“Do you want to talk about it?”
There was a knock on the door. My hand darted for my belt, but I had no gun equipped there. The head of a middle-aged nurse poked in through the door.
“Doctor Gab? Do you have a moment?”
Gabriella looked me up and down one more time, and then nodded. “I’ll get a few more tests taken, Daniel. However, it looks like I’ll be sending you home.”
I nodded. “Thank you.”
She remained unconvinced, but she still left the room. I didn’t know what to do about her. After resting for a day, mom had called me off of another Monday, but this time under the caveat that I had to go to the hospital. Of course, we didn’t have the money to afford that, so Gabriella was the only woman I could see. Would she be committing more insurance fraud to help our family? It hurt my heart just thinking about it.
I lifted my Perco and selected the signal I had already determined was Gabriella’s phone. I could tell it was hers because it was a picture of my sister and me as the home screen. She had always treated us extremely well. Even though we weren’t related by blood, Gabriella saw us as her own children.
I wondered a bit why Gabriella never had children. She was a beautiful and successful doctor. In many ways, she was too good for my family that lived just above the poverty level. She had become our Aunt Gab for as long as I could remember, and seemed to care more about our lives more than her own. I noticed Mom had sent her a text message, so I went to look at it.
Aubree: How is Daniel doing?
My mother was supposed to be at work, but it looked like she couldn’t stop herself from butting in. A minute later, I saw Gabriella typing a response.
Gabriella: What happened to him this weekend?”
Aubree: Why? He won’t talk about it! Is he sick? Is he okay?
Gabriella: He’s fine… Aubree. Banged up, but most of these wounds look like they are a week old or longer.
Aubree: What are you saying?
Gabriella: He isn’t being bullied at school, is he?
Aubree: You think someone is hurting him?
Gabriella: He has signs of recent trauma.
Aubree: What happened to my baby!?
Gabriella: I don’t know… but I’m going to find out. Just promise me you’ll give him some space for now. If we push him too hard… just don’t say anything to him for now.
I tsked, annoyed at her conclusion. It wasn’t because she was off, but because she was far too close to the truth. How could I not be on edge after diving into that apocalyptic world and fighting for my life? I had considered smashing the mirror a dozen times. However, every time I considered it, I imagined Kiera and Katarina struck on the other side, and I accepted that this was something I could never do. Even if I could do nothing else for them, just $10 worth of food a week was enough to change their lives forever. It wasn’t in me to abandon them.
A few minutes later, a nurse came into the room to draw some more blood. At first, I worried a bit about all the nanobots and status boosting concoctions I had taken recently. However, it wasn’t like these blood tests were looking for such things, so it was probably fine. If something was found, it wouldn’t be some scientist kicking down my door, but Aunt Gabriella.
A few more minutes and Gabriella poked her head back in. She still had a worried expression on her face, but she gave me a nod.
“I wrote you an excuse, take off until Wednesday. Get some rest.”
“I will.” I stood up straight and nodded.
She sighed, looking out the door before glancing at me again. “Come with me for a bit, will you?”
She walked back out into the hallway and I followed her. We ended up walking for nearly five minutes, going down an elevator and walking somewhere else. She finally buzzed us into an area and we walked into a large open room. There were children there, and they were all very sick, including several of them that were bald. To my horror, I realized where we were.
“It’s the children’s cancer ward.” She stated the obvious.
“Why have you taken me here?” I demanded.
“You’re not handling your mother’s cancer well…”
I shook my head. “Auntie…”
“Aubree isn’t handling her cancer well.”
“It’s not like…”
“She will die without treatment! Look at all of the children here. For them, there is no cure. For your mother…”
“Using children is a low blow…” I mumbled.
Gabriella turned and grabbed the back of my head, and I was shocked to see that she had tears in her eyes. “I will use everything at my disposal, no matter how low. Aubree is my best friend. You might as well be my children. Yet, you’re wandering off getting into trouble every weekend and missing school. Your sister is depressed and has become a layabout at home. Your mother is in denial. I need to reach you all before it is too late.”
“I know you mean well…” I responded. “But mom will be fine. Our family will be fine. I did what I had to do.”
Gabriella must have seen something in my eyes because her gaze grew intense for just a moment. “What did you do, Daniel?”
“Paging Doctor Gab to ICU.”
“Damn! Can’t they give me thirty minutes. Is thirty minutes so much to ask!” She snapped, glancing back at me.
“Go, I’ll be fine.” I tried to smile innocently
“I’ll be back in ten minutes. Wait here.” She started to walk away.
“Wait, why wait here?”
“I’m not done convincing you, naturally.” She spun and walked out the door.
I took a step forward, but she was already gone. I held up my hands and threw them down. She could be irritating sometimes. I knew why she left me here. She was still using these cancer kids to try to guilt me into talking to my mother. However, it didn’t matter. Mom already took the medication. She didn’t have cancer anymore. She took one of the pills I still had in my pocket.
I froze at that realization, and my eyes drifted to the kid in the bed next to me. They were deathly pale and their hair had been shaved off. It was impossible to tell if they were a boy or a girl. As for age, they looked around six, but they could be older and had just been a bit malnourished. I bit my lip, and then cursed, walking up to the side of the kid’s bed.
“Can you swallow?” I asked roughly.
The kid’s eyes opened, and they weekly nodded. I grabbed the Styrofoam cup with water in it from next to their bed and then I pulled out a pill.
I shoved it in their mouth and then gave them a sip. Glancing at the rest of the room, there were five other children there. That was perfect. I had six pills in all after giving one to my mother, and five after giving one to this kid. I went from bed to bed, rousing the child and feeding them the pill. When I finished the last one, I took a breath. There, done… that was my good act for the day.
“What did you give them?”
A voice caused me to nearly leap out of my skin. I spun to see a girl in a nearby bedroom. She was in her bed attached to various machines. She was about my age, but she looked frail and thin. She still had her hair and looked a bit healthier and more lucid than most of the other kids. I hadn’t noticed her earlier since her room was sealed off from the rest of them. The last kid I gave the pill to was in a bed directly across from her open door.
As for why she had her own room, did that mean she was infectious or was it because she was an older girl? Maybe she was just rich. She looked to be of Japanese descent, with large brown eyes, a heart-shaped face, and long, straight, black hair that shined.
Even though she looked hollow and sick, she had a friendly expression on her face. I’d like to say my expression was friendly too, but it turned ugly as soon as she spoke. I had given out the pills on a whim. I didn’t have one for her. Either way, I didn’t want to be caught. None of those kids were even conscious enough to tattle on me, but this teenage girl could rat me out completely.
“It’s none of your business!” I snapped.
She let out a soft chuckle. “Well, I suppose you can’t hurt them worse than they already are. It’s hard to get worse than painfully dying.”
“They’re not dying!” I said and then bit my tongue purposefully.
She didn’t seem to catch my slip, only looking mildly amused. “My name is Mizuki. Spelled as ‘beautiful moon’.”
“Daniel. It means-“
“God is my judge.” Mizuki finished. “Yes, Americans like to use a lot of biblical names.”
“Half. On my mother’s side… my dad is a CEO. He travels a lot.”
“Rich then… must be nice.”
Even though I spoke snappily, her smile didn’t falter much. I didn’t want to know anything about this girl. She was probably just lonely, so I should let up on her, but I had my own problems to worry about. If I talked to her, I’d only start to care, and then I’d feel bad. After all, I didn’t have a pill to give her. Even if I did, if I gave it to her, she’d talk. It was probably best if she died without ever revealing what she saw.
“Not really…” She responded. “I’ve been sick most of my life, and my father has never had much… much-“
Her eyes rolled up, and then her head fell back and she started convulsing. Terror shot through me. No sooner had I thought that it was best if she died now than she started convulsing uncontrollably. The EKG was beeping rapidly and an alarm went off too. I immediately felt a wave of intense guilt. I watched helplessly as a nurse burst into the large room on the opposite side from where we were.
“We have a code pink!” She shouted back into the hallway behind her where the nurses station was
It felt like this was my fault. I had caused this. I know it was stupid to think that, but in a moment the nurse would reach us and I wouldn’t be able to do anything.
“Damn it!” I cursed.
I ran into Mizuki’s room, pulled the Perco from my sleeve, and injected my last dose of RegenX into her neck before putting my hand over her mouth and leaning to her ear. “I was never here.”
I pulled my hand away. Her shaking which had been violent a second before had all but ceased, and her wide eyes were locked on me. I turned around and walked away. As I reached the door to her room, the nurse had made her way there.
“Young boy, what do you think you’re doing?” She demanded.
“Just leaving.” I walked right past her.
She looked after me in confusion but then went to check on Mizuki, whose convulsions had seemingly stopped on their own. I could feel her eyes still on my back until I left the room. I didn’t hear what the nurse said to her though. I walked straight out of the cancer ward to the nearest nurse’s station, left a message for Gabriella that I left, and then immediately walked right out of the hospital. What trouble did I cause for myself this time? I really didn’t know.