Chapter 4A–Blue Cottage

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As we drove toward Lindsay Peter was understandably nervous. So was I. It’s not every day someone makes a mesh mask of your face. But not as nervous as our last visit. As we turned into the hospital parking lot Peter noticed the fare to park had gone up and started growling. “THIEVES” was his only comment. We circled the parking lot a few times till he found a spot that was just in the right location. To me, any spot would have done but Peter was driving. I’ve never fully understood about men and parking spots. I know their number one reason is “I don’t want the car door to get dinged” but it seems to me you run the same risk of getting “dinged” no matter where you park. After Peter put the car in park he took a deep breath before he said anything. Then he turned his head and faced me. “Thank you for come coming and thank you for being here” he gurgled. I thought he was finished. He wasn’t. He put his hand on top of mine.

Afterwards, we got out of the car, walked into the hospital and went to Dr. Willowbys office. After we walked in I announced our arrival to his secretary. Dr. Willowby took us promptly at 10:00 AM which really impressed Peter. Before we arrived he told me of his philosophy regarding medical appointments. “If I have an appointment for ten I expect to be seen at ten.” I didn’t think it was a very realistic attitude but I decided not to say anything. We were asked to enter the examining room. In it was Dr. Willowby and an orderly. Today Dr. Willowby was more relaxed. And he treated me like a daughter which was a big surprise.

“Good morning to both of you. This strapping young fellow to my right will take Peter to wear the masks are made.”

Dr. Willowby indicated the gentleman beside him. However, the term “gentleman” might have been a bit of a stretch. He looked like he was fifteen years old. An extremely well built fifteen year old who just happened to be six feet tall. The orderly was a fellow named Dean who wore bright orange scrubs. He then ushered Peter out a door. Dr. Willowby ushered me down a different hallway. “Cassie, you can watch the whole thing if you want”. I told him I wanted to know as much about what Peter had gone through and what he was soon to experience. But before anything happened Dr. Willowby made a stunning admission.

“Last time we met I made a few erroneous assumptions about the relationship between you and Peter. I thought you and Peter were…closer shall we say. I also did a little research about you. And I need to ask you a few questions. So I apologize ahead of time if any of these make you uncomfortable.”

Oh brother. Just what I needed. Questions about my love life. But they weren’t about me, at least not directly. They were about more about Peter.

“I don’t know how close you two are, but in the short time I’ve known Peter I’ve learned that he’s been burned emotionally…very, very badly. And he trusts very few people. So that makes you a very special person. And I’d like to know why you think he likes you?”

I explained I was on indefinite suspension from CKMT for putting the mayor in a head lock, and that I moved into the cottage next to him. However, I didn’t know who he was until I introduced myself. Dr. Willowby asked about our feelings.

“That is the sixty-four million dollar question, Doctor. I know he has feelings for me. Just what they are I can’t say. He has said they are not romantic but just between you and me I just don’t know what they are. But one thing I do know is that he wants to concentrate on getting better. He desperately wants to put this cancer business in the past and get better. Becoming emotionally attached to anyone at this time is out the question for me. My situation at present is best described as awkward. I don’t know if my career is over or simply changing from one thing to another. I just don’t want to see Peter hurt or cause him to be hurt. Right now I think our relationship can best be described like  a brother and sister that care a lot for each other. Nothing else.”

Dr. Willowby bowed his head, put his hands in his pockets, frowned a bit and paced in the hall. He looked like someone struggling to say something without sounding intrusive at the same time. Suddenly he looked up.

“You and I will be working together, though not side by side, for some time. I want to make absolutely sure you understand this is not a short term commitment. Do you prefer the name Cassie or do you want me to call you Cassandra?”

I was used to this question. I had been asked it a hundred times.

“My given name is Cassandra, but I only use it professionally. My friends call me Cassie and that’s what I would like you to call me.”

“Cassie, you’ve put me in a bit of a spot. As Peters oncologist I’m going have to hurt him to heal him. Some of the cancer has been removed surgically but now we have to kill the cancer cells below the skin we can’t see. With razor like lasers. And that won’t enjoyable for Peter at all. But from what I’ve seen and heard he’ll need your friendship and your strength. Are you prepared for that?”

“What would like me to do?”

“Great! Glad to have you on the team.” Dr. Willowby suddenly extended his hand in friendship.

“I’m glad to know you, Cassie Carter. I’m Dr. Bill Willowby. When we’re talking in a group I’m just Dr. Willowby. If it’s just you and me please feel free to call me Bill. But if we’re talking on the phone and Peter is about please call me Dr. Willowby if you can. Peter doesn’t know my first name and I want to keep our relationship as professional as possible till he’s out of the woods which should be-“

“In five years.” I interrupted. Dr. Willowby studied me silently and wondered how much I already knew.

“May I ask just how you know that?” he asked puzzled that I would know the answer.

“Peter read the binder you gave him the last time we were here. He didn’t take the news at all well. He cried I think.”

“Is he in that much pain already?” asked Doctor Willowby.

“Most of it was pent up anger and extreme frustration. Peter’s a wordsmith. His life revolves around words. And right now it’s difficult and uncomfortable to talk. That’s how a writer checks his or her work.”

“He’s a writer? Can’t say I knew that. Say…he wouldn’t be the Peter James Christopher? I’ve got all three of his books. Great stuff! I’m going to ask him to autograph my copies. You’re sure it’s him?”

I nodded vigorously in the affirmative.

“As far as I know there’s only one P.J. Christopher.”

Dr. Willowby suddenly began smiling.

“Well, you just made my day my dear. It appears we’re treating a celebrity” he said with a certain amount of pride.

“It might be a good idea to keep that under your hat. His publisher hasn’t said a word as to why Peter suddenly stopped writing. From what he has said about them they don’t sound like the forgiving type.”

***

“Would you like to see how Peter is doing Cassie?” asked Dr. Willowby as he walked towards a large glass window. He described what was going on. I looked through the window in fascination.

Peter was scampering over a cold floor while holding on to his clothes with one hand and attempting to close the hospital gown at the back with the other. He let his clothes drop to the floor when he tried to get on a long dark table while trying to retain a little of his dignity. A technician has handling something. Dr. Willowby knocked on the window and indicated he wanted to see the mask.

Thermoplastic-Radiotherapy-Mask-Cancer-Radiation-Therapy-Immobilization

The technician brought the mask over to the window so I could see it. It didn’t look all that menacing but from what I’ve learned the experience of creating a mask can be most unpleasant. Dr. Willowby then gave the technician the thumbs up sign to proceed and pointed at Peter. Dr. Willowby then stuffed his hands back inside the pockets of his white lab coat.

The technician then said something to Peter. I couldn’t hear what was said but Peter probably said something like “On with the show so I can put my pants back on. It’s freezing in here.”

Dr. Willowby kindly told me what going on.

“The mask you just saw is now soaked under some warm water to make it pliable. Now this is the hard part. The techs have twenty seconds to make the mask before the resin cools down to the point where it becomes useless. If that happens they have to start all over. Peter will soon feel hands all over his face. His eyes will be closed during the treatments so they’re closed now.”

Hands were soon patting down the rapidly cooling resin. Peter was either very obedient or anxious for this to be over because the mask was created on the very first try. The mask was then screwed to the table to make the fit even tighter. Everyone but Peter left the room for a few moments while a CT scan of Peter was done at this point.

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“The purpose of the CT scan is to pinpoint the exact location of the cancer cells. We don’t want to kill any healthy cells. Peter will need those when he’s recovering. And that’s where you come in. The lasers will dry up the skin in and on his throat. In it’s simplest terms his left vocal cord is going to get an intense ten and a half hour sun burn. I want you to put Lubriderm on his throat daily even if he says he doesn’t need it. When the skin starts to break stop putting on the Lubriderm. I’ll show you how to make bandages for the outside of his throat. If we do our job right we’ll zap those cells silly and they’ll die. Peter will be very weak because of the radiation. He’ll also become very forgetful. Don’t be surprised if you have to remind him of a single event several times. And he’ll get angry at you too. He won’t like what’s happening to him, he’ll get angry and frustrated. When that happens you’ll have to use your best judgment on how to handle the situation. His anger is a side effect of the radiation. Try not to take it personally. He’ll experience a lot of pain during the treatments. Swallowing will become difficult for him”

I asked him to elaborate on that.

“You and I have a straight pipe that leads from the back of our mouths to our stomach. During radiation the interior of Peters neck will swell and that pipe will become narrow and bent making eating difficult and painful. We usually prescribe a liquid meal replacement for those tough days. You have to remember the pipe that leads to our stomachs is about about two inches wide. Peters will shrink to a fraction of that. During radiation therapy its imperative the patient not lose any weight. Try get him on the scales as often as you can. Make a chart of his progress. You may have to remind him to eat. If he refuses tell him you’ll call me. It has been my experience that if the patient knows the only alternative is a feeding tube in the stomach they’ll try drinking little bits a time. Sometimes a little fear is useful. It takes a lot of patience but I think you can do it. Do you?”

“Ask me again when this really bumpy ride is over”.

All of a sudden he hugged me. Not a lot but just enough to call it a hug. It was a gentle fatherly hug.

“I know you can do it. I’ve coached spouses and significant others for over twenty years. And I know you can do it. I sent my number to your phone if there’s any trouble. What do you say we go retrieve the local scribe?”

We were back at the window. Soon Peter was sitting up with the mask off. One of the technicians pointed to me. Peter waved and was soon clutching his hair. With two fingers he pretended to cut the hair. We agreed before hand that this would be the signal if he had to get a haircut. When he emerged he whispered that he was going to “save a mint on haircuts”. Even Dr. Willowby chuckled. He said it was always a good sign when a patient could joke after this. It also indicated that we shouldn’t expect any problems during the actual therapy. When Peter re-emerged fully clothed Dr. Willowby asked how he felt. “Now I know how the man in the iron mask felt.”

To celebrate getting the mask done we went on a small shopping spree. I wanted to get a dress for our dinner in Gelert the following day. Peter wanted to get something but was being secretive about it and would simply say “it’s a surprise”. What lurks in the minds of men and writers? I certainly didn’t know. But he needed my body for one of the surprises. We passed a small SCUBA shop where I got fitted for my very first wet suit. A woman fitted me out so I could help Peter put in my dock. The outside was made of black rubber. Inside was a substance called neoprene. It was the neoprene that kept you from turning into an icicle. When she handed me a twenty pound weight belt I tried to say I didn’t need it. But before I could say one word in polite protest Peter put a finger to his lips. “If you don’t have it you’ll float all the time. Shh.” Two other “surprises” awaited me but I’d have to wait one more day. And it was killing me!

…still more to come

“Resolution” – Chapter 13d – Panooksa

Idea by Tom Austin                                                     Written by Tom Austin

Revised by Tom Austin

Milly sat up in bed leafing through a magazine that was almost ten years old. With tubes going in and out all over her body it made moving a chore. Every move had to planned out well in advance. Turning pages had to be done very carefully because of the intravenous tubes going into to her hands. With nothing to read except one very out of date magazine, Milly was left with only one other choice and that was to try to sleep. Whenever she tried to sleep she was constantly woken up by the hospital intercom. If someone wasn’t being paged some parent was. “Mrs. Milligan, please return to x-ray. You forgot your son.” All of a sudden an orderly banged on the door.

“Everybody decent in there? I’m here with another exciting lunch from our cafeteria”.

Milly had been poked, prodded, asked countless questions by an unknown number of people countless times. She had even tried to sleep without success, and she had enough. She responded in a most atypical manner.

“No, I’m not decent!. I’m taking naked belly dancing lessons with a rose in my teeth. Do you have any idea how dumb that question sounds?”

The male orderly put the tray of food on a table. He put his hands in his pockets and slowly approached the bed.

“Look Dr. Shine-Foster. I know nobody wants to be in a hospital. Do you think I enjoy saying dumb questions like that or delivering this stuff masquerading as “food” to you?. I do it because it’s part of my job. I’ll make a deal with you. When I bring your dinner I’ll just knock on your door and say dinner. You cool it with the snarky remarks OK?”

Milly thought about what the orderly said, and what she had said.

“Sorry for biting your head off. It’s just that I’m so bored in here. I’ve been poked, prodded, and stabbed more times than can I count. And to top it all off I have my own personal vampire.  Please let me make it up to you in some small way. For starters why don’t you just call me Milly.”

“And my name is Peter. I have an idea. I’ll go get you a paper so you catch up on current events. It’ll be today’s paper honest.”

“If could hand me my purse I’ll give you the money”

“No need. It’ll be my treat. Do know how long it’s been since I’ve had a real conversation with a patient in this hospital?”

“I have no idea”

Milly tried to hand Peter a five dollar bill.

“Neither do I. It’s been that long. I’ll be right back.” He rushed out the door.

Just after Peter left Dr. Keiko Toshiro arrived followed by Brad. Dr. Toshiro closed the door.

“From what I just heard I think you’re coming down with a classic case of cabin fever. I know it’s no fun being in a hospital bed. I broke my ankle last summer and I was in here for only two days.”

Suddenly Brad cleared his throat.

“Oh, that reminds me your preliminary blood tests came back. Do you want to know?”

Brad was the first to reply.

“I want to know, to know what’s going on. But at the same I don’t want to know, you know?”

Then Milly chimed in.

“I just want to understand what’s happening to me”

Dr. Toshiro lifted her chart. First, she read the chart silently, then announced the findings.

“Well, you’re both going be parents. It looks like someone breached the dam and found a new place to live” she said to Brad.

“And I didn’t help matters.”

That statement from Milly got Brad’s attention and caused Dr. Toshiro to ask for clarification.

“Let’s try that one again. This time with clarity.”

“I’ve been off the pill for a week. I really wanted a baby.”

Dr. Toshiro couldn’t let this error in judgment pass silently. “Whoops”.

Milly started crying. Brad spoke for both of them.

“After we got engaged we talked about having kids. We didn’t plan on having children for a couple of years. We’re still learning about The Second Realm. In a way, we’re kids ourselves- new to this world. But thanks for telling us.”

Suddenly there was a terrific thunderclap. Dr. Toshiro walked to the window and looked out.

“That’s odd. The sky is blue. We’re not scheduled to have inclement weather. And there isn’t a cloud in the sky” she said.

“This is a perfect example of what I was talking about Keiko. We’re so new we didn’t know the weather was “scheduled”.” said Brad.

“Right now my concern isn’t the weather. It’s Milly. She shouldn’t be reacting in this manner. From what I can tell this should be a very normal pregnancy. If this reaction is hereditary than I feel sorry for all the women in your family. That’s why I want a blood sample from you.” Brad went white again. Dr. Toshiro grabbed him and eased him into a chair.

“Oh lordy. This so embarrassing. Do you really need blood?.”

“Brad! Tell her this very instant or I’ll tell her your middle name,” said Milly

Brad bowed his head. He moaned and whined like a little kid.

“R-” roared Milly.

“Damn Damn Damn. You got me by the short and curlies. But please promise me you’ll never ever tell another soul. Even if you think they know don’t say a word.”

Keiko Toshiro had a look of utter confusion on her face. She had no idea what she was about to hear.

“When I was a kid I broke my nose. This wasn’t one of your typical breaks. There was blood everywhere. It was coming out in buckets. And when I saw my blood on my sleeve my legs just folded up. I passed out, and when I went down like a tree. Flash forward a couple of decades and the kid is now a cardiac surgeon. I can do multiple organ transplants. I’ve been up to my elbows in blood and guts. But I’ve never been able to give blood or have blood taken without having to lie down. Would you want a doctor who’s afraid of his own blood?”

Dr. Toshiro looked like she was thinking. Then she looked at Brad while she pointed at Milly.”

“I see your point. Now see mine. See that wonderful woman in the bed behind me?. She’s your wife. And she needs your help. Specifically your blood. Now come with me. I’ve got a cot with your name on it. And if you give me any more sob stories I’m going to personally bust your honker so bad I’ll get the blood that way.”

Brad slowly shuffled his feet towards the door to Milly’s room.

“I’ll bet you know judo and karate.”

“Yes, I do…and a few other Japanese words.”


Peter the orderly returned with the paper. As Milly read the paper she discovered there was a column with all the names of people who had been admitted to hospital in the last twenty four hours. To make things worse there was a very unflattering photo of her in her husband’s arms in the emergency ward out cold and soaked to the bone. To add insult to injury there were five words beside her photo. “She might be with child.” Milly was furious. 

“Those god damn bastards. Haven’t they ever heard of privacy?” Milly was so angry she threw the paper against the wall.  As it sailed through the air it almost hit Dr. Toshiro who was just coming through the door.

“I thought I should warn you. There a so-called newspaper that-”

She ducked and the paper sailed over her head.

“Well, I think that confirms it. You saw the photo” she said.

“How the heck do they know I’m pregnant? I just found out myself.”

“The paper “Our Town” is much like a tabloid in your dimension. I think it’s called The National Enquirer or something like that. Their “stories” are very rarely based on fact and mostly on conjecture and rumor.”

“Well somebody should take them to court or something.”

“I guessed you would not be very happy when you saw the photo so I went down to the gift shop and got you some cosmetics so you could look a little more feminine. They very rarely publish a picture of anybody looking fantastic. And from your most recent blood results, I think it’s safe to unhook you from all this plumbing.”

After unplugging Milly she went into the bathroom. “AH!. That feels so much better. Every time I had to use a bedpan I felt like was wearing a metal diaper. Would it be alright if I took a shower, Dr. Toshiro?”

Clutching Milly’s medical chart to her chest  Dr. Toshiro slowly approached the bathroom door.

“I’d like you to wait just one more day so all the holes we put in you will start to heal up. But if you want to give yourself a sponge bath have at it.”

“Oh, I’m beginning to feel human again. Thank you. And I want to apologize for being so bitchy.”

“Milly you have an excuse that has a nine-month warranty. You’re pregnant! Your hormones are going wild.”

“Whatever you say, Doctor. When I get home I’m going to soak in the tub for about a day”

Just then the hematology lab paged Dr. Toshiro. She picked up the phone.

“Toshiro here, something the matter?”

The chief of the lab answered.

” It’s Dr. Foster’s blood. I won’t say what it’s doing over the phone, but I need your opinion. Now!”


“Resolution” part 2 -Chapter 13d –Panooksa

Dr. Keiko Toshiro wasn’t fond of going to hematology. But that’s where she sent the sample of Brad’s blood. She came out the elevator in the basement, passed some sickly green ceramic tiles, and dodged some empty gurneys. When she got to the lab she was not in the best of moods.

“Alright, what the hell is going on? I sent Brad Fosters blood sample here. What’s all the damn mystery?”

She was immediately ushered to a microscope and slide. Dr. Toshiro looked through the lens.

“Everything looks normal. Wait a minute. What the hell is that?” she said.

“That’s what I’d like to know too,” said the chief of Hematology.

“Put this little bugger up on the big screen. I want to see its DNA structure.”

The chief rushed around the lab. Within a few minutes, the special widescreen monitor flickered to life.

An image flashed on the screen.

“Now we’re going to see if this thing is worth the money we paid for it.”

The chief of the lab adjusted the focus.

Dr. Toshiro crossed her arms and looked puzzled.

“OK, that’s more like it. Let’s see what’s going on.”

The chief of the Hematology lab moved the camera a micron at a time. Dr. Toshiro stood in the middle of the lab with her hands in her pockets and watched the screen.

“Good, good, good. Why were you so reluctant to say anything on the phone. And why am I here?”s asked Dr. Toshiro

The lab chief nudged the slide.

“That’s the reason I paged you'”

On the big screen, there were some objects that were clearly not human. It soon became very obvious that some of Brad’s reproductive DNA had obviously been meddled with.

“Just what the hell are you?” she asked while she stared at the screen.

With no answer forthcoming, she walked to the phone. She dialed 000, which was code for a hospital-wide emergency. It also overrode the normal hospital intercom.

“Will Dr. Brad Foster report to his wife’s room stat.”

Brad was in the cafeteria when he heard the page. He was about to pay for lunch. Instead of handing the cashier some change he handed her the entire tray.

“When ya gotta go, you gotta go.”

The cashier turned her head and quietly cursed “Damn Doctors.”

Brad turned, yelled, and started running. “C’mon folks. Be nice. Make a hole!!”

Instead of taking the elevator to the maternity wing he took the stairs. His unusually long gait allowed him to scale a single flight of stairs in approximately 10 seconds. When he was up to the sixth floor he trotted into his wife’s room. Milly looked great. And the tubes were gone.

“Oh thank god. I thought something was wrong”

Dr. Toshiro was already there.

“There is. With both of you. And why are you so out of breath?”

“Cafeteria,” said winded Brad

Brad bent over trying to catch his breath.

“So naturally you felt compelled to set a land speed record by scaling six flights of stairs. Why didn’t you simply teleport?” asked Dr. Toshiro

“New kids remember?”

Dr. Toshiro rolled her eyes then shook her head. “I swear you two are going to drive me to drink.”

Brad sat in a chair beside his wife’s bed to catch his breath. After a short while, he asked what was going on.

“OK, Keiko. What’s with the page? I hope you know you damn gave near a heart attack”

Dr. Toshiro was ready with her answer.

“I didn’t ask you to sprint up the stairs like a crazed gazelle. As for the page, we think what’s wrong with both of you. You know that blood we took from you?”

Brad wanted to make a snarky remark. But one squeeze of Milly’s hand told him not to.

It took only a few seconds for Brad to single out the words she emphasized.

“Wait a minute. What do you mean “both of us”?” asked Brad.

“Your reproductive DNA has been tampered with. Have you ever been exposed to radiation, or had a really nasty kick right where it counts?”

“No to both”

“What about head injuries”

“No to that as well. Always wore a helmet”

There was silence while the two mulled any other possibilities. Then Milly almost exploded.

“What about Messenger!”

Dr. Toshiro and Brad looked at her.

“When Brad and I first met Messenger it was at 14 Rillington Place in our dimension. He really messed with Brad’s head. Brad was sweating all over, totally incomprehensible, and had one heck of a  headache.”

“What happened right after that?” she asked.

“I had to drive him home. He could barely walk let alone drive. He was like a zombie.”

“Any other injuries?”

“Not to us”

“What do you mean?

“My father started getting an irregular heartbeat right after Messenger brought my parents to The Second Realm .”

“Any other injuries to anyone else that Messenger may have been responsible for?”

“Sirena Telford”

“I’ve met her. Charming woman.” Keiko pretended to put her finger down her throat.

“Anything else Milly”

“Not that I know of.”

“Alright. But I still want to know what is growing inside you. The monitor beside your bed measures a fetal heartbeat. We put this strap on your tummy and we have a listen. Normally we do this at the end of the first trimester.”

Dr. Toshiro moved the sheets down and exposed Milly’s tummy.

“Call it professional curiosity, or anything you want, but I want to know what’s inside you.

The stethoscope-like device was placed on Milly’s stomach and the digital readout was activated. Normally the monitor would read 90 to 110 beats. It read 220.

“That’s it. I’m ordering an emergency amniocentesis to be followed by an ultrasound’.

The procedure did not go as planned. Every time Dr. Toshiro came close to withdrawing some amniotic fluid Milly’s heart raced at an almost deadly rate. At one point Dr. Toshiro started cursing in the few Japanese words she knew.

“I don’t understand this. If I didn’t know better I’d swear the little stinker knows what we’re trying to do. Then let’s try an Ultrasound. Milly, we’re going to take the needle out. When it’s finished coming out your tummy will be covered with a clear gel. It’ll feel like some dropped a lot of hair gel on your tummy. Whatever is inside can’t stop us from taking a peek inside.”

As the gel was applied Milly said that felt cool and gooey.

“That’s exactly what it’s supposed to feel like. If you want to see what’s inside just turn your head. And watch the monitor.”

As Dr. Toshiro moved the transducer it became very apparent that Milly was not carrying a baby. Milly became more than concerned.

“That face…it’s not human…it’s….” Dr. Toshiro nodded and a nurse gave her something to knock her out. The face resembled that of a gargoyle.

When Milly became conscious she was back in her room. She noticed another intravenous bag and another tube going into her arm. Brad was in the room as well as her mother and father. Milly was holding her mother’s hand with her right hand and Brads with her left hand. The wind picked up outside.

A glow suddenly appeared near the wall. Then a human looking person suddenly appeared. The glowing silhouette of a person stood near the wall. First, it addressed Tyler.

“Dr. Shine, Messenger erred in the worst possible way. What he did was not according to the plan, He did what he wanted to do. He was to bring people here that truly wanted to be here. He was not to bring people who were about to die from an accident. Nor was he supposed to cause injury when bringing anybody to this realm.”

“I was your Sentry award. I was sent here to watch over him and to intervene when and if necessary. Dr. Shine, I must apologize for Messengers clumsiness. His ineptitude caused the heart flutter. Only your going back in time will erase the mistake which caused it.”

The creature looked Milly and Brad.

“Messenger knew he was dying. When he injured your head Dr. Foster he altered your reproductive DNA. I must ask you never to have any other children in this timeline. They will not be human.”

The silvery figure looked at Milly.

“Messenger wanted his replacement to be from his body. You are not carrying a human baby. You are carrying his replacement. It will resemble him”

Milly started to cry and squeezed the hand of her mother even harder.

“Finally, there is the matter of Sirena Telford. There is no excuse for what he did and no way to make up for it in this timeline.

“The only way to correct the mistakes of the past is to go deeper into it. Brad, Milly, you will be returned to the morning you first met Messenger or as you called him Panooksa. You will have no memory of The Second Realm, the doorway, living together or anything that transpired during that time period. Everything that happened after you met Messenger will be erased from your mind.

“You mean everything Brad and I experienced will be gone?” Milly protested.

“Everything from that day forward will be gone for it will never have happened. You have a chance to rekindle what you have now, but only in your past.”

“Dr. Shine. You and your wife will be returned to that point in your time to the car you were in before its brakes failed. You have a second chance to see your daughter grow up.”

“And Sirena Telford will be returned to her living room before she sat down and picked up the pistol. She will not remember this for there won’t be anything to remember.

Brad tried to say something but there was a flash of light.

A moment later Milly found herself trying to navigate traffic in the city. Brad pulled up to his parking spot beneath the hospital. The car Tyler and Tilly were in was parked. They decided to walk down the road moments before the brakes gave, and Sirena found herself in the living room of her mansion staring at the gun.

The End

Panooksa

He was in the last hospital bed. He looked like you or me, Something brought him to that time, and place, but I’ll be damned if I know what they were.

I first saw him when I was conducting rounds in the ward on Friday.

The nurses were feeding him Jell-O which he seemed to enjoy. As he was in bed number eight we got to his bed last. I sat on the end of the bed, and described the situation to the newest batch of interns.

“Doctors, here we have our mystery man. No identification, no government documents, no papers of any kind. The hospital has no idea of who this gentlemen is. He literally materialized in the emergency ward, said “Panooksa”, what ever that means, and collapsed. While a nurse was checking his vitals it was discovered he doesn’t have any. Anything we’d regard as normal, such as body temperature, and blood pressure, he doesn’t have. He looks human, sounds human, but he isn’t human. Every diagnostic tool we have at our disposal can’t be used as well. X- rays cause him to stop breathing, An MRI almost wreaked our machine, and his blood, if you can call it that, can’t be analyzed. So he’s a complete mystery to us. Anybody have any questions ?”.

There weren’t any. Except for meek little intern named Mildred Shine who checked the word “Panooksa” on a tablet. “My tablet is not recognizing the word. But I do have a question. Are we telling him anything he wants to hear ?”. Dr. Shine had caused the small collection of doctors to murmur. This usually meant one of two things. Dr. Shine was on to something, or the doctors were exchanging their plans for the weekend. As it was Friday my bet was on the latter – weekend plans. I had been at that hospital for twelve years, and knew the ways of interns and residents, and I had my own weekend plans, which nothing to do with the hospital.

I found out on Monday Dr. Shine had taken an unusual interest in “Panooksa”, that he was what she called “a challenge”, and began exposing him to radio, TV, print, the internet, hoping to find something that would spark some sort of interest. It wasn’t long before “Panooksa” to an interest in Dr. Shine. She knew the hospital had strict guidelines regarding doctor-patient relationships, and wasn’t going to foul up her career with a curious case. She had stacks and stacks of newspapers delivered to him. She hoped something in them would spark some sort of interest. Newspapers only bored him. So did radio and TV. Dr. Shine was showing signs of wear herself, and decided to eat. She was only one of only a handful of people I know who really, really liked hospital food. Most employees of the hospital avoid it like the plague, and brown bag it, but Mildred actually enjoyed it. She had a small TV sent up to the ward, a pocket sized DVD player which obviously seen better days as  it has the initials “MS” in bright green nail polish on it, and a DVD of the movie “Lost Horizon”. As the movie progressed she wolfed down  “wallpaper paste” – mashed potatoes, and “green buckshot” – peas, “Panooksa” seemed to take an interest in the film. He got out of bed, and started bowing reverently to scenes of Lamasery, or the home of the High Lama. On Monday “Panooksa” looked much older and much more tired. The head nurse for his ward said she found Dr. Shine asleep in a chair beside a small mountain of very used Kleenex tissues. The Kleenex box was in her lap, and it was empty. “Panooksa” simply ceased to live shortly after noon. But all signs pointed to him not being alive, so how could be he be otherwise ?