The clinical lights overhead cast a fluorescent hue over everything they touched, the beams reaching out and causing multiple shadows where only one should exist. I breathed in the bubblegum scent of industrial cleaner, pleasant to most, but to me it brought connotations of desperation and, in the end, death.
Humans robed in blue or white shuffled past, deep in thought, sometimes with a stethoscope lying around their neck or a pen hanging from their breast pocket. My long black hair danced in the wake of their movements.
Dr. Johnson sat at the desk, his head in his hand, the bridge of his nose white under the pressure of his pinch. Waves of sadness and helplessness rippled around him. A human angel, of that I had no doubt. Each death hit him with the force of an emotion usually reserved for kin.
The sharp screech of rubber soles hitting linoleum burst through the clinical hum as another nurse entered the pediatric intensive care unit. Nurse Tom Elson stopped at the desk occupied by Dr. Johnson. “Has Tiana made any improvement?” His smooth baritone swirled like velvet through my ears, a stark contrast to the high-pitched punch of the machinery.
Dr. Johnson dropped his hand from his face, his blond hair wisping across his forehead as he shook his head. “We’ve tried everything, Tom. Her internal injuries are just too much for her little body to cope with and her brain is no longer responsive.”
Tom hung his head, his intake of breath stuttering as he took in the gravity of Tiana’s situation. “Have you told her parents yet?”
Standing up, Dr. Johnson flipped through a brown folder. “They’re waiting in the case conference room. First time they’ve stepped away from her bed since she was admitted.”
My footsteps made no sound as I passed them by. Tiana lay on the cusp of death, her parents about to be presented with the most horrifying choice; allow her to lay in a motionless state for the rest of her life or switch off the machinery feeding air to her tiny lungs.
Not on my watch.
My feathers ruffled as I stepped through the automatic door leading to Tiana’s room. My wings had once been white, emitting an ethereal glow. With each bad choice I made, the white had faded, replaced by a dull gray. Soon they would blacken and I’d be forced to wander the earth for eternity. An easy choice, considering the difference I could make.
Tiana lay like a creature of the most heavenly origin, her brown skin already taking on the pallid gray of looming death. Bright hair ties shaped like candy bunched her black hair into neat pigtails. I smoothed my hand over the crisp white sheets. Her tiny body took up not even half of the bed. The rippling light around her dimmed with each passing minute.
I took one quick glance around the room, focusing on the door to make sure no one approached. With a trembling hand, I reached out, and using only my index finger, I touched her cheek. The medical apparatus around her disappeared. Her eyelids fluttered, then opened. Two swirling pools of chocolate stared up at me. Her small nose scrunched as a smile stretched to her eyes, causing a bright twinkle.
“Are you my angel?” Tiana’s small voice asked.
My heart swelled at the melodious breeze of her words as they danced in the air. “Yes, sweetie.”
It would do her no good to tell the truth. Children were virtuous creatures and giving her the reality behind the offer about to breeze from my lips would result in a choice no child should make.
The pillow rustled as Tiana tipped her head. “Are you here to take me away ‘cause I don’ts wanna leave my mama and papa yet. That would make them very sad and I don’ts wanna make them sad.”
I trailed my finger down the silken softness of her cheek. “Wouldn’t it make you sad, too, little light?”
“O’course, buts I more worried ‘bout them.” Her dry, flaking lips pulled into a grin. “Buts you’ll take care o’ them, right?”
My heart stuttered.
This is why I do this.
“Tiana, I’m here to take care of you. Are you ready?”
Tiana studied me for a moment, her eyebrows bowing to touch the top of her button nose. “Watcha gonna do?”
Bending down so our noses touched, I moved my head from side to side. A light rumble worked its way from her chest, then out of her mouth in a musical fit of giggles.
Without waiting for my answer, Tiana closed her eyes and said, “I’m ready.”
Standing upright, I clasped her petite hands in mine. A bolt of power surged from my chest, travelling down the length of my arms and out of the tips of my fingers. My skin tingled as it left my body and entered Tiana’s, spreading out like a silver network of veins beneath her skin. As it waved out, her heart stumbled and her skin flourished, her cheeks glowed a subtle red. The machine to the left of her bed shrieked setting off an alert to the staff to hurry.
Letting her go, I stepped back as the medical apparatus reappeared and Tiana fell silent.
As I turned to walk away, the door swished open, Dr Johnson and Nurse Elson rushing to Tiana’s bedside. Stepping out into the corridor, the agonizing sobs of Tiana’s parents greeted me. I brushed my fingers against their clasped hands; a whisper that they were not alone.
As I approached the exit, a familiar throb began between my shoulder blades, spreading out to touch the edge of my wings.
I tipped my head to the side when Dr. Johnson’s voice swept toward me as he spoke to Tiana’s parents. “I don’t quite know how to put this, but the machines recorded a surge of activity in Tiana’s brain, then her vitals improved to an almost normal level.”
The doors swung shut behind me, blocking out any further conversation. I smiled through the pain gripping my wings as gray morphed to black. As I exited the hospital, thunder boomed in a show of disapproval. Shrugging my shoulders, I spread my little black wings and lifted from the ground.