Half an Hour

2 min
The nurse left work at five o'clock. She usually left around 4:30 and if she hadn’t taken that extra half an hour, perhaps the tragedy could have been avoided.
Kristie’s day was fairly normal: She arrived at seven, got coffee at eight, went to lunch at twelve, finished paperwork by four, and left by 4:30. That day, however, had been fairly different. A surprising amount of patients had been arriving at the hospital. They all showed the same symptoms: coughing up blood, bleeding out of impossible places, high fever, and inevitable death. “22” Kristie counted, “22 have died just today.”
Kristie had always had a slight aversion to blood, but this was not the same: This was horrifying. She recalled throwing up after seeing her friend attain a horrible gash on his knee when she was younger. It wasn’t just the sight of blood. The sound of the patient’s coughing nearly drove her insane. There was an unnerving feeling about the patients. It could have been the pain and agony on their faces, or perhaps it was the fact that the nurses were absolutely useless. They walked around and gave the patients shots that wouldn’t help, all the while knowing the truth: They would probably die. All she could do was make their death bed comfortable. Kristie often thought about how much she hates blood and death and wondered why she went into nursing. She had such potential to be a teacher, or perhaps a lawyer. She didn’t know whether to regret the decision of becoming a nurse, or learn to make the best of it.
At the end of her excruciatingly long day, Kristie got everything together and headed out at 4:30. On her way down the corridor, she heard somebody groaning and crying for help. Then she remembered why she became a nurse: she has excessive compassion.
Kristie slowly and cautiously tracked the noise through the dark halls; the noise grew louder and more disturbing. She turned the corner to find an old man, covered in wrinkles, blood, and dried tears. Kristie tried to make eye contact, but her heart had already broken. The man slowly turned his head toward her and said, “Please, sit with me. I don’t want to die alone.”
She proceeded forward, “I’m Kristie,” she said nearly in tears, “What’s your name?”
“Walter,” he coughed, “And I know there’s nothing you can do to help me, but I just need to talk with somebody.”
Kristie sat down next to him, “What would you like to talk about?”
They proceeded to talk for several minutes. Kristie didn’t talk much. She didn’t need to because Walter was the most interesting person she had ever met. He talked about his wife, kids, and grandkids. He was funny and charming. He talked about the time he served in the war. He told stories that made her laugh and stories that made her cry. They formed an instant connection. After talking for almost half an hour, He asked Kristie if she would go to his funeral. Then Kristie remembered why they began talking in the first place, and her heart shattered. She held his hand firmly: “I’ll be there.”
Walter died at 4:58.
Kristie wandered through the empty halls, blinded by her own tears. She climbed into her car and thought about what she would say at his funeral. She was after all, the last person to ever talk to him. She cried all the way home.
When Kristie arrived home, she did almost anything and everything to take her mind off the traumatic experience. She would almost certainly have nightmares about the coughing and blood. She did what she loved to do most: read a good book, watched a movie, and poured herself a glass of milk. After she took a drink, she removed her lips from the glass to find a ring of blood encircling the edges. Suddenly, she had the urge to cough.

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