Welcome to The Echo’s annual feature — Summer Soap, a daily fictional serial which runs over 12 parts, which began last Monday and runs for a fortnight. Called Moving Along, this story, set in Cork city, was written by Nejla Gaylen, from the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC. In this final episode, Kate is reunited with her lifeless body. Catch up on previous episodes at echolive.ie
Episode Twelve - CUH
THERE wasn’t a blue seat or a brown bench without a butt on it. Children were bawling. Adults too. A lady was holding her arm as she leaned her head against a man’s shoulder.
Each time the door of the CUH Emergency ward opened, they all sprang to attention, hoping their name would be the one called. They had all been repeatedly disappointed.
It looked like a homeless shelter to Kate, like the people crammed into the space had moved in and wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon.
Saoirse had to slow down periodically to pull Kate along as she kept stopping to look around at all of them, the old man, the little girl, the lady with the baby. They coughed and cried and moaned and felt so alive to her.
They walked through reception and past where a man was seated at a desk. Kate was waiting for someone to stop them, but the man didn’t even acknowledge them. Nobody did.
It was like a scene from a war movie on the other side, on the caring and healing side. The hallway was a parking lot with trolleys lined up as far as the eye could see and the medical staff were yelling and racing around like they were trying to get something done before the next bomb hit.
Kate and Saoirse kept walking and amongst the many noises, there was a keen wailing sound that was steady and sure. It grew louder as they walked deeper into the belly of the emergency ward and when they entered a room far in the back it was very loud.
A nurse was performing chest compressions on a woman who lay bloody and soiled and half exposed on a trolley in the trauma room.
The nurse would periodically pause and look towards the other side of the bed and another nurse would squeeze an airbag two times and then the chest compressions would start again.
“Is that me?” Kate asked Saoirse.
“I look a hot mess.”
“Nah. You look massive.”
On the television, they make it appear heroic. Doctors and nurses scrambling about with abundant energy, trying to snatch a patient back from the edge. In this live action dramatization, there was a petite lady pumping up and down on Kate’s chest and another person standing at her head squeezing a bag periodically. And then there were a handful of extras standing around doing nothing that Kate could tell.
She leaned into the obscene serenity of the moment. Yes, it was her lying there. The bruises and other assorted injuries could give her some reason to doubt it, but it wouldn’t change the truth. The shrill alarm said she was dying — or already dead, if frumpy was to be believed.
The back and forth between the pressing up and down and squeezing the bag went on for a couple minutes and then a different woman stepped forward. A doctor. She held a metal paddle in each of her hands.
“Clear!” she yelled out and the two nurses both lifted their hands off the body. The body jumped as the electrical currents raced through it, but the alarm continued in its long, steady wail. The first nurse restarted chest compressions.
Kate moved all the way up to the head of the trolley and looked down into a barely recognisable face. She noted the remnants of the jacket she had bought in Spain and the pants she had borrowed from her sister and never returned. She laid her hand on the leg and felt a great chill run through her.
The second nurse was squeezing the air bag again. One. Two. The first nurse went to restart chest compressions when the doctor stepped up and put a hand on her shoulder to still her arms. The doctor looked at her watch.
“Time of death, 18.11. Thank-you everyone for a great effort. We tried. We always try but we never really had a chance with this one.”
Kate turned to Saoirse. “So, I’m just dead now?”
“Yeah well, so am I. You get used to it after a while.”
“And that’s all?”
“Anything special you want, girl?”
“I guess I thought it would be more of a big deal. I mean, it is a big deal to me, but it doesn’t seem to be a big deal to anybody else.
“It started off big — getting hit by a double decker bus and all which I don’t even remember—but then there’s no bright white light, no angels singing, no parting of the heavens.”
“There’ll be no party, like, if that’s what you’re after.”
“No celebration of my life? Just forever dead?”
“That’s it. No waking up to discover you were dreaming in the shower. The show has ended and you’re off the air.”
“I guess now would be a really good time for that bottle of Bertha’s you promised me.”
“Oh right. I did say that. Didn’t mean a word of it. Was just trying to get ya moving along.”