A flat whining tone entered Bankal’s ears and was quickly followed by people yelling. His eyes widened to see two nurses performing CPR. One bent down and pushed her breath into Alex’s mouth. His chest expanded and she pulled back and let go of his head which fell to the side. He could see a monitor showing a flat green line. Alex’s heart was not beating. Seconds passed. The whining tone subsided.
The green line on the monitor moved. A heartbeat.
Alex tried to speak to his mother. Nothing came out. His throat was dry. His tongue felt thick. He turned his head, and the nurse helped to lift it.
“There you are!” He could smell tuna fish.
“Water,” a nurse said. A second nurse passed white bottle with a curved, rigid straw. The nurse lifted Alex’s head forward and squirted the warm liquid into his mouth. Alex coughed and mouthed, “More.”
His mind wandered to The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy gave the tin man oil.
“Dad?” Alex whispered, trying to look around.
“Yes, son,” His father quickly replied. The thin man reached for Alex’s hand and clasped it between his fingers.
“Did I die? I don’t want to die,” Alex coughed out. “I don’t want you to worry about me.”
His father said nothing. Tears fell down the man’s cheeks. He squeezed Alex’s hand and quickly left the room. Anna appeared at the side of the bed. The nurse pulled up a chair for Anna to sit and she did.
Anna grasped his hand. “You scared us. Was this another journey?” Anna said. Her voice was full of hope, but he could see the pain behind her smile.
Alex remembered he had decided not to speak of his travels. He couldn’t bear the worry it caused Mark and Anna.
“I was right here, Mom.”
She tilted her head to the side and raised an eyebrow. “Well, I am glad you came back to us,” Anna said and touched a cool cloth to his forehead.
The room began to flicker. Alex winced, trying to hold onto his bed sheets. His weak hands would not grip them. Bankal no longer had control over this body. The sudden feeling of weightlessness gripped at his belly. He reached down. There was nothing to touch. Bankal hovered and looked down upon Alex’s mother now. He watched her shake Alex’s hand and turn toward the door, her mouth open in a yell, but he could not hear her words. That flat whining tone was there again. Nurses burst into the room pushed Anna aside. The monitor by the bed showed a single flat line.
“Mom!” Bankal yelled to her loudly, urgently. His voice was not Alex’s dry rasp, as it was seconds ago. She couldn’t hear him.
Please, give me just one more sentence. Just one more thing to say. I can’t leave her like this. She needs to know where Alex is going. I need to know where I’m going.
For the next few hours, Bankal hovered. Somehow, he was unable to transport. Mark came in and pulled Anna away. They held on to each other and left the room. Nurses covered Alex’s head and arms with sheets and wheeled the bed out of the room. Soon after, a cleaning crew arrived. When they finished, the room looked sterile, as though he had never been there. This finality, without any closure, was overwhelming to Bankal. He wept without tears, wondering why he hadn’t transported.
Why am I stuck? What is there to do in a world with no body?
Maybe this is the real life, and the rest were dreams. Anadel.
Suddenly, the door thrust open as two nurses pushed a bed into the room. They parked it in the same place as before. There was someone in it, covered in a lump of blankets. The form lay on its left side. A nurse checked the chart and turned to a woman in the doorway. They passed words Bankal could not hear.
The form shifted in the bed. The woman turned and sat, just as Alex’s mother had sat by him. As the blankets dropped from the face, so did Bankal’s heart. It was a boy. A very sick boy. The bandana barely covered his tiny, bald head. His skin had a familiar gray tinge.
“I don’t understand. Why is this happening?” Bankal said, but there was no one to hear him.
The work suddenly faded to blackness. A moment later, a light gleamed. Bankal breathed a sigh of relief. He wasn’t in the hospital room anymore.
He hovered at eye level to Mark and Anna. They were outside. It was raining. They stood, overlooking a casket. It sat beneath a tent, protecting them from the raindrops. There was a priest dressed in black, flipping through the pages of a Bible. To the left of the casket, was a mound of dirt covered with an old strip of fake green grass. The right side had a single group of flowers in front of a picture on a tripod. It was a picture of Alex smiling when he was eight. That was the year he got sick.
The priest said his prayers which seemed dry, detached, and too generalized. Bankal wondered how many times the priest had read such empty passages or how often the same fake grass had been used at other funerals.
Anna paused and picked a rose from the bouquet. She placed it on the casket. Her mouth moved, as if she wanted to say something, but nothing came out. Tears streamed down her checks. After a long pause, she kissed her fingertips and touched the casket.
“Goodbye, my sweet boy. I love you.”
Anna left the tent. Someone held an umbrella and walked with her in the rain. Mark stayed with the casket. The air felt thick. Mark leaned over and put both hands on the casket. He spoke to his son in a low, quivering voice.
“I know you think I didn’t believe you and your stories. I’m sorry. I don’t know how to do this.”
His voice broke, and sobs choked his words.
“I can only hope your journeys brought you peace. I hope that anyone who met you knows how wonderful you are. I will miss you, my little traveler.”
He wanted desperately to hug his father.
The image began to flicker.
He wanted to reach out, to tell him he loved him. He could only watch through the flickers as his father grabbed a handful of dirt. Mark tossed the dirt over the top of the casket, and everything disappeared.