A Case of Mistaken Identity

Published: Wednesday, 12 February 2014 Written by Rohini James

Sirens wailed and cast red and blue halos that danced on the face of the hospital. Swarming bodies flocked efficiently about thee ambulance’s back doors, extracting stretchers and equipment that clanked and creaked like an old cast iron fence. The pandemonium ensued in near silence with the stench of blood and burning flesh pungently lingering. Blue scrubs and sterile white walls went by in blurring motions until fluid crimson blinded the sight of the half dead girl they were trying so desperately to save.

 “Thirteen vehicles were involved in the massive disaster and already, four are confirmed dead. The identified twenty one persons injured have been transported to the Cardinal James Hospital where doctors attempt to preserve and replace the limbs severed in the wreck…”

Her eyes were swollen from profuse sobbing and her hands shook as her pale fingers clasped her phone. She hated the sight of the thing. With one shrill ring it had successfully chattered her existence and become a messenger of death. The news report trailed off in her mind and was drowned by the fanfare of her own pounding heart, her resounding trepidation that threatened to tear her from within. The insufferable agony of waiting continued in the dim lobby of the hospital, with Dion’s daughter getting closer and closer to death’s ineludible abyss. She prayed then, for the first time, shallowly weeping her deep sorrow.

Dion watched the IV solution fall drop by drop into her daughter’s veins. How she wished she to hold her hand, but would not dare. The child was every possible color of suffering; red, charred black and blue from a violent grinding against the asphalt of highway 96, and for now, faceless. Her head was a bulb of gauze and as Dion remembered her brown hair, grey eyes and once olive skin, she pitied both her child and herself before the girl was whisked away to surgery. Again, impatience consumed her once the reassuring hand of a doctor had fallen from her shoulder. All consolation was empty and futile.

It would be two days before she saw her child again and what immense distress wrought the bosom of this mother. She was drenched in black from head to foot and her eyes had gone dead with unfathomable melancholy as if the light in her had been snuffed out by tears and her bewailing. Dion looked at the body and wept, this time without fear of touching the burns, the exposed flesh of her other half. In the grey morgue of the hospital basement Dion fell to her knees.            

The hour of farewell had arrived and the incinerator patiently burned. Dion watched the final resting place of her daughter; a miserable wooden box appearing to have been thrown together haphazardly by a drunk and careless craftsman. It moved slowly on a short conveyor belt and was swallowed by what looked like the mouth of hell. The last of Dion’s hope had just shattered, the last of her faith dwindled to nothing and her heart beginning to sort the gruesome reality. Just then the box flew open, its cover falling with a crash to the ashes on the floor of the incinerator. There was screaming from both Dion and her daughter who was taken into the flames alive and kicking, wide-eyed and disoriented, terrified and helpless. Out of the coma she had come to be welcomed into a blazing inferno with the grips of life laying two feet away, just outside of a plywood tomb.

Petrified, frozen in place and scarred forever by the sight of her twice dead daughter, Layla, struggling in the flames, Dion just stood there, mouth agape with a secret she would carry eternally. She hadn’t the strength nor the will to move but a light from the floor nearly blinded her with the assistance of the tears welling in her eyes; the name plate on the box. “Sherri Donovan. 1995-2014. Pronounced dead in vehicular fire on 21st January.” it read. A misnamed patient, two dead girls and one heartbroken, horrifically traumatized mother. Layla would have been alive, in a coma, with a fighting chance but had met a cruel fate under a carelessly bestowed, false identity.

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