I hate hospitals. I have to imagine everyone does; hospitals have an almost inseparable tie with death. It seems like no one ever goes to a hospital without death being the subject. A few years ago I was at a hospital myself. My mom’s dad was on his death bed and since I’m his only grandkid, I was dragged along to say my final goodbye. I never really knew the man, he and my mom weren’t on speaking terms for most of my life. More than one family gathering was ruined by a silent fight of theirs.
This was up until last year when my grandpa got sick, then my mom started visiting him almost every week in the hospital, gaining back all of that lost time. I have no idea what brought it on, neither my mom nor her dad had changed at all. But they started getting along nevertheless. So it wasn’t a huge surprise when we showed up at the hospice center one day to talk to him for the last time. No one else was there since my grandpa was a notorious hard ass and not very well liked by the rest of his family. So my mom sat at his side and talked to him through tears while I sat in the corner waiting for it all to go away, losing myself in my own head. But I wasn’t going to get what I wanted that easy.
What seemed like mere minutes before he was due to pass, my grandpa asked me to come over to him. He said his goodbyes, as I expect most people do before they die. But then he did something I didn’t see coming, he said he wanted to give me a gift. Someone I barely knew, who was about to die, wanted to give me something. My mom barely ever gave me any gifts. I hesitantly accepted, and in my open hand my grandpa put a ring. A simple, slightly rusted gold band with almost no other distinction.
I rolled it around in my fingers right as I hear ”beep, beep, beeeeeeeee…" He flatlines. My mom starts to quiet her sobs and we head to leave the room as nurses and EMTs flood in. We’re in the car on our way back home when my mom looks at the ring in my hand, trying to hide the look of disgust on her face. “I spend months trying to butter up that old man and all we get in return is that old ring. I’ll take it tomorrow to see how much we can get for it." But as were going down the highway on that fateful day I said, “What if I want to keep it?”
“What do you mean you want to keep it, why would you want to keep that piece of junk?”
“I like it.”
“So you're gonna pick that ring over your dear mother huh?” There she goes again. My mom’s first defense mechanism whenever I disobey her is to question my love. Now my mom may be a piece of work, but I still loved her. I think it takes a lot for anyone to not love their own mother. So I always broke at this line of questioning.
“No, Mom, I’ll give it to you tomorrow.” But I did like the look of this ring, which is odd to say because for all purposes it was a shitty ring. Something about it was just appealing. So in that car, driving on that highway, on that fateful day, I put on the ring.
Now, by this point in my life I’ve experienced more than a few highs off of more than a few drugs, but this was something unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. If anyone ever asks me to describe nirvana, this would be my one example of what nirvana must really feel like. I was getting drawn through a whole world that was at the same time full of amazing color and pristinely white. I have no idea how long this world went on, because it seemed as if time meant nothing. Through this tunnel around me I can somewhat see people behind it. It looks as If every person is having the times of their lives, and I think I even see my grandpa.
After an immeasurable amount of time, I land butt first in some kind of office. Behind a big oak desk there is this large almost Santa-like man. He seems to be a man, at least. Every few seconds he switches forms for just a moment, like a video that someone had inserted an image inside of for just a single frame at a time. There was no way you could tell what he changed to in that frame but he definitely changed. So there was this guy, sitting behind a majestic looking desk staring at me with the smallest hint of a genuine smile on his lips.
I stand up after my fall and he starts to speak. His mouth doesn’t move, but the words are definitely coming from him, and they do an amazing job of comforting me no matter what meaning they hold. He says, “So you’re the new judge. You are young but I trust the old man that came before you and if he picked you then I attest you're up to the task, am I correct?” He seems to expect some kind of response but I am still so lost in every crazy thing that has just happened I can’t seem to form a single syllable. “Wait, did he not tell you about the judge? He definitely gave you the ring though right? Otherwise you wouldn’t be here.”
I hold up the ring in a silent confirmation, but he seems able to tell that I still have no idea what in the blue blazes is going on. “I assume an explanation is in order then, right?” I vigorously nod, wondering what the hell is going on. “Your grandfather," he says, “held a job called the judge. Now this is not the kind of judge you will be familiar with, though this job is where humans got the idea from.” The way he says "humans" tell me that there is no way this guy can be real. “Your grandfather and thousands before worked for me in a job I created to test you humans. The job, which now has been passed down to you, consists of three parts.
“Part one: you have now been shown this place.” And he gestures around his office, but I know he’s also talking about the crazy ass place I went through to get here. “This is where all people go after they die. Good or bad, this is where every human goes. A pure paradise of bliss and peace, no strings attached.” My mouth then must’ve been dropped down to the floor because the man behind the desk then makes a gesture to close it, an amused smile showing on his face.
“That leads to Part two: you, and solely you, now have the ability to send people here before their natural time. With a simple pinch behind the shoulder you can bring anyone immediately to this world, where they will spend eternity in happiness with all of their loved ones that passed before them." This part sticks with me for a minute. I decide to finally speak up, though it seems like hours before I’m able to actually open my mouth.
“So you're saying that I can kill people with a simple pinch…THAT’S FREAKING NUTS! Are you serious?” He looks at me and I can see the jolly demeanor start to fade away for just a second as his image flickers again. “Yes, I swear to you that I am incredibly serious. You can now kill people as simply as opening a can of soda. But don’t think of it as killing them, you are saving them. That is your task, you get to choose who to save and who to leave.”
“Now before you interrupt again, Part three: along with sending people to the afterlife you can also travel through time and space sending whoever you wish here. But beware, your grandfather and all the judges before him have had this same ability, so think before you commit any history-changing acts.
“And now the simple catch, though your pinch sends people to this paradise, anyone you do not pinch and who dies on their own gets sent somewhere else. Somewhere I will not show you because I do not want to have to find a new judge right away. Is all of this understood?” My jaw has again dropped itself to the floor, but I vigorously nod, praying to whoever is still out there that this is not a dream and that this is actually real. I do this for a few minutes before I realize that if this man behind the desk is actually who I think it is that he should easily be able to read my prayer. He then looks at me dumbfounded as I’m still nodding and staring at him.
“What are you doing?” he says to me.
Without even thinking I stop the nodding and say, “So now what?”
"Well now you are going to be placed back in the world, though unfortunately you have been here for some time and I am sorry but your world has changed just a bit. Good luck.”
And just like that I wake up in a hospital bed. Again I hate hospitals. “What the hell is going on,” I say out loud. As I wake up and try and stand up, several nurses rush into the room and start yelling about some kind of emergency, and what are they going to say about his mom. I have no idea what’s going on. I just lay there as the nurses start rushing around me checking all of these machines I had not even noticed that I’m connected to. After about twenty minutes of this and getting asked all kinds of medical questions I don’t have half the answers for, a simple man in a suit walks into the room.
Unlike five minutes ago it’s become entirely quiet. This man draws my attention against my own will. He reminds me of the man behind the desk (I never got his name), but the opposite. He looks sorrowful and almost invisible. But he’s there, he is definitely there. He walks up to me and sits in the chair that’s at my bedside, and places the briefcase he walked in with (why didn’t I recognize that at first?) at his feet. He then looks up at me and speaks with a voice almost too light to be human. I have to strain to really hear it.
“Hello sir, unfortunately I do not come here with good news, though I've become used to that. But I have something I have to tell you. Before I do though, are you alright? Are you ready?” What kind of question is that? I can’t help it but I’m already angry at this man. Just the way he speaks gives me anger that I didn’t know that I had. But I now, I want to hear what bad news he has to share.
“Okay so here is the thing, you have been in a coma for a few months now am I correct?” I don’t move a muscle, was I really? “And with you in a coma, the incredibly large hospital bills that brings and your grandfather's recent passing, your mother couldn’t handle it. A few days ago, your mother killed herself. I am incredibly regretful that this happened.”
I just sit there dumbfounded, I don’t feel anything. My attention is drawn again to the man sitting next to me. Is that a tear dropping from his eye? “But I do not have all bad news.” The man then starts digging through his briefcase and gives me a second to think. It all starts to hit me. As tears start to drop from my eyes, the man places a manila envelope on my lap. He starts to speak, a bit of joy actually entering his voice as he closes his briefcase.
“That there is the life insurance policy from your mother and grandfather. A large sum to say the least, that is.” He then notices my tears, now starting to stain the envelope and the precious policy. "All yours. I am incredibly sorry.”
I can’t take it anymore, “GET OUT OF HERE!” I yell at this man, who has actually done nothing against me but give me news and money. But he’s the only one here so he’s the only one I can let this rage out against. But then he leaves and I’m alone. I wish I hadn’t thrown him out. Now what do I do? I may be in a busy hospital but I can’t hear anything outside of this room now. I can’t even see anyone. I feel truly alone. An idea then flashes in my head. Will that actually work? Only one way to find out. I then slowly pull two of my fingers up to my shoulder…and pinch.