In Good Faith (II) by Joseph McGuchan

Pain. Vivid red pain like knives in the stomach, pain that made tears well in her eyes. Dr “House” tried to help her, but she batted his hand away and screamed at him and that seemed to shut him up.

It’s a terrifying thing, to realise you’re not dead when you fully expected to be, when you wanted to be.

“Do you understand?” he said, after the pain abated.

She crawled into a crouch on the floor, one hand still on her stomach, the other wiping away the tears in her eyes, “Yes…” she whispered. He offered to help her up, she declined.

She struggled to her feet, clambered back onto her chair.

He checked his watch again. “Five minutes,” he said softly, sitting once more on the edge of the bed.

“Five minutes exactly?” she asked, her strength slowly returning. In her stomach, the echoes of that searing pain began to fade.

“Five minutes and three seconds,” he said, looking at his watch. She noticed that the mixture of hate and fear he felt before was going away, he was more comfortable now, more in control.
“How do you know this?”

“I just do; I’m a doctor. Now, tell me about yourself.”

“How could you know with such accuracy?”

“I just do,” he snapped.

She squinted with suspicion, “I don’t trust you.”

“Well, do you want to risk it? Do you want to die knowing you never said anything?”

This caught her off guard. “All right then. All right then I tell you. Screw it, why not?” She leaned back in the chair, then added, “It wasn’t my fault he died, you know.”

He winced at the thought of the child’s death, “I know,” he said, “I know.”
“Well, I grew up with my grandparents. I didn’t know my parents, my grandparents said I’d just been dropped at the door one day by my dad. “This is your daughter’s child,” he said, and then walked off. My mum was dead, you see.”

She inhaled deeply, she wanted to tell this story, she realised, but at the same time she was afraid. “My grandma and granddad never knew who he was; we could never track him down. But I always wanted to meet him, always wanted to find him.

“I was a shitty child, to be honest. Always stealing and getting involved with the police, and grandma and granddad, bless them, couldn’t raise me for shit. They were old, grandma was senile and granddad weak and decrepit. So I was left to my own devices a lot, got drunk, did drugs, stole and got in fights.

“When I was fifteen, my grandma was dying, social services were coming in like vultures ready to whip me off to some foster home. I didn’t want a foster home. I wanted my dad. I hacked granddad’s computer to see if he knew more information.” Her voice began to quake, her hand trembled. “I discovered my he already knew where my father was; he’d tried to contact them a few years ago but they’d declined. Pissed as hell… I… I wrote down the address and set off.”

The doctor looked at her with sympathy, he knew how the story went, he could see it all taking place in his mind. He didn’t want to hear this any more than she wanted to say it.

But he knew he had to hear it all, he had to hear it until the end. It was his duty.

“Do you want to go on?” he asked. Knowing that no matter what she said, he’d have to force her anyway. He checked his watch, three minutes.

She stood up from the chair, “I’ll be…” Then she fell to the ground once more in a spasm of pain.

He rushed over to help her, crouching down. “Are you…” He was interrupted by a fist hitting his face.

He tumbled to the ground. That brat! She’d faked her pain to attack him! He was dizzy, and could see through his half-shut eyes her blurry shape climbing off the floor and running to the door.

“NO!” he shouted.
“Fuck you and your games!” she spat back.

He closed his eyes and waited; there was no point trying to stop her now. He heard her stop in the hallway. He heard her gasp.

She hadn’t expected this. She hadn’t expected any of this, but she REALLY hadn’t expected this.

There was only enough hallway to give the illusion of being in a hospital from inside of the room. In reality, there was only a small stip of corridor about 4 meters long, that was attached to the room and the room only. At the ends of the hallway there was an inky blackness, an empty void. They were alone in a dark space, the hospital room and the connecting corridor the only things in existence.

She walked to the one abrupt end of the corridor and looked into the blackness. Her heart was racing, her eyes watering.

I’m already dead, she thought, I’m dead and this is hell.

I could jump off, what would happen then? Would I fall forever? Or would I wake up back where I started, like falling in a video game?

She could sense him behind her and span round. She wanted to run from him, but there was nowhere to run to.

“I’m sorry…” he whispered, and she could tell from his eyes he meant it.
“Who are you?” she asked. Her voice was weak. “Are you… Am I dead?”

“You’re dying. Right now, in the back of a deserted building, after having just overdosed on drugs. These are your dying minutes.”

“And you’re an angel?”

He smiled softly. “Of sorts, yes.”

There was a pause before Vicky said the next thing:

“Am I going to heaven or hell?”

The question caught him off guard, he held the clipboard closer to his chest, “I…”

She focused on it, “It’s on there? Isn’t it?”

“Uh…”

“Show me the clipboard,” she said, her eyes begging.

He began to retreat slowly, clutching onto it with a shaking arm, “I… I can’t…”

“TELL ME!” she screamed and ran at him. He rushed back into the room, she followed, grabbed the chair and hurled it at him, a high pitched cry of rage pouring from her mouth. He dived out the way and the chair smashed through the frosted window behind him, the glass exploding into a snowstorm of fragments that fell as soft as feathers. Twinkling. It was not how you would expect glass to break; there were no shards, just small specks like polystyrene beads.

The pale blue blanket of light the window once produced was torn away. Through the shattered frame there was now a deep red haze that flickered like fire.

“YOU’RE GOING TO HELL! YOU’RE GOING TO HELL!” He shouted at her, and then they both fell silent.

Heavy breathing.

The pain came – this time it wasn’t faked – and she crumpled to the floor, laying down in the foetal position on the hard stone tiles.
“I’m so sorry,”h He said softly, “I…” He trailed off.

“What’s it like?” she asked after the pain had gone away.

“What?”

“What is hell like? Do you know? Do angels know what it’s like in hell?” There was no emotion in her voice, no force. She was barely audible.
“I do…” he said, and then winced at what he was about to say. “I… I can’t tell you, not yet.”