It was a clammy hospital bed and the flowers were spent and faded. S leaned over to see if they had taken her roommate away but the duvet on the other bed was bunched up so she couldn’t really tell. She hadn’t heard anything from that side of the room in days but she could still feel some kind of presence over there. Human? It reeked. No medical staff had come for days but the machine appeared to be keeping S nourished for now anyway. Do they ever leave you alone in hospitals for this long? It seemed somewhat outrageous.

Her favorite thing to do was to walk through all the rooms in her father’s house and smell the onions he was frying in the kitchen, smell his pipe smoke in his study, listen for the creak of the stairs as she walked down to the sitting room. She would do this all day long lying in her hospital bed.

Other times she listened to the hum of the machinery. She would hone in on the sound and hours would pass. HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM…

There was a time when her day would start with an abrasive clang clang clang and she’d be in the shower, waking up before the sunrise. She’d go to the plant, put on her radiation suit, and flip switches and load carousels. Lunch she’s spend on her cellphone talking to Marty who worked in the plant adjacent.

Sometimes she’d stare at the carousel ten minutes and wonder if she’d already loaded it with radioactive isotopes. She had done the same routine so many times that she would forget she’d done it the second after completion.

There were no leaves on the trees outside the hospital now, which helped her remember winter was coming.

She wondered if her roommate was dead? Sleeping quietly? Did they sneak in and take her out in the middle of the night?

S sat upright, pulling all the tubes taut that went to the machine. All she saw over there was a big mound of duvet and pillows. But there could easily have been a person, underneath.

One by one she disconnected the tubes. They leaked and hissed as she swatted them all aside. She hung her white legs over the edge of the bed. Placed her feet on the cold linoleum. Walked unsteadily toward the other bed, pressing her gown close. When she was near enough she saw the dead body and, even though it was what she expected to see, she was still shocked.

So shocked that she didn’t go back to her own bed. She went to the hall. A hall that had been lit and lively with people when she first arrived and that was now dark and littered with fall leaves that must have blown in through a window somewhere.

The emergency lights were on and S stumbled ahead, determined to find another survivor.



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