Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dan Swagger: Death Only Knocks Once - Part 8

St. Luke's Hospital - Chicago from Postcard Roundup
[background] [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6] [Part 7]

Time and location unknown...


I could hear voices, but I was in total darkness. Some were shouting, some less so, but all seemed far away, distorted. Frantic voices, bathed in chaos.

I was moving, but not of my own free will. I could feel the earth move beneath me, jostled and tossed about.  

Was this heaven or hell? It seemed more like hell to me.

Mary always tried to get me to go to confession. I should have listened to her, but I don’t think it would have helped me none. Some men sin more than others. Some men need to die for their sins.

The sounds were fading; fading into the blackness. I could no longer feel anything, hear anything.

This was hell alright...


The sounds returned, but I could not move. I forced opened my eyes and was blinded by a brilliant light. Figures dressed in white hovered over me, their forms distorted, their voices dampened. It was as if I were watching and listening to them through a pool of clear water.

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe this was heaven. Maybe I had just enough good in me that God sent in reinforcements and got me the hell out of there. Maybe there was hope for me still.

To hell with confessions!

No sooner had I completed that thought, when the figures began to tear into me with all sorts of implements of destruction. The light began to recede. I could see my blood, my flesh, on their hands. They began to cackle and writhe with glee, as the light continued to fade. The light had hidden their true form. God had not sent His angels. This was the devil’s handiwork.

My only salvation was that I could feel nothing. The darkness consumed me and my thoughts.


I woke with a start.

The room was chill and shrouded in shades of grey. The air was musty and damp, yet sterile. I was lying in a wet pool, beads of sweat rolled down my face.

“Whoa, easy there. You’re gonna pull your IV out.”

A beautiful woman draped in white approached, put her hands on my shoulders and pushed me back down. My first instincts were to resist, but the dame had a soothing sing-song to her voice. That, and I didn’t have the strength.

I tried to speak but nothing came out.

“We thought we lost you,” she said with a warm smile. “Dr. Anderson is going to be thrilled that you have regained consciousness,” she continued while tucking me back into bed. With careful consideration, she repositioned the IV that was caught under my arm.

Not half as thrilled as I am.

She was young, early to mid 20’s, and fair skinned, with amber eyes that were easy to get lost in. Her hair was reddish-brown, curled in waves and tied up and tucked under her bonnet.

“Is this heaven?” I said in a low raspy tone.

“No silly,” she simply smiled back.

“Where am I?”

She looked around. “Well, by the looks of it, a hospital.”

Young, beautiful, and spunky; I liked that.

“I figured as much, but where, which one?” I tried to force a smile, but the return of consciousness also meant the return of pain. I had considerable pain in my stomach and sides.

“Why, St. Lukes of course. God saved you. It’s only through His grace that you are still alive.”

She said it with such conviction, but I didn’t have the heart to tell her God only saves those that are worthy. No, if anything God spared my life to punish me, for retribution. If God truly wanted to spare me, He would have left me for dead.

I tried to speak again, but only managed to cough up mucous and blood.

“Here, drink some water. It will take some time for you to regain your speech fully again. In the mean time you need your rest.”

I drank the water eagerly. It felt as if I hadn’t had anything in my throat in a very long time. Certainly not water.

“Careful, not too much. You don’t want to overdo it on your first day back into the world.”

Her words were as soothing as the glass of cold water running down my gullet.

“How long have I been here?”

“Oh dear, I guess it’s been a few days since the morgue brought you in.” The words danced off her tongue so easily.

“The morgue?”

 “Why, yes. As I said, you were pronounced dead. Apparently the mortician was about to cut into you when you started to twitch and moan. Then they brought you here.” She said it as if she were telling a child a lighthearted bedtime story with a happy ending. Even in the balance of life and death her tone and demeanor oozed a cheerful, child-like innocence.

“God saved you…” She paused with a puzzled look on her face. “Oh dear, I nearly forgot.” She seemed embarrassed, covering her mouth playfully with both hands. “What’s your name?”

“Huh?” was all I could muster, as my brain tried to reason her inquiry.

 “Your name,” she smiled. “Do you remember your name? The morgue had you down as John Doe, but I’m pretty sure that was something they just made up.”

My mind was suddenly blindsided by a flood of images and memories, as if a dam had just broke free: the dead broad on the floor, my gun, the money, Big Jim…

 “Frank,” I unintentionally said aloud.

“Well Frank, the Lord obviously has a purpose for you,” she reassured before I had a chance to correct her. Her smile could block out the sun. If angels truly did exist, I was convinced she damned well was one. I was a true believer.

God had a purpose for me alright. It was for me to pay penance behind bars for committing cold murder.

To hell with that!

The evidence… I remembered the evidence. The one clue that could get me out of this mess, but I needed to get out of here. If Big Jim sent me to the morgue with a John Doe tag, then it wouldn’t be long before he found out I was still alive, if he didn’t know already. Why he would do that brought up a whole other mess of questions, but there was no time to think on that now.

“When can I get out of this joint?”

“You’re awake a whole five minutes and you want to walk out of here already?” she smiled with her hands on her hips.

“Trust me, I’d love to stay and chat, but I’ve got business to attend to doll.”

“My name is Lilith.”

“I’m sorry. Lilith, when can I get the hell out of here, please?”

She seemed offended by my vernacular, but God knows I was no saint.

“Well to be honest, I don’t know, Frank. God works miracles to be sure, but He does so by His own design. All we can do is pray for His guidance and mercy.”

Right now I’m praying Big Jim didn’t see what I saw.

“Now, you get some rest. I’ll let your nurse know that you are awake and see if we can’t get you some food in your stomach.”

“Wait… nurse? I thought you were my nurse.”

“Oh, goodness no! Madam Mildred is your nurse. I was just in here to change your bed pan. But I do hope to become a nurse someday,” she said smiling as she left the room.

Mildred? My guess was that Mildred was no Sheba [1].

“Tell Mildred to forget the food and bring me a choke stick and a pint of whiskey,” I tried to shout as she exited, but all that came out was a mixture of rasp and empty words.

I had to get my ass out of here, God’s good grace or not.


[1] Sheba was a slang term used to describe a beautiful woman, as in the Queen of Sheba.

Michael A. Walker
Defying Procrastination

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