My name is Campbell Ryan Quinto. Most kids want a car, or maybe access to their college fund, when they turn eighteen. Not me. There was only one thing I wanted: to make the decision to stop treatment. I had been dying of liver cancer for the majority of my life. In fact, I would be hard-pressed to recall any memory that didn't involve me being in the hospital.
Needless to say, my mother didn't agree with my wishes. She tried to have me declared mentally incompetent, claiming that my cancer had eaten away too much of my brain. She just about succeeded, if not for my father.
An Air Force Master Sergeant and decorated war veteran; he took a leave of absence to go to court and fight for me. When he defeated his own wife, he was forced to take an early retirement to act as my primary caregiver.
The day I was taken off life support I thought the worst was over. I couldn't have been more wrong. Because now I'm stuck. I have roamed the halls of this North Dakota hospital for four years. During that time I witnessed my family suffer through tragedy, pain and abuse, unable to help them or even communicate.
I just want to leave. This world is bullshit and I want out! But I'm not completely without hope. I have my best friend Isabelle. She's stuck too.
"Hey, Cam," Isy said as she walked around my desk, her short blonde hair brushing against her cheeks. "What are you writing?"
"My story, I guess."
"Anyone who can see or hear us."
"Oh! have you met the new paramedic, the goth cowboy with the long hair that falls over his eyes?" She asked in a dreamy tone appropriate for her young age. "We talked for a while. He seems nice."
"I know who you're talking about and he seems like an asshole. What was his name? Raven? Hawk?"
"Phoenix, he told me he's a descendant of gypsies and his grandmother had the gift of sight as well."
"Sounds like a douche-bag..."
"For being a gypsy?"
"For being able to communicate with the dead like it's some kind of hipster superpower."
"So anyone who can communicate with the dead is a douche-bag? Then who are you writing for?"
I shrugged. "Maybe one of those douche-bags knows how to help us cross over."
"Which is why we need to be friendly. You never know who might hold the key. I can introduce you to Phoenix when he gets on shift tonight."
"Sure," I replied, only to appease her. In my heart I already knew who held the key to our salvation; Isy's son. I never met the kid but part of me thinks he is why Isy and I were allowed to meet.
Isy was a pregnant teen (born nearly ten years before me) who died bringing her son into the world. The kid was adopted by a good family. As of this writing, he's 15 years old. The same as my little sister. And they've actually met. Don't ask how I know.
"How do you know?" Isy asked. I looked up to see she had been reading over my shoulder.
"Think about how we met."
"I had been stuck haunting the ICU while you had been haunting the maternity ward for over a decade."
"I remember," she took a seat next to me, her eyes filled with innocent sadness. "So you think we only got to meet because they did?"
"Considering the f-ed up manner in which they met," I said out loud to myself.
"I take it you're going to write it down?"
"Just the facts."
Isy got up and left, phasing through a wall. I already knew why: the facts were not pleasant. Isy's son suffered from Cystic Fibrosis. And although he was a talented athlete, he was bullied relentlessly.
Freshman year my sister, my little Jenessa, stood up for him. And for her heroism, her jock itch of a boyfriend had her drugged and gang-raped. He and his friends dumped her unconscious body on my parents' lawn. I know because I was allowed to watch, as my father carried her into the emergency room. I sat by her side holding her hand as police and doctors tried to piece together the events.
I watched as she cried out in pain during the rape kit examination. I talked to her, told her I was still here watching over her. But she didn't hear me. Neither did my father.
He left the hospital and came back with a broken hand. I later learned that he beat the living crap out of her boyfriend. He would have gone to jail if not for a plea deal reached by Jen's boyfriend's rich family, and my mother.
For a large lump sum, all charges would be dropped. Both against my father (who beat the son of a bitch's face in so badly he needed surgery to reconstruct his skull) and Jen's boyfriend who would go on to spend the next year in the hospital instead of the next ten years in prison for raping a fourteen-year-old.
"You act like this is all my son's fault!" Isy said with a groan as she reappeared behind me.
"No, I'm not blaming Sean for any..." I paused as I bit my tongue.
"You can say 'Sean.' That is his name. I told you before, it doesn't bother me." Her tone of voice said otherwise.
Sean was the name given to him by his adoptive parents. She would have named him Jayden, after her brother. "You have to admit, it feels like Sean is the reason we're together. This place, this hospital, it's playing with us like God damn Sims. We can only see what it wants us to see, feel what it wants us to feel."
"The computer game. I know you've heard of it. You're old but not that old."
That made her giggle. "Yes, I've heard of the Sims." Suddenly Isy smiled the most beautiful smile. "I feel him! Sean is here."
"In the hospital?"
She nodded, her lips pursed with an expression of sadness. "Yeah, again..." She sighed. "I'm going to see him. Maybe he'll be able to hear me this time."
"Maybe. You never know." I closed my notebook. The plain line paper notebook disappeared into my arm, like something out of a video game. "Hold on, Babe, I'm coming with you."
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