Doctor Elliott Kinney was in the Nowhere. Snow flew, shadows surrounded him. He floated in ether. Heard the crashing of waves. Looked down at his hands and saw them pushing down Rose, of holding her under the water until the sickness was out of her body, taking her soul with it. He saw himself holding Kostic under the water for treatment and countless others. Saw their thrashing bodies under water as they resisted the hydrotherapy. Why did so many patients resist him? Did they want to keep their sickness close to them? Why not surrender and give in to healing? Dr. Kinney was a healer. He had a mission. And he would rescue souls by force, the way he had finally freed his own wife, though her very life force had flown from her body. In the last few moments when she looked peacefully up at him, he knew he had won and the illness was gone. Liberated. He had liberated her.
He tried to move, but found he could not. His chest burned. He coughed and seemed to cover himself with blood. How much blood? Why was this happening? Where was he? He could not think. He could not focus. He closed his eyes.
In his mind, he flipped through pages and pages of new research. Doctors experimenting with new wonderful methods to take out a part of a person’s brain, to find the actual source of their malignant spirit and pull it from them, wrench it free, leaving a person utterly peaceful. He’d heard of transformations, of wildly violent individuals suddenly as docile as lambs. How he longed to offer this healing, but for some reason he could not steady the trembling of his hands.
He opened his eyes. It was dark now. He heard the peculiar music of a chorus of coughing. He knew, at once, where he was. He was a doctor here and now forced to be a patient. “Let me up! Let me up!” he cried. “I have work to do!”
Feathers against his skin. A tickling of feathers. No, not feathers, but fingertips…and the scent of…what was that? “What is that?” he whispered, his voice raw. “What is that smell?” And then he knew. He smelled flowers. He smelled…roses! Suddenly he was surrounded by a garden of rose and there…in the distant, his wife Rose calling to him. Come to me, Kinney, she called. I want you with me. She danced and twirled and he reached out to her, but when she spun to face him it was not his wife, not Rose, it was the other woman, the one who looked so much like his wife but somehow he had failed in making her truly become Rose. Somehow she remained… “Ama,” he breathed.
“I am here,” she whispered. And Kinney knew that the feathers against his skin was the touch of her fingertips dancing over him. But there were far too many fingertips, weren’t there?
“Who else is here?” he said, his voice still strangled.
“Open your eyes, husband. Open them,” Ama said softly, her voice like wind and bells.
The shadows pulled back. The fog receded. And Kinney saw…no…it wasn’t possible! Patients of his, patients long gone and buried. There was Kostic smiling at him, and the old woman who was a sexual predator. There was Elena who he had bent to his will when he was first in medical school. There were nameless patients, ones who did not survive his treatments or later died of heart attacks or drug overdose. And there was a young boy with a rope around his neck who ended his own life instead of endure any more of Kinney’s treatments. And there...there…was Rose. “Stop touching me!” Kinney cried, but the fingertips would not stop. They reached for him, his dead; they touched him. Covered his body with their probing fingers, rough, smooth, young, and old. Take him, someone whispered. Take him take himtakehim, they echoed, a hundred voices joining in chorus.
“No!” He cried, his voice firm and strong now. “I have work to do!”
“I’m afraid your work here is done.” It wasn’t Ama who spoke this to him but Rose. The last thing Kinney saw was her smiling face and then the pillow that Kostic placed over Kinney’s face.
Complete and utter.
Even though he was still awake.