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Science Fiction Suspense Fiction

Eleventh day. I’m still on the seventh floor of Al-Zabeera Hospital, in the heart of Riyadh. Doctors transferred me here as a patient under observation after having spent six months in the intensive care unit. My room is at the end of the desolated wing of this private ward.


“Move” is what I hear being yelled out from the far end. The voice is deafening. It's likely that one of the ward lads is bringing a patient. But just then, a deathly silence descends on everything, and I’m gripped by a strange sensation.


Unannounced and uninvited, a vision emerges in front of me out of nowhere.


You can tell it's early afternoon since the sun is high in the sky and the shadows are small. I see a dry, worn-out garden with a few scattered palms as a boundary and this massive yellow mansion sitting in the center.

I walk to the entrance and lean down on the concrete floor; peering through the soot-smudged glass of the entrance door. Inside, an old woman in her seventies is exercising on a stationary bicycle. Her hair tied in a bun, her face soft and angelic. She tries to peddle faster, but her foot slips off the pedal, making her lose her balance. I see her falling. Her hair comes undone, her face contorts in pain. From another room, a large, chubby man rushes towards her. “Momma, Momma,” he cries out loud.


Then there’s a sudden shift of scene.


On a stretcher, the ward guys take her inside a large ward. Her hair was unkempt, her face marred with wrinkles, and her complexion was ghostly white. I watch them carry her into a bigger corridor with pristine white walls and a shining tiled floor after a few twists and turns in the passageways. That’s my floor. I recognized it at once.

As I lie on my bed, my mouth opens in amazement. 

And the freaky vision disappears as fast as it had emerged. 

***********************


“She lives in a yellow brick mansion,” I blurted aloud as I heard her being carried on the squeaky stretcher into the room next to mine.


 Ahmed, my business partner, seated in the recliner next to my bed, asked in surprise, “Who ?”


“The patient in the adjacent room. She lives in a yellow brick mansion,” I repeated, more coherent this time.


 “How do you know?” Ahmed asked.


Deep anxiety grips me. How on earth do I know? How? Should I tell him what I saw? Do I say I had a dream while still awake? What will be his reaction? Will he freak out? Will he think that I have gained this sixth sense or will he just shrug it off as my imagination?


Gathering my thoughts, I reply, “I don’t know. I just know it. She is an elderly lady in her seventies and her son found her unconscious in her house.” I added.


“You are hallucinating!” he remarked. “An early discharge is what you need.”


That wasn’t rude. It’s only that he’s concerned regarding my safety. He’s a great guy who’s been at my side throughout my treatment and, of course, wishes me well.


The visiting nurse later informed me that the adjacent room has an old lady and that her only son had brought her to the hospital. With disdain, she told me that the son had returned after three months from the UK and how his job kept him busy and how over time, his phone calls to her had dwindled. While he was away, she was being treated for oral cancer. This was the only information he could share with the hospital authority. 


“Good heavens,” Ahmed says and walks out of the room, along with the nurse.


I slip my blanket over my head to rest, but I'm thinking hard. So what if the vision I saw left out a few details, but it gave me a broad picture? Could it be because of my recent surgery? 


After a serious car accident when doctors realized I had lost my memory, my father got terrified. He decided I was too young to live a life without creating memories, to enjoy each moment as it comes without remembering about what came before, and therefore permitted the doctors to implant a chip in my brain.

Doctors replaced the memory portion of my brain with this so-called chip. They explained to my dad the procedure to be like amputating a limb and replacing it with an artificial limb. Brain prosthesis, they termed it. An uncommon thing. Its success rate still a subject of research. And now I have this special ability I wasn’t born with. The only question that remains is whether these visions will keep coming? How will it help me in knowing someone else's past, present, future, minus few details? Someday I'll figure it out and one day I would know what to do with it. 


But before that, I needed to do fact-checking.


And so I knock on her door the next day after breakfast and walk inside when no one answered. Her son sat in a chair at the far end of the room. It startled him to see me, not because I am frightening to look, but because he wasn’t expecting me. At twenty-three and five feet four-inch-tall to most men, I look young and refreshing. And to me, he didn't seem a year over forty, his face as I had seen earlier. Though he appeared to be a nervous wreck, weeping for his momma. Something I seldom see in men his age. Gathering his overweight frame, he stood up from his chair to say hello. I motioned him to sit and walked towards his momma.


Lying on her bed, she looks towards me. I move closer, almost touching the edge of her bed, and I am startled to realize she is the one I had seen earlier in my vision. 


The vision did show genuine people in real-time. And I wonder if I have gained some psychic ability. 


As I return my attention; I watch her eyes communicate a thinly veiled terror. Her face turns pale, and her breathing comes to a halt. I scream, and her son, surprised, looks at me, then at his mother, and finally back at me.


I am still staring at the stoned, lifeless expression of his momma. “What?” he asks. 


And I say- “Your Momma, she is dead.” 


And the boy replies, “Are you some crazy woman, can’t you see the machines attached to her body tell that she is alive.” 


And then crying out he says, “Please leave, you, insane lady,” in a high-pitched voice. I see his fat stomach ripple as if it were a pond into which someone had thrown a fist-size stone.


I run and only came to a halt when I have reached my room, where I am glad to find Ahmed. When I inform him the old lady is dead and the son refuses to believe it, Ahmed leaves my side to check. Back in my room, I am panting with all the exhaustion, and quietly climb up on my bed to rest.


Ahmed wakes me up with my lunch, so it must be a couple of hours. As I ate the sandwich and passed him the burger to eat, he told me the old lady is alive and stable and that she would be fine with the treatments that have begun.


The next day that pudgy son of hers discovers her dead in her sleep. He was ready to sue the hospital for medical negligence. So the hospital did an autopsy on her. She had died of renal failure. The autopsy reports showed a high dose of chemo in her blood, and also that she never had cancer. Doctors concluded that a fluke physician to make some money must have assured her she had cancer and the excess chemo must have degenerated her kidneys beyond repair.

Something I’d always known. The problem being the vision I saw was of a future occurrence, and I overreacted thinking it was taking place immediately.


But with each vision, I improved. As with Mr. Ali, a forty-year-old fun-loving man.


Whenever his wife asked him to shovel the garden, dispose of the rubbish, he complained of chest pain. With a six-foot frame and a powerful body, his wife had every reason to assume that these were just excuses for not assisting with housework, and so when he complained this time, she forced him to the hospital for a check-up. He was in the room next to mine for a few hours.

His tests showed no abnormality, his heart was functioning well, the hospital gave him another date for some intravenous test and I went to see him just as he was getting his discharge papers. When he spotted me, he grinned and thanked me for coming. In our conversation, he informed me he was the father of three boys and that he adored his wife, who, sitting by his side, to me looked relieved. His job didn't pay well, and they barely scraped by month to month, and I could see the anguish on his face as he told me this, and just then I knew he was about to die. 


This time I understood the death message was of a future occurrence.


But, before I could think of reassuring ways to warn his wife, she joked that he'd have to shovel the garden as soon as she drove him home. “Go easy on him, he might not survive long.” I couldn't help but advise her.


“Missus, who do you think you are? She asked, horrified. We're both struggling to make ends meet, and you come here and declare his death. How can my children and I live comfortably if he dies? So woman, pull up your socks and say nice things, and if you can't, just leave, okay?” 


I returned to my room and informed Ahmed elaborately about my vision. I told him I saw Mr. Ali in the passenger seat of a yellow convertible when the attack happened, and he breathed his last gasping for air. However, Ahmed, like his wife, didn’t believe it and laughed it off, saying I needed some good rest and a night of good sleep.


Later physicians declared Mr. Ali dead that evening. A nurse got me the news. According to her, it was a strange occurrence. His wife observed him gasping for air on his way home and drove him back to the hospital at top speed. But, sadly, he breathed his last before they could treat him. It was a yellow convertible, in which the wife brought him in and she was inconsolable. They had to sedate her to calm her.


The news shocked me. I had seen death again, and that night sleep came with difficulty.


My visions didn’t stop coming. There was this peculiar case once more.

An old lady Norah Abbas, nearing seventy-five, had slipped in the bathroom and sprained her wrist. I met her husband Mr. Abbas outside her room; opposite mine. He showed me a photograph of when they were young, dancing to a song at some party, his hand on her waist and hers on his shoulder, both looking into each other eyes. What a lovey-dovey couple they looked. And I could see what must have transpired between them right then. 

They danced for the first time at a party hosted by their common uncle and afterward confessed their emotions about each other to their uncle. Abbas was the one who first told his uncle about his feelings for Norah, and today, fifty years later, they are more in love than ever with two grown children, a boy, and a girl, both of whom are adults. Norah has recently developed dementia and has lost recognition of Abbas, which makes him unhappy.


I walk inside Norah's room to greet her. She exuded a lovely warmth, and I knew immediately that she would have a successful operation and a beautiful life ahead of her. I saw her dancing around in Abbas' arms, in a cozy cottage.


Later, I learned that after her CT scan; the physicians operated on her. It was some nerve pushing that part of her brain and making her forget things. The operation was successful and she regained her memories. She would recognize Abbas from now on. That's exactly what I'd witnessed. It relieved me to think I could see good things too, and I smiled, unaware that this feeling would not last. I shouldn't have undermined my power to bring death to the ailing patient I visit. 


For she was back in the hospital a week later, in the room opposite me, the same one that she had occupied some time back. Mr. and Mrs. Norah Abbas a week back had flown to Florida to celebrate her recovery at their son's cottage. At this time of year, it was freezing there, and no one could survive without suitable warm clothing. The next morning, Norah went for her usual stroll and came across a shivering Gardner, so she gave him her gloves and coat and continued for her walk to the park without them. It was a generous act that resulted in frostbite on her fingertips. And that wouldn't heal.


Something was awry this time when I met her. Her wrinkled skin was pale, and the glint in her eyes had faded. And as I stood at a distance, observing this subtle change, she smiled and motioned me to come and sit next to her. Before I could take a step more, I could feel the air around me go heavy, and in front of my eyes, the scene changed. 

It was dark. The only light in the room came through a night bulb and Norah was sleeping fitfully, her legs churning. She awakes in a daze, sits up, and then collapses into lifelessness. I knew that what I was witnessing was only a vision like the last few I had witnessed and that she at present was laying in her bed alive. I was cautious enough to neither scream nor yell or say something that I will regret later.


No one would have believed, especially Mr. Abbas, who loved her so much.


I hurriedly exited the room, but when I saw Mr. Abbas outside, I could not stop myself from giving him some sign and so I murmured in a barely audible voice, “Go hug her as hard as you can. Shower her with love and enjoy this hour. It may turn to be her last waking hour.” He just stood, staring at me blankly, as if I didn't exist. She died that night.


Doctors discovered from her test results a day later that she had suffered a stroke the night they had flown to their son, which the family couldn't believe because she exhibited no signs of pain. But, as the doctors explained, her stroke wasn't like others; it didn't leave her paralyzed or unable to talk; instead, it caused lesions in the front lobe, the area of the brain that controls behavior and judgment. As a result, she went from being normal to being pathologically generous overnight. According to the doctor, the medical phrase implied she was prone to giving away all she owned. And the outcome was for all to see. She had impaired judgment. She gave away her warm clothes and could not know that it would harm her, eventually. It was her frosty fingers that took her life.


The news of her death hit me pretty hard. The realization dawned on me that every time I walk in my oversized flowing hospital gown, visiting an ailing person, that patient would never again see the light of day. Though what I see I inform, no one believes it. I tell their close ones to be with them, lest they die, yet they pay no heed and then it happens.


It’s one thing that I can see death approaching. It is another thing that I cannot prevent death from happening. I am the lady who brings death. And because I don’t want to be called the lady who brings death, I have stopped visiting. I now stay in my room reading books and Ahmed is happy watching me recover. For the last month, that's been my existence, and I've been living each day in the hopes of an early discharge, an escape.


************************


But that's easier said than done. Books are useless since they give me nerve-wracking thoughts- thoughts like -How did I become this person I’m not? What if an evil doctor is controlling my mind? What if the chip is a radio-controlled brain implant that picks signals the evil doctor gives from his desktop and displays them as visions — Patients' personal information, including where they live, what ailment they suffer, and their subsequent deaths. What if, for instance, the chip inside my head was not to retrieve my memory? — What if it was there to change me forever...


June 18, 2021 07:15

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4 comments

Dhevalence .
15:30 Jun 21, 2021

Wow! I must confess I've been negligent lately by not reading all the stories. And so I've missed gems like these. You write very well. But you've taken on the most difficult style: writing in present tense. So here and there it sounds off pace. With your skills, you should try keeping everything in past. Loved the story. The use of words, great. Thank you for liking my story, and feel free to critique. Would like your opinion.

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Babika Goel
18:35 Jun 21, 2021

Thank you for taking the time to provide your thoughts about my work. Yes, writing in the present tense was challenging, and I had to go through more edit cycles than normal. Because of the prompt, I chose this tone to help my reader's flow with the developments of my storyline.

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Babika Goel
18:38 Jun 21, 2021

I loved your style and will definitely share my thoughts on your stories.

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Babika Goel
05:57 Jun 19, 2021

This short story follows a young girl on her visits to mildly ill patients admitted in the same hospital, as she becomes privy to their personal information and her own raging emotions. And only she can foretell their deaths, but can she do anything to save them?

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