A LOW BLOW.
Endgame Memorial Hospital is an artistic personification of polycarbonate architecture. Decorated with assorted plants, vines, and trees growing out of its micro-cell panels, it appears like a phoenix covered in ice rising toward the sky.
On the night of Thursday 28 September, the hospital’s energetic aestetics were disrupted by flashing lights from military, EMT, and police vehicles lighting up the exterior like a disco ball.
A normal journey’s time between New Hackensack and Endgame Memorial averages forty-five minutes.
On this day, it took three hours.
After entering Manhattan, Mr. and Mrs. Schale, Sarah, and Jesse, riding in a white Kehoe hovervan, had to pass four separate military checkpoints before arriving at the lower tip of the island.
Earlier, Jesse received a call from his uncle requesting he meet him and his cousins at Endgame to visit Stacy.
Jesse last communicated with Stacy in her hospital bed that morning. She appeared animated and enthusiastic. She was able to eat without the aid of a feeding tube, and walk to the window. They smiled, laughed, and shared a Joshuan prayer.
After the Kehoe arrived at the oak-canopied main entrance, a calm Jesse and cheerful Sarah disembarked. They remained upbeat even after they saw Matt and Mary go by them without acknowledgement.
Sarah, however, noticed something unusual about their demeanor.
“Um, why is Matt throwing his arm over Mary so tightly?” she asked. “Did you notice how they concealed their faces?”
“Maybe they’re too prideful to admit they were wrong?” Jesse quipped.
Sarah shot him a disgusted look. “That’s a low blow, Jesse. You know that! They can feel how they want to.”
“Okay, okay,” Jesse conceded. “Although, I can’t believe Stacy’s appearance shook them up so much. She looked so upbeat this morning! They’ve probably holographed with her at least ten times since Monday night.”
But then, as Jesse and Sarah approached the blue matter-barrier’d ICU lifts, Bob and Dr. Schwarz emerged from out of the elevator to their left and flagged them.
Dr. Schwarz had his left arm wrapped around Bob slouched forward in the same manner as Matt and Mary.
What was visible of Bob’s pale, forlorn face stopped Jesse and Sarah’s hearts.
“Uncle Bob, what’s wrong?!” Jesse queried as they stood side-by-side. Bob waived his hand at him and buried his hands in his face and began sobbing while he walked away.
Jesse and Sarah’s squeezed each other’s hands, and they both looked at a glum Dr. Schwarz with trepidation.
“Doc, what the heck’s going on?!” Jesse begged.
Schwarz removed his glasses and rubbed his left eye, then dolefully looked at Jesse and Sarah.
“I’m sorry, son,” he said. “Your aunt passed away fifteen minutes ago.”