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The Crossroads of Zil
By Elizabeth Collins
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2013 Elizabeth Collins
All rights reserved.
Failing heath had left the little girl in a new hospital and seemingly led her to the crossroads of her life. Only this time, change would find her, and take her down a road and on a journey, that she wouldn't soon forget.
Moving from one hospital to another, she had learned the ways of each. Like clockwork, the lab techs, nurses, and doctors followed their routines. But even though their job was to treat and restore health, in the girl's case, no such progress had been made for quite some time. She had been ill for so long, the hope for a cure no longer existed within her mind. And because this, her trust in the hospital had been lost.
To her, most of the medical staff had turned into something terrible—a kind of villain—even though their one and only purpose was to help her. Hundreds of finger pokes, blood draws, and injections had been performed on this little girl, and she had long since lost herself because of it. Every day, she saw only the hospital. And all the stickers, balloons, or funny character Band-Aids in the world could never put her mind to rest—the hospital wasn't a great place to be in.
Her illness had left the girl confined to her room, but when she was allowed to get out of bed, she always enjoyed going up and down each hallway to look at the artwork that decorated the walls. And the little girl's favorite was a collection of four framed pieces located in the hospital's west wing.
The first was a drawing of a simple tree, designed of a beauty that could only come from mother earth's finest. Next to it was an oriental-styled illustration, which depicted a dreamlike scene with air peacefully moving in and out through the picture. Beside it hung a painting of a surreal African grassland with blazing, fiery fields. And lastly, her favorite wasn't a drawing or a painting; rather, it was a huge photograph of the ocean taken on a serene day, with a sea-kissed shore and an overcast sky.
How the girl longed to go to the ocean or even to the great city that she was now in—the city of Seattle. But stricken by her illness prevented her, and while back in her room, the girl would often think to herself; about not being able to leave the hospital and go outside.
Yuck ... Hospitals, she complained. You've seen one; you've seen them all. She sighed.
How I wish, I could escape from this place. But suddenly the girl stopped, when she heard approaching footsteps behind her.
Wishing for some excitement, the girl turned to check out the hallway, holding onto anticipation—this might be a person who could bring fun or adventure. Expect, her enthusiasm quickly disappeared when she saw it was only a nurse walking by. Feeling disappointed, the girl slowly got up and walked over to her bed. And as she sat down on the edge, the girl began to recall the inner details of the hospital to help pass the time.
I've been in this hospital for so long, she thought, that, I know everything about this place!
"Hmm, let's see," the girl said, as she started to mentally list the fine points of the hospital.
First, all of the floors have long hallways with an elevator at every end. The lower floors are filled with reception areas, where the office people take your information and set up appointments with the doctors.
Then you arrive at one of the hospital's awful waiting rooms—where you sit and sit and sit some more. The chairs are ugly-looking, with their plastic seats, and if you wear shorts in the summertime, your skin will stick to them.
The waiting room's music is always lame, and the magazines are always boring.
But they do, however, have some good toys to play with. And sometimes, they're even better then what I have at home. She softly laughed to herself.
Last, of course, are the examining rooms. And if the waiting didn't drive you crazy, the examining room would. I've seen many in my time, but strangely I have found, the bigger the hospital, the nicer the examining rooms are. Still, most are small, cramped and stuffy.
Once inside, you have to sit on that cushy examining table.
But wait, it gets better. She joked with herself.
Placed on top of the examining table is that sheet of paper, which evidently is there to protect you from getting some terrible disease if you were to touch the table itself.
Personally, I'd take that risk. Eesh.
Every time you move, you make the paper crumple!
Still, the boredom remains, and to pass the time you start to look around the room.
From my experience I have found that examining rooms are filled with all sorts of medical accessories—alcohol swabs, cotton balls, and Band-Aids. And as you sit, still waiting for the doctor to show up, the sterilized smells of the room start to overwhelm the senses. They're so sanitary, in fact, that one can almost taste the chemicals used to clean the rooms.
Finally, the doctor arrives; only, the appearance is brief, and before you know it, your appointment is done.
Seems like a whole lot of fuss for no good reason. She motioned out with her hands.
I already know I'm sick.
I don't really need to go through all of that for someone to tell me that I'm sick. The girl sighed and then leaned back to lay on her bed.
As she looked out of her window, she could barely make out the tops of the buildings that stood outside. And as her mind began to wonder, she continued to think about the hospital's details.
Built below the hospital are the parking garages, and in the center of all the floors is the cafeteria and gift shop.
Now for the more, unfortunate ... the girl rolled her eyes, thinking about the predicament she presently found herself in.
The upper floors are reserved for the overnight inpatients and long-term intensive care patients, such as myself.
These floors are sectioned into rows of rooms separated by long stretches of hallways that all led to the middle, where a nurse's station is centered. And within one of those rooms, is my room. The girl looked up at the ceiling, as she continued to think to herself.
Inside my room, the white linoleum tiles that cover the floor are cold and uncomfortable to walk barefoot on. And the furniture that's in the room consists of one recliner chair for visitors, a TV with a connected videogame system that's mounted to the ceiling, and two beds—mine and the other patient's bed. Now feeling a little sad, the little girl paused for a moment before she thought,
A privacy curtain divides the room; and since I've been in a hospital for so long, the staff has provided me with the windows, which can only be viewed on my side of the room. The girl paused as her mind-set fell even deeper into sadness.
Will days like these, ever end? she wondered.
And while she looked out the window again, her imagination wished up a poetic dream.
If only ...
I could grow butterfly wings and take flight,
Going out into the world to feel the sunlight.
I wish I could grow moth wings, powdered and lace,
And flutter out of this place.
Escaping the hospital, forever.
She sighed as her imaginative thoughts swiftly disappeared and grabbing the blanket beside her, she pulled it over to cover her head. Looking out, she could just see the daylight through the holes of the tightly woven blanket; and as she paused to listen, the little girl only seemed to hear the hospital's medical equipment which surrounded her. Breathing machines, heart machines, vital monitoring machines and other complex kinds of machines whirred, clicked, and blipped, making all sorts of constantly irritating noises.
Beep ... Beep ... Tweep ... Chirp ... Bleep ... Beep.
But as she tried to listen beyond the sounds, it was then the gray skies outside broke and sunlight came streaming into the room.
Angered by the light caused the girl to fling the blanket from off of her as she quickly sat up, and once standing, she walked over to close the blinds, forcefully shutting out the sunlight. But as she returned to her bed, laying back down again, she only felt a bitter sadness within. And slowly as she closed her eyes, she soon fell asleep, longing for a change and giving anything to be well again.
It was there, on the fourth floor in the hospital's west wing that she could be found, day after day and night after night of getting well and getting worse. Living in a colorless world, she was trapped and encased within the hospital walls.
Her window was her only view of the outside world. And it was comforting to know that every time she looked out, Puget Sound and the city skyline would always be there. The girl had fallen in love with the city that she had never been in. And among the Seattle skyline, the structure she cared for the most was the Space Needle. It had become almost a friend to her, and sometimes when one of the hospital staff would come in to check on her, the girl would remark about it.
Consequently, the little girls' existence was spent at her window seat; often leaning up against the windowsill, she would lay her head down, nestled within her folded arms. And from there, she would sadly look out of her fourth floor window, and down at the world below.
Lost Dreams and Misplaced Time
She had snuck out of her room before. Of course she got into trouble, but this never seemed to discourage her, as she still kept her antics and sense of humor. Technically, by the hospital's regulations for her condition, the girl wasn't supposed to leave her bed, let alone her room. But even though she knew this, the little girl did it anyway—always wanting to test her own limits and especially the hospital's rules.
Living within this existence, she had lost much of her innocence and found it difficult to trust. Tired of being sick and misunderstood, the girl lived in an endless confusion as to whether she was still a living being and not just a patient number. And in truth, she only wanted to be known as a girl, a devoted daughter, and just a kid.
How she felt was understandable, for the hospital was a place where laughter ended, and love, it seemed, only existed within a passing moment. To understand this, was to understand how the girl felt inside. And to know how the girl felt inside, was to know the reason behind her behavior. She was a bored, frustrated, angry little girl, but at the same time, she remained a loving and caring child. The girl didn't want to cause any trouble; it's just, in a place like the hospital, there was nothing else to do, and she only acted out because of it.
The little girl was actually quite creative and had a remarkable imagination. She was a dreamer, a music lover, and a joke teller. A curious explorer and a compelled adventurer; different, from the other patients.
But the girl was always sick and always in and out of a hospital, clinic, or doctor's office. She been to so many in fact that her one pathetic hobby was collecting doctor's business cards like baseball cards; trying to get the best "players" in the medical business. Only now, the girl was a semi-permanent resident in the biggest and grandest hospital in the country—a luxurious hotel, except with bedpans.
The only means of escaping this reality, it seemed, was to let her mind go blank—with no memory, no thought, and no sound. The girl's pillows and blankets kept her warm but brought no comfort or release from this place. And everyday existence turned into a never-ending struggle to keep her mind intact; to hold onto her heart and courage; and to protect her self-identity, so it would remain.
Not wishing for death, but not wanting to live, the girl felt time slow and it was hard for her to believe that only yesterday, she had been okay. She coughed so much that she no longer could, and each day seemed to pass, depleting every moment. The girl felt as if she had stopped growing, completely out of touch with the ground or the earth itself. It was difficult to breathe in the air. Her lungs were always on fire, and she seemed to always find herself drowning in an ocean of watery tears.
The little girl was alive, but no longer a living thing; she was alone and lost within this place and within herself. Reaching out for help and not finding any, the only hope she had left was the sound of her mom's voice, and she desperately longed for the day when her mom would return.
"Tomorrow," she said. "Maybe tomorrow, she'll come."
The girl stopped and turned in her bed. Quietly, she listened, hearing her own heart beating softly, as she held something broke inside. Day in and day out, she had lived where nothing seemed to matter anymore. Loneliness had overtaken her. And how she wished that tomorrow, wasn't such a long time away.
Out of boredom, she would often stared up at the ceiling; and while looking deeply into its thousands of pinpoint holes of the white ceiling tiles, would cause her mind to go blank by the uninspiring dullness. Slowly she became numb, and any sensation within seemed to fade away.
But as random thoughts of her life gradually re-entered her mind, the feelings she received from them, made her think to herself.
When I'm scared or all alone, I forget who I am ... or ... who I ever was.
I don't remember walking on the earth or the smell of growing trees in the forest.
To breathe, she sighed, to really breathe and take in a deep breath of air, letting it fill and cool my lungs.
To remember—remember sitting around a burning campfire and know the warmth from it.
Or feeling the rain, the sea spray at the ocean,
And looking at the water's surface.
I smell nothingness and taste only honey-flavored cough drops.
My vision is blurred, and the sounds I hear waver.
I have always been strong, but this sickness has overwhelmed me.
It shows no caring for me and gives me no relief.
I know it will be the death of me.
And that one day I will be at death's door. She paused.
I think, in this place, I've even forgotten my true feelings.
How to love and to laugh.
But now, I guess, none of these can touch my own imagination.
It seems that's all I have left.
However, such creative thoughts were fleeting as the girl had endured thirteen birthdays; and knowing in the coming days would bring her fourteenth birthday, she was not looking forward in seeing another year come. This was not the road that she had chosen, but it seemed that the unseen had chosen it for her. By living with the sickness, she had forgotten so much—the sound of her own voice, the echo of her own footsteps. Even the sound of her own name seemed like a distance away. A new feeling had found the girl, and it replaced the wonder and happiness of life with loneliness and darkness. And while the hours drifted by, she would once again sit at her window and look down at the passing life below her.
It would make her smile to see the gray city squirrels scurrying about on the hospital's lawns; and once in a while, a strong breeze would come from Puget Sound, opening and bending the red maple trees out by the medical staff's parking lot. The girl would often see the families come and go, entering and exiting through the hospital's front doors; and sometimes the family she saw would end up staying in her room. Their child, having some kind of ailment, would stay in the bed next to hers. Except, having lived in the hospital for so long, had made the girl indifferent to most of the people around her. And because of this mind-set, she no longer felt badly for the child who would stay next to her.
They don't really need to look out of the windows, she would think, trying to convince herself that it didn't matter either way. They can get out of their bed and walk around. And anyway, they never stay for very long, only for a few days at the most—unlike me ...
Although, she sighed with envy. What's some window, compared to walking around and getting to see the fish? she thought.
The hospital fish lived and swam inside the gigantic glass tanks that were located throughout the hospital, and during the day, the people who came and went would be welcomed by one of the glass tanks. Just the sight of the fish swimming inside brought a serene sense of comfort, and this was a most appreciated feeling to receive while in a place of uncertainty.
It was for this reason the girl tried to sneak out of her room, so she could visit the fish tanks. On the nights when she did, no matter how dark or foreboding the hallways were, she could always see the light of the fish tanks—only because the hospital kept the tank's air bubble motors and lights on all night. So even in complete darkness, the girl could always find a fish tank; where she could admire with amazement and remember dreams long since passed.
Heading back was a different story. As the girl tried to sneak back to her room, the warm glow of the cool aquatic tank lights would disappear, leaving only dark passageways to the upper floors. Passing by the receptions areas, she could hear the sounds of irritating humming coming from the computers that were left on overnight. The noise would surround the girl and seemed to echo in the darkness, sounding like a field of angry crickets. Screen savers flashed with their various of flickering lights and the imagination could mistake them as being the eyes of hungry, cruel creatures hiding in dark corners; all of them blinking at the girl as she passed by, and seemingly ready to pounce and gobble her up.
Excerpted from The Crossroads of Zil by Elizabeth Collins. Copyright © 2013 Elizabeth Collins. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Her World.................... 1
Chapter 2: Lost Dreams and Misplaced Time.................... 8
Chapter 3: Mom's Visit.................... 15
Chapter 4: Mr. Mez's Music.................... 20
Chapter 5: The Wacky Nurse Bizair.................... 26
Chapter 6: Dr. Weir's Checkup.................... 32
Chapter 7: Fading Away and Passing By.................... 40
Chapter 8: At Death's Door.................... 46
Chapter 9: Death.................... 52
Chapter 10: The Crossroads.................... 67
Chapter 11: Earth.................... 73
Chapter 12: Mezzo.................... 92
Chapter 13: Air.................... 122
Chapter 14: Moment of Meditation.................... 145
Chapter 15: Bizarro.................... 151
Chapter 16: Fire.................... 178
Chapter 17: Weirdo.................... 202
Chapter 18: Water.................... 238
Chapter 19: Latnem City.................... 272
Chapter 20: The Final Judgment.................... 286
Chapter 21: Home.................... 307
Chapter 22: A New Beginning.................... 314