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General


“Miss! We have arrived. Please go in and wait.”


A soft voice speaks, very close to my ear yet so far away.


“Miss!” The man repeats, louder this time. He is close. So close to me that I can even hear his steady breathing. 


Have I arrived already? That’s sooner than I thought. Where are the rest of them? 


I open my mouth to ask all that and a burning pain grips my neck. I think I like the blackout phase better. Being awake is painful. Crushing and intense. It goes way deep as if someone is reaching inside and pulling the organs out of my body, one by one.


Tentatively, I open my eyes a fraction, giving myself enough time to adjust to the daylight. The bright rays of the sun start to stab at my head with fine, sharp needles. Through my blurry vision, I examine my hands, still sticky with the dark scarlet fluid. The sight doesn’t make me repulsive anymore. Instead, all I feel is a desperate urgency with an undertone of helplessness. I am going to be late. Maybe I already am. 


Before I even realise, I am standing in front of a rectangular shaped plain white door. Finally! I turn to thank the man for dropping me, but he was gone. Strange. I study the door closely. No handles. No hinges. How does it work? I try to push it with the right side of my body, ignoring the piercing pain that threatens to rip my body apart. But the door is surprisingly heavy. It doesn’t budge. I am about to give up when I notice the small button at the centre of the door. I press it with my thumb and wait. A few seconds later, the door swings open revealing a large, packed waiting area. 


I step my foot inside and the pungent stench of blood and cheap bleach suddenly invades my nostrils. I force the bile down as a wave of nausea sweeps over me. Despite the stench, the waiting room is unusually clean. Sparkling even. This is a typical hospital waiting room scene. Neatly assorted chairs with comfortable padded seats. A table at the centre with health magazines arranged on top of it. Beautiful artwork displayed on the clean walls. A television running on mute. 


I scan the numerous faces in the room. Everyone is going through some sort of distress – moaning, whimpering, bleeding. I immediately feel a strange sense of kindredness with them, like we are bonding over the pain and suffering. This is the beauty of hospital waiting rooms – calming but unnerving. Such an oxymoron feeling! 


My eyes land on a young man wearing brightly patterned baggy trousers. I know him. And then the woman in neck braces sitting a few chairs away. I know her too. We were together, waiting for the paramedics to arrive. They said they were on the bus. So glad to see some familiar faces.


I continue to glance around until I spot the Reception desk on my right and the middle-aged woman sitting behind it. With slow, measured steps I walk towards her – each step harder than the one before. 


She looks up, adjusts her big frames and watches me with a blank face.


“ I need… h...elp.” I say.


She continues to stare, ignoring my plea for help. 


I am a bloody mess, literally and figuratively. Why isn’t she saying anything? Or offering help? I am appalled at the rudeness and lack of compassion. 


“I was...in a car...accident. A bus collided...with my car. Someone...the paramedic ...dropped me here. He asked me to go inside and wait.”


I slowly lift my t-shirt up revealing the dark purple bruise just below my ribs. I gently touch it and wince at the searing pain passing through my lungs. 


“Please help. It hurts so badly. I just want the pain to stop. I…” A sob constricts my throat cutting off the words.


My display of emotions seems to be having some effect on her. She gives a stiff nod, pulls a blank paper out of the stack in front, and starts to write.


I watch her writing down a number and I lean over the desk to have a proper look. 36. She writes 36 before keeping the paper aside and turning her attention back to the ledger. 


Just a number? How does that help? I am tired and dizzy. I just want to sit down. And this weird woman’s attitude isn’t helping at all. 


“Is that all the information you need? How about a name? An address? Or my blood group?” I ask, feeling slightly offended. 


She simply stares at me with a pinched expression on her face.


“My name is Anna. I am 21 years old. And my address is –”


“Look, woman.” She interjects. “ I have zero interest in your name or your family history. I am not doing a population census here.” Pausing to take a deep breath, she continues. “We are having one hell of a crazy day. You were involved in that crash too. So you should know.”


I notice the way she stresses on the last part. Like she is warning me about something.


“What do you mean by ‘ I should know’? Could you clarify please?” I insist.


“You are a crazy woman! “ She throws her hands up in despair. “Why don’t you go and sit with the rest of them and wait for your turn?” 


That hasn’t ended well. Disappointed, I turn away and walk over to the only empty seat available. Grasping the handles tightly, I drop into the chair, exhausted. How long should I wait before my number gets called? Looking at all those people who came before me but still waiting, my dreams aren’t coming true anytime soon. Needing a distraction from my thoughts, I turn to the old man sitting beside me. Ragged clothes. Pale and drawn face. A broken and bloodied nose. His eyes are shut, but the little mewling sounds he makes indicate that he isn’t sleeping. In deep pain maybe, like the rest of us. 


“Hey. You ok?” In a soft, gentle tone I ask.


His eyes open with surprise. But as I watch, the surprise gradually transforms into fury. 


“You? What are you doing here? Haven’t you had enough?” He shrieks, his face turning crimson with anger. 


At his accusatory tone, I jerk back in surprise. This day just keeps getting worse and worse. 


The brief moment of shock passes and I start to speak, trying not to sound too whiny.


“Listen. We don’t even know each other. What gives you the right to accuse me of something I have no idea about?”


“Are you sure about that princess?” He responds in a mocking tone. “ I saw you. I saw you behind the wheel. You were crying. And you crashed the car purposely. Look at what you have done. You have killed all of us!” 


Before I even get the time to react to the bomb he just dropped on me, a door creaks open next to me and a young woman wearing scrubs steps out. 


She stands there facing us, opens a small notebook and reads out. “Token no. 21. It’s your turn.”


The old man stands up, his face lightening up with a smile. Limping, he follows her, but not before throwing a hateful glare in my direction. I watch them both disappearing behind the closed doors. 


After releasing a whoosh of breath, I lean back and rest my head on the wall. 


“Hey! I remember you.” A deep masculine voice says.


Startled, I turn to the new occupant in the seat the old man just vacated. The young man from before. He has a kind smile on his face. I sigh in relief. Hopefully, he won’t make me more miserable. 


“Was he telling the truth?” He asks, his gaze focussed on my face. 


“What truth are you talking about?” I ask back, cautiously. 


“The part...where he said he saw you crying.”


“Oh that...that’s nothing,” I say, with a dismissive wave.


“Your eyes say you are lying.”


“Since when have you become an expert in my facial expressions?”


“Look, I am just trying to be a friend. You don’t have to act so prickly.”


A thick cloud of shame swallows me. He shouldn’t face my wrath. He has done nothing to deserve it. 


“I am sorry. I don’t know what came over me. I am tired and sleepy. On top of that, I have to deal with angry strangers too.” I say, rubbing my forehead. 


“So tell me. Why were you crying?” He is persistent.


“You really don’t give up. Do you?” I ask, with a nervous chuckle.


“I am just curious.” He says with a chuckle, matching mine. 


I consider lying again, but this man seems to be nice. And at this moment, an empathetic ear doesn’t sound like a bad idea.


“He was right. I was crying. I overheard my parents talking. They said they were going to divorce. I always thought they loved each other a lot. I just couldn’t take it. I took off in my car. There was this bus. Flashes of light. Screams.”


Numb. I feel numb. Icy cold. Air. I need air.


“What about the other part? Did you...do it purposely?” His eyes are sharp, probing directly into me, needing answers. 



“I...didn’t. I mean it wasn’t. I mean...I wasn’t thinking ok? I was upset. I was crying. And I just wanted to die. I was too selfish. I didn’t think about anyone else. The people on the bus. The family they were going to lose. My parents. ” I cover my face with both my hands, hiding away from the rest of the world. 



“Hey! It’s absolutely fine. I am not judging you. To be honest, I might have thought about suicide once or twice myself.”


His soothing voice does nothing to calm down my inner turmoil. The old man’s words were hurtful but true. My selfishness indeed is the reason for all this. I was in denial about everything that has happened. It ran its course and now it’s time for me to own up to my mistakes – the mistakes that cost so many lives, including my own. I resign against the wall and let the loud sobs take over me. 



***


“Looks like it’s just the two of us remaining.”


“So what do we do now?”


“Don’t know. Let’s just wait.”


“Are you scared?”


“Not a bit. How about you?”


“Maybe a little.”


“Quite a lot, from the looks of it. Are you going to have a panic attack? Do you need anything? A glass of cold water maybe.”


“Not water. My stomach feels queasy. Do you mind rubbing my back?”


“Of course I don’t mind. Move closer.”


“Thank you.”


“Here. Does that help?”


“It does. Thanks again.”


“So are you ready?”


“I guess...”








Token no. 36. It’s your turn. 






July 09, 2020 08:23

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81 comments

Elle Clark
06:55 Jul 13, 2020

Hi Roshna! Another great piece of writing! I like the metaphor of being between worlds - I agree with Corey, it reminded me of Beetlejuice, where they have a similar concept in part of the film. I have to say, I didn’t completely get that that was happening until I read some of the comments but looking back, you dropped some clues that I perhaps missed. A quick note on two pieces of vocab that you used: ‘the sight doesn’t make me repulsive anymore’ should be ‘the sight doesn’t repulse me anymore’ as repulsive is the adjective and repulse is ...

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Roshna Rusiniya
07:13 Jul 13, 2020

Thanks Laura for your detailed feedback! As always, I really appreciate it! I wish I could give feedback like you! One area I need to work on! lol! I get what you say about the ‘repulsive’ and ‘ oxymoron’ part. I should have checked those words properly. I don’t usually use any grammar editing tool. Just MS word to correct the typos and spacing errors. Yes, the dark theme isn’t my usual style. Never tried before. A few of my friends commented the same too. Like I told someone here, this was a test to see if I can write in other genre...

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Elle Clark
07:37 Jul 13, 2020

You’re welcome - I hope it was helpful! I think with repulsive and oxymoron, you’re stretching your vocabulary and trying new words out, which is an amazing thing to do as a writer. Mistakes happen when you do this but, like I said, oxymoron is one of my favourite words so I’m just happy to see it used (I also love idiolect and mellifluous!) Looking forward to reading your next piece - I’ll try to give feedback in enough time for you to edit minor errors like that next time!

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Roshna Rusiniya
08:04 Jul 13, 2020

Yes it was really helpful! Thanks again Laura. Greatly appreciate it. Wish I had enough time to correct the errors. Usually my stories don’t get approved before Sunday. I think for the first time ever, one of my stories got approved on a Saturday itself! Ha ha And oxymoron is a favourite word of mine too. Along with paradox. I have come across ‘ paradoxical’ quite a lot of times. ‘ Oxymoronic’ really didn’t click me for some reason. I am not a native English speaker. Started writing in English less than a year ago. So yes, long way to g...

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Elle Clark
08:37 Jul 13, 2020

Wow! Only a year? My goodness, that’s so impressive. I can barely order a glass of wine in other languages. I think theBritish educational system is deeply flawed in that we learn other languages but it’s not given much importance of status. I think we’d be much more open as a nation if we all were fluent in another language as well. You can edit all the way up to when stories are approved - when the judges approve them, that’s when you’re locked in. And paradoxical is a brilliant word I might try and use that in my next story. Also,...

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Roshna Rusiniya
08:53 Jul 13, 2020

I read a lot. I also have writers in my family. My father has 3 published books in his credit. So I guess that helped with my writing. I am waiting to see how you are going to use ‘ paradoxical’! For this week’s prompts, I am thinking a conversation only story. Writing is a very addictive world. You are like a child left alone in a candy shop. You want to put your hands everywhere. Ha ha. Just finished reading your story. I will leave my comment there.

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Syeda Fatima
11:47 Jul 12, 2020

It simply should be like,' don't judge a book by its cover'. Like at first, I thought maybe the man was blaming her but then no! I found out she was lying and then in a flash my fury changed to humbleness for her as I came to know about the situation she was grasped in.. poor girl! you have got such strong words, my mood kept fluctuating all the time..good!

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Charles Stucker
09:36 Jul 12, 2020

Is it the waiting room for Heaven, Hell or just eternity? When you say, "The sight doesn’t make me repulsive anymore," do you mean the character is not repulsed by the gore, or that the gore no longer makes her repulsive? As written, it is the second meaning and I think you wanted the first. I realized she was dead when she was suddenly before the white door. You managed to keep my attention after that, which is an accomplishment. Her interactions with the other "clients" make the tale memorable. The accusations juxtaposed with the forg...

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Roshna Rusiniya
10:30 Jul 12, 2020

Thank you Charles for reading and commenting. Highly appreciated! I meant the waiting room as a transit phase between life and death where she meets other souls who go through the same phase. she said the sight of the blood doesn’t make her repulsive anymore, it was because she was slowly accepting the fact that she wasn’t alive anymore.

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Jessica X
20:52 Jul 11, 2020

Hi Roshna! I loved reading the story!! The whole plot was so intricate and well thought out, and I like the complexity of the main character's thoughts and feelings! Anna is such an interesting character! Beautifully written! Great job! :)

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Roshna Rusiniya
05:01 Jul 12, 2020

Thank you Jessica! Appreciate you reading and commenting!❤️

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12:10 Jul 11, 2020

Hi Roshna! Reading as promised :) I was really impressed by this one. The descriptions at the beginning were so on-point, and the conversations she was having in the middle gradually revealed the context for the accident while keeping an element of suspense. Then you focused the story even tighter with that last conversation--simple but full of impact. Well done! My only question was--if she was responsible for hitting the bus, wouldn't the medical or law enforcement personnel kept closer watch on her, if they planned to press some kind o...

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Roshna Rusiniya
12:18 Jul 11, 2020

Hi Emilie! Thanks for reading. The waiting room isn’t real. Like the title says, she is on a transit between life and death where she meets a few others who go through the same phase. I tried to show the transit phase as a ‘ waiting room’. At the end, her number gets called and she has to go.

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12:21 Jul 11, 2020

Oh, I understand now! That makes it even more awesome. Great metaphor for death

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Roshna Rusiniya
14:00 Jul 11, 2020

Glad you understood it. I tried something different here. :)

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Nandan Prasad
04:39 Jul 11, 2020

Wow, this is such a wonderful story! The descriptions are so dark and beautiful. The man she meets at the hospital is so sweet and kind, I really liked him. Very, very well-written!

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Roshna Rusiniya
06:27 Jul 11, 2020

Thank you Nandan! Appreciate you reading and commenting.

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Corey Melin
20:36 Jul 10, 2020

I absolutely loved this story. I could be WAY off, but it reminded me of the movie, Beetlejuice in a way. Keep on putting out these fantastic stories.

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Roshna Rusiniya
06:30 Jul 11, 2020

Thank you Corey! I haven’t heard about that movie. Since you mentioned it, I will try to watch it. My inspiration is an online article I read recently. It talks about what happens to the soul when it’s in a transit between life and death. It gave me the idea of treating transit as a waiting room.

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02:04 Jul 14, 2020

Lol I was picturing beetlejuice too

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San T.
18:27 Jul 10, 2020

Wow.. a big big wow... What a story.. I was really intrigued at the start, is it a science fiction, or is it a near death experience? Could not stop until I reached the end.. and the end kept me asking for more... So good.

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Roshna Rusiniya
18:30 Jul 10, 2020

Thank you Sangamitra! Really appreciate the feedback! This has to be the darkest story I have ever written. I usually write contemporary fiction. This was a test to myself too.

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San T.
15:58 Jul 13, 2020

It was dark but it still had that good feeling somewhere, specially how the boy talks and stays with the protagonist. I would again say it is a wonderful story.

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Roshna Rusiniya
16:54 Jul 13, 2020

Thanks again Sangamitra! :)

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Anushka Binoy
17:34 Jul 10, 2020

Wow, I loved it! A different style than you normally do, but you still pulled it off flawlessly!

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Roshna Rusiniya
17:36 Jul 10, 2020

Thank you Anushka! This isn’t my usual style. I agree there. Took a risk to be honest. I am glad you liked it. ❤️

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Anushka Binoy
17:39 Jul 10, 2020

The risk definitely paid off, well done!!

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Roshna Rusiniya
17:40 Jul 10, 2020

Thanks Anushka! Really appreciate the positive feedback!

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11:50 Jul 09, 2020

Great story, loved the ending

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Roshna Rusiniya
11:55 Jul 09, 2020

Thank you for reading and commenting!

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Jen Park
10:47 Jul 09, 2020

I loved this story! I loved the way how you weaved this simple story into a beautiful, creative, and interesting one! I spot only one grammer mistake. In the conversation with the old man, Anna says "Look. We don’t even each other." Instead of "Look. We don’t even know each other." And that kind of confused me. I think this story will be perfect if you just correct that. Thank you for sharing this story to us!

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Roshna Rusiniya
10:52 Jul 09, 2020

Thank you so much Janey for reading and commenting. Really appreciate it! I am glad you liked it. Thank you for spotting the mistake. I will correct it right away!

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Roshna Rusiniya
11:01 Jul 09, 2020

Corrected! Thanks again! 🌹

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Steve Alink
12:21 Sep 05, 2020

Thanks for this story, Roshna. Tension was really going up, until protagonist opens the door and sees the waiting people. After that I understood the flow or I was raising question marks on how things should be placed. Love the open end. Is she going for the doctor as no 36 or will she stick with the person rubbing her back.

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Sunny 🌼 🖤
19:34 Aug 19, 2020

Chilling, thought Im still a bit confused. Lemme see if I have this right. When you die, you go to a waiting room, waiting for your invevitable death. And you get assigned a number that gets called signaling your time is up?

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Roshna Rusiniya
19:48 Aug 19, 2020

Yes. That’s right. The soul is on a transit phase between life and death where she meets other souls who share a strange connection with her ie. she was responsible for their deaths.

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Sunny 🌼 🖤
20:51 Aug 19, 2020

Oh I see.

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D. L. Capio
16:16 Aug 03, 2020

Fantastic! I was feeling like I was in a train station but in the end, I felt like I was in the judgement room whether I would go to heaven or hell. Very nice twist.

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Roshna Rusiniya
17:21 Aug 03, 2020

Thank you :)

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Annora Chen
23:07 Aug 02, 2020

Woahhh, this is amazing! I love how u write it in the perspective of the 'culprit' instead of the victim in the car crash. This is very unusual and its interesting, it hooks me in, uwu, hope u have a good day/night!!🥰

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