By Michell Goyal
“Excuse me, do you know where Dr. Williams is?” Mrs. Leon asked the man in front of her. He was shuffling through some papers on a desk. He was a young man, and Mrs. Leon was quite sure he was a new trainee at the institution. He had a slight shake to him as he looked through the contents of the desk, as if he was trying to find something rather quickly. As Mrs. Leon spoke, his eyes snapped over with a sharp intake of breath.
“Oh, no, I’m sorry. I just got here. Meaning, I just recently started working here a few weeks ago.” The young man’s eyes darted around nervously, seeming to want to escape his conversation with Mrs. Leon. But the woman simply looked at the man with sad eyes and small smile.
“Oh, that’s quite alright. I’m sure he should be around soon.” She exchanged another glance with the intern and then turned her attention back to the multitude of monitors on the wall in front of her. She furrowed her eyebrows as she read the information.
“Negative”, Mrs. Leon muttered. She sighed and drummed her fingers on the table at her side, as she often did when nervous or frightened. Mrs. Leon was becoming impatient.
“Ah, Dr. Leon. How are the trials going?” Mrs. Leon turned as an older man with graying hair made his way towards her. As he reached the wall of monitors, he took out a pair of clear-framed glasses from his shirt pocket and placed them on the bridge of his nose.
“All negative, I’m afraid”, Mrs. Leon replied. She took a deep breath and flattened her hand against the desk. Her eyes flickered over to an employee
typing away on their desktop. Her thumb twitched as the employee’s finger jammed on a key rather harshly.
Dr. Williams’ hands found each other. He rubbed them tensely.
“Shall we go see?”
Mrs. Leon nodded numbly, her eyes on the monitors. Dr. Williams gestured for the young man to follow, and the three silently made their way across the large room into a hallway, Dr. Williams leading the way. The sound of footsteps filled her ears as Mrs. Leon’s heart seemed to thump out of her chest. She swallowed and took one last breath as she approached a door. As she held up her hand to swipe her pass card, Mrs. Leon’s hand contained a slight tremor. She cleared her throat, swiped her card, and quickly turned the handle. The three walked in and gazed upon the young boy laying in a bed, unconscious. Mrs. Leon began to inspect the smaller monitors on the wall behind the boy.
The intern looked at Dr. Williams, confusion etched into his face. “This is getting worse by the hour,” the doctor muttered. “Now this information stays with you, understand? While it might be becoming more topical among civilians, we work very hard to keep most of it out of the public eye.” Dr. Williams said quietly to the intern beside him. After a few moments, the young man’s confused expression eased. “Of course, Doctor. I completely understand.”
Mrs. Leon seemed to be busying herself with small tasks. She changed the boy’s IV bag and adjusted the various tubes and wires. The monitors seemed
to beep in tune with her pulse, both loud enough to fill her ears. She became deaf to almost all else. Almost.
“She seems to care an awful lot about the boy”, the young man said. “But he doesn’t look like he is in the beginning stages of the disease anymore, as I have heard. And I have to ask, Doctor.” Mrs. Leon had now stopped her toiling. She stood over the bed and gazed woefully at the boy. She stroked the boy’s cheek with the back of her fingers, still shaking. The young man looked back at the older with a questioning look.
“Oh, yes, the boy happens to be the progeny of Dr. Leon,” Dr. Williams explained.
The two men looked over at the women facing the monitors who had spoken for the first time since entering the room.
“Progeny?” Mrs. Leon yelled sharply. She was fully turned towards them now, anger burning in her eyes and her body shaking slightly.
“He is my son.” Her voice boomed against the walls of the room. “He is not some experiment of yours, Doctor.” She said the last word as if it was some kind of insult, but coming from her it might as well have been. Dr. Williams looked down at his shoes with newfound interest, seemingly embarrassed at his choice of words. “I apologize, Dr. Leon,” he said quietly.
The three adults turned their heads towards the small, still voice behind Mrs. Leon. The young boy’s eyes flickered open to look at the people standing in
his room. Usually there were only two, but now there were three. A loud sound had woken him up.
“Hey, sweetie. How are you feeling?” Mrs. Leon abandoned her conversion with Dr. Williams to sit at her son’s bedside. She looked into his deep brown eyes that were so similar to another’s she had known. The little boy grabbed his mother’s hand and squinted his eyes at the light in the room.
“It still hurts like last time,” he said quietly.
“I know, sweetie, I know. But It’s okay, it’ll be okay. Dr. Williams and I are going to make it better, okay? It won’t hurt again after this.” Mrs. Leon’s voice quivered as she spoke. She put on a small smile and squeezed his hand.
The boy looked up at his mom worriedly. “Promise it won’t hurt again?”
The mother let out a shaky breath. She cupped her other hand around his cheek. Her eyes grew watery but not a single tear was shed. She needed to stay strong for her scared little boy. Brown on brown, like it had been for so many years. Yet this time, it contained a stronger love, an unbreakable bond, a connection that would last until the end of time.
“I promise, sweetie. It won’t ever hurt again.”
Relief flooded the boy’s face, as if his mom’s words held the ultimate truth. He squeezed his mother’s hand back and a big smile stretched across his face.
Mrs. Leon let go of her son’s cheek to rub her nose.
“Okay, well, it’s time to go back to sleep now, okay? Dr. Williams and I are going to run a few more tests and give you some more medicine, okay? I’ll
see you in the morning, my love.” She whispered the last part, unable to trust her voice to stand firm with her words.
The boy sported a goofy smile with sparkling, tired eyes, reflecting his mother’s image back to her. “Okay, Mommy, see you in the morning.”
A nurse appeared beside the bed, injected a clear liquid into a tube that ran into the boy’s small arm, and disappeared just as quickly as he came. Mrs. Leon ruffled her son’s sandy brown hair and placed one last kiss on his forehead. She stayed in that position until she could no longer feel slow rise and fall of his tiny chest. She stayed with her forehead against his, both of their cheeks wet now. She wrapped her arms around her sweet little soldier and openly sobbed into the pillow behind him.
Dr. Williams and the intern stood at the doorway a few ways behind her. The former looked solemnly at the ground, mourning at the loss of another patient, so young and small. The young man had tears running down his own cheeks, horrified at what he had just witnessed. He hastily wiped the water from his eyes. “Why?” he whispered.
“Another few hours and he would have been feeling excruciating pain. Another day and he would have passed out from it. Two days, and we would be in the same place we are now.” replied Dr. Williams.
“That’s right.” The women in front of them stood up on shaky legs, but her voice was once again firm. “And that means there are thousands of children as well as adults and seniors who are suffering just the same.”
Mrs. Leon smoothed her coat down for a second before looking Dr. Williams in the eyes with her own swollen and red ones. With hands clenched at her
sides and her heart aching with loss, she said, “come, Dr. Williams, we have work to do.”