The Final Hour - A Short Story

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When I wake up to the phone ringing, my heart fills with dread. I glance at the clock. 4:02 a.m. The scenarios start running through my mind, and instantly I am awake and alert. The last time the phone rang at this time of the night, Mom’s heart had stopped beating. 

I hear hurried footsteps approaching my doorway; I sit up, anxious for the news. 

“Jake, get dressed, we need to go to the hospital,” Dad says. 

“What about Claire?” I ask. 

“I’m about to wake her up. She’s coming with us.”

“Is that the best idea?” 

“I don’t know,” he says. “But Grandma and Gramps are meeting us there.” Even in the darkness, I can see the redness in his eyes. 

“Okay.” I get up and turn on the lights in my room. I find a pair of jeans, throw on a T-shirt and a hoodie. I walk into the hallway and bump into Claire, my ten-year-old sister. At this hour, she resembles a zombie—her eyes are barely open, and she’s stumbling toward the bathroom. I change course and walk to the other bathroom downstairs. 

Once my eyes adjust to the light, I splash warm water on my face. I stare into the mirror. My blue eyes are surrounded by dark circles. 

“Jake, are you ready?” 

“Yeah, Dad.” I open the door and walk to the kitchen. I look at Claire and give my dad a questioning look. He shakes his head from side to side, and I know Claire has no idea why we are heading to the hospital. I don’t know either, but I’ve learned to expect the worst.  

The warm, humid air smacks me in the face when we walk outside to the car. I take off the hoodie immediately but carry it with me. The hospital is a cold place. 

The drive is only fifteen minutes. At this point, I am confident that my father and I could drive here with our eyes closed. The car ride is silent except for Claire’s light breathing in the back seat. I wish I could fall asleep like she does. Honestly, I wish I could fall asleep and wake up to a new reality—a new life where my mother isn’t dying. 

We pull into an empty parking garage. Dad hurries us out of the car to the front entrance. We sign in, get our visitor badges, and head for the intensive care unit. Claire is almost running to keep up with us. Dad’s pace worries me even more. 

We pull open the doors to the ICU waiting room. Grandma and Gramps are waiting inside.

“Jake, why don’t you sit with Claire for a few minutes in here?” Dad says. I nod. Dad, Gramps, and Grandma walk through the double doors to the ICU. 

“All right Claire, let’s find something on TV to watch.” I know I usually can find cartoons around channel 40. I walk up to the TV and flip channels until I find something suitable. I glance up at Claire. 

“Will this work?”

“Sure,” she says. “Jake, what’s going on with Mom?” Her wide-open eyes plead for the truth.

“I don’t know Claire, but I don’t think it’s good,” I say. I look at her, wondering if she comprehends what I don’t have the heart to tell her. We both stare at the television. Minutes pass, but it feels like hours. 

When the double doors open, Claire and I both jump. We turn and look, but we tune back into the television when we realize it’s not our father. Another few minutes pass before the doors open again. My father calls to me; Gramps and Grandma join Claire on the couch. 

As I approach, I notice Dad’s face is flushed, and his eyes are puffy. I take a deep breath.

“The doctors say this is it. Mom’s organs are shutting down, and it is time to say good-bye,” he says, looking at the floor. 

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