I stood outside the maze shivering. The early morning air held its night-time chill despite the sun’s growing warmth. I walked, my running shoes crunching the fallen leaves underneath my feet.
As I reached the edge of the forest I looked back; no sign a structure ever existed in that space. Of course it could be invisible somehow. Underground maybe? If you stepped a certain place it would appear? Possible. It was real. That much I was certain of. The woman; agony written on her face. Her death. Another puzzle; dead bodies didn’t dematerialize like that. Where did it go? Did it even exist?
My shift in E.R. started at 9am. Estimating the sun’s distance, I thought I only had a half hour. I looked down at my outfit: tank-top and pyjama pants. Fortunately all could be covered by scrubs. I walked towards the “H”; not a terrible hike from the park at the centre of town. There were few people on the streets; my chances of being stopped were low.
I made the last turn, and the building at last provided some shade. Only a single ambulance remained in the bay. I stopped, steadying myself with a deep breath before entering. I loved this time of day at the hospital. Mornings were a chance at renewal; to put the horrors of night-time behind and start fresh.
The doors slid shut behind me, and I entered the Emergency Room registration area. I smiled at the empty chairs in reception, and carried on into the department. My hope for an easier shift than usual was shattered as I realized all beds were occupied.
“Dr. Smythe,” I looked up as an intern approached with a clipboard eager to please; all smiles. My hands clasped behind me: “Yes Sarah,”
“We’re arguing over a diagnosis of a patient. Blood tests, and X-rays are clean, yet the patient is still in pain.”
“Which bed?” I asked. I’d have to examine the patient first. The intern was quiet, and led me to the bed. I flung open the curtain and was caught short for a moment. Here was the woman who’d died in my arms. I covered my surprise by looking at the chart: She lay there eyes closed, lips in a firm line. I clung to the obvious explanation. She was younger; possibly a daughter. No grey in her hair, wrinkles on her face.
“Myra Green?” I asked. She nodded, eyes closed.
“I’m Dr. Cynthia Smythe. My colleague here tells me you’re in some pain. I have to examine you before we find out what’s wrong. Tell me where it hurts.” I grabbed the intern’s stethoscope.
“Breathe in for me,” I shifted it to her other side. “Out. Deeply please.” I heard the echo of possible fluid. The process was repeated on her back.
“You can lay back now.” I said putting a pair of gloves on, pulling up the t-shirt. I applied gentle pressure, and she grimaced. I turned to my intern-shadow: “run the blood panel, and X-rays again. Focus on the rib cage this time. Order an M.R.I. to check for fluid on the lungs.
“Yes Doctor.” I walked made my way to my office. I sunk down on the leather office-chair weary. I was used to surviving on little sleep, but when you add an unplanned middle of the night walk; I yawned.
I grabbed the pair of scrubs out of my desk drawer kept for such situations and tugged them on. I flipped on my laptop, and reviewed the notes on the other patients. Myra seemed to be the only truly ‘urgent’ case. The rest were waiting beds on other hospital wards.
I landed on Google, and typed in Myra Green. First match was an obituary dated two years before. I clicked it, and saw a bigger picture. It was the same woman who died in my arms at the maze. “Now that is impossible” I said to the empty office.
“What is?” Sarah’s voice came from the doorway.
“Nothing… It’s nothing. Test results in?”
“Yes. I don’t know how you do it. It’s a punctured lung. We’ve gone ahead and put in a drain.” I nodded, and she beamed at me, taking it as praise.
“I’ll find a bed for her.” It was an excuse to keep her here until I could figure this out. I pulled up the map of hospital beds. There was one short-term stay available. I followed the intern to the patient’s bed.
“You are going to be our guest for a little while longer.” I informed her. She weakly nodded as the orderlies came along to push the stretcher. “Room 210. Put her by the window,” I instructed.
The rest of the shift elapsed into the ordinary chaos of broken bones, ankle sprains, and a car accident. I didn’t think of Myra until I was ready to leave. I stood at the doorway watching her in the bed frozen by the whispers of questions in my mind.
I finally forced myself to walk over to the bed. She was on her back, her eyes open and smiling.
“You saved me,” she exclaimed.
“Yup. Kick the Reaper to the curb when you can, I always say.” Surprisingly she chuckled. Not everyone understood my twisted sense of humour. The laughter faded.
“Do we know each other from somewhere?” I winced at how stupid that sounded. It was like a cheesy pick-up line even when you genuinely needed the knowledge. The smile vanished from her face, and she reached for my hand. She fixed her gaze on my face, eyes searching mine.
“Don’t touch the walls.”
“Why? You refer to the maze, but why? And how did you vanish, and end up here?” I closed my eyes squeezing the bridge of my nose. Hysterical laughter; she’d let go of my hand and turned over on the mattress.
I went to her side of the bed. Seeing me there she fell quiet, and started speaking. “Imagine all the pathways of your life spread out before you. Think of your regrets, your fondest wishes; dreams never followed. The labyrinth gives us a chance to undo it; try on new identities.” It struck me very much like the fates sewing away on their looms in ancient Greek mythology.
“Us. There’s more than you, and me?” I asked. I turned away staring out the window at a darkening sky. When Myra didn’t speak I turned back towards her. She’d fallen asleep. I quickly checked her vitals, and left.