Each breath was a labored effort. The machines helped, but he knew that time was ticking. He needed the medicine. Now. If he had to make it out of this hell hole alive!
He cast a glance around him. Doctors and nurses in white PPE kits abounded. The floor was abuzz with activity. Instructions were barked out and the nurses rushed to comply. He saw many brush past death and many succumbed, only to be replaced soon with others that lay in wait in the corridors of the hospital.
The air reeked of hopelessness and death. He knew he was close too, standing on the threshold of death. But he refused to give up. Not yet.
His eyes fell upon the man sitting across him on the stool. He was staring at him, not bothered by all the chaos around.
There he is again! His heart thudded.
This wasn’t the first time that he had seen him. It had all begun some days ago. The man followed him around like a shadow. He never said a word, yet his gaze seemed to pierce through his very soul.
What is he doing here? His mind questioned and found no answers.
Scared, he tried getting the nurse’s attention. She came closer, picked up the charts and noted down his current vitals.
‘He’s in distress,’ she informed the doctor. The doctor asked her to bring the medicine quickly.
Medicine! The magic word. He tried to focus on his breathing, reminding himself that he would be better soon.
It’s best to ignore that guy! He’s just a figment of my imagination, he consoled himself.
As the medicine was administered, he heaved a sigh of relief. He would make it out of here soon, he knew. He would be back with his family, loved ones and friends. They all relied on him, counted on him.
As his gaze turned towards the stool again, he was sure that the man would be gone.
Oh no! He’s still here. And he is laughing at me. How dare he! He seethed in anger.
He tried to scream, but his voice failed him. He felt his limbs go loose and he felt choked. The pressure in his ears was intense and his life flashed in front of his eyes. His childhood, friends, his family and the wonderful times they had spent. Then the advent of the pandemic and the scramble for oxygen, hospital beds, medicines.
Oh, the medicine! Realization dawned. Greed for money had taken him down that road. He had sold the same medicine at a higher price. And eventually sold duplicate medicine too, to poor unsuspecting souls who wanted to save their loved ones. Life has come back a full circle, he realized.
The man inched closer, leaning in only to whisper, ‘Finally! You suppressed me each time I tried to warn you. Now you’ll pay the price for your deeds. While I, your conscience will be free.’
His laughter reverberated before all went silent.
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