They wheeled her in, screaming, swelling with life. A large woman and her still growing foetus, the latter being slowly and all too soon ejected from his motherly chamber, that origin of the world. As I mopped the white floors, nauseous from the sharp smell of the cleaning agents, the nurses and a doctor rushed the woman down the corridor where I’m sure there were devices for both mother and child. Curious, I feigned to clean outside that room to see if the mother would keep her life, if the child would begin a new one. I heard the doctor spouting orders to the nurses; the doctor, that clean blue-eyed and manicured gentleman who would never say good morning to me, the lowly janitor. He, to whom I say, “Excuse me, please” when needing to walk by as he blocks my way, never responds with even a derogatory remark. I don’t exist in his high plain, and he can’t see me way down here in the valley of the sallow.
They put the tubes into the wailing mother, the nurses controlling their concern, the doctor barely containing his pomp. No, he could hardly repress the feelings of godhood stemming from his gift of the restoration of life. Only he can help the divine put a soul into that foetus, lying cold still inside its warm home. Mother’s body spasmed and she cried out while the doctor, wrist deep in the ooze of genesis, pulled out the gray juicy mass of the baby. Following was a deluge gushing from between her thighs and splashing across the table and onto the floor where I’d have to clean it up.
The mother begged to the Lord to save her child while the nurses cleaned her and assured her health. The doctor swooped the form of the baby onto another table where he produces several devices, and so with tubes of chemicals and paddles of lightening he brought a soul from that place and guided it into its new fleshy home. It attained this world with a gasp of breath, and how that soul fought to stay in the weak body. It sucked at the life sustaining air, its little heart strained to pump the new blood. The child’s body and soul together struggled for the plateau for life and now no other could help him. Life or death was his decision now, but so strong he was becoming as he continued to live on minute by minute in the living realm of flesh and feeling.
“He’s stable now,” the doctor said, emotionless, as he ripped off his gloves and stalked out without a glance to the mother.
“Congratulations, mommy!” said a nurse. A sweet woman I watched around the hospital for a few months now. She had the spirit of a saint, giving her life to loneliness in order to help those in need; but in this she feels joy. “You both need to rest now, you’re both exhausted.” The mother’s eyes were still closed and she breathed heavily, still recovering from the pain and exertion of birth.
When I saw the excitement had passed I finished mopping blood and other liquids from all the floors and cleaned all of the toilets and changed all of the garbage bags, as I do every day. I washed out my mop and the bucket and rinsed my hands and left without saying goodnight to the nurses or the doctors or patients, like I never do. I’m just a janitor and whenever words are exchanged I am reminded of that fact, so I take care to see that few words as possible pass.
I arrived home late, as always, and opened a bottle of beer and smoked a pack of cigarettes. They don’t allow smoking anywhere on hospital grounds and there is little time in the morning, so I usually smoke an entire pack or more at night. I drink and smoke my dinner and usually pass out in the chair watching basic cable on an old tube TV. That night I was lost in my mind. I only drank five beers and smoked twelve cigarettes; I actually made it to my bed for a change. In my soft clean bed I looked up at the stucco ceiling, pieces crumbling down sometimes falling in my eye. I thought of the child and the strength the newborn had. Such power. What will that mindless hundred ounces of flesh become? What will the world do to him and what will he do to the world?
I turned around in my bed all night and thoughts tortured my being. I thought of that child. Such strength! In this world such strength can do wonders, can create such joy, so many good things. It can also pulverize this planet, obliterate all that there is, good or bad. I didn’t know if this strength in the child was good or bad. Or worse! What if it is nil? What if that strength does not matter? He could be as a beggar in the streets with a million dollars in the bank he can’t spend. Strength can destroy the one in which it springs. Useless power, eating away, a great soul held captive crying at the bars of the cage the world puts on us all. Psychosis will ensue and the mind and eventually the body will waste away because being wasted. Or, like me, the child’s spirit will die and he will accept his role as an ordinary functioning member of society, thrall to the machine called “the world”. Like all else, he will be a flat, cold shadow.
I cried hard at these thoughts. I would have gashed my veins open that night if it weren’t for the fear, my other master, but the one that lets me feel human at least some of the time. But I do have some power. I realized I had the power to save that child. I can send him, painlessly, where he will go eventually. If not he will take himself, or the world will slowly send him, piece by piece, starting with his sanity.
So with tired red eyes and dirty, oily, thinning hair I pulled on wrinkled clothes from the pile in the corner of my one room in an old house. In the dead of the city night I went to the subway, I alone with the people of the streets. My people, maybe. I’ve a roof, leaking and infested, but a wonderland for them. They all asked me for money between sips from paper bags, or merely sat there with a cup extended, expecting passers-bye to oblige them. All the bums shuffled around, drank, slept, talked in craggy, drunken, medicated voices. All but one. He looked away as I studied him, tearing at the eyes as he picked through the trash. One who, I think, did not choose.
As I approached he tried his best to ignore me. He looked like the rest except for the lack of a paper bag and his effort to keep away from me, and the sense that he had some semblance of sanity left. Some sense that he knew what he was to the rest of us.
"Do you want help?" I asked.
Hundred-year-old eyes looked out from a fifty year old face. I saw the future, I saw myself in a few short years, the child in a few short decades. He nodded his head at my question and he reached for me, the tears coming quicker. He grimaced with woe and regret. I felt the self-hatred in his grip as he took my hand.
“I’ll help you,” I said.
He gave me such control over him and was near dead weight in my arms. I guided him backwards to the wall of the station and slammed his head against it until his eyes told me he left. Then I deposited his frail body onto the rail pit just inside the darkness where the platform ends and the tunnel begins again. When the train came I couldn’t hear his brittle bones breaking over its roar. I got into the front car when it stopped and felt good. What I did was good.
When I ascended from the subway station I saw, surrounded in the blackness, the bright beacon of the hospital. I entered and walked the empty white walls to where the child lay. I saw him there, the baby, the tubes, the monitors; all one creature. The child was more computer than human, machines pumping fluids into him, breathing the air into his throat. Machines were its organs. The machine child woke silently as I took these things away; as I pulled out the tubes and removed the monitors his blind eyes sought me. The alarms went off, a quiet beeping as the tubes now dripped liquids on the very floor that I had spent hours cleaning that day, and every day prior for years; I would not clean it for much longer, a silent vow to myself.
In my mind I pressed my thumb against the little nose and mouth and he struggled as if he already had a consciousness, as if he knew what life was, but certainly not what it would be, for he would not struggle if he knew that. In my fantasy I saved him from that terrible knowledge. The tiny hands gripping at me with so much infantile strength, such a will in those little hands, such a wanting to go into the world. In a short time the soft nails stopped scratching at me and I stood there alone with monitors screaming out my guilt, accusing me of a thing that should be praised.
In the world my hand, a planet next to his tiny being, approached his face. I couldn't do it. I tried, I willed my hand forward, tried to pull my beautiful plan from my brain and put it in the world.
I took my hand away and cried. I went home, and by the time I got back to bed, it was time to wake up to go back to work.
At the hospital I was in my janitor's closet mixing my chemicals for the day's work. That's when I saw the police walking down the hall. As I mopped near the nurse's station I heard talk of that new mother trying to kill her new baby by pulling out all the tubed. It is frail and she's poor, she cant' take care of it. Poor woman. Or she should have called social services and get it a good home, her solution is to kill it?
The Doctor's solution; lock all of those people up. If they can't afford kids sterilize them! The kid's gonna be a drug dealer any way.
It makes one wonder why he went into obstetrics in the first place.
I walked by the mother's room and saw her wrists handcuffed to the bed. The nurse did what nurse's do, but her smile was absent, her cheer gone. Her heart broken for the child, for the mother, and what everyone thought the mother did.
I finished my duties late, sluggish all day from the previous night’s mission. The nurse was still there. I found her sitting in the break room alone, crying. She was exhausted from it. I brought her a glass of water.
“Thank you,” she said in a hoarse whisper.
"Is the baby going to be OK?" I asked
"Health-wise? Yeah. He's a strong little boy! But...his life. Shit! I don't know what's worse, if he goes home with that monster or if he's put in the system. Another ruined soul, no chance." She erupted into tears again. A storm of tears from the beautiful sky of her face.
“Can I get something to calm you?” I asked, desperate to ease her suffering.
“There’s…valium…in there,” she said between sobs. I took her keys and opened the storage closet full of drugs and equipment. I got her the Valium and she took two and finished the water.
“I’ll take you home,” I insisted.
She was still alert when we walked to her car and I opened the passenger door for her, but as soon as she planted herself in the cool plastic seat she was out. I locked her in the car, safe and sound, and went back into the hospital. I went into the doctor’s lounge and donned a white coat and a stethoscope. I found some sedatives and a syringe. I filled the syringe, like they do in the movies, and tapped it with my fingernail and squirted a little out. A tender guide I then became, a vehicle to peace as I visited the mother.
“How are you?”
She answered me with her eyes. Stripped bare by the flood of a thousand woes throughout her life, there was only a canyon left. Empty.
“I’m not like the other,” I assured her. “I care.”
I moved to her bedside, close to her ear. “This will make you feel better,” I whispered, brandishing the syringe. She either wanted it or, more probably, didn’t care. Maybe she didn’t even notice me or anything else. I slid the needle into her IV tube and pushed the plunger. She slept in seconds. Then I sent her on her way, I kept refilling the syringe and injecting.
At the moment her heart stopped I felt so good. I was happy that I could help that woman. I like to help people.
I thought about the baby again, it would be the right thing to do. But I couldn't. I already killed one baby, many years ago. That's what happens when you don't strap the car seat belts, and not strapping the car seat belts is what one does when blind drunk. And driving blind drunk through an intersection against the light can get someone killed. It was a miracle only one was killed. Everyone else just had minor injuries.
Back to the car and I drove the nurse to her place. I had to carry her up three flights to a dank little apartment with cheap but cozy furnishings and decorations. My place was actually better, unfortunately. I, who swept floors of dried pieces of flesh and scooped up feces, got paid more than she who cared for humanity and saved lives as well as spirits while sacrificing both of her own without judging. The attempt to make this bare, cold, infested hole she lived in look like a home was so sad. It made me want to cry. Trying to create light and joy and life out of shit would have destroyed my heart if it were not already so damaged. Maybe this is what the world is, a failed experiment, an attempt to create goodness from an origin of filth, but that on which the world is built seeps up for all to smell and see and eventually accept.
“You can go,” I said to that sleeping beautiful person.
I ran a warm bath for her. This nurse had an average face in terms of physical beauty, but the goodness that shone through made it a remarkable one. I removed her clothes and found her body to be more attractive than I thought. The straight pants and large shapelessness of her uniform hid her shape well. Good, clean, smooth pink skin, well-shaped breasts and hips. She was a wonderful example of a person, inside and out. She would leave this world as she entered it; naked and beautiful and pure of heart.
I carried her into the bathroom and placed her in the tub. I pushed her down so her face was under the surface of the warm water, back into the womb. Her hair floated up to form a dark halo around her angel’s face. She breathed and her body convulsed for a few seconds as the water entered her lungs, then it washed her away from this place and all was still.
“Goodbye,” I said aloud.
While I was in the lounge at the hospital, I had also invaded a storage closet. I took a used scalpel from the biohazard container and even found a few bottles of ether, I took one and also some chemicals from my janitor’s closet.
When I arrived at the doctor's house I parked the nurse’s car quite far away, maybe a half-mile, not including his long driveway. Creeping around the shrubs I looked into the oversized bay windows in the front of the house. I could see him sitting in his luscious den in a big soft chair. He was watching the financial news and sipping expensive brandy. He grinned with pride as stock prices rose, so happy he was to be on Earth.
So childishly simple was my plan to breach the giant compound of his home. I took out the ether from the pocket of the white lab coat I still wore. I poured some on an old sweatshirt from the nurse’s place, careful not to breathe too deeply. I rang the doorbell of the doctor’s palace and hid in the shadow of some crabapple trees. He came and opened the door and found nothing. As he turned around to go back inside I rushed ahead and shouldered the door open and he was knocked down. I straddled his back as he lay on his stomach, my weight keeping him from turning over. I kicked the door closed with one foot and smothered his mouth and nose with the cloth. The vapors took him in seconds.
When he came to again he was complaining, not about being tied to the metal folding chair. “Who the fuck are you!? What do you want!?”
No response from me.
“Why does my eye hurt?” he begged to know. He started squinting both eyes grotesquely. “Oh, Jesus! How come I can’t see out of my eye?” he screamed.
“While you were out,” I explained, “I found this chair in your basement and tied you to it with duct tape, also from your basement. I poured some cleaning chemicals in your eye and burned it, some unmarked bottle that was in my closet. It smells dangerous, ammonia I'm pretty sure. Your eye is all red and puffy.”
“What are you going to do to me?” the fear inside him begged to know.
“Take away your pride," I responded. He didn’t understand but his terror grew with each second. The great unknown is something most are afraid of, whether it is the dark and wild forest, or death, or the other side of the sea. For the doctor the great unknown was whatever I was going to do to him next.
I moved behind the doctor to where his hands were bound behind the chair. I took the scalpel and began removing his thumbs, index, and pinky fingers. The instrument was so fine he didn’t even feel it when the flesh was first cut, but when I reached bone he screeched. The scalpel wouldn’t go through bone, I hadn’t thought of that, so I had to cut through the sinew and tendons of the joints and slowly wrench the digits from the hands. With one eye and four fingers total he would never practice medicine again, let alone dress himself, wipe himself, or ever again do any menial task that is the true source of self-respect. That which physically separates us from beasts has been taken from him, by me. To feed himself now he will have to shove his face into a bowl of slop. He would from then on exist as a disfigured jack-a-napes completely dependent on others.
I looked at what I had done and saw that it was good.
The final task, lest the other doctors are able to re-attach the thumbs and fingers, was to put them in the microwave and cook them on high. I turned the doctor’s chair towards the kitchen so he cold watch me toss the digits into the microwave, swing the door closed and punch in the numbers, and press START. He whimpered when the hum of the oven told us that the waves of radiation began to make his incised members simmer. I didn’t care about any of his screams attracting authorities. I felt all my fear and anger and all my loneliness dissipate. All that weight was lifted from my heart and I knew what I could do. When I finished with the good doctor I took the scalpel and opened the arteries on my forearms and behind my knees. As my vision blurred I saw the doctor’s face in a distorted expression of pain and fear. I read disbelief in his eyes, the awe at the realization that he was not indestructible; he comes from the same stuff as I.
While falling away from life I felt so much warmth and self-worth, I felt that I fulfilled a purpose. While I died on the doctor’s marbled floor I knew I had found the secret of life.
I am writing this post-mortem. I never really gave it any thought before, but what I found out through this whole ordeal is, obviously, that ghosts do exist. There is existence when the body stops. And the nurse and the mother both have told me that I have done good and we are happy here with the countless others who were good in life.
My psychiatrist tells me this is a delusion to protect myself from the guilt of triple homicide, attempted murder on the baby, a home invasion, kidnapping, assault and battery, and torture. He points to the scars on my arms from where emergency room physicians closed my wounds as evidence of my living state.
But I don't believe him, he's crazy.