— Alice Blog

Journal #5, Single Prompt: No

She runs three red lights on the way to the hospital, her half-empty coffee cup sloshing in the holder, the acrid scent something normal she can focus on- breathe, just breathe.  Everything is moving too slowly. There is an accident at the intersection; in the parking deck, she gets stuck behind an old lady in a Cadillac who can’t decide which space to turn into; the elevator lights blink obediently down to the third floor and then stop there for an eternity, unmoving.

The doors finally peel open, the sterile, steel interior beckoning. She enters the elevator and realizes she is desperately clutching her cup in her left hand and her keys in her right. She put her keys in her pocket, hands shaking, and unsteadily punches Door Close. She concentrates on not thinking, staring blankly at the grimy floor, hearing the whir of the machine in her ears.

Noah’s room is on the fifth floor, overlooking the freeway. The sparse, red car lights gleam in the darkness on their way by. She pauses in the doorway, her hand clenching around her coffee cup and warping the Styrofoam. She hates the smell of hospitals and their sterility, the way the fluorescent lights makes everything seem not quite real. She keeps swallowing nothing, frantic and panicked. If she doesn’t move, she feels like time will stop.

A nurse passes behind her in the hallway and touches her shoulder, long nails inadvertently digging into her skin. She concentrates on that, needing something that feels familiar, that feels real.

“You should go in,” the ICU nurse says gently. “There’s not much time now.”

“Yeah,” she says numbly. “Yeah, thanks.”

The woman on the phone had told her that Noah was dying, that Noah has been in a terrible accident, but that thing on the bed is not Noah. It is a poor representation, an unskilled artist’s attempt at her brother, the face resembling bruised fruit or unrisen dough, the angles all warped and wrong. If not for the shock of blonde hair, cruelly shorn on one side and the rest bloodied, she would have even questioned it herself.

“No? No. No.” Her pet name for him weakly slips out, whispered like a prayer. She can’t bring herself to touch him, instead hugging herself tightly. Where did her coffee cup go? Noah loves coffee, he’ll probably want it when he wakes up, and she’ll laugh and call him an addict and everything will be okay.

She makes her way closer, staring at his mouth where the foreign breathing tube has been forced in. Why isn’t his chest moving? She feels like it should be, like she’s missing something, but there’s a loud, monotonous tone in her ears and it’s making it hard for her to concentrate. She hesitantly reaches out and put her hand on his chest over his heart, like they used to do when they were children. He swore their hearts beat in time.

But there’s no answer. All she hears is her own heart beating frantically, and then she can’t hear anything at all when she starts screaming except the steady chant in her head: Noah, Noah, Noah, No. No.