Things Yet to Come
In the wake of flashing lights and the wail of the siren, Colton tailed the ambulance. At the medical center in Marshall, he was forced to split from the vehicle when it entered the long semi-circle drive marked, For Emergency Vehicles Only. He found a vacant spot in the parking lot and raced inside, but by the time he arrived, the emergency team had already whisked the old man away.
At the nurses’ station, a nurse pecked away on a keyboard.
Colton placed both hands on the counter and leaned forward. “Excuse me.”
She continued to type.
“I’m looking for Charley Bishop.”
She stopped pecking and peered blankly at him through the lenses of her glasses.
“They just brought him in.” She silently lowered her head and went back to pecking on the keyboard.
Colton felt agitated, but before he could say anything, she looked up.
“He’s here in ER,” she said.
“Can I see him?”
“You’ll have to wait over there.” She lifted a hand.
He turned around and looked to where she was aiming her finger. The rectangular waiting room was small and wall to wall chairs. Waiting room dwellers huddled together. Some were bleary-eyed, others slept, while some stared at the television mounted on the wall. Without thanking her, he walked away.
Colton found a vacant chair next to a disheveled man engrossed in a tabloid.
The man looked up from the paper he was reading and forced a smile, but the pain in his eyes betrayed the attempt. The faint smile faded and he returned to his reading.
Colton sifted through the magazines and papers on the scarred coffee table in front of him, but didn’t find anything that suited his taste. For a while, he tried to watch television, but the reality show failed to pique his interest. He turned to covertly watching the others wondering what had brought them here. His stomach let out a loud, long groan that turned a few heads. Having missed breakfast and lunch, he got a bag of chips out of one vending machine and a bottle of water from the other. He returned to his seat.
The man sitting next to him looked at Colton with a glimmer of hope in his eyes and planted a finger in the middle of the page. “It says here that the government is experimenting with a medical procedure to restore life to brain dead people.” He snickered and his eyes grew watery at the same time. “I know it’s all a bunch of baloney, but my little girl, Amy, is here. She drowned in our pool a week ago and they say there’s no hope, she’s brain dead, and her mother and I have to make the decision to turn off life support.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Colton replied.
The man shed a tear and his voice became brittle. “She just turned five.” He shook his head. “My wife won’t do it, so, it’s up to me.”
Colton felt at a loss of words. He managed to stammer out, “That’s a tough decision to make.”
He rattled the paper. “But this could be the game changer. They call it Neuron Spark. It could save our baby girl by implanting a synthetic consciousness.”
Colton nodded his head in agreement.
Another tear dislodged from the corner of the father’s eye. “Makes you wish this article was true.” Then he emphatically shook his head. “But, it wouldn’t be our girl anymore, she’d be someone else.” He tossed the paper down on the coffee table and wiped away the tear streaking down his cheek.
Colton skipped a quick glance off the article’s title, Government Plans to Build Army of Zombies.
“Instead of creating things to harm people,” the man sniffled, “they could use this kind of technology to help mankind.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Oh well.” He sniffled again. “Nice talking with you.” The tone of his voice went flat and his bloodshot eyes shifted to Colton. “I’m going outside and have a smoke.”
“Want to join me?”
The man’s clinginess was making Colton feel uncomfortable and this was his chance to disengage. He waved him off. “I should wait here.”
The man looked disappointed. He pulled a crumpled pack of cigarettes from his hip pocket, and on unsteady legs, walked out of the room to the elevators.
The man never returned, and long after the chips and water were gone, a woman dressed in green scrubs entered the room. “I’m looking for family members of Charley Bishop.”
She walked over to him. Her presence drew stares from the curious. “Let’s talk someplace else.” The woman in green escorted him around the corner and out into the empty hall. “They were able to close the wound with no problem. He’s stable, but weak.”
“Is he going to make it?”
“You’ll have to talk to doctor for the prognosis.”
“Where is my dad now?”
“They’re taking him to the second floor ICU. Take the elevator and follow the signs.”
Colton found the elevators and rode one to the second floor. He stepped out. The hall was robust with hospital employees hurrying about. He passed another waiting room clogged with the worried. A series of arrowed signs led him to a set of double doors with a placard reading, PRESS BUZZER TO ENTER. He located the button on the wall and pushed it. A second later, the doors opened and he stepped through. There were more men and women clad in green running around in the din of alarms. Colton weaved through the pedestrian traffic to the nurses’ station.
The young girl behind the desk was busy inking information on papers attached to a clipboard.
“I’m looking for Charley Bishop’s room.”
She stood up. “Are you family?”
“I’m his son. Where is he?”
“Room four, but you can’t see him now.”
“The staff is getting him hooked up to the monitors.”
“How long will that take?”
“Not too long. If you go to the waiting room I’ll come get you when they’re done.”
“No thanks, I’ll wait here. I really need to speak with him.”
She shook her head. “He has a tube in his throat and is on a ventilator. He won’t be able to talk to you.”
“But all I have are yes and no questions,” Colton said. “All he has to do is shake his head.”
“It could be hours before the anesthetic wears off and he regains consciousness.”
He was beginning to feel if he were involved in a chess match with the nurse, and she was blocking his every move. It was becoming disconcerting. “How about the doctor on duty? Can I speak with him?”
“The doctor on duty is a female,” the nurse’s tone was snippy.
The needle of his emotional barometer was quickly moving toward livid. He didn’t give a damn if the doctor was a three horned, one eyed, purple people-eater, he wanted to talk to someone. “Okay, can I speak with her then?”
“No, she’s busy on another emergency surgery.”
Colton’s temper was beginning to boil. He’d come close to finding out to what happened to his mother and it was snatched right out of his hands. He yanked the clipboard out of her hand, leaving a shocked look on her face and her deprived fingers wiggling. He scribbled across the top of the chart, and thrust it back into her open palm. “That’s my name and number. Call me when he wakes up.” He left.