The sterile scent of the hospital is one thing no one ever forgets.  The rattle of carts filled with food trays, the squeaking of sneakers on the shiny linoleum floor, the ringing of phones and beeping of monitors, the urgent calls over the intercom and crying children.  Those are all sounds associated with hospitals, and this time was no different.

            From where he stood he could feel his life changing with every sideways glance from every nurse that passed, to the visitors coming bearing flowers and balloons.  The call came early that morning and woke him out of a much needed deep sleep.  He'd only been asleep for three hours when the melodic ring of his cell phone rose him, but the voice on the other end brought him to completely awake with two little words.  How he got to the hospital, he'd never know.  He could remember grabbing his jacket and sliding his shoes on, but the next thing he knew he was at the hospital entrance staring at the automatic doors as they opened and closed in response to his weight on the sensors.

            "In or out kid."  A nurse finally said as it opened for the tenth time.

            "Sorry."  He mumbled and stepped off the black mat.  In or out.  She made the decision seem so simple.  In or out.  Yes or no.  Black or white.  When it came down to it, he supposed, it really was that simple.  But knowing that and taking the next step to supply the answer were two different things.

            He knew that he couldn’t wait forever.  That in a few hours they'd send out a search party to find him.  He didn't have long at all, but there was always time for a cigarette.  Smoking was a relatively new thing for him, and in all honesty, he only smoked a few times a month when he felt like nothing else could possibly go wrong so who cared if he got lung cancer or not?  As he tended to be over dramatic, that actually happened more than he'd admit to anyone else.  But he knew that this was one of those times.  He was at the hospital and inside were the characters that would shape the rest of his life, and there was nothing he could do to change it.  Everything had already happened, it was just waiting for him to get there.

            The lighter flicked a bright orange flame as he inhaled and tried not to cough the smoke away.  He got three drags into it before his stomach turned.  No matter how bad he felt, he knew he could never really be a smoker.  He dropped the glowing cigarette into the concrete ashtray and licked his dry lips.  The automatic doors opened again as he stepped on the mat to lean against the wall.

            As they opened the nurse looked up again and frowned.  "Sorry."  He mumbled before stepping through the doors and into the fluorescent waiting room.  The only reason he was inside was to keep the nurse from flogging him, but now that he was there he didn't know what to do.  As more people came in through the door he pushed himself against the wall to give them plenty of room.  His shoulder bumped a raised floor plan and he turned to study it.  Staring at the map gave him the appearance of purpose.  He studied it, located the restrooms, followed the red line to the cafeteria, hunted down the illusive pharmacy… then located the department he was summoned to.   Third floor.  He pursed his lips and looked over his shoulder at the elevators behind him with a look of confusion.

            How could something so common, something he'd seen probably every day of his life and ridden on millions of times, seem so daunting.  Like a fiery chariot coming to carry him to his fate.

            As soon as the Hades reference entered his mind he shook it clear and blushed.  He couldn't think negatively; positivity would be the only thing that carried him through the next few hours.  If he could just get to the third floor to face it.

            He sighed and turned back to the map, "Where's the emergency exit?"  He muttered softly under his breath.  Stalling was something he excelled at.  But eventually he'd have to face his future… and the third floor.




Copyright © 2003, Amy Lynn