Luminarist + November 2015 – June 2017: Chapter Two — Death
Celestial Institute, a boarding school for adults, is located on the fabled world of Terra. Only those chosen by the Shining One may enter. People of all walks of life come here to hone their gifts and effect positive change. The newest recruit is Meissa, a young woman anticipating the future.
She becomes fast friends with Nadir, a man with little self-confidence whose guardian is the powerful Zenith. Upon the school throne stands Alhena, the Shining One herself. Backing them is the Acolyte of Archangels. Becoming entangled in Celestial Institute’s inner workings, Meissa knows that everyone has purpose, and her light shines the brightest of them all.
The girl was fine for twenty minutes, and then she scratched at her right forearm. She didn’t notice it, for she was wearing a long sleeved top due to the autumnal weather, but there was a rash developing on this area. As time went by, she scratched the persistent itch more than her pencil was scratching her workbooks. Hives broke out upon her skin, taking its sweet time in its terrible torture. She groaned, in more tears now, it hurt to scratch but scratch she had to, or the aching was unbearable.
Her parents applied chamomile lotion to the affected forearm, thinking of nothing serious. When she began to cry in earnest, they questioned her as to what happened during the day. “I was playing with angels,” she sobbed. “Then I went back to school, got a big headache, and took tablets and the pain went away. But then I started to itch bad.”
They assumed it was an allergic attack, and called the family physician. He was busy with another patient’s appointment, yet the eight-year-old girl was a long time visitor of his. He answered his secretary’s summons, and after hearing of the child’s intake of medication and the possible reaction to it, he insisted to her parents that she be taken straight to the emergency department at the People’s Hospital. It was the closest to their home, and although the reputation of the waiting room wasn’t so great, they had to have her seen just in case.
Her parents decided to drive her there by themselves, not believing that an ambulance and its fifty-dollar charge were appropriate. The girl resisted the urge to tear at her skin as well as she could, preferring to rub hard through her clothing and white autumn jacket. She tried to focus on the trees, their leaves turning colours like a kaleidoscope. The wind moving through their bared branches with little mercy, the leaves snapping from their twigs to descend to the earth.
At the hospital, thankfully the triage system was designed to handle the most pressing cases in a priority sequence, allowing the child to be seen without waiting hours upon hours. She was pronounced to have had an allergic reaction to the medication, and the paediatric care team asked for her to be hospitalized in case she would suffer a case of toxicity. She was given an antihistamine, and put to bed.
An hour later, she had gotten up, claiming that she wasn’t feeling well. She stumbled out of bed, gripped the bar built into the walls to assist people with walking. She made her way slowly and deliberately toward the nursing station, and when she was noticed, one nurse came out from behind the locked glass door and attempted to attend to her. She smiled briefly just before her body collapsed on itself and would have hit the floor if she had not been caught by the arms of the nurse.
She awoke to her bed again, this time she was given instructions to stay there and not force herself to participate in the group activities meant to occupy the children’s minds and need for stimulation. Every twenty minutes, someone would check in on her, talk to her, but she spent the majority of the time staring at the ceiling and pretending that angels were nearby, ministering to her now frail body.
It was not too long before she began to develop a fever.
Her eyes began to burn in the light, and she was put into a room for herself in order to halt complaints from the other paediatric patients about living in perpetual darkness. The curtains were now always shut, and the electrical illumination kept to a minimum. She didn’t like this, but in favour of her constant fatigue and new photosensitivity, she complied with the staff. Her parents came when they could, staying after work until 9pm when visitors were told to return to their homes.
“Can … can you bring me one of my dolls?” she asked her family one day in between coughs and a sore mouth and throat. At this point, solid food hurt her too much, and was now on a soft diet that was gradually being compromised into liquids as she worsened. As promised, her parents brought her a new doll of an angel, with light brown hair curled at the ends, watery green eyes, freckles against a light skin tone, a silver top cut to the side similar to armour, and a flowing creamy dress underneath and extending to cover her legs.
“A gift from that Iris Phoenix place you like to go to,” they told her when she was conscious and awake. “The clerks said they missed their little angel.”
“I’m no angel,” she whispered hoarsely. “Thank you.”
“Do you have a name for her?”
“Her name is Maya.”
“Illusion?” They looked at each other, wondering why their daughter would choose that name. Sure, it was a pretty one, but the undertone of its meaning was something they found distressing.
“If I put my mind to it, this will go away and I’ll get better and go back to school and learn to read properly like I’m supposed to. Isn’t that what some people say, that this whole world is an illusion?”
This child was so young to bear these thoughts.
Whispers of a medical condition floated over to her ears, though she wasn’t able to understand the rumours. Within less than a week, a red-purple rash broke out all over, spreading despite the efforts of the paediatricians. Her face and tongue were swollen, and she was now on a full liquid diet, the food preparatory team taking care to provide fluids that wouldn’t exasperate the blisters in her mouth.
All this time, Maya lay by her head or in her arms, the guardian angel that was unable to care for her charge more than to provide a measure of comfort.
The child was moved into an isolation room as blisters manifested on her skin, bursting as she scratched helplessly. Her entire organ of skin was on fire, and at the sound of her crying deep into one morning, her parents wondered if hell was possible on Earth. Cold, wet towels were placed on her naked body for three nights in a row before even the slightest touch would have her cringing at the contact.
“I can’t even recognize her anymore,” sobbed one parent to the other. “She was such a pleasant little girl. Why her?”
It was as if they were pronouncing her dead already. She couldn’t get the words out to tell them so. She no longer had her faculties of speech or vision. To regain some sustenance, an intravenous needle would be changed every seventy-two hours, a routine cause of distress for her overly sensitive skin, and her lips would be forced to be torn open every morning. Petroleum jelly was quickly losing its effectiveness with the sheer force of this mysterious condition that the girl was unfortunately under the mercy of. She spent most of her time asleep, her blood pressure dangerously low as an infection spread into her bloodstream despite efforts to keep her in isolation and safe from any contaminants.
One night had a doctor and nurse break the news to her struggling family.
She could perceive a loud cry somewhere outside her range of hearing, and a shout of rage. A few minutes possibly passed before the quiet returned as a blessing to her ears. “Goodnight, sweetheart,” they said, kissing her forehead as they were about to leave to return for the afternoon of the next day. She clutched at Maya despite the constant and searing pain. The machinery measuring her vitals would now only alarm if there were spikes in her measurements. The constant beeps only disturbed her.
“Her pulse is rising again,” said one nurse to another. “Blood pressure dropping, liver has inflammation, fever refuses to go down. I’ve got a checklist of all her symptoms here.”
“How much longer?”
“It’s hard to say, but once she goes into shock, which is inevitable at this point, there’s only so much we can do for her. Poor kid. She’s only eight years old.”
“Two conditions are killing this child.”
She wept again that night, softly crying herself to sleep. She didn’t want to die, she was supposed to learn to read properly and grow up to compose children’s stories. She would write stories about angels, not skimping out on the negative influences of the spiritual world but she would’ve focused on the positive. People were afraid of the unknown, she had realized some time ago, and some of that fear had a right to be there. Yet there were wondrous things out there, things she wanted to learn about and communicate to her generation and the one to come. She couldn’t die now.
“Help me, angels,” she whispered, holding Maya as gingerly as she could as the medication took old, tears staining her little olive face, sending her off into a pleasant dream world.
Alhena raced the clock, knowing there was a soul ripe for the picking to carry off to Terra. As Earth’s population grew rapidly, so did the number of deaths per minute, yet Alhena didn’t find this part of the job to be the hardest. It was when she found the dying person – that was the worst part.
Just think of this person as another one night stand, she told herself, and immediately the guilt threatened to well up in her heart. She pushed it down just as quickly. She had a reason for being promiscuous, one that only she could justify. It was her decision to do what she wanted with her body, even if it was cut into her soul like a knife, every time during the morning after she lay with someone else. Someone who wasn’t the one person who could see right through her bullshit, the one she could never hide her wings from, the one she truly longed for.
“Keep my distance,” she would always tell herself. “The pain I’ll suffer in the end isn’t worth clinging to hope.” Never become attached. Never treat her fellow students as more than another tumble in their beds, keep it casual, keep it far removed from her innermost hopes and dreams. “Hmph,” she muttered, “not this sentimental crap again. I don’t have a dream, remember?”
Yes, you do, her heart murmured to her conscious mind.
“Shut up,” she said angrily to herself, “just get the asshole to fuck you once and you’ll never want him again.” This wasn’t the time to be dwelling on the man with red-orange hair, the colour of bricks. She snorted. Bricks. Really? “You have a job from the Acolyte to do, so halt the flow and just get on with it!”
She felt a tug towards a little city in southeastern Ontario, a somewhat homely place, quieter in nature than most of the Greater Toronto Area. Her feathers adjusted themselves as she dashed in flight across the country. She had been in British Columbia, admiring the ocean and there had been an elderly woman she was considering. But no, the pull of this particular soul was stronger, the strongest she had ever felt. Its light would be blinding if she were to examine its essence in its purest state of being. Then she heard its voice, as faint as the breath of a body compared to a raging sea.
“Help me, angels.”
“I may be half angel, sweetie, but I’m certainly not angelic.” The voice that called to her was of a young girl, she was certain that its bearer was younger than even the preteen years. “Oh no,” she moaned. It couldn’t be a child dying. She hated those cases the most. There was a little girl soon to breathe her last, and she wouldn’t be able to stop the oncoming death or prevent the soul from escaping.
She reached the People’s Hospital, following the sound of her victim’s ragged intake and exhaling of air. When she found the little girl with the doll of an angel, she could feel her heart wanting to break. This child was so young, so innocent, brightly illuminated and full of an unlocked potential. It was a shame. Honestly, it was such a real shame to steal this soul away.
Who’s there? A voice was in her mind, one that matched the one she heard asking for help.
“Hello, little one,” Alhena spoke soothingly. She suddenly ached for her partner. If only he were here, perhaps she could work a miracle and spare this child from a premature end to her life. Yet sometimes fate and destiny weren’t always in one’s favour, and she placed her brown hand on the thick dark hair. This had to be the soul that the Acolyte wished for. Her light, though she lay there dying, was incredibly bright like his. She wondered at that, for how could a mere child be equal to the Acolyte of Archangels? She shook her head. She had a job to do.
“It’s time to go, sweetie, I’m going to take you to a place where you won’t suffer like this again.”
Thank you. I hope I see angels in heaven.