Andrew Steeves

The Waiting Room to Hell

"How is he?"

"He's burning up."

The floor creaked.

"Should we call an ambulance?"

"We can't afford that."

"Then what?"

"I called the doctor, he's on his way."

Feet scraped on pavement.

"I didn't think anyone made house calls anymore."

"Well, we can't move him."

"How is he?"

"He's burning up."

White walls faded away as he opened his eyes. Someone stroked his head. "Darryl?"

"Yeah?" He felt weak, drained.

"How you feeling, hun?"

He paused. "I'm all wet."

The sheets lifted as the person peered at his pajama-ed crotch. "No you're not."

He blinked, knocking drops of sweat from his eyelashes. "Am I going to be ok?"

A pause, then, "Everything's going to be ok, the doctor's making a special visit just for you."

Darryl rolled in his bed, smelling the dried sweat, and looked up at the figure above him.

"Mom?"

A crack tore the air as Darryl felt a breathtaking stab in his gut. He doubled over with a cry, clutching at his stomach. He felt wet. Hardly daring to breathe, he looked down. Blood gushed from between his fingers and ran down his sides to pool on the concrete below.

"Shit!"

"Fuck!"

"Where the fuck did he come from?"

"Everyone calm the fuck down."

The voices stopped. Darryl squinted through his pain to look at the figure looming over him.

"Momma?"

She stared at him impassively. "How is he?"

A callused hand slapped awkwardly to his forehead. "He's burning up."

"Should we call an ambulance?" A nervous voice asked.

"We can't afford that." His mom seemed to tower over everyone.

"Then what?" A panicked voice rang out.

"I called the doctor, he's on his way."

The hand on his forehead lifted. "I didn't think anyone made house calls anymore."

The panicky voice again, "Well, we can't move him."

"Where am I?" Darryl breathed, tasting blood in the back of his throat.

"Shit, D, you still with us?"

The pain was growing stronger, sucking at him. "What happened?" Tears steamed down his face.

"Motherfucker came out of nowhere. He-"

"Hey!" Darryl jerked around towards his mother's voice and cried out with the effort. "Someone put some pressure on that hole."

"I don't want to touch it," The panicky voice sounded closer. "That ain't my blood."

"You want him to die?"

"Goddammit." A boot lifted over Darryl's face and he saw a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of it. Gently, it rested on his stomach and pressed down, hard.

Darryl screamed, pain ripping through him. Somewhere, he thought he heard the floor creak.

"The doctor's here!"

Darryl couldn't see through the pain. Sobbing, he felt large, cold hands pressing at his neck and collarbone.

"What are you doing?" Someone asked.

"I'm checking his glands for swelling." The doctor replied. He felt at Darryl's neck a little longer. "Yup, they're swollen, that's to be expected. Hold still." Something cold and hard pressed into Darryl's ear. He flinched as it gave an empty click.

"102.9, you're burning up, kid."

"Will he be ok?"

"Well, a couple more degrees and he's toast." The doctor stood, pulling out a pair of white latex gloves and sliding them over his hands.

"There's really not a whole lot you can do right now. Give him plenty of water, maybe put a fan on him to keep him cool, and let him rest. I'll be back in a couple hours to check on him, but if he gets any worse, you'll have to take him to a hospital."

"We can't afford-"

"I assumed as much." He reached into his bag and pulled out a pair of large, curved thongs. "But if the fever doesn't break soon, he could die."

The doctor paused, looking at Darryl. "Ok," He said. "Hold him." In one swift movement, he plunged the thongs deep into Darryl's stomach.

Darryl screamed, thrashing as hard as he could against the cold concrete.

"I said hold him!" The doctor shouted. The hands at his shoulders and feet tightened their grip. Pain threatened to shatter Darryl's mind as deep inside his stomach, he felt the doctor's hands moving.

"And... got it!" The doctor withdrew from Darryl's stomach holding a small bloody lump. Darryl felt suddenly and horribly exposed. The doctor pointed at the wound. "Pressure."

The hands holding Darryl's shoulders lifted and he saw the shoe with the gum move again towards the wound.

"What are you doing?" The doctor shouted. "You want to kill him? Use your hands."

A pause, then the pain spiked as a pair of callused and dirty hands pressed against Darryl's stomach. Even though it hurt more, Darryl felt the hands comforting.

"Gross, man." He heard a rough voice speak over him.

The doctor turned to Darryl's mother and offered her the bloody lump. "He needs to go to the hospital."

She looked at the lump in disgust. "Why? You got the thing out. Patch 'im up and we'll take care of him."

The doctor shook his head. "His liver got hit."

He waited for a reaction and got none. He sighed. "The liver filters out all the toxins the body ingests. Now those toxins are leaking out and poisoning him. He'll be dead very soon unless we get him to a hospital and clean him out."

She looked unimpressed. "He's as good to me dead as he is in jail."

The doctor shrugged. "Well, we have options."

She raised her eyebrows.

"I know some places that can be discreet."

"How much?"

The pain spiked briefly as a strong wind began blowing through the alley, bringing with it an odd, howling sound. Darryl cried out.

"Are you fucking joking?"

"Take it or leave it. He can probably earn the difference back."

Darryl's mom turned to appraise him. Her eyes seemed to be breaking him down financially.

"Momma, momma..." Darryl moaned.

"Shh... It's ok. I'm here."

A gentle hand rubbed the side of his head. Darryl opened his eyes to see a small fan whirring back and forth.

"Do you need anything?"

"I'm scared, momma. I don't wanna die."

"Oh, it's ok hun. Nothing bad's gonna happen to you. You're just a little sick is all."

"Am I gonna get better?"

Pause.

"The doctor gave you something to help you sleep. You'll be better when you wake up."

White walls flashed before Darryl's eyes. "I don't wanna sleep momma."

"Everything will be ok." But her voice came as if from a distance. Darkness began to close over Darryl, and his last thought before the world went black, was wondering how much it would cost to save his life.

Darryl awoke with his head completely clear. Tentatively, he flexed his fingers and toes, but he felt no pain anywhere in his body. Very slowly, he sat up, startled by what he saw. He was sitting in a completely white room. White walls, white tile floor, white chairs, white door leading out with a white handle. Lining the walls of the room were white chairs, each occupied by a small boy identical to Darryl. Dazed, he stood and looked around at all the other hims.

"You'll need to take a number."

He turned to see himself pointing towards the door. He turned and saw, next to the door, a white desk with a black cat sitting atop it and himself, looking bored, sitting behind it. Nervously, he walked towards the desk. "Hello?"

He looked at himself from behind the desk. "Take a number."

Nervously, he scanned the desk. "From where?"

He rolled his eyes and hit a button concealed beneath it. A slit appeared in the desk and a small piece of paper printed out from it.

Darryl took it and hesitantly read it. "Number nine?"

He shook his head sadly. "That's too bad. Nine's unlucky." He paused and looked at himself appraisingly. "What's your name?"

He paused and bit his lip uncertainly. "Darryl."

Everyone in the room started a little. The cat gave a yowl, jumped up, and disappeared into a nearby wall. Behind the desk, he was wide awake. "You're Darryl?"

"Yeah…" Uncertain, he looked around the room. Everyone was staring at him with rapt attention. "Aren't you all Darryl too?"

He shook his heads. "We're darryl." He said from a nearby chair.

"But you!" He exclaimed from behind the counter. You're Darryl!"

"Ok?" Darryl was starting to get confused. "Where am I?"

"The waiting room." He responded.

"What are we waiting for?"

He glanced nervously at the door. "The beast."

A shiver of fear ran throughout the room. Darryl looked around, confused.

"See, we're all waiting for the beast," He explained, "But none of us want to see him. So we have to wait in here forever."

"And, what is the beast?"

He looked around, and very quietly whispered to himself, "The big D"

"Death?" Darryl asked, now frightened.

Some nodded their heads, others shook them. Behind the counter he simply shrugged. "Dunno for sure. I'm not gonna go out and check though. You though!" He exclaimed, "You can do it!"

"Why me?" Darryl could feel his knees shake.

He looked at himself blankly. "You're Darryl."

Silence elapsed as they stared at each other. "I don't think I can-"

"You're not going in unprotected." He assured himself. Beneath the desk, he pushed another small button. A hole appeared in the top of the desk. "Reach in." He told himself.

Hesitantly, Darryl reached into the hole in the desk and wrapped his fingers around something cold, hard, and heavy. Very slowly, he pulled his hand out of the hole, revealing a pistol that looked huge in his small hands. He stared at it in awe, having never seen a gun outside of tv before.

"You can do it." He assured himself, before hitting a third button beneath the desk. All over the room he drew back in fear as the white door slowly opened, revealing the darkness beyond. Swallowing hard, Darryl gripped the gun, walked through the door, and directly into the front hall of his apartment.

Darryl stood there for a second, stunned. He turned behind himself to look for the white door, but found instead the usual brown front door. He frowned in thought. Was it a dream? He looked down very slowly and saw he still gripped the gun in his hand. No it was not.

Quietly, he crouched down and turned the corner into the kitchen. Stains covered the peeling linoleum floor and crumbs sat on the counter. Looking briefly in the sink, Darryl saw a dirty pot half-full of old soup and a glass, but no beast.

Deciding to be thorough, Darryl doubled back through the front hall and checked out the main room. Ed, Edd, and Eddy played on the tv, but no one was there to watch. The crumpled and stained couch was empty. Darryl made a quick check behind the piles of games and toys, but still couldn't find the beast.

He returned to the hallway and began slowly walking down it. He stopped briefly to check behind the shower curtain in the bathroom, but couldn't find anything there so returned to the hallway and started down it again. The first door on the left was his mom's room and the second his. He stopped at the first door and started to open it when he heard a voice.

"How is he?"

Curious, he moved closer.

"He's burning up."

The floor creaked as he stepped on the loose floorboard in the hall. He winced, but it seemed the voices hadn't noticed.

"Should we call an ambulance?" It sounded like his neighbor, Miss Fiona. His mom sometimes left him with her when she had to work late.

"We can't afford that." That was his mom, no question. Still eager, he moved closer to the second door.

"Then what?"
"I called a doctor, he's on his way."

Darryl crept closer and closer until he was inches away from the door.

"I didn't think anyone made house calls anymore."
"Well, we can't move him."

Darryl poked his head around the corner just enough to see his mom and Miss Fiona standing over a small, bundled up form lying in his bed.

"You wouldn't be in this mess if he hadn't left."

Darryl froze. They were talking about his father.

"I know." His mom sighed. "Not sorry he left. Not sorry I met him either. If I didn't, I wouldn't have Darryl."

The floorboard squeaked behind Darryl and a tingle ran up his spine. Very slowly, he turned to see a tall, dark figure looming over him, filling the hallway. Something silver glinted in the figure's hand and Darryl moved without thinking. He brought his gun around, pointed it at the figure, and pulled the trigger.

A bang echoed through the tiny apartment. The figure stood, frozen. Then, it began to shrink. It no longer filled the hallway, but still stood tall over Darryl. Blood seeped from his stomach and he gave a little laugh. Darryl stood in shock. The figure bleeding in front of him was older than him, but couldn't be much older than 16.

"Who are you?" Darryl asked.

The laugh did not fade from the figure's lips, but grew until he could barely contain himself, blood pooling around his feet on the carpet. "Who am I?" He asked. "I'm you. I'm the big D"

For the first time Darryl could see him clearly. He was older, but other than that, he looked exactly like the darryls in the white room. Darryl began to shake so violently that he dropped the gun.

D grinned. "What's the matter? Not to your liking?" He began to walk slowly towards Darryl, leaving a trail of blood. "Well, I have a big secret to tell you, son. This," He gestured to his open stomach, "is how you kick it."

Images of cold concrete, gum, and blood swam before Darryl's eyes and he stumbled a little into a nearby wall. D continued to advance on him, "And no matter what you, what you try, nothing will change it. All the time you have until then, is just waiting."

Calmly, slowly, deliberately, D put his own gun to Darryl's head, right against his ear.

"Have a nice life."

He pulled the trigger, and the gun gave a loud, empty click.

"101.7, that's great." The doctor pulled the thermometer out of Darryl's ear. "Looks like all you needed was a good sleep, kid."

Darryl trembled all over as his mother took him in her arms and gave him a hug. "You're ok hun, everything's going to be ok."

Very slowly, he closed his eyes. The wind was still blowing, his mom was still arguing over money. He felt himself very slowly fade into the concrete, as he breathed his last breath.