There was life in the light, and there was death. I felt it now, felt them—our normally silent brothers and sisters—reaching out in desperation as their world collided with mine, and they’re consciousness overlapped us like tracing paper souls. On a normal day and in a normal time I would not even know they existed. Today was neither. I only wished I realized it sooner, but ‘sooner’ was not now, and this was a journey all its own.
I woke to the sound of screaming; a gut wrenching shrieking coming from somewhere down the hospital hall. In my semi-awake state, I thought maybe I moved to the psych ward overnight, or I was dreaming about haunted houses. Then I thought the screams were mine, somehow back at the fire that landed me here thirteen days ago. But as I listened, which I couldn’t help to do, I realized the high-pitched screams were from a man, his voice driven up high and shrill. Chills ran up my back. Anything that made a man’s voice go that high could not be good.
I grabbed the corded remote, turned the television on, and cranked the volume up as high as it would go to drown out the sound.
I changed the channel.
“Tell us what gets you on stage each night? How are you able to keep the material fresh,” the morning show host asked the musician on the couch.
I clicked again. The television did little to distract me from the incessant screams. I reached for the nurses call button and pushed, while changing the TV channel at the same time.
“… weather today will be mild…”
Click. Click. Click.
The screaming continued.
Click. Click. Click.
“Stop pushing the button!” An agitated female voice bellowed over the call button interface.
“What the hell is going on out there?” I asked.
“Don’t push the button again. Someone will be right in,” she answered.
“Ok,” I said dropping the call button to the bed.
I tried focusing on a classic episode of Seinfeld.
Finally there were footsteps, familiar in the scuff and slide of her pace, Nurse Caroline emerged. She was in her forties if I had to guess, and old enough to be my mother. The swing of her massive arms propelled her forward, while her hands slapped at the air. She came to rest at the end of my bed.
“Miss McDaniels. Good morning. Now what is so urgent that you felt the need to continuously push that dang button, dragging me away from Mr. Gorman’s bed pan change?” she asked in a cadence that matched her stride.
“The screaming,” I said, “That guy, he sounds like he needs some pain meds.”
She looked around the room.
“Screaming? What screaming?” she asked.
“The screaming. You don’t hear it?”
“Miss McDaniels could it be that the nurses gave you more pain meds than you needed last night, and you woke up a bit loopy this morning?”
“I don’t think so,” I said.
Nurse Caroline approached the side of my bed, and put her large, solid hand on my forehead.
“No fever. Let me check your vitals young lady, see what’s going on,” she said as she made a wide turn, and then shuffled toward the exit. It did not take long for the scuff and slide to return, matched in rhythm with the computer cart she had fetched, pushed by her lumbering mass.
“Give me your arm,” she said, and then continued to slip a pressure cuff over my hand and onto my arm, resting it midway where she tightened it.
“Maybe just bring me some headphones or something,” I said.
“No one is screaming. No one,” she said looking at me doubtfully.
She completed her vitals check, reviewed my digital chart, and moved her large hands slowly over the keyboard recording her notes.
“You are right. You only had your normal dose of meds last night. Nothing up with your vitals. How do you feel?” she asked, poised to record my response.
“Fine. Except for the friggin’ pounding in my head from that guy screaming,” I said.
“I’ll have the doctor come and check on you,” she said, slowly walking the cart back out of the door, “And no more pushing that button unless it is an emergency.”