1 comment

Fiction Friendship Coming of Age

“Doctor, we need your help!”

There was no way I’m stepping foot in that darn hospital again. Absolutely not. Was serving the community for more than thirty years not enough? Was all the night shifts and marathons of surgeries too little to satisfy? Was the heavy bags and dark circles under my eyes not prominent enough for people to care? Was my hands not bloody enough?

“Go away, kid.” I slammed the door shut in his baby face.

No more knocks were heard on my door and I knew he had given up. Of course he had to. Sighing, I went back to my living room and plopped myself down on the rocking chair. The news ran in the background while I rested my eyelids and steadied my breath. Soon enough, I was a dead man in heaven.

Or so I hoped.

Fluffy clouds soft under my bare feet, I slowly but surely approached the staircase. It was glowing, shimmering sparkles of golden flakes that led upwards - to heaven. I held the railings with patterns of tiny angels, wings, flowers and symbols of peace all intricately carved on the narrow, rounded surface. I climbed the stairs. Speckle of gold seemed to illuminate the path as I took each step. How ready I was to leave everything behind on Earth!

At the very top of the staircase, I came across a majestic gate. Golden like everything else, I saw the same pattern of angels. Except this time, it was huge. Two towering angels hovered over my frail body.

One of them had short, boyish hair while the other had hair that wrapped around its body. Similar at first glace, I could clearly differentiate between the two now. On the left hand side, ‘he’ had sharper eyes and bigger nose, a broad shoulder and muscular body. On the right, ‘she’ looked softer and kinder with her almond eyes and crescent moon smile. However, the longer I admired the gorgeous, heavenly sculpture, the more I seem to realize that their eyes were following me.

They were judging.

Although their lips were smiling, their eyes were stern and judgmental. They glared at me as if I was an intruder.

Maybe I am… just a little.

“Just look at him, selfish and rude, he belongs in hell!’ One of them started.

“Oh please, he’s neither heaven nor hell.” This time, I figured it was ‘she’.

“Then what do you say he is?”

“He’s obviously human!”

“Not another Earthman.” ‘He’ groaned.



“Open this door right now!”

It wasn’t me.

It was…


Oh no.

“If you don’t open this damned door right now, I will-”

All of a sudden, the angels were non-existent and I was standing on cold, concrete floor.

I pulled opened the door, and there, in all suit and tie and briefcase, stood the director of Angelvale University Hospital. And of course, behind him, the little snitch. I frowned.

“Raphael!” The director, Dr. Brennt greeted. “My old friend, Raphael. How old and wrinkly you’ve grown!”

He extended his arms for an embrace. I only grunted.

“I said I won’t do it.” I was pissed. I need to know what happened in that dream just now.

“Come on, my friend.” He squeezed in through the empty space between me and the door and made himself comfortable on my couch. “If not you who else?”

The young resident (at least that was what I assumed) lingered at my doorstep with a file clutched tightly in between his trembling hands. His creased blue scrubs and untidy white coat with ‘Angelvale University: School of Medicine’ imprinted on one side of his chest made me pity him for what Dr. Brennt had put him through. It was tough enough getting door-slammed in the face by an old, stubborn man like me at eight in the morning. And now this.

I stepped aside for him to enter and closed the door behind me. When I turned, the resident was standing behind Dr. Brennt, hugging the file against his chest. I sighed, making my way to the rocking chair once again.

“What is it?” I demanded.

I had declined before they could mention the purpose they were here and now I was giving them a chance. A chance I knew I would disagree with.

“Come, Louis. Explain the situation to Raphael here.” At this command, the resident immediately went around the couch and settle himself opposite the two of us.

“Doctor.” He politely handed the file to me. “People are dying.”

‘What a great way to begin a presentation!’ I thought. I flipped through the file, taking in the numerous words and statistics. There were medical terms I was familiar with and there was some that I had only rarely heard of. The percentages was high on death rates and in decimal for success rates. Louis’ voice was drowned out in the background as I focused on the paragraphs and numbers.

“Do you remember the Infecto-Pulmonum pandemic outbreak a few decades ago?” Dr. Brennt interjected.

‘I could never forget.’ I thought. ‘It was the virus that killed Dr. Ken’

“Yes.” I said instead.

“It’s back!” He leaned forward and placed his elbows on his knees, fixing his narrowed gaze on me. “This time, it’s stronger, deadlier and even untreatable.”

I locked my eyes on a particular image: it showed a human lung.




“I-P is not a common cold anymore.” Although he spoke steadily, I could tell he was scared. “It came back as asthma, pneumonia, lung cancer and eventually death.”

Death was a daunting word.

But I had encountered innumerable deaths and perhaps, even be responsible for some of them. To me, death only appeared to be a part of life. In fact, I had hoped for death to come knocking at my doors. I was not intimidated by death.

“This is your job, Dr. Brennt.” I pushed on. “So tell me why are you here in a retired man’s house?”

“Raphael.” He begged, exasperated. “We need you! The whole world needs you!”

“I’m retired.”


“And moreover,” I hinted at Louis, the resident doctor. “You have plenty of doctors. Young doctors.”

“Exactly! They are young! And what we need right now is an experienced one. We need you, Raphael.”

“I’m done with surgeries, Dr. Brennt.” I was starting to get annoyed. “I’m old and my hands are weak. I can’t even stand up properly.”

“Who said anything about standing?”

“It’s not the time for your lame jokes.”

“At least come to the hospital, just hear us out on the procedures and possible treatments.”

“I’m not going anywhere.”

At this, Dr. Brennt finally stood up. He brushed a hand through his luscious hair and let out a heavy breath.

“Louis.” He called.

“Yes, sir.” Louis stumbled over the coffee table and barely managed to compose himself before handing me a USB drive taken out from his pocket.

“It’s merely a theory but have a look at it when you have time.”

Having said this, Dr. Brennt stormed out of my house. Louis gave a quick clumsy bow and followed.


For the rest of the week, the miniature USB drive haunted me day and night. I remembered discarding it somewhere on the couch the moment they left. However, now, laying on my bed, the tormenting USB had somehow grown legs and made its way to my bedside table. Again that day, it had appeared on the dining table while I savored the porridge I boiled myself. Then, the next morning, it had plugged itself into my computer.

It moved on its own accord, I swear.

The file opened, displaying articles after articles of theories, predictions and more statistics. At the top, Infecto-Pulmonum was typed in bold letters. The file was bulky and I had to stress myself to complete it within the day. As I read through it, I note that the theory was fresh and brilliant, nevertheless, I didn’t know how promising it was.

Theory was only an assumption after all.

On a particular page, it highlighted the surgery procedure that was formulated as one possible method of treatment. I squinted my eyes at the paragraphs and step-by-step instructions. I had never read or heard about this procedure before. It was new. But what was most mind-opening was the fact that this procedure was constructed based purely on one’s imagination and hypothesis. If done correctly or even perfectly according to the instruction, there would be a high chance of survival.

This might just be the treatment people depended on!

I had to test this out!

I abruptly removed the USB drive and was almost to the door when, gnawing at the back of my mind, was Dr.Ken. He was the surgeon. Not me. I was only his first assistant. Every time there was a surgery, Dr. Ken was the miracle, the hero, the savior. Not me. I flumped back down on the rocking chair. Reminiscing the time spent together with Dr. Ken brought tears to my eyes. My lips wobbled uncontrollably while I hugged my quivering body to myself.

It was years ago - maybe even decades. I was young and curious, fresh out of medical school. Dr. Ken was, at the time, the renowned thoracic surgeon of Angelvale Hospital. Nonetheless, to me, he was a teacher and a friend. My dearest friend.

On my very first surgical rotation, Dr. Ken requesting me to assist him in a surgery case seemed like a distant dream. My hands were shaking and I felt like peeing my pants. But, Dr. Ken had this calm demeanor and looked as if he had everything under control. He might’ve shouted at me a few times in the operating theater but if I had one thing to be proud of, it was that he never gave up on me. Sometimes I could be a complete jackass and other time I was just too tired to get out of bed. During these time, Dr. Ken was stern and stubborn. He would pull me out of bed or put me in my place and I hated it when he did this.

One time, in the middle of an exceptionally difficult surgery Dr. Ken told me this:

“You have one chance” He had said. “A person have one life and whether or not you save them, you can only do it once.”

Hence, when I saw Dr. Ken lying on the hospital bed, his breath shallow and rapid, I had begged and begged for someone, anyone at all to save him. He was the best thoracic surgeon and yet, he died of lung infection. His leaving of Earth had caused immeasurable grievance to a young heart like me. Without his guidance I could not perform surgery, I could not bear to be the surgeon in charge. Which is why I decided to quit surgery all in all that same year he died. I practiced as a physician but even that didn’t do much. They said fifty years old is still too young to retire, but I had nothing more to pursue.


They were all surprised to see me.

“Doctor!” It was Louis. “Dr. Brennt said you would come back and told me to welcome you.”

At least that was what I told myself.

“I-uh,” I rubbed the tip of my nose. “I’m just here to see how promising the theory is.”

“Yes, of course, sir. Right this way.”

“Don’t get your hopes up.” I quickly added.

Louis ushered me to the familiar research laboratory. The white hospital lights blinded my vision while the strong scent of antiseptic saturated the enclosed space. I resisted the urge to cough and followed Louis to a notice board. Data, pictures and handwritten notes hid the original color of the board. He presented the information I read in the file word by word until I had to cut him short. I knew all of this.

“Give me a lab rat so I can put this to the test.” I ordered.

“Uh-” Louis rummaged through the papers. “We actually have a patient who is willing to have the surgery. Well, not exactly, but her guardian signed the papers.”

“Run me through it.”

After the briefing I withdrew to Dr. Brennt’s office. It was spacious to say the least with its enormous window pane behind his desk and brown leather couch to which I settled myself.

“Well well, Raphael.” He sat down beside me. “Glad to have you back.”

“You don’t understand.” I breathed out, head in my hands. “It’s Dr. Ken you’re looking for. Not me. I can’t do it.”

“Dr. Ken is no longer with us.” He stated the obvious. “But you are.”

“You know how it was.” I remembered the time I performed my first surgery alone. I had panicked so much that someone else had to take over. “I can’t do it without him.”

“You’re not doing this alone. Plus, you have Louis.” He said that as if it would comfort me. It did not.

“Louis? Are you serious?” I looked at him in disbelief. “That kid can’t even look me straight in the eyes!”

“Well, believe it or not, but he’s the brightest in his year group.”

“So was I in elementary school!” I let out. “What I’m saying is he’s inexperience, so get me someone better.”

“He can’t get experience if he’s not allowed in the OR, right?” Glints of hope danced in his irises.


“And before you disagree.” He interrupted. “Louis is the one who came up with this procedure. So, either you deal with him or you do it yourself.”

My presence in the operating theater surprised me as well.

I was scrubbed in and facing my first patient since I quit surgery years ago. I examined the body in front of me: painted with a layer of iodine while the chest area was marked up with dark blue ink. The ink showed me where to slice my scalpel through the skin.

I looked up from my lens; Louis stood on the other side of the table. His hands were held above elbow level but his eyes were unfocused. I observed as he swayed from one foot to another, his chest inflating and deflating, a bead of sweat slipping downward from his sideburns and his orbs wavering behind the glasses.

“Hey!” I called. “I need you to concentrate here. You know the procedure by heart, now I need you to lead me through it. Tell me what to do.”

Never in my right mind would I take instructions from a kid. But this is his surgery.

For once, his eyes met mine. His eyes was wide with shock as he gulped down a lump in his throat. He did not move a muscle nor did he make a sound. He only stood there, wide eyed like a deer caught in the headlights.

“Do I have to repeat myself?” My patience is thinning. “You’re the one with this masterpiece of an idea, so enlighten me.”

“I-I-” He choked out.

“Scalpel!” I hold out my hand to the scrub nurse. “Do you want to do this or not, Louis?”

A scalpel was pressed to my palms; I did not wait for a reply and went straight for the skin. Blood flowed where the sharp edge of my scalpel sliced through the skin like butter.

“Suction.” I ordered.

When the suction tube failed to appear in my line of sight, I also failed to keep my anger under control.

“Suction!” I roared.

This time, a timid suction tube was placed on the stream of blood.

I had memorized the procedure and the surgery went forth smoothly with no big complication. That was until I had to cut into a narrow vein. As written in the instruction, I inched my scalpel towards the vein and was ready to cut into it when Louis cried out.

“Stop!” I paused, rather alarmed by his loud voice. “I know I wrote to ‘cut into the vein’ in the file but I noticed, just a moment ago, that it would’ve caused a major bleeding.”

“So, what do you say I do now?”

The remaining surgery took five hours with Louis guiding me through all the steps. Turned out, he had to modify his procedure and devise one on the spot. I was completely dependent on him.

The surgery was a success.


I was back in my usual spot, watching the news on the television. A handsome picture of Louis in his best smile showed up on the screen as the reporter announced the miraculous treatment for I-P.2. After that surgery, Louis had taken on similar cases and had performed the surgery in his name. It was his idea after all, and I only acted as the stepping stone, as the visual representation of how the surgery would look like according to the instruction.

I smiled. Genuinely.

“Do you think he belongs in heaven or hell?”

“He’s obviously an angel!”

December 07, 2022 14:07

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

1 comment

Wendy Kaminski
03:54 Dec 15, 2022

Great story - it was thoroughly engaging from beginning to end! One possible mismatch I noticed was "“A person have one life...";" other than that, sheer perfection. Thanks for a great story! :)


Show 0 replies