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The Bright Road

by Roger Alderman about a month ago in Fantasy
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A classic blue 1984 Ford LTD sedan sits struggling to idle outside of the hospital emergency room entranceway. Its doors are open revealing the interior of the vehicle coated in patches of freshly dripping and oozing blood. SARAH, a ghostly little girl in a knee-length tattered nightshirt, emerges from the car and smiles.

Her attention moves to a dark thick trail of blood that winds through the hospital halls, a trail which ends at the operating room doors. A woman’s voice echoes its pleas through the hospital, “No! No! No! Not Again!”

Inside the operating room, JESSE ABLE’s small body writhes in pain in the center of a whirlwind of doctors and nurses struggle to save his life. A nurse leads VICTORIA and ROGER ABLE from the room, as more staff enters to help, “for us to help you need to clear out.” 

Victoria and Roger stare helplessly at one another outside of the operating room. Roger watches in confusion, as the waves of medical staff moving around them like a whirlwind, “What’s going on?” Roger pulls his wife close to offer comfort, but careful to not allow her to filthy her outfit on his grease-covered coveralls. 

Victoria still wearing her work clothes cries, “It’s just like before…” Roger embraces her, as she sobs uncontrollably. Additional medical staff rushes past the couple and into the operating room. Sarah stands at the far end of the hallway in a devilish silhouette in the morning sunlight as it passes through a large window.

Jesse’s terror-driven words echo through the halls of the hospital, “Get away from me! Mom! Dad!” Doctors attempt to comfort him, “Calm down we're trying to help!” Sarah’s demonic smile shows, as she dances and twirls undetected in the chaos.

Dr. Daily emerges from the operating room. Roger and Victoria rush to the doctor side with hope in their expression. The doctor makes short work of their moment of hope, “We did all we could, but…” 

Roger turns to Doctor Daily a deeply furrowed brow, as he takes heavy determined steps towards him, “After everything you have done to him.”  Roger stops just inches from the Doctor's face. 

Dr. Daily instinctively raises his arms defensively between himself and the dead boys’ father. Dr. Daily takes a deep breath before beginning his plead for understanding, “I told you the infection had spread throughout his entire body. We have been doing everything we could to help him.”

Roger grabs and lifts Doctor Daily by his jacket. The Men slam hard against the operating room wall. Pictures and the doctor's chart fall to the floor.  Victoria places a loving hand on Roger’s shoulder, “Please. Stop.” Roger shakes his head and releases the Doctor. 

Dr. Daily picks up Jesse’s chart and thumbs through several pages. He stops looking and slowly closes the chart, as he lowers his head, “His body is exhausted. The Zocyn and Vancomycin had hurt his body more than it helped.” He pauses seeing the pain and sorrow filling the faces of Jesse’s parents. Dr. Daily whispers and lowers his head, “We have stabilized him for now. You should spend time with him before.”

The doctor walks away in shame. Victoria loses her composure and collapses into a heap sobbing. Roger sits on the hallway floor holding his wife. The doctor pauses and turns to the couple, “We will get him to a room for you. Sit tight for us in the Waiting room. While we get everything set.” Roger and Victoria nods and rise. They follow the doctor to the waiting room.  

Inside the hospital waiting area Victoria sits at a small kitchen table holding her cell phone, “we should call my mom. She’ll come up here.” An episode of Ghost Whisperer plays on the television in the room. Roger nods into her in agreement, “you want me to call her?” The housekeeper scrubs away at the coffee stains on the countertop near the shallow sink. 

Sarah smiles watching the couple struggle to remain civil in a moment of utter despair. She enjoys being unseen by the living as she stands in front of Victoria mocking her every motion and emotions. Sarah settles on top of the small kitchen table staring at the housekeeper.

The housekeeper blinks repeatedly as Sarah influences her to believe she has completed cleaning the room. The housekeeper turns and robotically exits the room. She forces the edge of her cleaning cart under the edge of the door handle and walks across the hallway to the restrooms. 

A loud alarm sounds surprising the couple. They leap to their feet and rush to the door. The radio announces, “Code Blue Room 114! Code Blue Room 114!” “Open the door!” Victoria yells at Roger.

Sarah rock back and forth in the despicable delight of the torture she is inflicting on the couple. She hops off the table top and skips through the door joining the chaos in the hallway. She faces the couple and growls the words, “this next part will kill ya.”

Roger throws his shoulder against the door repeatedly, but the door was blocked on the other side. Roger stares through the narrow door window and spots the housekeepers cart pressed against the door. The housekeepers moved along the opposite wall as a tidal surge of medical specialists and staff move towards the site of the radio’s emergency announcement.

Roger lowers his head trying to reel in his emotions, “The housekeeper’s cart is wedged under the door handle. I can’t open it.” Victoria stands determined next to her husband, “we can do this together.” She nods to Roger, “On, push, got it?” 

Sarah clutches at her abdomen as she laughs uncontrollably at Roger and Victoria. She mocks their struggles with the door, “Come on you can do it…” Her brow furrows and her eyes narrow, “Well, maybe this time anyway.”

Victoria and Roger lean against the door. Victoria roars, “Push goddamn it!” Roger and Victoria’s combined effort threw the door open causing the cart to send several medical staff members tumbling over the unexpected reposition of the housekeeping cart.

Roger and Victoria trip and fall over the hallway pileup. Roger gets to his feet first and joins the wave of humanity moving to his son’s room. Victoria looks up in time to notice Roger disappearing into the crowd. She struggles to her feet along with the staff members.

 Roger arrives outside Jesse’s room, but cannot enter as the room was overflowing with staff racing to save his son’s life. “Get out of my way!” Roger yells to no avail. Victoria bumps into his side. They look at each other helplessly.  Roger and Victoria watch as the medical experts call upon centuries of experience to attempt to save Jesse. 

The couple watch as the confidence and ego of numerous experts were torn asunder by the unknown. Roger stares on amazed by the line of the medical staff that reach their limit and leave the battle to save his son’s life.

Victoria stops Dr. Daily as he leaves the room his eyes dart from side to side. “What did we do wrong?” Dr. Daily exhales aloud unaware of Roger or Victoria’s presence. Dr. Daily realizes he still has the gloves and scrubs on that are covered in the blood Jesse spewed on everyone. 

Sarah mocks the doctor’s emotions and motions as she exits the room behind him. She cannot hide her amusement with everything happening. Her eyebrows rise and a smile forms with a devious idea. 

Dr. Daily shakes his head vacant of the confidence he proudly displayed before the couple earlier this evening. He raises his head only to have no words to properly convey the disappointment in his talents and training. Jesse’s medical documents burst from the chart on impact with the floor below Dr. Daily. His eyes dart from page to page unable to form the words he needs to offer comfort to the parents. 

The couples hope bleeds away in their observation of the doctor who promised to save their child but failed them. Victoria pushes away from Roger taking a single step towards Dr. Daily. The doctor faces away from the couple, “I’m sorry you should say something it won’t be long now.” 

Roger and Victoria push past the doctor to enter their son’s room. Medical equipment continues to beep and chip as Roger and Victoria enter. Roger cannot handle the emotions that turn his fear into hate and anger. He walks to the window to conceal his growing feelings of dread and takes a deep breath. 

Victoria has always been the more accepting of her emotions. She hits hard against Jesse’s bedside and erupts in a deluge of tears and wails of coming loss. She picks up her son’s near lifeless hands, “He’s cold.” She immediately works his blankets into a cocoon to protect in the only way fate has left for her son. 

Sarah sits in an oversized recliner made for friends and family to remain with their ill family members. She cracks her neck to the right and utters an exhausted, “this part always takes too long.” She watches as Jesse’ s life trickles away with the last of the fluids moving into his body from the IV lines. 

Roger studies the approaching storm as he realizes a long day is ahead of his little family. He pays close attention to remain facing away from his wife as his despair take the form of a large single tear that carves its way through the dirt and grease of the day's labors that still cover his face. He does not want her to think he is weak. He knows he will need strength enough for both his wife and the family that will be coming.

Sarah watches as the small boy’s spirit lowers his head unable to offer the comfort of holding his father’s hand in these last moments. Jesse studies his hands in confusion as they can no longer reach his father. The tears and wails of his mother draw him to her side. Without a thought, he reaches out to hug and comfort his mother.  

Jesse cannot hold her as death’s cruel joke expresses itself endlessly by not allowing any fallen being from reaching across the veil to interact with the living. 

The confused boy climbs like atop the bed and looks around the room. The sadness of the moment hits him hard as he loses hold of his emotions and sobs into his palms. Jesse cries unheard and separated from those he loves most injured the world. The exhaustion of the day weighs heavily on the young spirit. 

Jesse claws and drags himself back inside his body out of instinct. The world fades from sight as the boy’s spirit slumbers in its once protective shell.

Chapter Two

Jesse’s, now, lifeless body lies on top of a medical table, as the doors burst open. Roger and Victoria rush to their son’s body, as their mournful tears and cries echo beyond the room. A sorrow filled blood-soaked doctor lowers his head and walks down the long hallway away from his failure. Sarah dances and sways unseen to a rhythm only she is aware of.

Time passes, as the mourning parents are eventually led from the room to allow the Coroners to take their son's body. The last image of their son before his being taken is that of him lifeless with failed medical devices attached to his small body.

The morning hours summon the day to begin as Harold, the Medical Examiner, fumbles with his lunch box as he struggles to open the morgue door late as usual for his shift. He searches his pockets and sighs. “Damn it!” Harold declares. He turns and leaves through the employee entrance to retrieve his keys to the door.

Deep inside the hospital morgue, in the body cooler, numerous bodies with fresh autopsy wounds have been sorted and stored. The bodies lay on metal tables or in wall mounted storage racks. Plastic sheets and toe tags move gently as the cooling fans come to life.

Jesse’s eyes flash open and squint against the bright glare from above. He sits up and looks around the cooler. “MOM! DAD!” Jesse steps down and sees his corpse on the tabletop beside him. He desperately rushes at the cooler door and pounds his hands against it repeatedly.

Jesse collapses next to the door. He shakes his head in confusion, as he stares at his body from across the room. He sobs, “Please, someone open the door. I’m in here.” The light inside the cooler comes on. Jesse looks up and slowly stands. He puts his ear to the door, as he hears voices from the other room.

The door opens; Harold enters pushing another table into the room with a fresh cadaver on it. “There you go. Just sit tight,” Harold says aloud. Jesse stands behind Harold frozen in fear.

Harold turns to face Jesse and seems to stare intensely at him. Suddenly Harold thrusts his arm through Jesse’s chest. Jesse gasps and looks down at the arm piercing his chest. “Who keeps changing this thing? They’re going to thaw and start to stink,” Harold questions aloud. Harold adjusts the thermostat and exits. Jesse follows close behind him.

Jesse sighs in relief and looks around the sterile hospital morgue. He moves in front of the Medical Examiner and waves his arms to get his attention. Nothing. Then without warning, Harold walks through Jesse and enters his office closing the door behind him.

Jesse leans against an empty autopsy table. He thinks aloud, “Why can’t he see me?” A shadow moves through the wall near him and slowly rises taking on the shape of the ghastly little girl Sarah, “Because you’re dead, Duh!” He turns in surprise to see Sarah sitting on top of an empty metal autopsy table. She looks like a filthy old porcelain baby doll.

“You died. Your kind of slow, aren’t you?” Sarah shrugs and seems amused by kicking her feet as they hang off the tabletop. “I’m not slow!” Jesse answers.

Sarah smiles and shrugs at him, “You got sick … it happens.” Jesse shakes his head and stares at Sarah in disbelief. “Who are you?” Jesse demands. “I came to get you out before the phantoms come,” Sarah responds, as she jumps down from the table and wags her tiny finger towards Jesse.

Jesse’s face fills with terror, “Who?” Sarah nods and shrugs, “Well, Not just you. They try to eat everyone. They are a real pain in the butt.” Jesse holds a look of confusion, “What?” Jesse looks to Sarah and scratches his head. “We need to go, NOW” Sarah circles him and sizes him up. “Where?” he asks.

Animalistic GRUNTS and ROARS echo through the hallway outside the morgue. Jesse stares for a long moment at the entrance door to the morgue. He holds a look of fear at what may lay beyond.

Sarah slaps Jesse to get his attention, “Not good, they’re early.” Jesse rubs his cheek and looks at Sarah. Sarah grabs Jesse’s arm and runs to the south wall with him behind her. She fades through the wall. Jesse hits the wall with a THUD and lands hard on the floor.

“Why would it be that easy?” Sarah walks back through the wall and throws her hands up. She shakes her head and stares at him. Jesse rubs his head and looks to her. “Don’t know that one, huh?” she asks. Jesse points to the large air intake vent in the room, “Works in the movies.” Sarah smiles and rubs his head, “Good job, let’s get out of here.” Sarah pulls off the vent cover and they enter. Sarah pulls the air conditioning vent close behind them.

Sarah and Jesse move with determination through the rust and soot covered hospital air ducts. “We need to put a lot of distance between them or they will sniff us out,” Sarah explains. Jesse nods and follows. The pair comes to a stop, as the vent fills with a warm brilliant golden light from behind them. “What’s that?” Jesse looks confused in the direction of the air vent they entered through.

Sarah shakes her head, “it’s part of how they hunt.” Sarah grabs his hand and drags him behind her. “I need some answers or I am not going anywhere with you!” Jesse pulls away and sits down crossing his arms in defiance. Sarah’s anger shows briefly, as she rolls her eyes.

“Fine,” Sarah closes her eyes and sniffs loudly. Her eyes snap open and she points, follow, but stay quiet”. Jesse follows close behind hold a look of profound confusion on his face. She sniffs the air and moves like a bloodhound on all fours following a scent. She stops outside of an air vent cover and motions for him to join her.

“You want answers?” Sarah asks shaking her head. “Uh, Yeah.” Jesse nods. Sarah gestures for Jesse to look through the vent in the room beyond. Jesse glances into the room and confusion crosses his face, as he sits back on his heels. Sarah motions for him to continue watching.

Inside the room, the children watch as an elderly man rises from his corpse. Oscar Cunningham sits upright on the edge of his hospital bed in his hospital gown and knee-high black socks. His head hangs low, as he looks to a picture frame that sits on the nightstand, “together forever.” Smiling lovers rejoice from inside the picture backlit by a colorful city boardwalk.

Jesse looks to Sarah desperate to understand what is going on. Sarah raises a finger shushes him before e can make a single noise. Their attention quickly returns to the room beyond, as a Thunderous Boom announces the arrival of a swirling tunnel of light. Jesse and Oscar both allow the word, “Beautiful…” to slip from their mouths as they stare entranced at the illuminated tunnel.

Terror fills Sarah’s face, as she turns to Jesse. She slaps her hand over his mouth and clenches tightly. Jesse’s expression of shock says it all, as Sarah defiantly shakes her head in disapproval. She gestures at the room and motions for him to remain silent.

For a moment, Oscars' attention moved to seek the origin of the words from the air vent, but the brilliance of the tunnel regains his full attention. Oscar reaches out longingly towards the tunnel, as he feels the warmth and subconscious recognition of what awaits beyond this Bright Road in front of him.

The golden light of the tunnel flickers and turns a sickly green that washes over the room’s contents. The shadows come alive and devour any illumination brave enough to approach. Terror seizes Oscar’s expression, as unearthly black vines surge across the interior walls of the room.

Oscar shuffles away from the walls and stops after bumping into the foot of the hospital bed. He raises his arms defensively before himself, as he notices something stirring in the deep black pools. Oscar’s fear grows, as six ghastly figures enter the room through the dark pools.

Long slender spider like fingers finds purchase allowing the figures to slowly pull themselves from the tar like pools. Tall wiry obsidian like figures kneels just before each light-obliterating void facing their very confused prey. The new arrivals utter low long guttural growls, as Oscar glance in panic at each.

“What do you want?” Oscar begs as he retreats to a corner near the head of his bed. Oscar raises his arms defensively, as the ghoulish new arrival circle their prey. Jesse looks to Sarah, “should we?” Sarah shakes her head defiantly and gestures for Jesse to continue watching.

Jesse glances back inside the room and immediately withdraws his attention in disgust. Sarah smiles and points at Jesse a warp and twisted smile upon her face. “THEY… they …” Jesse begins, as his eye dart about the rusty and trying to find an answer to a question he dares not ask. “Well, that’s that,” Sarah snarky replies “survival of the fittest and all.”

One of the gaunt assailants raises its head and sniff at the air. Its attention moves to the air vent above the room, as it releases a low deep growl. Sarah moves in quickly places a hand over Jesse’s mouth and shushes him. He remains silent and confused.

“See what you did. Now be quiet or I will feed you to them myself!” Sarah threatens. Jesse pulls against her vice like hold of his mouth, but yield to her demand in his loss of an understanding of this world or its rules. Sarah motions for him to continue moving through the air vents, as one of the creature’s leaps atop the nightstand. Its attention focused on the near inaudible children above.

After working their way upwards to ground floor Jesse comes to a complete stop tired and irritated with the events of the past few hours. Sarah turns to see Jesse sits legs crossed and shaking his head. She moves carefully to his side, “fine. You want answers, right?” Jesse nods in agreement.

“Fine. Here’s the short answer,” Sarah blurts out sarcastically, “I’m Sarah. We’re dead and this isn’t heaven.” Jesse stares his mouth hanging open at the abrupt and curt answer. “Can we go now?” Sarah’s irritation hangs clear on her face.

Jesse’s eye dart about the inside of the air vent in a desperate search for words squints his eyes, and gestures back in the direction they came from, “What were.” “You’re the only one I have ever come for that didn’t get it by now?” Sarah shakes her head in disbelief of his loss of understanding the most basic of concepts, like death.

“So, you have done this before then? You should be more understanding,” Jesse pleads. “Why is this so hard for you? You died to get over it and move on or become Phantom Chow. It’s just that simple,” Sarah glares at her companion. “There had to be someone better they could send to take people to heaven,” Jesse demands. Sarah chuckles, “Never said heaven.”

Jesse pauses before he swallows hard and lowers his head, “Hell…” Sarah rolls her eyes at Jesse’s ignorance, “You’re such a wimp.” Jesse’s face contorts with growing irritation of his companion and shakes his head, “Well, I don’t feel dead?”

Sarah clears her throat, “Have you ever been dead before?” Jesse shakes his head in response. Sarah smirks, leans in close, and playfully ruffles his hair, “then how do you know?”

Sarah turns from him and continues to crawl through the air vents. “I hate you,” Jesse whispers. Sarah stops and smirks, “Welcome to purgatory. You’re going to hate it here.” Jesse sighs loudly and follows his would-be rescuer.


About the author

Roger Alderman

Writer, Director, Filmmaker, Cinematographer, Podcaster, Screenwriter, and Audio Engineer.

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