The Truth Hurts.

Submitted into Contest #92 in response to: End your story with a truth coming to light.... view prompt

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Drama Speculative Horror

The Truth Hurts.


As her husband Jacob opened the door for her, Rosalina climbed into their convertible. Leaving the hospital was frightening; the atypical rumbling noise from the car which barely started sounded like thunder hitting the couple. With no parking spaces near the entrance, the couple found parking spaces on the top deck. Out of order elevators forced the couple to run down/back up so they arrived for their appointment promptly. Traffic was significantly different in New Bark City compared with the traffic of Tree Town.


Fatigue took over her otherwise optimistic tone. 


“How do people breath in this city? I can't believe we arrived on time or alive for that matter. I wonder how many traffic crashes and breathing problems result from living here? I'm glad we don't-”


“Darling, please be quiet. I love you. However, I don't know my way around this city and must focus on getting us home...and the car repaired. The GPS isn't working!” Fears of being unable to arrive home given the state of the car and his lack of geographical knowledge made his tone sound unkind. He rarely spoke unkindly to his wife. Guilt caused him pain similar to the pain his wife was feeling.  


His wife's temporary silence was a blessing. She would have kept rambling. They left home with the top of the convertible down, until the warmth of the sun slowly turned into a dark fog. Hurriedly closing the roof prevented being dipped into blackness. Traffic was minimal and the drivers generally careful in Tree Town. People could walk/ride a bike without fear. In New Bark City, walking/cycling would result in death if the pollution did not take their lives first.


Tapping her feet against the floor of the car reminded Rosalina's husband of a child constantly asking 'are we there yet.' The noise was equally as distracting as her chatter. Over an hour would pass before they returned. Jacob was focused on the driving dilemma. Cars were pressed against each other, discouraging him. With speaking forbidden, Rosalina's thoughts occupied her. They were darker than the polluted air. Rosalina racing from Hospital deck 20 to 15 and back was a nightmare run through Hell. All she could hope for was reaching Heaven once her time on Earth ended. 


Dr. Johnson spent more time than Hospital policy permitted per patient with this couple. Explaining precisely and answering every question often helped his patients recover he believed. Dr. Johnson's kindness had gotten him into minor trouble on multiple occasions. His 'track record' of success did not effect the Hospital's policies. Literally drug away from their first appointment, Dr. Johnson gave both Rosalina and Jacob his card.


About halfway home, Rosalina woke up from a slumber and took out the card. She felt a texture on the back. 


“Honey, did you notice he wrote his personal number on the back of the card? Do you think he does that for every patient? Did you give your patients your home number,” inquired Rosalina. She spoke softly, fearing her husband's wrath if her questions interrupted him. 


Beholding the black fading away into a clear sky, Jacob realized they were almost home. Confidence restored, he was relieved she was awake and capable of speaking clearly.


“Darling, I did not look at Dr. Johnson's card with such detail. He probably writes on the back of all his cards. We saw how much time he takes with each patient, it would not surprise me if he was too busy for all of their questions while working. I never gave my patients my personal phone number! I often got into trouble for spending too much time with a single patient however.” 


Turning at the next intersection, the sign 'Entering Tree Town! Enjoy your stay!' was a comforting sight. If they broke down now, the repair shop was within walking distance. The owner often would send an employee or himself down, performing minor repairs on location.  


Jacob intended upon pulling over at the shop and walking home with his wife. However, Jacob realized she was too ill to walk. Furthermore, Rosalina's breathing was slower and took more energy away from her. Under normal circumstances, the couple could have walked home. Crossing a wooden bridge from the entrance sign to their home on Lush Island took approximately 30 minutes. Brightly colored shops and other minor attractions lined the main street. The outer area contained many people living in modernized houses/apartments.


As perfect as life seemed in Tree Town, they lacked a major hospital. Space for a major hospital was the problem, not the financial burden the city might face. A simple doctor's office existed, however, the medical personal had only basic training. The current building could not handle large quantities of people like typical hospitals. On the bright side, convenient 'house calls,' were provided because the office employed many physicians. Dr. Jacob Houghman was a geneticist and worked part-time for the office.


The next day, Jacob picked up the phone and called his current supervisor at Humanity Research Facility. Their primary research involved treatments/cures for genetically inherited diseases. Unlike a doctor's office/hospital, Jacob could use the knowledge he spent the majority of his youth learning for practical benefits. The phone lines were so busy he took three attempts before finally receiving an answer.


“Good morning ma'am, may I please speak with Dr. Myra Jones,” Jacob politely inquired. He could have asked for her husband, Dr. Michael Jones. Their personalities were similar enough; firm, practical yet kind. However, Jacob felt he would obtain the cooperation from another woman who could potentially sympathize with him.


Placed on hold for over 30 minutes, the small specialized branch was quite busy. Receiving results from an ongoing study of 'Ripping Disease' likely caused the unusually long delays. Waiting gave Jacob time for remembering precisely how miserable Rosalina felt all throughout the night. With her condition growing worse and local limitations, he briefly considered taking her back to the hospital (the closest hospital from home). Finally, his call was answered.


“Hello? Good morning Dr. Houghman. How are you and your wife?” Dr. Myra had no idea a small talk question would lead into a larger discussion.


“Unfortunately, she is not well. The New Bark City Hospital diagnosed Rosalina with the 'Ripping Disease.' She is having difficulty adjusting with her new medications and I'm worried about her breathing. I am afraid of leaving her alone...May I please take the week off? Requesting such a long time off on short notice is atypical behavior for me. I have all my vacation or sick days too.”   


Hearing the phone drop, possibly break as it hit the floor, briefly startled him more than his wife's heaving in the background. Maintaining his composure was miraculous. Perhaps Jacob's previous experiences as a physician taught him how maintaining professional behavior, regardless of the patient's problems, was deeply important. Too much compassion will rip your soul into pieces, much like the Ripping Disease will 'rip apart' its' victim.


Uncertain if he should wait, Dr. Myra quickly grabbed the phone off the ground before Dr. Houghman could end the call.


“I'm sorry for the brief interruption. I shouldn't be shocked. I've simply never met someone outside lab testing suffering from the Ripping Disease...unless you count myself. Now her slightly pained expression at the wedding makes sense; Rosalina's nerves were not entirely the cause,” trailing off into a slightly random conversation Dr. Myra returned, presenting her professional appearance, “Yes Dr. Houghman, you make take the week off with my consent. Any who question such choices will report to me personally.” 


Relived, Jacob began hanging up, yet Dr. Myra was not yet finished. Switching gears between 'professional' and 'sympathetic' was second nature for a geneticist practicing for decades. She and her husband were both elderly, while Jacob and Rosalina were not quite middle-aged. His gamble of asking her versus her husband paid off; his request may not have been granted by Dr. Michael. 


“Jacob, I'm truly sorry about your wife. I warn you, take great caution with your behavior around her. Your exceptional professionalism will not fulfill her desires; she can read your research on the Ripping Disease if she merely sought her husband's professional insight. I would advise against sharing your work with her.” Dr. Myra had a point; Jacob performed and published the majority of research, with frightening and discouraging results. 


“Speaking from personal experience, when I was diagnosed my husband went with the 'knowledge is power' approach. I became paranoid for years. Love and help her. She will eventually thrive under your care. Show her you are a person with feelings, not a mindless robot.” 


Trying to lighten the mood and knowing Rosalina was a Doctor of Technological Engineering, 


“I wouldn't be surprised if she built a robot once her condition is stable. Technology is improving, don't give up! Decades may pass, but all the research efforts will be rewarded...Blame my husband for my next words; he would kill me if I didn't ask her about participating in an upcoming trial. Worry not, your employment will be unaffected regardless of your choice.” Becoming a professional once more, Dr. Myra suggested, 


“Perhaps you should consider renting a one-room apartment near the New Bark City Hospital. Life can be unpredictable and time may not be on your side. Over an hour at best might be her last hour. Given the manner you described Rosalina's condition, she needs her husband not a permanent 'in care' patient home. A few minutes delay could change her situation. Please inform me of her choice regarding the trial. Good bye Dr. Houghman. Say hello and we wish you well.”


Finally hanging up, Jacob noticed Rosalina was missing and hurriedly searched the house. Given her poor breathing, blurry her vision and mobility difficulties were so extreme the previous night/that morning, anything could have happened. He found her in his office, sitting at his desk reading. Jacob was conflicted about how he should feel. Rosalina's improved condition delighted him. Reading the novel of medical paperwork obtained the day prior distressed him. Considering Dr. Myra's advice, he grabbed the paperwork from his wife before she could continue reading.


“OUCH! You might have broken my wrist! What made you become a monster? Why won't you let me read the documentation first? It's MY life on the line, I should have a say shouldn't I?” Rosalina's voice was mixed with an unusual amount of panic and frustration, which she rarely showed her husband. She felt the same guilt her reaction matching her husband's guilt from the day prior. Rosalina wondered if personality changes were caused by Ripping Disease? 


Attempting to disguise his own frustration, Jacob addressed his wife,


“Darling, I apologize for your wrist, harming you was not my intention.” Her eyes rolled and her expression was not showing signs of forgiveness as he gently took her wrist. Thankfully, he had not sprained or broken her wrist. 


His suspicions were correct. Heightened perception of anything touching her body was yet another symptom. His weak grip made her feel overly sore. Soon, touching the smooth surface of bedroom sheets would cause her as much pain as ripping her arm off. The pages of the books she preferred over 'safe' TV entertainment would be knives cutting into her hands.


Leaving the room briefly, he brought back a chair and sat near his wife. Dr. Myra's voice played in his head reminding him about loving his wife, not behaving as a 'professional.' Knowing a brawl would soon begin, Jacob braced himself as he said,


“Darling, as much as I understand your points, as both a doctor and more importantly, a loving husband, sometimes disagreements will occur and not end in your favor. Under no circumstance will I allow you to read the medical documentation before I have. If I must lock this file, in a safe I will! For now, I trust you. I assure you this is for the best.”


They both realized he should have reworded his statement; unfortunately, you can't edit speech. A small child could have assumed as much in Jacob's opinion. Married for a year, they intended upon preparing for a child. Modifying their home and lifestyle choices would take longer than the 9 months of carrying a child. 


Always impatient, 'NOW is always the best time (day or night) for completing a task' was Rosalina's philosophy. Why she immediately desired information was simple enough; preparing for the future. Naturally, the 'a happy wife is a happy life' saying was considered fact by Rosalina. Why should she 'loose' this battle when she had 'won' the majority of their marital disputes? Presumably dead for centuries, whoever coined such a ridiculous phrase would have been murdered by Jacob.


Rosalina was rarely foolish and reckless. She could tell when retreating from battle was safer versus fighting a death-match. She accepted she 'lost' the medical documentation battle. Heavy breathing and fatigue, caused by the argument instead of her medical condition, only allowed her to say,


“Before we set our lovely island home ablaze, you win. Let's table matter before WWIII starts? I love you, even if I will not always be capable of showing you my heart. How about forgiving each other instead?”


Nearly passing out from the shock of her 'surrendering,' he forgave her instantly. Jacob was horrified when hearing 'showing you my heart.' Literally 'showing her heart' via a heart transplant may be one of the many operations she would undergo throughout her life. Given his specialty, at least he would not be asked for his help in any transplant surgery. If something went wrong, he would not be at fault he consoled himself. 


However, he was specifically asked if Rosalina would be interested in participating in the upcoming clinical trial. Discussions of potential benefits/problems occurred before she reluctantly agreed. Testing featured women in Rosalina's age range (late 20's-mid 30s). 


Although he did not discover its' existence, Dr. Jacob Houghman was currently the lead researcher regarding the Ripping Disease. Passed genetically and only through women, one hypothesis stated the problem existed longer than the medical community realized. The alarming amount of similarly unusual medical conditions throughout the 21st Century resulted in numerous studies which uncovered the truth. Previously, victims were 'treated,' unsuccessfully for several other problems. 


Her husband would not be involved with this study because his wife was a participant. His presence may influence her actions, altering the results. One month away from his frustrating work temporarily warmed his heart; living without his wife made him miserable. 


Confidentiality clauses prevented knowledge of the exact procedures. Rosalina would privately tell husband about the previous month. Missing him deeply, she ran into his welcoming arms. Hugging resulted in bandages wrapped around her like a mummy becoming caught on his sleeves, revealing scars. A pain medication prescription did not indicate hopeful results. Upon publication, Jacob would instantly read the paper. 


Both Doctor Jones felt their friend/co-worker was owed the truth before the research was published. The couple was desperately trying for a child. They did not want Rosalina and Jacob wasting their time. Instead, they should pursue alternatives. Inviting them over, avoiding being heard at work, the elderly doctors somberly reported,


“Children and post-menopausal women initially displayed more symptoms, hence your wife was part of the first research study featuring women her age. Problems/treatments of 'young adults' were never addressed because of the emphasis on the other demographics-” forgetting Rosalina was not a medical doctor, they halted their long winded explanation filled with medical jargon and simplified their words. There was little point in dancing around the issue, therefore, Dr. Myra stated the truth,


“Findings show a heartbreaking result; women with Ripping Disease are also infertile. All the tests of 10,000 women throughout the USA showed no improvement with any medications or other treatments.”


Dumbstruck, Rosalina and Jacob both cried an ocean of tears. Both Doctor Jones gave them hugs and many encouraging words. The Jones couple had little luck finding an adoption agency who would permit an 'unstable couple' to adopt. Perhaps in the 21st Century and once Rosalina was stable, they could consider searching for an open-minded agency. When her condition would improve significantly was only known to Rosalina's body. 


The hopeful couple feared they would never experience providing parental love. What if views had not changed since Dr. Myra's attempts? Dr. Michael's 'at least you can have as much sex without worry' joke did not help. Dr. Myra's jabbing him in the ribs for his stupidity did place a small smile on the young couple's faces. 


“Perhaps you ought build a 'robot' Dr. Rosalina, Technological Engineering PhD? Use your education! Why not experiment? You might enhance your own lives and other too.” Dr. Myra was trying to lighten the mood as she drove the couple home. They were drenched in darkness. They would need more than medical interventions could provide so they could see the light in life.


Intrigued by the thought of creating an 'android,' (not a 'robot'), the perfect child from a certain point of view, the gears inside Rosalina's head began turning. Soon, she prayed, actual gears would be turning within the body of an (almost human) android. The experiment could be a useful distraction from her suffering. Gazing upon his wife's striking green eyes, now brighter than decorative lights with her beautiful face expressing hope at last calmed the nervous wreck Jacob became. The light in his deep blue eyes and easygoing expression returned. They saw the truth and a potential light at the end of a distant tunnel. Nobody believed Rosalina would actually take such a joke seriously...Not just yet. 

May 03, 2021 05:10

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3 comments

KED KED
21:08 May 03, 2021

Oh boy..."ripping disease" sounds horrific!! What an interesting take on the prompt! Hopefully she can build fast!!! Thanks for sharing this :)

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Shannon Ruane
21:26 May 03, 2021

I'm glad you liked it. :D Spoilers alert beware! If you start with 'Not Just Yet' and read upwards, the majority of the stories feature the same characters (the 'chapters' are out of order because I'm working with the prompts). I'm hoping to write a book. This story would be most likely near the beginning.

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KED KED
21:31 May 03, 2021

Ohhh, glad to know there's more! I'll check those out. Thanks for the spoiler alert ;)

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