I turned around and there he was.
A Young Man now.
Lying in a hospital bed.
“No…” I breathed, walking around the perimeter of the bed, making sure that it really was him. The room was surrounded by pastel walls and held up by a linoleum floor. There was an EKG machine that beeped periodically, and a dreadful array of IV’s pumping a menagerie of colored fluid into him. There were other people standing around him, a few of which I recognized, while the others were faceless relatives and friends.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
“No! No, No, NO!” I fell to my knees beside the bed, “This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening again.” I felt my cheeks flush, and water collect at my eye.
Came a weak voice from above me. I turned to see the Young Man’s eyes half opened, looking down at me. He tried to smile.
I stared at him.
“You came to visit me.” He said, with a sort of genuine happiness that made it so much worse.
“I-” I started, but I couldn’t make any sound come out.
“I’m just glad you came. I knew if anyone would, it’d be you.” He looked up at the ceiling, “Though no one else did.”
The people that were standing around him disappeared like ghosts fading in the light as he spoke, leaving the room barren aside from the life (beep • beep • beep) support.
“It’s no big deal, at least you came.”
“But… I didn’t.” That was the truth. See, this was the part that I remembered (I… remember?) clearly. I never came. This never happened.
“Oh.” He said, kind of disappointed. I felt as if my insides were twisting into knots, but then he looked at me, his expression brightened, “Well, you’re here now, I guess. That’s what counts.”
I offered a half smile from under tear-filled eyes.
“I guess I messed up pretty bad this time.” He said, looking back up at the ceiling.
“I mean, yeah.” I said, laughing a little at the understatement, “But it’s not like this is the first time.”
“No, I suppose not. Rehabilitation doesn’t work for everyone I guess,” He said with a smirk. Then he looked at me with a strange expression, “Damn, how did we even end up here?”
There was silence for a moment as we both reflected inwardly. There was a lot that had happened to us, enough to spend hours thinking about, but after a minute he spoke up again.
“Can I ask you something, David?”
“Do I ever straighten myself out?”
I sat there for a moment, unsure of how to answer that. I said:
“But it doesn’t end well, does it?”
I looked at him, wishing that there was someway that I could let him know how sorry I was. Running my hands through my hair, I took a couple of paces back and turned around, holding my hands behind my head.
“Did I ever tell you that I was considering going into the army?”
I snapped back around to look at him but he was gone, the (coffin) hospital bed completely (full) empty.
Behind me there was the sound of a latch closing. I turned and saw an out-of-place lookin’ door. It was old and wooden, obviously not a part of the hospital’s original infrastructure. I walked up to the door and grabbed a hold of the knob. It was warm, like someone had just let go of it.
I braced myself on the door and turned the knob. That being said, there was nothing that could’ve braced me for what I saw on the other side.