ICU

June 2022 Flash Challenge, Day 24

Photo by Natanael Melchor on Unsplash

The ICU is extra crowded this afternoon. That pile-up on the expressway has kept most downtown hospitals busy, but I heard we caught most of the injured.

I lean into her desk as she completes the intake on one of the injured, a teenage girl who is favoring one arm.

“Doris, my love, let me take you away from all of this.”

I step back and look around again. This place is getting crowded with both types.

I lean back and say, “Though you’re doing a swell job.”

I feel him before I see him. Marcus.

“Paul, you are aware she can’t hear you or have you forgotten?”

I remember the sensation of shivering. The forgetful don’t stay for long.

I like Marcus. He’s a nice guy, but he challenges me too.

“Hey, Marcus. Just another day in paradise, eh?”

He mimes smoking a cigarette. I don’t think he even knows he’s doing it at this point. It’s one of the most endearing things about the man (and that’s not a short list).

I give him what I hope is a knowing nod.

I don’t know why we stay here or why it’s harder for us to stay once we start forgetting. I only know I feel calm here. Amid all this death, I feel at peace; call me crazy.

“Coming through,” a tall blond paramedic pushes a gurney into the nearest operating room. As the door closes, he shouts, “He’s flatlining.”

Today’s designated “floaters” stop what they’re doing and attend to the code-red. A few seconds later, the injured man walks from the room where the team is still trying to revive him.

He looks around and stares. He approaches Marcus and me.

“Is it always this crowded here?” he says, extending his hand.

“We don’t shake here, new guy,” Marcus says, passing his hands through each other.

“Oh, right,” he says, glancing back at the room where the doctors and nurses are about to call his time of death, the period on his life.

“Isn’t there supposed to be a tunnel of light?” he says.

“Hollywood nonsense,” I say.

“But…, can we leave?”

“Some do,” Marcus says. “But do you want to?”

He considers this for a moment, then slowly shakes his head and smiles a sad little resignation.


The three of us sit in chairs opposite Doris’s desk and are calmed by the frenetic energy of this place designed to save lives.

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