She Never Dies

Chad sat in front of his computer, flipping through his sites. His wife wasn’t dead. She never died.

The cell rang. He glanced at the screen. Unknown caller. That was promising. He answered it, “Chad.”

“Mr. Gershon?”

“Speaking.”

“This is Alyssa at Community Memorial. You need to get down here right away. I’m afraid your wife was in a car accident.”

Chad’s hands shook. “I’ll be right down.”

“Please hurry.”

He hated this part. He always, always hated this part.

Cold air cocooned him in the car. The unoccupied car seat in the back mocked him. The first light was green. The second and third were red. He drove the route without thinking.

The emergency entrance. The nurse. She never picked up her feet. He didn’t understand that. Why did she shuffle? She guided him through the labyrinth to the ICU and finally to room 211.

There. A tube sprouted from her mouth. Sensors stuck to her chest. An IV invaded her arm. And there, in the midst of the machines that kept her bruised heart beating and her damaged lungs breathing, there lay Marissa.

Chad stepped close, trying to breathe in her scent. All he could detect was antiseptic. He raised a hand, reaching forward to brush her cheek. His fingers stretched out, bridging the distance separating them. She was so delicate. All he wanted to do was caress her cheek –

The heart monitor flatlined.

The nurse rushed in, pushed him aside. She called for help. Help came. They injected drugs. They called for defib. A flurry of activity, and he watched. They stopped moving. Shoulders slumped.

One nurse turned to tell him something.

Chad sat in front of his computer, flipping through his sites. His same sites. His wife wasn’t dead. She never died. He wouldn’t let her. The silence in his home office pressed in on him.

The cell rang. He glanced at the screen. Unknown caller. That was promising. Maybe it was someone different this time. He answered, “Chad.”

“Mr. Gershon?”

He resisted the urge to tell the nurse her own name. “Speaking.”

“This is Alyssa at Community Memorial. You need to get down here right away. I’m afraid your wife was in a car accident.”

He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. “I’ll be right down.”

“Please hurry.”

He hated this part. He always, always hated this part.

Cold air cocooned him in the car. The unoccupied car seat mocked him. He drove through the first green light and brought the car to a stop at the red. Could he deviate? His hands shook. He considered it every time. But if he deviated, would he break the cycle?

The light turned green. Down State Street a little farther to the next red. The same thoughts. He never had any new ones, it seemed.

The hospital’s emergency entrance. Fluorescent lights hurt his eyes after the icy dark of the night. The shuffling nurse. Through the labyrinth to ICU.

How did they get Marissa in here so fast? Weren’t they supposed to do surgery on accident victims like this?

He stayed at the door. Maybe if he just stayed back here, she wouldn’t flatline. Maybe the scenario depending on him trying to touch her but never doing it. Maybe.

The sensor called out its alarm. The nurses rushed in. The rush of activity. The pause. The one nurse turning to tell him.

Chad sat in front of his computer, flipping through his sites. His wife still wasn’t dead. Not yet. He couldn’t let her die. He couldn’t hear those words the nurse would say. He refused.

The cell rang. Unknown caller. It rang a second time.

What would happen if he never picked it up?

It rang the third time. Marissa hated that. She always told him to answer the damn phone. The only time she ever swore was at the phone. Or at him, about the phone.

The fourth time. The last time. His last chance.

“Chad.”

“Mr. Gershon?”

He closed his eyes. “Speaking.”

“This is Alyssa at Community Memorial. You need to get down here right away. I’m afraid your wife was in a car accident.”

Long exhale. “I’ll be right down.”

“Hurry.”

He detoured on the way to the driveway. He went to the hollow room. He gazed at the empty crib. He knew he couldn’t jump back that far. That was before he had discovered how to jump. Too far. Too far.

He had waited too long. The first light stopped him. The second light let him through on a green, and the third he sped through a yellow. A different nurse led him through the labyrinth. No shuffling this time.

He rounded the corner into the ICU. Room 211 lay before him. As he stepped past the threshold, the monitor sang out its dire song.

No.

Every time. Every time the same.

Chad sat in front of his computer, flipping through his sites. His wife would not die.

She would never die, even if he had to see her do this a thousand more times. He would find a way to go back farther. Farther. Farther. An endless cycle to keep her alive. An endless life.

The cell rang.

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