies who were as good as dead.
Damn, that's what's wrong with this fucking hospital, thought the nurse. Too
many God-damned codgers. When they were awake, they did nothing but eat and
watch television. And when they slept, thought the nurse, most of those old
people probably dream of porn... Probably dreamed of her.
_____The nurse shuddered. She was young and attractive, and knew it. She
liked it when guys her age stared at her--their eyes on her ass whenever she
passed by. But when old people looked at her... DISGUISTING!
_____But really, what DID that old fuddy-duddy dream about? Did he dream
about her? Or, maybe, he dreamt about those foreign comics that the Japanese
doctor brought him. He probably did, the crazy old coot. That, and his mind
was probably all full of old television shows. So he dreamed away the last
days of his life.
_____Come to think about it, one of her ex-boyfriends was into those foreign
comics and cartoons, too. He was a tan-skinned, dark-haired guy who looked
like an athlete... The guy was a real science-fiction geek as well--a writer,
in fact. She liked him in bed, but that was about it. She only put up with
his obsessions with science fiction long enough to get fucked. So when the
occasional bouts of sex started to get boring, she left him. Maybe one of these
days, she'd marry a rich doctor... Like that Dr. Kaufmann.
...
_____Nine days later, in the morning, there was a funeral for the Old Man.
Dr. Morita attended, along with just six of the Old Man's relatives. The petite
woman wore a simple black skirt with a black blouse. In her hands was the box
of graphic novels. As she stood with the Old Man's relatives, she considered
the ironies here. This little funeral was in a big green graveyard--more like
a grassy field with tombstones. And it was a bright morning. A little dark
funeral during a big beautiful sunny morning. Taken out of context, the idea
of a dead body in a long wooden box also seemed strange. They lowered it into
the darkness.