It’s a strange country, that between life and death. A place so many live in yet even more fail to recognise. No one ever recognises the truth when it’s up close to them, which is why this world of ours co exists so well within another.
It’s a way of life to me now. I’ve been doing this line of work for countless years. So it doesn’t surprise me when I find myself beside another hospital bed on another hospital ward. The beds all containing a sick or dying child, much the same age I was once a long time ago. May explain why I am always given these jobs in particular.
The bed before me has a girl, no more than twelve years old, chest monitors and tube drips clinging into her body. Her head covered in bandages and dressing and stitches. A woman in her middle ages lies across her, head wrapped in her arms. A doctor and nurse stand close behind her, the nurse resting a caring hand on the woman’s shoulder whilst the doctor’s hand halts over several buttons beneath the now blank and silent screen of the machine next to the bed.
I take my list out of my pocket and double check her name.
“Rachel. Wake up Rachel.” I call soothingly as my voice echoes around the soundless ward. No one else hears or sees me but her. I am only visible to those who I must awaken.
The girl stirs, her eyes opening slowly as if from a deep, deep sleep. She takes a quick glance around her before finding me at the end of her bed.
“Hi.” Is her simple nervous answer. Her gaze quickly returns to her mother lying across the bed but not moving. “Mum? Mum?”
“Let her rest Rachel, you’ve given her quite a scare getting hurt like this.”
Pained eyes fix back onto me. “It was…It wasn’t…I didn’t mean to.” A fearful voice replies.
“I know Rachel; I know it was your Dad. Shall we go take those bandages off? They must be uncomfortable.” I offer my hand to help her out of the bed. She seems hesitant. They all are, especially the younger ones. I have an easier time scraping off concrete then removing a toddler from their parent’s side. “It’s ok. My name is Lizzy. The nurse says I can help you clean up and then take you for an ice-cream whilst your mum rests.”
As expected she looks to the nurse and doctor standing on the other side, their heads turn, their faces smile and give a slow nod, their eyes unblinking.
“Come on, your mum will be here when we come back.” If anything it’s the worst line I have to say and I hate saying it each and every day. Mainly because I was told it once. “Promise.” I put on my childish voice and give her a motherly smile.
She turns to the nurse and doctor again who remain looking down at her with pleased smiles before she agrees. I escort her down the empty corridors towards the nearest toilets. Once inside I slowly encourage her to take the bandages off. As each wrap peels away to reveal fresh new skin her eyes widen at the sight and eyes glisten with wonder at the now vanished presence of pain. “The doctors have made you all better see. Your mum will be so happy to see this.” I say trying to suppress any rising questions or doubts she has brewing in her mind.
With a bit more trust towards me I take her down three floors to the sunny garden area outside and to the ice-cream man with his push around ice-cream trolley. With a bit more encouragement she picks mint chocolate chip whilst I settle for vanilla. I go over to a bench to sit down in the deserted garden with my ice-cream Rachel follows, her eyes still looking around with interest, suspicion and curiosity at our loneliness.
“Would you like another treat?” I ask giving my biggest friendly smile.
“What is it?”
“Ah can’t say it’s a surprise. It’s a present for being such a brave girl. Your mum wants me to give it to you. If you promise to wait here I will go get it for you?” It only took another appealing smile for her to say yes.
I walked casually away behind the large trimmed bushes bordering the top end of the garden and waited whilst an old couple walked out after me towards Rachel. I watched from just behind the leading edge of the hedge as they stopped half way looking upon her with all the love in the world. It didn’t take long for Rachel to notice them and for a solid minute she merely stared at them, her ice-cream held aloof in one hand and the other over her mouth to prevent herself from screaming.
“Grandma? Grandpa?” came a truly shaken voice.
“My dear Rachel.” The woman muttered lovingly, her voice clearly filled with longing as she took a few more steps forward towards her.
“Is it really you? You’re meant to be dead? You died. You both died.”
“Come here and see if I’m not real young miss.” The man muttered with an affectionate grin as Rachel shrugged away all doubt, fear and panic and charged into their open arms. Shrieks of delight and tears erupted out of the reunited family.
My job was done. The Grandparents will explain the situation far better than I ever could. It was going to be painful, it always is but all those who cross over must go through it if they intend to survive on the other side. As I walk away all the trio will see is a young girl. The only remaining image of me even though my mind has far outgrown my body. Perhaps one day, Rachel might become a soul guide like me and help others like I did with her.