Signs of Life
The IV bagged dripped itself empty and no one noticed. The nurse came in checked on the patient in the next bed, and wished him a good night. Hours passed and the drugs gradually wore down as Burt Shelton finally showed signs of life. He could barely see anything around him, but he felt himself coming back to the living. The heavy metal door was open and there was a light coming in from down the hall. He heard nurses chatting and an occasional phone ring.
He shifted slowly in the bed and realized he was naked beneath the white sheets. He rubbed his tired eyes and tried to straighten himself out. His mouth was dry, but he wasn't at all thirsty. He wanted to call down for a nurse, but words couldn't form. Even the hack had a silence to it. His sheets were wet, but there was no chill so the need for warmth simply did not exist.
Shelton only remembered the nausea that plagued him several weeks ago, but that had not lasted for too long. He didn't remember the last time he put something in his stomach, but he wasn't hungry either. Everything was just so odd.
As Shelton moved he felt the left side of the bed sinking in a bit as if someone sat down. He would have been startled under normal circumstances, but the oddity of everything happening put him at ease.
There was a figure sitting there almost hunched over. He lowered the sheet to remove his hand so that he could reach out.
“Rest Burt,” said a calm, soothing voice.
“It's me,” she whispered.
“Joanne, my God,” he said in a half whisper as his breathing labored. He tried to move closer to her but he couldn't. He blinked several times until there was some sort of focus. It was enough for him to see her.
“I'm here, Burt.”
He was able to draw enough strength to reach for her face and she took his hand and kissed the back side.
“I missed you,” he said.
“I missed you too sweetie.”
“I've waited so long to be with you,” he said. “I am ready for the journey.”
“Burt,” she said still holding on to his hand. “God sent me. He wants you to keep fighting to live. It's not your time to die.”
“I was lonely Joanne,” he said softly. “And I miss you so much, it hurts.”
“Trying to take your life is a sin,” she said with a nervous tone to her voice. “You must understand that Burt.”
Shelton could say nothing to her at that moment. Slowly his eyes adjusted and he could see his wife so much better. “You left me after fifty one years of marriage.”
“It was my time,” she replied. “And trust me Burt, everyone will die. Just don't rush it. If you feel the pain of loneliness, talk about me. Tell everyone how we met. Tell everyone how so very attractive I was.”
Shelton shifted again in bed, resting his head on the pillow, relaxing as his muscles unclenched and his body felt refreshed. “You look wonderful, Joanne.”
“A wrinkled prune,” she said.
“Yeah, you did start to wrinkle first.”
“Thank you for visiting, Joanne.”
“I'll be in your heart while you are alive Burt,” she said. “Don't ever try to take your life again. If you do I'll come back, but I'll also bring a big stick with me and pound some sense into you.”
Shelton laughed uncontrollably. “Since we first met you threaten to knock sense into me with a big stick. It was always an empty threat.”
“I remember your puppy eyes looking at me when I use to say that,” she answered. “I didn't have the heart. But now I'll go at you like a angry hornet.”
Shelton continued to laugh.
Shelton turned toward the other side of the bed and saw the nurse standing there. He looked at her face and she was smiling ear to ear. “Yes.”
“Welcome back,” she half shouted. “Hey guys Mr Shelton is awake! He is awake!”
Shelton turned back to where his wife was sitting, but she was no longer there. “Joanne?”
“Yes,” the nurse replied.
He looked at her name tag and Joanne was her name too.
Shelton just smiled.
© 2016 Frank Atanacio
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