My mom always said, "Sam, you must be kind to the people around you". Since then, I have always been a good boy. She is my role model. I learned a lot from her. She is very enthusiastic about things and the people around her. Unlike my father: a laid-back character who enjoys his frequent naps. But I look up to him too. He taught me how to be confident and stand up for myself. He took me on walks with him and always protected me from the huge metal pieces that whizzed past on the road. Whenever we went for a walk, people always pampered me. They told me how chubby and cute I was. These are the things I remember of the very early stages of my life. But these happy days did not last for long.
One day I woke up shivering. At first, I thought it was due to chillness and snuggled closer to my mom under the covers. The shivering did not stop. I had continuous goo coming out of my nose. My legs felt as if they were tied to heavy metallic balls as I couldn't move them. I became scared and started crying. My mother became concerned and panicked. She was desperate for help and reached out to John as my father was out running some errands. Our family knew John for some time then.
John is a middle-aged man who lives with his wife Stacy and his children Ron and Luke. We usually go on picnics with them in their car and have sing-along sessions on the way. Ron, Luke, my siblings, and I play catch as it is an entertaining game for us. We love this game a lot. After an exhausting session, we eat and run around until it's dinner time. Sorry for the short detour. I wanted to introduce John properly since he is a well-wisher of our family.
John rushed me to the hospital. He reassured my mom before carrying me out of the house. He put me on the rear seat and reversed the car from the ramp onto the road. We drove the similar route we usually take to the park as the hospital was a few blocks further . He pulled up in a spot closer to the hospital door and parked the car. John then carried me inside the hospital.
As we entered the hospital John went to the receptionist desk and said, "This is Sam. He is not feeling well. He is shivering and is feeling weak."
The nurse at the front desk who should have been tired of seeing all the ill patients day in and day out rather looked energetic. Patting my head she said, "Don't worry Sam. We'll get you alright" and asked us to follow her. Walking through a double door the nurse showed us into a room and informed the doctor. John then made me lie on the bed.
After an initial observation, the doctor said he would like to run some tests on me. John assured me I was in safe hands. I was rolled into the general ward until the testing equipment was set up. This is where I saw Becky for the first time. She was blonde and seemed older than me. She was hooked onto a liquid-filled pouch by a tube. She followed her head as I was being rolled into the spot near her bed. Feeling anxious, I lay there wanting to see my mom. Seeing me worried, with her feeble voice asked, "Hey bud. All okay?".
Not knowing how to react, I said, "I want to see my mommy".
"Where is she?".
"She is in my home taking care of my siblings. John brought me here."
"Oh! right, John. He is such a good man!"
I amused, "You knew John!"
"The way you said I thought I was supposed to know," she said sarcastically.
I shyly told her, "He is a great person and he readily brought me into the hospital as soon as I fell sick."
"I see, what happened?"
"I started shivering this morning when I got up. I couldn't move my legs. I also threw up two times on my way to the hospital."
"Oh my god!", she barked with concern.
The nurse came in and asked us to keep quiet and asked Becky not to move. She then turned towards me, gave a kind pat on the head, and told me not to worry.
"That's what they say", Becky whispered with bitterness as soon as the nurse left.
"They say you'll be fine and end up again in this place poked with needles. I hate needles"
"Do needles hurt?"
"They are painful. But I like the biscuit they give afterwards", she said with a drool from her mouth. Weird. But 'Biscuit'. YUM!
"Do you think I'll get an injection?", I feared. My gut wrenched.
"You know what? Last year I was admitted for similar reasons: shivering, vomiting, and weakness of my legs. That was the first time I remember getting an injection. I think you would also get one".
It was not good.
"But I will become better after the injection, Right?"
"Well...you'll feel better now, but cannot assure you will be better hereafter. Poor Justin. "
"Justin was my elder brother. He passed away when he was 15 years old". Her face filled with sorrow. "He was wise and knew a lot of things for his age."
"Yes! He was smart and taught me a lot of things. I also remember him telling me that death is inevitable for 'US' especially anybody admitted into this hospital unlike people like...what's his name...? Ah! John"
My eyes opened wide. She said a lot in a very small amount of time. I couldn't process the information completely. She casually said we are going to DIE.
"People like John are kind of... immortal." Becky said.
"Immortal? What does that mean?"
"It means someone who doesn't die. I learned this word from Justin. See, I told you he was smart."
I did not know how to respond.
A nurse came by and rolled me out of the room for the extra tests and that was the last time I saw Becky. But her voice kept haunting me. Death...Immortal...Biscuits...YUM!!!, and again Death...Immortal...in a repetitive loop.
I cannot remember what tests the doctor ran on me till date and only remember coming out of the hospital as I wanted to escape that wretched place.
I was worried the entire ride back to my house.
Once I came home the first thing that I did was cry out all I had heard in the last 3 hours to my parents. My dad was back home by then. Listening to me very patiently he said, "Son. Sit down. We need to talk".
The last time he said "We need to talk", I was in deep trouble for running around the house and breaking a vase. This time he said it with concern.
Giving my mom a sideways look he continued, "You are old enough to know some hard truths".
"You see our John? He is blessed with the ability to live longer than us."
"Is he immortal?"
"Immortal?", my father barked with laughter. "He is not immortal. He just lives longer. That's all. You did learn some words today. Didn't you?"
Feeling shy and proud I nodded my head gleefully.
My father continued, "But don't worry Sam, I remember my mother telling me, 'Dogs and their masters will live happily ever after in heaven'."
Not knowing how to respond I replied, "Woof ".
PS: To all the humans reading this, when I have a conversation with my family it's not always cute. Even we have existential crises. I would also like to thank Aushwath and his friends for helping translate the high level doggo lingo to low level human lingo.