Loved to Death

By Michael J.P. Whitmer

Family and friends had gathered under a large canopy tent to attend the grave-side service for Jonathan Hill's mother. The pastor conducting the service read from John 14:27.

"Let not your heart be troubled..." His words trailed off, leaving him staring toward the back of the tent. 

"Can I help you?" The pastor asked a doctor, standing just at the edge of the tent, garbed in his surgical scrubs from head to toe.

Those in attendance, including Jon and his father, who sat at the front nearest to the open casket, turned to look down the aisle at the sudden arrival. 

"I would like to say a few words," the doctor stated, making his way down the walkway toward the front of the gathering. Stopping at the casket, he positioned himself behind it, facing the family. 

"I'm so sorry... there wasn't anything more I could do..." he said, shaking his head from side to side. Reaching into the casket, the doctor slowly pulled from it a slimy, bloody, screaming new born baby girl. He held it toward Jon and his father.  

"I'm sorry!" 

Jon shot upright from the couch. His breathing deep and beads of sweat dotted his forehead. The same nightmare had been plaguing his sleep ever since the move.  

"Change is healthy. It'll help to start somewhere new, somewhere to make new memories," He remembered his father telling him.  

Help who? He wished he had asked him then.

It was hard enough for a fifteen year old to cope with the loss of his mother seven months ago, but to ask him to up and move, leaving behind everything he'd ever known?

That was too much, Jon thought.

Jon knew better, though. He knew the move was more for his father who had been looking for a way out long before his mother's death. He could still hear their late night fighting in his head. His father going on about how this wasn't the life he wanted, and his mother calling him a coward, among other things. No matter what was thrown or screamed his mom would always come into his room after the situation had settled. Sometimes her eyes were red from crying or her voice hoarse from yelling, but she assured him every time: "We'll always be a family," and would seal it with a kiss. 

There was a boom of thunder and a flash of lightning that sent Jon jumping out of thought. The storm had been raging on all night and showed no sign of letting up. From upstairs, he could make out his baby sister, Melissa, crying.

Jon looked at the clock on the wall.

Nine-seventeen; Dad should be home soon, he reminded himself, thankfully. Like most teens, he despised babysitting. 

Springing off the sofa, Jon headed to the staircase near the foyer. Reluctantly, he began to ascend the stairs, and with every step he took, his sister's crying became more and more audible over the unwavering storm outside. Reaching the second floor, the lights cut off freezing him where he was, flickering back to life a moment later. Breathing easier, Jon continued into the hall towards his sister's room. 

 Standing at Melissa's door, her shrieking became even worse. Jon reached for the knob.

What the... He wondered puzzled as to why the door wouldn't open.

Trying the knob the other way and then both ways again but with a bit more force it still didn't budge. The door was locked.