Over the next few days, with the help of Leo, I started to get my shit together. I volunteered at the local veteran’s hospital, working in the hospice wing. It was nice, talking to veterans about their lives, families, travels, and dreams. Many of them had grandchildren who loved them more than anything. Those moments truly warmed my heart. And then, within my first week, I had the distinct privilege of witnessing a suicide attempt.
The patient was a man in his late forties, suffering from end-stage lung cancer that already spread to his bones and brain. He’d been undergoing chemo. And somehow he’d gotten to the roof using only his wheelchair.
I watched with a group of staff as we waited for emergency assistance. The man was teetering on the edge, laughing as he leaned back, taking in the warmth of the sun. The sweat was dense on his slender face he clearly a strong reaction to the treatment, or a fever.
I stood with the head nurse. We were less than ten feet away but no one was allowed to approach him other than the base police or hospital security (whoever was available.) “What’s his name?
“Master Sergeant Kent Fuller,” the older nurse said with a sigh. “Poor guy’s got shrapnel in his spinal cord, resulting in partial paralysis and chronic nerve pain.”
“Can I speak to him?”
“You can try, I mean the worst thing that can happen is he tries to jump. But he’s so weak you could easily overpower him.” The head nurse always thought the reliance on hospital security was overkill but the reasoning was ‘legal liability.’ But since I was a non-military volunteer, that was a (somewhat) non-issue.
I took a few steps forward, placing my hand upon his shoulder. I had taken to drinking a tea made of my husband’s magical ashes and it had transformed me into someone who could get through to patients no matter their level of pain (or mental instability.)
The man opened his blue eyes and flinched. “I’m sorry, the pain has gotten really bad.”
“There’s nothing to be sorry for,” I said placing my hand on his shoulder. “We can get you back to bed, help you relax. Everything will be fine.”
The man turned his head, shivering. “Who are you?”
“I’m Elena, one of the new volunteers. You’re Kent, right?”
Kent slowly blinked his dark, sunken in eyes, and smiled. “Are you vet or a dependent?”
“My husband was stationed out of Hawaii.”
That got an even bigger smile as Kent closed his eyes, drifting off to dreams. “Beautiful place, I went there on my honeymoon.”
“Does your wife live here in Arizona?” I regretted the question as soon as the words left my mouth.
“No, she left me a while ago. I can’t blame her. She’s a good mother.”
“…to your child?”
“Her child; the daughter of the nineteen-year-old son of our neighbor. ”
“Oh.” Now I was really regretting my choice of conversation.
“Yeah, no offense to military wives. I know you’re not all cheating whores.” The word ‘whores’ caused him to laugh out loud. “Did I say that out loud?”
“No offense taken,” I said laughing along with him. “You’re actually one of the coolest people I’ve met here.”
“Are you going to stay with me?” Kent asked as he started moving away from the edge.
I turned to the nurse and the newly arrived police; they were nodding. “That’s the plan. I mean, I’ve sighed up to work an eight-hour shift in exchange for allowing my kid to go to school on base. Tell me about you.”
“No much to say. I went in the army as an engineer, spent a good portion of my time halfway around the world, doing things to get stripes on my arm and medals on my chest,” Kent forced a chuckle as his voice choked with emotion. “I wasted my life.”
And that explained why he was on the roof. “What do you do here? do you like to read or watch movies?”
“I used to volunteer my time at the auto shop, on base, I was fixing other people’s cars in exchange for use of the equipment for my truck.”
“The only thing I have to my name; my pride, and joy.”
“Where do you keep it, since you’re staying in hospice?”
“It’s in storage. I’m thinking about donating to the base.” Kent coughed, struggling to breathe.
“Let me give you something for the pain.” I put my arms around him, rocking his face to my chest like a child. With the skin-to-skin touch, I was able to use my newfound powers (Isaiah’s powers) to infuse my lifegiving energy. Somehow I could feel what was part of Kent versus what was cancer and grant him a much-needed boost of strength. I could feel a strong, beautiful, connection- just in time for the head nurse and a few security guards moved Kent to a stretcher.
My power was visible as the man was pulled from my arms. There was an electric, glittery shimmer that seemed to drag from my hand to his. This caused Kent to groan in pain as we were being forcibly separated. It was all I could do not to burst into tears.
In the few moments of our connection I read him like a book. Kent was very sick, but nothing was easing his pain. The doctors blamed it on bone death since the pain was primarily in his chest and joints. But the fact that he had no family; no wife, children, or even elderly parents, that only added to the chronic pain in his heart. I waited in his room, looking out the six-inch window at the shitty desert view.
“When did you get here?” Kent asked as he was wheeled back into his room. He was physically restrained to the bed by his wrists, like a mental patient. (That explained how I managed to get there first.) I didn’t ask the nurses about removing the restraints. I had seen other patients similarly pinned down. (It was allegedly to keep physically, mentally ill individuals calm the way one would for a baby.)
I placed my hand to his throat, covering his adam’s apple. “Take some deep breaths for me.” As I moved my hands down his chest. I could feel his heart beating. But I could also feel massive bruises from many nights of coughing fits. “I’m going to massage your chakra, starting with your mind.” I placed a hand to his forehead. He wasn’t bald but his blond hair was shaved close, in a thin, soft layer.
Kent closed his eyes, leaning into my touch.
“I can feel your mental strength. You’re so creative, smart: I mean you’d have to be, to make to the roof in a wheelchair.”
That got a chuckle but I seriously wondered how Kent managed to get to the roof in a wheelchair.
I stroked my finger to his forehead, down his nose, to his lips. “Next is your third eye, from here I can see that you are very aware of the world around you. And your throat…” I paused, as that was the strongest source of his life-energy. The feeling was practically electric. “Your voice is your passion. Even in your darkest hour, you find strength in standing up for what truly matters; God, love, loyalty. You carry the emotional strength of your service to our country.”
There were tears in the man’s eyes. “You’re fucking beautiful,” he said reaching for my hand. “Talk to me about your husband.”
I took a seat beside him, unbuckling the wrist restraints. “My husband, he passed away a while ago, now it’s just me and son.”
“So are you a witch or something?”
“Did you just call me a witch?”
“A touch healer or whatever. I’ve met a few, but you’re the first who actually caused me to feel anything.”
I started to massage his hand, placing gentle pressure on the bones of his slender fingers. The feeling of my energy flowing into him sent shivers down my spine. It was the good kind of shivers like ASMR. “I learned a little about pressure points and massage from my husband.”
“In Hawaii?” he asked.
“Yeah, sure, Hawaii.” That was the easier answer than attempting to explain marriage to an ocean demi-god.
“Tell me about your son.”
I was about to speak then I noticed something odd. “Why do you have no morphine line?” Other patients in end-stage cancer had a PICC line or at least an IV.
“The last time I allowed them to put in an IV,” Kent said in a whisper, his voice trembling, with fear. “I don’t know what they gave me, but I went into shock, I just blacked out. there was no light, not peace, just death. and I’m not ready for that.”
“Fair enough,” I said with a nod. “But you were ready to throw yourself off a roof?” I stroked my hands over his chest, opening his heart chakra. I could feel a rush of energy; and intense, powerful desire. This was the love and compassion chakra. There was so much love in his heart, the sadness of losing his wife broke him. I needed to change the subject. “So, you’re an engineer? Do you have any experience with suicidal birds?”
“Depends on what’s busted,” he replied with a nod.
“My generator,” I said with a sigh. “The little shits broke my fuel line. And I only found that out when I finished shoveling the rotting corpses into a mass bird-grave.”
“I take it you don’t live on base.”
“I have a place out in the desert, on public land.”
“Maybe I could take a look at it,” he said taking a deep soothing breath. “I could probably cobble together something with duct tape.”
I chucked as Kent’s voice seemed to slip into a southern accent. “I’m not sneaking you out.”
“I can sign myself out,” Kent replied with renewed confidence. “If you decide to leave, I could just roll my crippled ass out to the desert and surprise you.”
“If I took you home like a sad little puppy, what would you be expecting in return?”
Kent shrugged. “A nice warm place to rest my bones, maybe some oral action on my sacral chakra.”
“I don’t think so,” I said moving my hand to his hip and pelvic bone. “Blue-eyed white boys aren’t my type.” I had to bite my lip to hide my smirk.”But I have to admit, I would like to take you home.”
I, of course, asked for staff approval. Much like Kent had said, he was allowed to come and go as he pleased. But as I sighed him out I took notice of the name. “Kent J. Fuller.” Jay Fuller? No way. But how was I supposed to ask if he had a distant ancestor who died in Colorado?
With the blessing of his medical team, I was allowed to check Kent out of the hospital to visit my ‘off-the-grid’ home. Since I would not be able to transport a second person on my bike, I opted to sign out a care vehicle; a large van that was easily traceable by the military police. I figure this would be useful, in case I decided to never come back.
Leo was home, with Matty, playing outside as we pulled up. “Hey, Elena, nice wheels.” I was not surprised to see him, after all, someone had to pick up Matty on days that I worked.
“Thanks, Leo.” I parked the car at an arbitrary space in front of the house. “This is Kent, Kent this is Leo.”
“Are you going to offer him a cup of tea?” Leo asked, as he discreetly motioned for Matty to stop playing with his animal terrarium and say hello.
“I can do that?” I asked in a hushed tone as Matty ran over.
Leo only shrugged. “You might have to.”
“I’ll think about it.” Was he seriously talking about giving Kent some of Isaiah’s ashes?
Kent exited the van using a hospital issue cane instead of a wheelchair.
Matty paused, holding his pet scorpion close. “Hello, Sir.”
“Is that a scorpion?” Kent chuckled. “Well, aren’t you a little Mad Max.”
“My name is Matty,” my little son replied, looking down at his feet.
“You never watched the movie,’Mad Max’?” Kent asked with a chuckle.
I took the opportunity to step between them. “He’s five. Anyway, Matty, this is Kent. He’s a friend who might be able to help fix the generator.”
“But Uncle Leo couldn’t even fix the generator,” Matty said.
Leo looked at me with a comical shrug. “I managed to clear out the water and the septic plumbing but the generator has just proven way too difficult. You’ll see what I mean.”
I grabbed Kent’s hand and lead him to the remains of the ancient generator. But first, we passed by my ‘tea’ stash; an old Folgers tin that appeared to be filled with coffee grounds. Knowing my goal of devouring the entirety of the ashes, I had been consuming about half a cup a day, mixed into water, actual coffee, and sometimes even Gatorade. Just being in its presence, gave me an energetic glow to light my way. I ran my fingers along the side of the can, giving it a soothing tap as if saying hello. I gave me the moment of calm necessary, before opening the door to the garage. “Here it is.”
I could already hear Kent coughing.
The room still reeked of bird shit, rotten blood, and bleach. “Sorry about the smell, without the generator we have no real airflow. I can leave the garage door open if you like.”
“No, I think letting the heat in is why the smell lingered for so long,” Kent said with a sigh, once he caught his breath.
“I don’t need you to mansplain my house for me.” I knew I was correct but if he wanted to stay in the stuffy, unventilated, room that was his decision.
“At the very least you need me to mansplain your generator.” Kent reclined on the ground, looking under the generator as if working on a car. “This thing is fucking massive.”
“Yeah, my husband bought it before I got here.” I had no idea where Isaiah even acquired it.
“Does your nanny-manservant have any tools?”
That choice of language was unnecessary. “Leo is not my manservant.”
“But he is your Man-ny?”
“Leo is a friend of a friend. If you want to assign him a proper title he’s my local pastor or spiritual leader.”
“Well, does your guardian angel have any tools?”
“Probably, but so do I.” I walked over to a red plastic tool chest. The surface texture was well worn, caked with desert sand and dirt from my bike. I was so unbelievably grateful that Leo managed to get my bike back after our four-state adventure.
“So was that your Yamaha, back at the base?” Kent asked as he moved to sit up.
You fucking serious? “Yup.” I grabbed a brand new roll of duct tape. It was the size of my head at least a good five pounds. And I knew for a fact I had not brought the massive item into the house. “Catch.” Without a second thought, I hurled the car-tire of tape directly at his face.
The weight struck him in the nose, causing a wave of blood. I expected him to curse, maybe call me a bitch. But that’s not what happened. Kent laughed, even as blood coated his lips. “Damn, girl!”
Matty ran in, stopping in the doorway. “Mama?” He looked genuinely worried. “Mama, what happened?”
Unlike Leo who arrived with a towel, laughing his ass off.
He tossed me the towel, with a smirk. “I think you need to learn to play nice with others.”
“Fine. I’m sorry,” I said more to Matty than Kent. “That was not very polite of me.” I knelt down, pressing the towel to Kent’s face. Focusing my energy I regrew the cells, healing the broken blood vessels, just enough to stop the mess. With the blood dried, I spit on a clean area of the towel, cleaning the blood from his mouth.
Kent smiled. His eyes closed as if savoring the taste of my salvia. (It was actually kind of sexy.)
“Let me get you some water.” I walked to the kitchen; a hotplate, and toaster next to a sink. There was also a fridge but that ran off the generator so it’s been depressingly empty. Leo had fixed the water of the house by somehow tapping into an underground spring, allowing a stream of cold, clean water.
I was only one room away, so I could hear the conversation. Kent and Leo were joking about my temper but also about household repairs. The conversation shifted to my bike, that was how Leo claimed to know me.
“Elena’s a total gear head, I met her up north,” Leo claimed with sincerity.
“Before or after her husband passed?”
“After. Her husband was a pilot, he had his own thing, but back when Isaiah was alive she devoted her life to him.”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“Sounds exotic,” Kent said with a snort.
“As far as I know her husband was a native pacific islander with some Italian ancestry.”
“Like I said, sounds exotic.”
I couldn’t help but wonder, was Kent’s jealousy in reference to my comment about blue-eyed white boys?
“Here, Matty,” Leo said handing Matty the tape. “Help Mr. Kent tear off pieces of tape to patch up the fuel line.”
“Will we have enough?” Matty asked.
“Only one way to find out,” Leo said cheerfully as he turned towards me. “He took the glass of water from me, handing it to Matty. “You made sure Kent gets a drink, ok?”
“Ok,” Matty replied with a sweet nod.
I grabbed Leo by the arm. “Walk with me?”
“Sure,” he replied with a comical innocence.
I walked him outside before continuing. “Why are you trying to set me up?”
“Wow, someone’s a little full of themselves.” Leo laughed. “What are you talking about?”
“His last name is Fuller,” I said, the argument sounded less logical when spoken out loud.
“That’s a really common last name.”
“What about the fact he looks just like the ghost soldier from Colorado?”
Leo shrugged. “Why don’t you go for a ride?”
“Because my bike is back at the base?”
“Really?” Leo deployed his wings, flapping them for a moment against the sky, until he opened a portal within the fabric of reality, pulling my bike through as if with a magnet. He then paused with a smirk.
“Are you waiting for a round of applause?”
“A thank you would be nice.”
“Ok, you convinced me.” I got on my bike, revving the engine for a moment. “Thank you.” I rode into the desert, hopeful for a fixed generator when I returned. I drove in a straight line until I found what looked like a giant Joshua tree with enough foliage to offer a decent amount of shade. This was nice.
Sitting down, to rest my back, I could feel a strong gust of wind. “Hello, Kay.” I quickly put my helmet back on, anticipating a confrontation. A blast of wind hit me in the side of the head, but the stroke was small, dense, like a human hand attempting to punch me in the face.
The sound was a knock, followed by a splatter. “Oh come on, Elena, don’t be a poor sport, let me rip your head off.”
“I like to see you try,” I said, as I held two hands up in front of my face, inducing a neon green glowing force field.
My sister-in-law scoffed. “I see you’re enjoying my brother’s powers.”
The brother you killed and dismembered. “Isaiah meant for me to have his powers.”
“Oh, no doubt. I’ll just stick around and wait for you to fail the way he did.”
What did she mean by that? “You think I’m going to screw my self over, trying to save Kent, the way Isaiah did when he healed the little boy?
“You’ll need to,” Kay said with a snicker, her wind-sand form gracefully dancing around me. “It’s in your nature, and the fact that he’s a chauvinistic asshole kind of helps.”
“The fact that he’s an asshole?” That was when I remembered where Kay’s remains were; encased in cement under the garage. “You can hear them.”
“Yup,” Kay took a seat beside me. “He thinks you’re a scared little widow who can’t survive on her own.”
“You’re lying.” Although that did sound like something Kent would say. “He did call my Harley Davidson a Yamaha.”
“And let me guess, you didn’t even bother to correct him?”
“He’s sick, he’s lonely…”
“I’d say he’s pitiful.”
I didn’t want to, but I laughed.
“There’s a reason why his wife cheated and left him,” Kay added. “I mean, I don’t know for sure, but I assume he drove her away with the majesty of his vast intellect.”
“He’s a former NCO.”
“Non-commissioned officer? A leader without a college degree?”
“Yeah, those types of people just like to talk.”
Kay laughed as she stood up, taking a few steps back before disappearing into the wind. “I’ll be seeing you around, Sis.”
“No doubt.” I leaned back, resting my head so sleep.
“Hey, Babe.” Isaiah appeared at my side, holding a dandelion.
That was how I knew it was a mirage, dandelions were too fragile to grow wild this far in the desert. “Hi. I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too,” he said in his soft surfer voice. “I just came to say, if you want to save Kent using my magic, I won’t be upset.”
“Because you’ll be gone.” I reached for his hand but there was nothing to grab. “Will I at least get to keep my powers, your powers? I kind of like being able to help people.” Or would it take 100% of Isaiah’s magic to cure Kent?
Isaiah turned and stroked my cheek. His skin felt like pure energy. “Whatever you choose, Elena, I will be proud of you.” He leaned in close, brushing his lips to mine. “I’ll never be truly gone. But in a blink, he was gone, vanished from my life.
Feeling like absolute crap, I got back on my bike. The moon was already high in the sky. I could only hope Leo gave Matty and Kent some dinner. “This day could not get any worse.”
I parked in the empty garage, going straight inside the house to find where everyone was. “Hello? anyone here?”
I headed to the bedroom to find Kent in my bed, in my husband’s place. He had taken a shower, and changed into some of Isaiah’s old clothes. I would have been upset if not for the fact he was in the fetal position, grasping his chest in pain. “Kent, you ok? Do you need to go back to the hospital.”
“No,” he started to cough, with each breath he clenched at his chest. “I just need some water.”
I had paused, unsure if I should go for water, the magic tea, or just carry him back to the van.
“I’ll take him back,” Leo offered, stepping into the room. I watched as he gently stroked Kent’s face down his sweat covered cheek. “He has swollen lymph nodes, if we don’t get him back on a respirator he will be unable to breathe on his own.”
I wiped tears from my eyes. “Sure, do what you need to do.”
“I can also come back and transport the van, return it to the base.”
“Thanks that would be very helpful.”
“Try and get some sleep.” Leo lifted Kent’s limp body off the bed. As he turned to leave he made a show of turning on the lights.
I couldn’t help but smile. “He fixed the generator?”
“Yeah,” Leo said with a nod. “He’s something special.”
With Leo gone, and Matty asleep. I was left alone with my thoughts. What did I want to do? What could I do?