The Gift

2016/04/07

A short story / anecdote about healing and sacrifice

I had a little time to reflect, while my sister wheeled me through the rapidly narrowing hospital corridors on the squeaky wheelchair we borrowed from my father's room. Narrowing? Yup, the corridor was definitely getting narrower... and hazier. I bit down on the inside of my cheek, fighting to stay clear-headed; to stay conscious.

I had always had the... I guess you'd call it a gift, though at this point I have my doubts. I touch a sick person while thinking about their pain, and it just flows into me, like ice-water. Usually the pain only reaches my fingers, with little actual damage, as long as I keep to small-time sprains and the occasional cold. A tough flu could give me bruises all over my arms, or slowly morph into a migraine that lasted for hours. This one time I lost a finger to what the doctors called 'frost bite'. It happened when I cured our dog's broken leg.

"Almost there, Tommy", I hear my sister sob behind me, "hang in there just a little longer". I try to muster a gallant nod, but my head is hanging low. We fly through a white double-door with a loud bang.

The news came as a shock to us all. I mean, Heaven must have it in for the lot, to have the whole family diagnosed with brain cancer within a month of each other. Mom had been the first, and once the doctor found the cause of her dizziness and brain-fog, father and I also got scanned. I think that, after that, sis went in just as a last 'fuck you' to the almighty, calling out his bluff. Well, we all had it. And it was terminal.

Was. I had 'touched' my father and sister a minute ago.

I made my decision after the first round of chemo, but it took a while to talk my sister into helping. The tumor was bad, but the treatment... It turns you into a corpse. We saw our father throw up his stomach in the toilet, while mother was too weak to get up from the bed and hold his hand. Just laying there, with empty skin hanging from her bones. There was no laughter in our house. No life. Nothing. The fact that sis took any convincing is a testament to how stubborn she is.

Chemo starts by killing your appetite. Then it zaps your strength and goes to town on your dignity. We were all sleeping on plastic sheets in no time. Death ain't pretty, be it fast or slow. And death was what was written on our oncologist's face during every checkup. But this time would be different.

I snapped awake in mother's room. Sis was on her knees in front of me, her hair a mess, face wet with tears. But no longer sickly pale. I tried to reach out to mother, but couldn't. Sis got up silently behind me, and lifted me on the bed. I felt her tears fall down my cheek, mixing up with my own.

I struggled to keep my eyes focused on mother. My sister brought my hand to her unconscious face, and we wept together. I caught sight of my own left hand. It was as black as a tomb.

Then I felt an ocean of hurt wash through my body. I was right to leave mother last. She was the furthest gone, and I had to give it my all.

My every nerve-ending reverberated with waves of pain, over and over. I couldn't hear my sister anymore. I couldn't see my mother anymore. I couldn't feel my body anymore. There was only suffering, sickness and loss, echoing for eternity. I embraced it all.

And then it was gone.

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This story was originally posted on Reddit, /r/WritingPrompts, with the instruction:
You can cure people from diseases or illness but only by sacrificing something important of your own. The worse the disease, the bigger the sacrifice. Your entire family has debilitating cancer.