Author's note: This story is an entry into CrazyWord's writing challenge blog post. My topic was: Cancer

“It’s a girl!” The doctor beamed as she held my beloved Ariel out to me. She was crying, having been thrust so unprepared out of her mother’s warmth, and into the cold world. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. She was the most beautiful baby on earth! She was my little Ariel.

My wife and I were constantly giving her check-ups at the doctors, trying to prevent any kind of illnesses she might ever get. It’s safe to say we were perhaps a little over-protective, but she was our daughter. We couldn’t let anything happen to her.

We kept her at home, in her cot most of the time in case she injured herself crawling on the floor. She still didn’t know how to walk by the age of three, and though the doctor found this highly irregular we never told him why.

We didn’t allow her to walk. She stayed in her cot all day, or we’d carry her from place to place. What if she hurt herself? What if she fell over and started crying? We couldn’t run the risk of that happening.

My wife began to grow dubious, however, after her fourth birthday came around and she still couldn’t walk.

“Maybe if we vacuum the floor in her room twice, and we shut all of the windows so the wind won’t knock her over. We’ll be right there beside her, Henry. Nothing will happen,” she coaxed. And I believed her.

We set little Ariel down on the carpet, my face full of worry, the carpet had been vacuumed three times and the windows were shut. I took Ariel’s tiny hands into mine, and lifted her off of her bottom and onto her feet. And I taught her how to walk.

At the age of four my little daughter had learned to walk, and she had squealed with delight the whole way through! I started to realise that maybe things weren’t always going to turn out so bad. I started to take more risks with Ariel, like taking her to play in the backyard, and walking her down the block in a pram.

I soon found myself enjoying her happiness in the outside world, and I decided not to shut her in anymore. She was five years old when she started Kindergarten. I hugged her for an eternity outside the school gates, but it still didn’t feel long enough.

Ariel was smart. Very, very smart. Her latest check-up with the doctor had shown that all of the time spent inside listening to my conversations with my wife, and reading her stories, she had learned a lot. Her mind was on par with that of an eight year old’s. I was so incredibly proud.

Ariel excelled in her work, although excelling at Kindergarten is admittedly no incredulous feat. She even found it boring. Imagine that, a five year old finding colouring in a boring activity! I don’t think I had laughed so hard since my darling daughter had been born. I couldn’t be more delighted with my darling daughter.

Although, there was a negative side to her intelligence. After a term of Kindergarten, I took Ariel to the doctors again for another check-up. Despite allowing her more freedom, it came at a price for me. I was constantly taking her to the doctors.

However, this time was not like all of the other check-ups. The doctor found an unusual lump on Ariel’s back, about the size of small pebble.

Leukemia, apparently 30% of all cancers found in children turn out to be leukemia. Cancer, the number one cause of death by disease in children, had now claimed my precious Ariel.

For a moment the enitre world went quiet, almost as if even the furniture couldn’t believe a girl so smart, so strong, and so beautiful, could ever be affected by a disease so malicous. Then the earth began to spin, and sound returned in bits and pieces. Ariel’s sweet voice, talking to the doctor about something. The sounds of the fan buzzing overhead. My vision began to blur as I realised tears had found their way through my body and up into my eyes. My head felt light, and my heart felt strong against my chest. I couldn’t stay in there.

I went to stand, found I couldn’t, and smashed into the doctor’s desk falling to the floor in a quivering heap. I looked up to see my daughter’s sweet faced painted with tears. I reached out to her, tried to hold her hand but I couldn’t find it in the swirling haze the world had now become.

My daughter had cancer. And because she was so intelligent, she knew exactly what it meant.

Overtime, the symptoms became more and more evident. Paleness and limping, the unusual lump grew more evident, she grew fatigued for seemingly no reason. My daughter was dying, and it was entirely my fault.

Why hadn’t I taken her to the doctor sooner? Why had I held it off for an entire school term? Ariel had asked me to, but then it wasn’t her fault. But it can't have been my fault. I did everything for her!

Realization dawned on me. It had to be my wife’s fault! She helped Ariel get dressed, have showers, all of the important things. Why hadn’t she discovered it sooner? My wife was the one who had convinced me to let Ariel play outside, and go to school, and flirt with danger constantly. It was entirely her fault.

All of the questions without answers made the cauldron of my rage overflow, and the furious concoction inside flowed unswervingly in the direction of my wife.

I had almost killed her. It was her fault, after all. Any fool could see that, but I didn’t. I didn't kill her because I knew it would hurt Ariel. And that was the last thing I needed.

1 in 8 children die from cancer. My daughter had a good chance of surviving, and she needed her mother alive. As it turned out, Ariel seemed to be destined to join the 12% of children who didn't make it.

We got Ariel all of the treatment she could possibly need. I stopped working to take care of her at home, and to take her to her chemotherapy sessions. My wife began to work full time to pay for it all. Served the bitch right.

The sooner cancer is found; the easier it is to treat. My wife should have found it much earlier, and my beloved little Ariel wouldn’t be in so much pain now if she had. As Ariel and I grew weaker together, and we were both at the ends of our tether, I was approached by a man.

He wore a white suit, heavily tinted glasses, and his hair was neatly combed back. I had been drinking in the bar that night, tired of my daughter’s cries of pain and almost at my wits end. He had strolled slowly into the pub like the sun strolls slowly into the sky every morning.

He turned a few heads.

He was like a beacon of light, in that white suit. He stood there radiantly, and he turned his head in my direction and flashed me a toothy grin. Strolling in my direction, he reached the bar and placed a sheet of yellow-coloured paper in front of me.

“Henry,” the man had a deep voice that rattled my ribcage, “good to see you.” He spoke slowly and with purpose.

“Do I know you?” I squeaked out, my voice paling in comparison to his soothing tones.

“Maybe, before perhaps. Not now though, I would assume,” he flashed another toothy grin and the wrinkles on his face became more apparent. His teeth were crooked, and his face looked like a scorched desert.

“And that’s supposed to mean...?” I asked him.

“Enough. Sign the contract, save your daughter’s life, another life is taken. Do we have a deal?” the man suddenly spoke, his tone hinting annoyance.

“I’m sorry, but what?” I asked him, confused and bewildered at how casually he had approached me with that deal.

The man sighed with impatience. “Look, Henry, I don’t have all day. Listen, if you sign this contract, I’ll save your daughter’s life. The one with the cancer, poor darl. I’d hate to see a perfectly good life go to waste, wouldn’t you?” he smiled again.

“You can save my daughter?” I inquired, interested in what the man had to say.

“Of course, that’s what I’m here for really. But, of course, there’s a catch. Someone else gets her illness, someone you either don’t know, or don’t know well,” the man said matter-of-factly. I couldn’t believe that this was happening. It had occured way too suddenly to be real. But, then again, what did I have to lose?

The man had walked into my life like an angel of light, shining hope. Lighting the way to my daughter’s redemption. All I had to do was sign a stupid piece of paper.

“Sure, I mean, if it doesn’t work what do I have to lose, right?” I asked warily as the man thrust a pen into my hand.

“Oh, I can assure you it will work, Henry. It always does.”

I began to read the contract. The first part of it was the terms and conditions the man had outlined to me: my daughter would be saved and another person would contract her illness. There was one sentence written in small print I was unable to read without my glasses, but to be honest I was ready to sign it as soon as the man had finished speaking.

I finished off signing the paper. I took a great swig of my beer, went to cheers the man for his help, but found he had disappeared.

The next day was one of the happiest days of my life. My daughter woke up feeling better than she had in months. Her face began to regain colour, and she started to complain less and less about her joint pain. I couldn’t believe it had worked. A strange man had walked up to me in my local pub, handed me a sheet of paper, I had signed it and now my daughter was recovering.

It truly was an unbelievable set of events. Over the next few weeks, trips to the doctors became enjoyable. I loved taking my daughter there and hearing how well she was improving. In fact, she was doing so well the doctor didn’t know what to think. One minute she had been on death’s doorstep, the next she was running through the backyard squealing with delight.

The doctor had said that she would be okay to begin school again for year one, which would be in two weeks, and the school was happy to have her back. My little Ariel, who I would do anything for, was on the mend and returning to the real world. I couldn’t have been a happier father.

I fell back in love with my wife. I had forgiven her, and we had agreed upon having another child. Ariel deserved a little sister or brother to spend time with, and my wife and I were so content with our little family. She was now two months pregnant! Everything was just perfect.

I was reading the paper, and wondering about the man who had approached me that day in the pub. He had said that someone else would contract my daughter’s illness. I had willingly signed, agreeing to the terms, because if it was someone I didn’t know, I thought it wouldn’t matter.

“Young man makes miraculous overnight recovery!”

The front page of the newspaper had read. The story was about a 20 year old man who had been racked with severe leukemia, and had recovered almost overnight from the deadly disease.

It had to be that man who had approached me, I thought. I mean, how else could that have happened? It all seemed too similar to be a coincidence. Suddenly the doorbell rang.

URGENT– was all that was written on the letter the man handed me at the doorstep. I took it from him and opened it inside the kitchen.

I dropped the letter right before time stopped moving.

Dear Mary Holloway,

We regret to inform you that your test results from the Clearwater Medical Facility have shown up as a positive reading for Leukemia. We urge you to schedule another appointment as soon as it is convenient for you.

In the bottom left corner of the envelope was a torn piece of yellow paper containing a line of small print, and my signature.

“And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an Angel of Light” - (2 Corinthians, 11:14)

Written by Natalo
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