Davis looked at the child. Her pale face smiled as she lay in the hospital bed. Dark smudges surrounded her eyes, eyes bereft of lashes. Tubes and wires stretched from her to the bank of monitors that bleeped, dripped, and ticked. Each sound a symbol of what life had become. His baby girl, barely starting life only to have it cruelly yanked away.

Eyes clamped shut; he sucked air through a constricted throat. He couldn’t watch anymore; couldn’t bear any more pain. The doorway shimmered behind him. He’d turned away from it during the war and when his wife died. Living through life’s adversities was the best teacher, but what was there to learn from watching a death like this? One step through the portal and this experience would be left behind. He could escape the grief. But if he passed it by again would it return?

“Where’s that door go, Papa?”

His eyes sprang open. If she could see it her life was at a brink, teetering; waiting for her choice.  It meant she was like him in more ways than he thought.

“It leads away, Ariel, around the pain. But it makes you forget who you were.”

She pursed her lips a moment, thinking. “I think I’d rather stay here.”

He stroked her skeletal hand. The taut, yellowed skin felt dry. So frail, so young. All he had left. He couldn’t leave her. Every second was worth the pain. Maybe this treatment would be the cure….

About A. L. Kaplan

I am a writer, artist, and parent.
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