It was not the darkness itself that was frightening; it was the grotesque screams being emitted from it that petrified Kim. They were screams of agony and excruciating pain. Kim peered into the room, squinting her eyes to focus on what limited light was there. She held back from entering, hovering around the door.
“Hello?” Kim called out in caution. Another gut-wrenching scream pierced her ears in response. Kim’s stomach clenched, and she pressed her head forward, willing her eyes to adjust. She could make out large mounds of solid shadows, but evidence of the scream’s creator could not be seen.
Kim held her breath as she listened, hoping for more clues. There were no sounds of a struggle. No furniture moving. No banging. Silence permeated the room before another scream filled the void. It came from the right. Kim stepped closer to the door, pressing it even further open, casting light from the hallway onto the wooden floorboards. It didn’t improve her vision of the rest of the room. Kim ran her hand across the inner wall, feeling for a switch.
The brightness of the light blinded Kim. She blinked as her pupils retracted and she focused on the furniture in the room which she identified as the shadows she had seen in the darkness. Muffled sobs from behind a closed door on her right reminded Kim of her purpose.
“Hello? I’m here to help.” She called again.
Kim pushed the door, and it swung open to reveal a young girl curled up on the bed. Her long dark hair was damp and clung to her face. The girl looked up, pleading with her eyes, as her body tensed and she released another scream. Kim scanned the room, illuminated by a solitary lamp in the corner. Her heart raced as she searched, but she didn’t know what she was looking for.
“Hospital… please…” The girl whispered.
Prompted by her pleas, Kim rushed to the girl and grabbed a blanket as she helped the girl to her feet. As Kim led the girl towards the doorway, she collapsed in pain again. Kim dropped the blanket to hold the girl, stopping her from falling to the ground. It was then she noticed the blood.
“Oh, God.” Kim muttered to herself. She picked up the blanket and threw it across the girl’s shoulders. “You will be okay.” She said to the girl, sounding more confident than she felt.
Kim struggled to guide the girl to her car. At one stage Kim tried to pick the girl up to carry her, but she wasn’t strong enough. The girl climbed into the back of Kim’s red Honda and pulled the blanket over herself. Her eyes bore a detached and distant glare, causing Kim to wonder if death was imminent.
The roads were busier than normal. More chaotic and problematic. Kim weaved past cars, resisting to push the speed limit. While she wanted to get to the hospital fast, she didn’t want to risk a car accident. The girl’s screams were becoming more frequent and urgent. Kim tried to block them from penetrating her mind. She turned on the radio and sang along to the song.
Kim parked the car in the emergency drop-off point of the hospital and opened the back door of the car. The girl sat up and rubbed her face, taking Kim’s hand for help out of the car. As she stepped her feet out of the door, she pulled them back towards her body and screamed. Kim waited for a moment and then helped her to the hospital entrance.
The hospital orderlies rushed the girl away, leaving Kim to wait in the waiting room. She took a seat and picked up a magazine. It was four months out of date. Kim looked up at the clock, four twenty three. Everyone was oblivious to Kim’s presence. Hospital staff walked past and new patients came in. No one even looked her way.
At four fifty six, the girl’s parents came through the door. Kim looked up, but they didn’t see her. Instead they approached the desk, and the nurse directed them to the same doors the girl had disappeared through. Kim could hear her screams as the doors opened, but they were distant now, many rooms away.
Kim watched the time elapse on white clock hanging on the wall. The slender, black hand appeared to move in slow motion. Five oh eight. Five oh nine.
Kim stood up and walked around the waiting room. The prolonged absence of movement had caused her legs to become numb. She approached the desk and asked for the girl’s progress, but they couldn’t tell her. She paced the room, glancing between the clock on the wall and the doors the girl had gone through.
Six eighteen. That was when the doors swung open and a woman wearing hospital scrubs called her name. The woman gestured for Kim to follow. Kim walked behind the nurse through the doors and hall. She couldn’t hear the screams of the girl anymore. Had she died?
The nurse led Kim to a door and held it open for her to enter. Laughter, not tormenting cries, drifted to her ears. The nurse was smiling.
“You can go in now. Everyone is doing well.”
Kim’s eyes winced at the brightness of the room. As they adjusted she could see the girl’s parents next to the bed. They greeted Kim with smiles. Her glance then went to the girl in the bed. Kim burst into tears when the girl held out a small package wrapped in a blanket for her to take.
Kim brought the package near her chest and pulled the blanket open to reveal her niece she had waited nine months to hold.