By Kate Pope
As I stepped through the door into the gloomy hospital, a steady beeping filled the hallways. Burnt out light bulbs forced me to peer into the darkness, and the peeling paint looked like little bugs crawling up and down the walls in the shadows. The hallways rung with emptiness. Looking around, I spotted an information desk on the far side of the room. Slowly I made my way over. An old lady with pearly white hair sat transfixed by her book. The book read “1000 Ways to Heal a Broken Heart.”
“Hello? ” I said. The lady glanced up at me over her glasses and gave me a huge smile.
“Hello young man. What brings you here today?”
“I had an asthma attack earlier this evening in my car; I just wanted to get checked out.” She nodded.
“That’s too bad dear, but perfect timing! We have an opening in five minutes. The doctor will be right with you. Just fill out that form.” She nodded towards a clipboard on the counter.
I picked up the pen and started to fill in the blanks.
Earlier this evening, on my way home from work, I had been talking to Emma, my wife. We had been chatting about buying balloons for my little girls birthday which was coming up in a few days. I was going to get a big butterfly one and a smaller smiley face balloon. We were planning a surprise party and I had been so excited. I had just turned the corner to the store when I had had the attack. It terrified me, so I had rushed straight to the hospital.
The form was almost filled out before me as I thought about tomorrows plan. I would have to get the balloons later tonight after I left the hospital.
After a minute or two, a shuffling noise came from somewhere to my left, and a tall man glided out of the shadows. His white hair stuck up in every which way, and he had that confident aura about him, which you never knew was real or arrogance. He walked in smooth strides, picked up the clipboard and gracefully turned back in the direction he had came from.
“Hello, my name is Dr. Valentine and if you would please follow me, I’ll give you a check up.” He said in a thick Russian accent with his back faced away from me.
He beckoned for me to follow, then started down the dark corridor without looking to see if I was following. As we walked, there were many different diagrams pinned to the walls and signs leading to different departments. At the end of the corridor, he gestured to a yellow door and pulled it open for me to enter. As I stepped into the small room, I could feel his eyes following my every move. I started fidgeting with the hem of my hoodie as soon as I sat down in the patient chair.
“So, your name is Jake? Jake Thomford?” He sounded like he struggled with English. I nodded. “Well, Jake we’ll get that heart fixed for you.”
“You mean my lungs?” I asked, frowning.
Shaking his head he chuckled, “Silly me. We get those lungs fixed for you.”
After a minute of scribbling down nonsense on his piece of paper, he grabbed his stethoscope and asked me to breathe in. As I took a deep breath, I could feel the cold metal against my chest rising and falling. He peered in my ears as well.
“Your breaths are shorter than usual, but it seems to me that your heart is causing the problem. Usually, when you listen to a person’s heart beat, it thumps in sync but yours is almost slurring its thumps.”
Dr. Valentine then rolled a heart monitor from across the room and hooked it up to my wrist and neck.
“Here is the rate of your heart.” He pointed at a line rising and falling at a steady rate. It looked normal to me, but according to him there were too many lines.
“Your heart is not in a good condition at the moment. I believe there is something stuck in the valves which is causing it to murmur.” He told me, calmly.
“Oh, I didn’t think it was anything that major…Will I be ok?” I nervously ran my hand through my thick orange hair.
He laughed and told me I would be fine. I just needed a shot. A pit sat in my stomach, and when he left the room for equipment, it kept growing and growing, until the point I thought it might burst. Heart diagrams filled the room on every side every which way, and on the far side I noticed a very peculiar one. It read “Have a Heart Organization – Founded by Dr. Vladimir Valentine – Donors welcome!” That was odd. Did he specializes with hearts?
Dr. Valentine swooped back into the room.
“Please follow me and I will give you your vaccine.” He said. Gulping, I pulled myself out of the squeaky chair and followed him out the doorway. The lights flickered overhead as he seemingly slid down the hallway.
“Why is this hospital so worn down?” I asked out of curiosity.
He cocked his head to one side but did not turn back. “Lets just say, anyone who comes here, doesn’t leave very often, so we’re so busy all the time.”
Frowning, I recalled the emptiness and the silence that had surrounded me all of the night.
“But I haven’t seen anyone except for you and the lady at the desk.” Shrugging his shoulders he kept walking farther and farther down the long hallway. After about a minute of silence we reached a large doorway with a sign that read “Surgical Unit” on it above. Dr. Valentine sweeped into the room without hesitation, and after a deep breath, I let my feet carry me after him. A baby blue hospital outfit was laid out on the bed and hundreds of jars with something disgusting in them were lined across the shelves.
“If you would just change into this outfit in the bathroom, I’ll get everything ready.” He pointed to a closed door across the room.
“Aren’t I just getting a shot?” I asked confused.
“Yes, but it is hospital protocol to wear the uniform, no matter what you are doing.” He hesitated. “Don’t worry! It will all be over within a few seconds.”
Nodding, I grabbed the clothes and headed over. After all, he knew what he was doing; he was the doctor.
The jars looked so peculiar but I could not figure out what was inside of them. They looked pink and mushy and seemed to be floating in some sort of preservative. As I changed, something was nagging me. It was on the tip of my tongue but I couldn’t recall what. I opened the door and stepped out.
“Okay, just lie on the bed and I’ll give you the vaccine. Then we’ll start.” He told me.
I nodded slowly, swallowed, then like a robot, laid down on the hospital bed. Dr. Valentine produced a needle with a label that I couldn’t read from his container of supplies. Without warning he stabbed my wrist. I flinched.
Grimacing, I spoke in gasping breaths, “What is. In those jars. Anyways?”
“Oh, those are hearts from every person who has ever come here.” Malice ran through his words. He put the needle down and now I could see clearly that it was labeled anesthetic. Frowning I opened my mouth to say something.
“I collect them.” He said smirking.
For some reason, my head felt groggy as I tried to process what he had just told me. I gasped, then yawned. He leaned down so his mouth was beside my ear.
“Sleep tight,” he whispered and my world went black forever.