JP lead me and Isy to the pediatric ICU. I was not too keen on returning to where I spent the majority of my short life but I technically died in the adult ICU so there was nothing too painful about this ward. We passed by sleeping children wearing oxygen masks each one granted the privacy and dignity of a solo room. The last thing a dying kid wants is an audience. Except for one room near the end of the hall.
“In that room, you’ll find what you seek,” JP, our human guide said in a whisper as he turned to go back to the elevator.
A tall blonde boy laid in bed with a heart monitor attached to his chest and an oxygen tank connected to a trach hole in his throat. I would have guessed he was 18 or 19, but glancing at his chart he was 15 and his name was -Sean. “This is THE Sean?”
Isy knelt by Sean’s side. It was clear he couldn’t see her. “Cam meet Sean, my son.”
Sean’s eyes were open, but his focus was on the closed bathroom door. The toilet flushed, someone was inside.
A pretty blonde girl entered the room, passing through Isy. “Hey, Sean. Where did Jen go?”
Sean raised his chin motioning to the restroom.
“Jennessa?” I said out loud. JP had promised me a chance to see my sister, so I knew what to expect. But my heart was in my throat. The last time I saw Jen she was being examined for a rape kit. I could still see my father, falling to his knees as he was told that there were traces of at least ten different male attackers.
The door opened about out stepped a girl with short black hair. She pulled up a chair by Sean’s side. “Got to love ICU bathrooms; it’s like having our own really shitty studio apartment.” She held Sean’s hand and smiled a sweet, confident smile.
I stroked her cheek. She had cut off her long wavy latina hair, opting for a pixy cut that was a unique combination of tough and cute.
Sean smiled back at her. His bright blue eyes sparkled with happiness. He had Isy’s eyes.
Isy was still holding his hand. “I wish he could hear me.”
I kissed Jen’s cheek. “Maybe someday.” I took a step back and simply watched their interactions. Sean was very sick but Jen’s strength and positive energy were contagious.
The other teen girl appeared to be Sean’s sister, the biological daughter of his adoptive family. She stayed in the corner watching the muted television with the closed captions turned on.
She made a few comments about how cute Jen and Sean were. Sean looked to be at least six feet in height. Even sick I could see he was muscular and athletic. And Jen, with her long legs kicked up on the bed, looked like something out of a magazine.
Sean sister was giggling, her eyes focus on the door. I assumed it was because the ICU (and pretty much all of the hospital wards) frowned upon flirty long-legged girls crawling into bed with patients. Clearly, Sean’s sister was trying to set them up. I made it my goal to try to figure out her name. But Sean was barely able to speak and Jen, well she was laughing and smiling so much I could barely make out when her words. Sophie? Sasha? Sara- the name was Sara.
“Hello, Sara?” I whispered in her ear.
Her body visibly shivered.
“Can you hear me?” I asked.
Sara didn’t have a chance to answer. She checked her watch and sprang to the door as the nurse came by to announce the end of visiting hours. She ran interference as Jen moved out of Sean’s bed, quickly hiding in the restroom.
Was Jen going to spend the night? I followed her and watched as she sent a text. ‘Dad- spending the night with my friends.’
“Like you give a shit,” she muttered to her phone as she put it away.
“Dad’s in the hospital,” I said out loud. How could she not know that? I watched as she snuck back into Sean’s bed. I gripped my head in pain, this was not happening.
Isy put her arms around me, resting her head on my shoulder. “That’s enough for today.”
I allowed her to hold me; her light, her warmth lulling me to “sleep.” Ghosts don’t sleep, we just lose chunks of time.
When I opened my eyes I was laying by the hospital entrance. The bright light of the morning sun cut through the glass windows like the flames of hell. Flame? I stood up and touched the window. Sure enough, they felt hot.
The automatic sliding doors opened. Hospital employees carrying coffee cups and breakfast items from the cafe across the street. I heard the fire alarm go off. Out of the corner of my eye, through the side window I see Jen leaving on a red Schwinn bike.
I figured she must have snuck out the fire exit, to make a quick getaway.
Moments later the elevator door opened and my father rolled out in a wheelchair. A nurse was pushing him to the bus stop.
Was that a bus stop? Looking around I realized the last time I saw the ground floor of the hospital was before I died.
My eyes were fixed on the entrance. I could see the outside world- but why? I couldn’t touch the glass but as the staff and patients entered I couldn’t help but wonder- could I walk out?
I took one step then another, just as I crossed the threshold a blast of fire shoved be backward. As i got to my feet I saw my father was in flames. His body was burning; flesh blistering and bleeding, but he wasn’t in pain. He was talking to someone.
“Hello Suzanna,” my father’s voice was weak and hoarse. Flesh from his mouth was burning off. He smiled. I could see his teeth through holes forming in the side of his face.
Suzanna was my mother.
“Diego, were you honestly going to take the bus?” her voice was not human.
“I-I was waiting on the p-patient shuttle…” every word struggled to escape his dying throat. “I-I was going to check in at the veteran’s clinic.”
“God,” she said with a chuckle, “you’re worthless. I don’t suppose you’ve heard from our daughter?” She reached for my father’s phone, in his pant pocket.
“With friends,” my mother chuckled as she looked at the screen, “of course she is.” She placed the phone into my father’s shirt pocket, pressing her hand to his chest.
His body was convulsing, as her hand bore a hole into his chest.
“Mom!” I screamed at the figure made of fire. I threw my arms around her; if she was going to destroy someone she could destroy me!
The fire seared my flesh. But as soon as I stepped back my body healed. One of the perks of being a ghost, I guess.
My mother turned and left. But my father’s body was still a burnt shell, seemingly clinging to life. He attempted to move his arm, but could not reach the wheel to push his chair.
Suddenly Sara rushed past. She looked at my father then looked at the approaching shuttle. “Do you need help, Sir?”
My father gripped his chest, clenching the charred flesh that struggled to cover his exposed sternum.
“Are you okay, Sir? Did you need to get on the shuttle?”
“Me duele el pecho…”
No shit your chest hurts. I was about ninety percent sure that what I was seeing was some kind of emotion-based augmented reality. Either that or Sara had one hell of a strong stomach.
“Estoy aquí, no te dejaré,” she said as she held his hand. Sara screamed in the direction of the emergency room, “I need help!” She helped him out of the wheelchair, laying his body on the floor. With every touch, my father’s flesh began to heal.
Medical staff quickly arrived, helping my father on to a gurney. I watched as Sara touched my father’s arm, caressing the cross tattoo on his shoulder. “Que la luz de los ángeles te guíe en tu camino,” she whispered.
“The angels?” he asked.
Sara nodded. “You’re a good man, I can tell.” Sara smiled sweetly. Her energy was a pure white light. “You remind me of my father.”
“He must be so proud of you.”
“I hope so. He died when my brother and I were kids. maybe that’s why I like to believe in angels.”
“They walk among us,” my father said, in English. I took that as a sign that his mind was healing.
Sara visibly blushed. “I-I should go. I have to get to school. But I’ll be back this afternoon…”
I noticed she didn’t mention WHY she would be back: her sick brother. The way she said it, sounded like she would be back for my dad.
“This is getting creepy.” I appreciated her kindness but my dad was in his forties and there was no way Sean’s sister was over sixteen.
But maybe, she was the miracle I’d been looking for.
check out Sean’s story on-
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Sean has lived with cystic fibrosis his entire life. He falls in love with Jen, a girl with a dark, emotionally painful past. Living with chronic illness, Sean knows a little something about overcoming pain. But when he meets her family, his courage will be put to the test.
Jen’s father, Diego, is a disabled military veteran. He is being mentally and physically abused by his wife, due to his role in the death of Jen’s brother. Accompanied by a mysterious, supernatural, presence, it will fall to Sean to play the hero. All while navigating a life with chronic illness, and chasing his dreams in California.