Viewer Discretion Is Advised – a short excerpt from The Approximate Distance to Limbo

Colin was confused about what had just happened. He’d never seen so much blood in his life.

He had asked to come along to the hospital to see Rich’s old friend Wanda, who was laying on the hospital bed, bandaged over most of her body, with tubes running from her nose and arm to machines or bags hanging nearby, and various wires running from under the covers. He understood that. Colin had spent plenty of time in hospitals, particularly back when he used to be a regular patient after his kidney transplant. He had a pretty good idea that, the more machinery and the more tubes needed, the more trouble you were in. He also knew what the heart monitor was for, so he knew that the faint rhythm coming from Wanda’s heart wasn’t a good thing.

He also knew that something else was bothering his brother and his brother’s friends. Apparently, there had been a funeral service for two other friends who had been very sick. Not like Wanda, Rich had told him. It was both sad and yet reassuring to think that, whatever had happened to their friends wasn’t going to happen to this woman. She had one eye visible through the bandage, and the other was covered over. Her mouth was uncovered, but it looked badly bruised and cut up, like she’d fallen and hit her mouth on something hard. There were bits of stitching in places around her mouth, and even her hands were wrapped like a mummy.

Colin had a bad feeling for her, and it made him sad.

“Okay, Colin, it’s time for us to get out of the way,” Rich had told him just a couple of minutes ago.
They’d gone out into the hall and started speaking to some of his friends, who were anxious to know how Wanda was. Rich was telling them that it looked pretty bad, when a woman Colin didn’t know came up to them and started shouting at Rich.

“You fucking bastard,” she’d yelled. “If it wasn’t for you, she wouldn’t have come to New York in the first place! What was she doing in that sewer alone in the middle of the night? Why the fuck did you let her go off alone?”

“Candice,” Rich had replied, “I had no idea she’d gone looking for the kids alone. I thought we had agreed to wait until morning, but she apparently got it into her head that it wasn’t soon enough, so she left her phone behind and took a cab to the Naval yard. When we realized she she’d done, we went after her, and we’ve been trying everything we can think of to revive her. We even had a tribal doctor come in hear and try to banish all evil from the room.”

“Well, you’re still here, so it didn’t work,” Candice snipped.

“I’m aware of that,” he answered, tired. “Look,why don’t you go in and sit with her. Maybe she’ll come around for you. Nobody else has been able to get through to her. She just squeezes fingers and blinks her one eye a lot.”

“Have you tried writing out what she wrote? It might be Morse Code,” Candice suggested.

“She knows Morse Code?” he asked, incredulous.

“There are books full of things you never knew about Wanda, you asshole. Yes, she knows Morse Code. So do I. Let me get in there and I’ll tell you what she’s trying to say.”

The woman had stormed passed Rich, who went to the bedside of her friend and took the woman’s hand.
“Rich,” he asked, “why is that woman so mad at you?”

“Her girlfriend was beaten nearly to death. ,She blames me for not protecting her properly. I’m afraid she’s right. I didn’t protect Wanda properly.”

“You didn’t do it on purpose,” Colin said, but then phrased the rest of the sentence as a question, “did you?”

“No!” Rich reported. “I should have known what she would do, but I had no idea she’d actually be that stubborn. She never should have gone in that place alone.”

“Easy, Rich,” his friend Naomi said. “Don’t get overexcited. You know what it does to you.”

“I’ve got a killer headache and my chest and back are already aching, hon. I took two doses of Naproxen, but it hasn’t done much more than take the edge off, so far. I’m trying to avoid taking the codeine they’ve offered me, because of constipation. What I need is to get in there and figure out what she’s been trying to say all this time.”

“Candice will figure it out and tell us, I’m sure,” Naomi said, trying to reassure Rich. Colin thought she didn’t look that sure herself. It was part of what gave him such a bad feeling.

Then the woman had returned, and this time she was holding a small gun in her hand. She was crying and pointing it at Rich. She looked like she didn’t know if she was going to use it, but she was angry and sad for her friend. Colin got scared.

“She says, ‘Let Me Die’! Whatever happened to her down in that sewer, it was so bad, she doesn’t want to live. I… you… damn you! Why couldn’t you just stay in the hospital where you couldn’t cause any more harm? Why is it whenever you come around, everything turns to shit? You’re like a fucking plague!”

“I’m sorry, Candice, I’m so sorry, I…”

“Yeah, yeah, fuck you, Dick head,” she replied, and then they heard the sound of Wanda’s heart rate flat line. Everyone’s head turned to look into the room, and even as they stood helpless, a troop of nurses and doctors started rushing toward them. Candice was watching with horror as they tried to revive Wanda. So far, no one seemed to remember she had a gun.

But after several tense minutes of effort, followed by the doctors slowly backing away from Wanda’s bed, Candice’s eyes went wide and she let out a peel of horrified grief. Her eyes crossed, and Colin watched as her grief turned instantly to rage. She raised the gun in both hands and shot it at Rich. Rich’s head rocked backwards and he fell down, blood spurting everywhere.

In seconds, police were rushing, but Candice had already leveled the gun on Rich’s fallen body and fired two more shots into him. Colin thought she would have kept firing if two burly police officers hadn’t tackled her and disarmed her. She was screeching and howling, telling them to ‘fucking let me go! It’s all his fault! He did this to her! He killed my love! I hope you die, you bastard! Let me fucking goooo!”

Medics rushed and started raising Rich onto one of their gurneys and rushed him away to ICU. Naomi was in shock. Tears were streaming down her face as a nurse asked her questions about his insurance and his next of kin. Colin went to her and put his hand on her shoulder, trying to comfort her. She responded by wrapping her arms around him and sobbing uncontrollably.

He patted her back and kept saying, “There, there. He’ll be alright. These are great doctors. They’ll save Rich. They have to.”

He’d never seen so much blood in his life. And he still had a bad feeling.

© 2012 Lee Edward McIlmoyle

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