And the next is no easier, if anything it’s worse. They said I had a gift, it didn’t seem that way, it didn’t seem to work.
They wheel in a man in his twenties. He’s strapped to the gurney to stop him from injuring himself, that’s what they tell me. He’s scared. He knows why he’s here. I’m sure the hospital equipment scares him, it scares me.
Wires are stuck to my skin, and are routed into a machine that beeps arrogantly. It betrays my heart beat, there’s no hiding when it increases. The man struggles against his restraints, as his hair is shaved to receive similar patches. The wires from which descend into his own machine; his pulse is much quicker, it skips a beat and the men in uniform take notes.
“It’s time,” I’m told.
I don’t want to do this. But I do, I’m expected to. I approach the man and want to tell him everything will be fine, but I cannot guarantee that.
“Everything will be fine,” I say anyway, I can’t help myself.
I rub my hands together, the ritual feels staged, and my clammy palms show my nervousness.
“I’ve heard about you,” the man says, and spits in my face.
I force a smile, it’s not his fault, he doesn’t know better.
I hold my hands above his abdomen, close my eyes, and breath deeply. I imagine a black smoke rise out of his body and into my lungs. I breathe out, visualising the black smoke billow out. I direct it to one of the uniforms, he coughs absentmindedly.
From the monitor, I hear his heart rate begin to slow, and see that he’s relaxing. I smile at him, and he smiles back, he trusts me now.
His heart rate slows further and the man closes his eyes. He looks at peace, and I’m glad. It’s why I’m doing this, to correct his suffering, to fix him. I stare at one of the uniforms, pleading with my eyes for them to let me stop. A gentle shake of the head tells me that ain’t gonna happen.
His pulse barely registers now. One blip every few seconds.
I’m sorry, I say to him in my mind. A twitch on his face tells me he heard me.
Then his pulse is absent.
It doesn’t affect me nearly as much as the first, or the second. I’m numb to this now.
The uniform performs a tick on his clipboard and nods to his partner.
One hundred and one, in a row.
Please let me stop, I say to myself.
“Bring in the next one,” he says.
“Haven’t you got what you want?” I plead.
“We have,” he says, “bring in the next.”
He doesn’t know that the ritual I perform with my hands are only for him. He will think it was heartburn at first, something he ate. I’ll smile to myself when he announces that.
I made sure I was out of the room and sitting quietly, far out of the range of where he’d expect me to reach, when I finished the job. That was the first one that didn’t make me feel sad, didn’t make me feel repulsed, if anything it left me with a feeling of pride, that I’d used my gift for good. My only regret was, I didn’t do it sooner.