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"Zee," a weak little voice said my name.
I shake away the sleep from my eyes in the dim hospital light. I sit up, trying to stretch out the stiffness from sleeping on that daft plastic chair they gave me. I look across the room and see my little brother, so weak and frail the only colour on his skin was the bluish glow cast on him by his favorite nightlight.
I walk across the room and sat right next to his bed.
"Everything alright, kid?"
Hero breathed in shakily, his chest heaving with large effort trying to get some air into his failed lungs. The machine that helps him breathe beeped quietly on the other side of his bed.
"I had a nightmare, Zee..."
"Shhh..." I coax. "It's just a nightmare, nothing can hurt you there."
"But..." he paused to breathe. "It all seemed so real..." his voice trailed off.
I smile and reach under the blanket to hold his tiny, icy cold hand. My fingers rest on his thin wrist, I can feel his pulse, weak but steady, under his skin. I get closer to his little face.
"Remember when I taught you how to fight off those nasty nightmares?"
Hero blinked, then a smile stretched weakly across his purple raspberry lips.
I read his face as he heaved at his lungs again. He was getting weaker with every day that eased by. 'Yes', such a simple, easy word when he was still healthy, now took every ounce of energy left in him. Problem is, there is not much energy left.
"Can you feel my hand, Hero?"
I stroke his fragile hand.
"Okay, kid. See how warm it is? Can you remember how it feels like?"
Hero nodded, ever so slightly.
"Good boy," I run my fingers through his thin wisps of hair, so fine between my fingers, so blonde. Sometimes I envy him. But I learnt not to anymore, two years ago.
"Now close your eyes. Try not to think about the horrible things you saw in your nightmare..."
"But it was beautiful..." he whispered. "Golden roads... White castles... Angels..."
I draw a sharp breath. Hero had seen Heaven.
"Oh," I say. "Why is it a nightmare then?"
Hero breathed, trying very hard to get oxygen to feed his words. "Because... You said that was how heaven looked like..."
I hide my worry, and said: "Silly boy. It's just a dream..."
Hero was diagnosed with cancer almost two years ago. He relapsed a few days ago, and the doctor said another one may come soon, taking his life along with it any day, any minute, any second...
I forgot when I drifted off to sleep. A loud, rapid beep woke me up. I look at the monitor. Hero is having a relapse. He spasmed wildly, his chest heaved hard and quick. Blood flowed from his mouth. Still hazy from sleep, I fumble clumsily for the emergency button. I hold the small plastic button in my hand, and punch it repeatedly. Where are the medical staff? Where is Doctor Faith?
I drop the button and sprinted out the door, screaming for help from the nurses behind the desk. Lana, one of the nurses who I had grown fond of, came out from behind the desk and squeezed my shoulders. "Now, now, hon. What's wrong?"
Tears stream down my face and I try to catch my breath to tell her Hero is in trouble. As I tried to tell her, Doctor Faith and a group of nurses run into Hero's room. Lana's eyes widen and we both run into Hero's room.
The staff surround Hero like an angry wall of meat. Doctor Faith yell out orders and demanded medical equipment from the nurses. I can see Hero from a small gap in the wall that lasted only for a few seconds. But a few seconds of Hero, laying still and lifeless on his blood-soaked bed was enough to tell shell-shocked me that, wether I liked it or not, Hero is gone.
Sunlight stream into the room warmly, highlighting Hero like a spotlight, surrounding Hero like a halo, whilst giving a vision of Heaven waiting for Hero to come home. Hero lay still, but alive, on his now clean bed. Machines beeped protectively around him.
I hold his cold little hand in mine. My fingers rested on his wrist, like they did last night. The only difference was, the weak steady pulse was not regulated by his own brain, but by a machine.
Doctor Faith explains Hero's brain has failed. The only thing that is keeping him alive now is another cold metal machine, looming beside him.
A tear emerges from my eye as I think about what she said. I can stop Hero's suffering. I can send him home to the beautiful castles and angels and golden roads.
I focus on the pulses under my fingers. Do I really want to stop it from pulsing?
"Think about Hero, Zee." Doctor Faith's voice keeps echoing in my head.
Maybe I AM being selfish. What makes Hero, Hero is hanging by a string, and I have the choice to let him go, to stop him from suffering, to stop the pulses under his skin.
I kissed his cold forehead, and brushed the stray hairs aside. I wipe away the tears from my damp cheeks and tucked him in, kissed his little hand, squeezed it, and think about the times we had together.
"Now, you listen carefully," I say to him, knowing he cannot hear me, but I say to him, anyway.
"If you see a bright, enchanting light, don't be scared. Go to it, kid. Go to it, learn to live forever, and maybe, in awhile, I'll see you there."
I hold back the tears, kiss him again, put his hand around his favorite Teddy, stood up, walk towards the button on the machine Doctor Faith told me about. She stands at the doorway, watching us. I look at her, and nod. She smiles back at me and nod, too. I lift my hand up to the button, and look back towards Hero.
"Bye, Kid. I love you."