Colm lay in the sweat-damp hospital bed. His fingers stroked the low thread-count sheets, their rough texture rasping. He switched it up, reaching just far enough to knock on the cool bedrail, slide trembling hands along medical lines, then back to the sheet as the clock cut time. Monitors beeped. Wind in bare branches swished outside. He tapped out the rhythm. Rasp, beep, slide, tick, swish.
Click. The door opened. A waft of expensive cologne and heavy steps suggested Donovan, his only remaining visitor.
“You’re late, Don.” His voice croaked in a bare whisper, throat burning with dry bile and the intubator removed two days ago. He gasped for breath, halting as his chest protested.
Rasp, tap, slide. Counting the seconds.
“Sorry, Colm. Didn’t want to wake you.” Don’s voice hesitated, stale cigarette breath weaker than usual behind the muffling of his mask. “I’ll get the doc.”
The door closed. Chatter from the hallway shut out, the ghost of life withdrawn from the room of death. Two rattling breaths. Where’s Ariadne? The nurse’s shift should be soon. Hold on.
Don returned, brisk heels behind him. Doctor Halle.
“Afternoon, Doc.” Colm attempted a smile. Coughed.
“Hush. You rest, Colm.”
Doc Halle’s perfume held hints of jasmine and something exotic. He imagined her as a tall, striking black woman from America, accent not quite hiding her cultural identifiers. She stepped around the bed, checking his stats. Colm already knew what they said.
“Don.” Pausing the musical taps, Colm lifted a finger toward his lawyer. “Will.”
“I’ve got it, Colm.”
Paper rustled. Another person entered the room. Colm’s heart lifted, then dropped like a stone. “Where’s Ariadne?”
“My nurse, Don.”
“This is Nurse Graham,” Doc Halle said. “He’ll be our second witness.”
“Hi,” said an unfamiliar male voice. Colm turned away.
Don cracked a bottle of water. Swallowed as Doc Halle asked, “Who’s Ariadne?”
“Don’t know. But I’m new.” Graham.
“Colm did mention her,” Don said. “Mustn’t be her shift.”
“It is,” said Colm. But they didn’t hear. He sighed. Coughed. A long minute passed. After that, it was time to change the Will.
He’d decided two days ago, finally. What meant the most in the end. Ariadne. He wished they’d met sooner. He wished a lot of things.
The wind stirred the trees.
“Ready to sign, Colm?” A gentle prompt from Donovan.
I drifted off again? The clock had stopped ticking. Words were hard lumps that wouldn’t come. He nodded instead. They read the Will aloud. The part where he donated three million pounds to cancer research; the part where he signed over royalties from his BlindMed App to the hospital. The final two million set aside as respite for hospital staff overrun in the pandemic.
“God bless you, Colm,” Doc Halle said.
But he slipped away again, and didn’t hear them leave.
Where did she go?
Colm opened his eyes. Squinted. Light surrounded him. Soft. White. Calm.
Light. I can see.
Air filled his lungs. No pain. Dead, then?
He took a step forward, bare toes cool on marble. A bridge. It stretched to infinity behind; ahead, the clouds parted to reveal a garden that took his breath away.
“Come on, Colm.” An angel waited in the garden, wings folded, smiling.
Colm’s foot lifted–stepped–landed on smooth, silent grass. His shoulders felt suddenly heavier; he twisted to see white feathered wings had sprouted there.
“Welcome to Heaven.” The angel handed across a pale parchment. “Enjoy your break.”
“Break?” He closed his eyes. Something smelled divine.
“Well, yes. We all have work to do, you know.”
He frowned. Then went searching for a certain flower.
He found her sitting on a cloud in the lower tier. Tear streaks stained her face, framed by long, blonde hair. She wore jeans and a white t-shirt. She was more beautiful than he’d ever imagined.
Bright blue eyes snapped to him and in a flurry of wings she was there. They tumbled, flying in the sunset sky.
Then she pulled back. “They wouldn’t let me come.” Her voice filled with sorrow. “I’m so sorry.”
They floated down, and she retreated to the cloud.
“Don’t apologise, beautiful.” He stroked her cheek.
She turned away. “I thought I was meant to save you. I should never have…”
Up close, her eyes shone like they held the universe. He drank her in, the angel who’d saved him at the end.
“I think I knew, you know,” he said. She frowned. He smoothed her brow, delicate hairs tickling his fingers. “You were always too good for me.”
“No.” She shook her head. “You should go, Colm. You don’t belong here.”
His head cocked in question.
”I’m a lower rank than you.” She shifted again.
He laughed. “Are you kidding?”
“You saved so many, Colm.”
“Did I?” Tears welled in the starry eyes. He bent down and kissed them. “Because of you, beautiful.” He smelled her soft hair and whispered, “It’s not over.”
One more kiss.
“Don’t you know? Miracles aren’t only for the living.” He smiled. “Now, where can we get good coffee round here?”
Thanks for reading part two! If you missed part 1, follow this link to yesterday’s post.
Divine Intervention was a story written in response to a writing challenge on Reddit/ShortStories – Serial Saturday Off-Season 2020. A little longer than what I usually post here, and a little different, in that I was aiming for the romcom/urban fantasy genre. Constraints for this part were: include a bottle, a bridge, and the phrase ‘It’s not over’, and an 850 word limit.
Hope you enjoyed Ariadne and Colm’s tale.
May your season be merry and full of good things. Have a great week and thanks for joining me! 🙂