“Michael… Do you remember? You went out with that kid, David. I always hated that fucker so much. He made you go to the cemetery at night on a dare. He left you there. I found you curled up behind a headstone. You were a wreck, crying and screaming. You grasped onto me for dear life. I picked you up into my arms. You were so relieved to see me, all of the fear immediately washed away. I made a promise to myself then and there that I would always be there for you no matter what. Michael… Michael… I know you can’t here me, but please don’t leave. I won’t be able to live with myself. I… failed you. It can’t end this way.” I said this between sobs while looking at my brother’s disfigured face. I lost the strength to speak. There was nothing left to say. Grief overcame me.
The beeps from the machine filled the void of silence in the room.
I did something I hadn’t done in years. I closed my eyes and began to pray.
“God, or whoever is listening. Please, please bring Michael back. I’m begging. Please!” I continued to speak. I prayed to Heaven above, Hell below, and everywhere in between for a miracle. Bargaining from the deepest reaches of my soul for my brother to come back to me. After I finished, I looked on his face once again. For a moment I saw an almost imperceptible movement of his lips. Hope began to fill me.
His stillness only confirmed that hope was now just playing tricks on my perception. The machine began to beep frantically. As it sustained into an ominous hum, we were ushered out of the room. The agony made me crumble to the ground as I heard Dr. Joseph speak.
“Time of death, 7:34 PM.”
Though I knew all hope was lost. I continued to pray.
People in the medical profession are very reluctant to use the word (Dr. Joseph said he had never allowed himself to say it to a patient or their family) but what they had witnessed in the hospital was a miracle. Against all odds, Michael was alive. As my family had finally made it home and was beginning to come to terms with losing its youngest member to something as meaningless and random as a drunk driver, we received a call we were sure to never forget.
He was dead for five hours!
Five fucking hours!
Yet somehow improbably, impossibly really, he had stirred to life. As his body was being moved to the morgue, his purportedly deceased hands began to move. Within minutes he was awake and speaking.
Dr. Joseph relayed all of this on the phone in an odd and rapid tone. He didn’t sound anything like the doctor who had delivered the soul-crushing news to my family only a few hours prior. He must be just as excited as we were that this miracle had come to pass, I thought. I couldn’t blame him. I was on cloud nine. I could barely decipher his words as they entered my ear.
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“He can’t wait to see you all. You need to get back in the van and get here right now! Leave! Leave your house immediately. You’re next to see him. I can’t wait. He can’t… No more waiting.”
I gathered the troops for the short drive there. My mother with her cheeks streaked with tears of joy. My father feeding off my mother’s jubilation as his face began to regain its color. My older brother, who had checked out completely, sprang to life.
We piled into the family van. As my father drove, I decided to call the hospital since we couldn’t surmise what wing our beloved Michael would be in. A weak voice answered the phone. The reception cut in and out as I strained to hear what she said.
“Oh God… Its not him… I’m… Hell… He’s… Eternal…” The call ended. All attempts to reach any of the other extensions of the hospital went unanswered. A shiver ran down my spine.
Attempting to remain calm and not trusting my perception given the veritable roller coaster of emotions I was on, I quietly informed my family that my attempts to contact the hospital were futile. I contained the fear that was building inside and sat quietly as we continued to drive.
We arrived at the entrance to the ER. The lobby was quiet. Our footsteps echoed in the cavernous room, cutting through the eerie silence. The small group of people gathered there stared daggers at us.
We approached the information desk, the woman behind it gave me an icy glare. My father began to speak to her. An awkward smile quickly formed on her lips.
“Oh yes. Michael… our little miracle. Go. Room 332. Quickly. He can’t wait. No more waiting.”
The lady’s odd speech and delivery didn’t seem to bother my father but deeply disturbed me. My family quickly made their way down the hallway. I fell behind them. I couldn’t help but notice that every denizen of the hospital had a flat look on their face and were staring directly at me and my family as we passed by. Suddenly, I felt queasy.
I rushed back to the lobby. I turned to see my family continue to run in the direction of my brother’s room. I entered the bathroom and proceeded to vomit into the sink. I took a moment to collect myself.
Peter, this is easily the best day of your entire life. Get your shit together.
However, no matter how much of a pep talk I gave myself, the sinking feeling refused to leave. As I exited the bathroom, I made my way to room 332 with measured steps. All the while, attempting to ignore the indelible glares of the people as I passed them by.
Room 332 was pitch black. I surmised that the receptionist had given us the wrong room number. My family was nowhere to be seen. However, as I peered into the room I could see a figure lying in the bed. I entered and called out, “Michael?”
A voice responded. “Finally! Come here Peter!” It took a second for me to recognize the voice as Michael’s. One of the oddest things about watching Michael grow up were the changes he went through in adolescence. His voice went from a tenor to a bass in the course of a year. The voice speaking to me now, sounded more like the former. There was a comfort in that. It reminded me so much of the child I doted over. But at the same time it was off-putting and unnatural to hear Michael speak in such a high pitched tone. I looked at the wall for a light switch. As if he could read my mind, Michael screamed, “Don’t you fucking do it!!!”
“I’m so sorry. My eyes are really sensitive now y’know,” he said this with only a hint of sincerity.
“Now, come here and give your little brother a hug.” Initially, the only thought in my mind was embracing Michael as I did that day in the cemetery. I would hold him tight and tell him that everything would be okay. He would pull me closer, and we could begin to put this terrible day behind us. However, as the voice continued to speak, it only unnerved me further. It was like someone’s approximation of the way Michael sounds as opposed to the genuine article. Sweat began to form on my brow. I turned away briefly from the figure lying on the bed to see a group of doctors and nurses gathered outside the room intently watching my every movement.
I turned back around and spoke. “Where’s Mom, Dad, and Ryan?”
“Don’t worry about them. Now, you’re going to make me upset. Come and give me a hug now Peter. Don’t you still love me?”
My eyes began to adjust to the dark in the room. I looked once more at the shadowy figure lying in the bed. All I could see were a pair of incandescent green eyes staring back at me. As if he could sense my growing fear and trepidation, he began to sit up and moved toward the edge of the bed. His feet planted onto the ground. Nausea consumed me once again.
“I’m sorry. I think I’m going to be sick.”
I ran out of the room knocking over a doctor standing in the doorway. On my way to the bathroom in the lobby, I could hear footsteps pounding into the tiles of the hallway. I entered the bathroom once again and splashed water on my face.
As I lifted my head, I could see the reflection of a figure standing behind me.
It was Dr. Joseph. His lips curled upwards into a smile.
“Aren’t you going to go back to your brother? He’s getting impatient.” He said this in all too friendly tone.
“Just give me a second, I’m not feeling so well.”
The smile erased from his face. All pretense left his speech as he grabbed me.
“I don’t know what you did kid. First Otch gets out of the Pit and now Him! You really opened the floodgates.” He stared directly at me and with a smirk he said, “do you have any idea what you’ve done? Of course you don’t. You wanted a miracle and you got it.”
His grip tightened. “He wants to thank you in person,” his voiced raised an octave in fury. “…And he’s tired of waiting.”
In one swift movement, I pulled away from “Dr. Joseph.” As I passed the lobby on my way out the doors, I could see scores of people running in my direction. I ran across the parking lot and made my way into the woods that surround the hospital.
The pitch blackness heightened my hearing. Hordes of people were shouting and searching frantically for me. I ran as fast as my feet would carry me. Eventually, the voices grew distant. I breathed a sigh of relief.
I exited the other side of the trees to find myself in the Mckinley Cemetery. A street lamp illuminated the row of graves that I was standing near. I looked around frantically to make sure I had not been followed. As I stared off into the distance, I saw it.
Two green lights bobbed up and down. I was too tired to make another run for it. I crept toward a gravestone and ducked behind it. As I peered upward again, the two lights had moved closer and were rapidly approaching my direction. Once again, I closed my eyes and thought about Michael. The irony of this situation was not lost on me. How I wished he were here to alleviate my pain and terror like I did for him so many years ago.
I miss you buddy. I miss you so, so much.
The tears fell silently down my cheek. There was no relief or sense of closeness to him. Though “he” was mere meters away from me, I couldn’t possibly feel further from him.
Too terrified to check if it had moved closer, I remained crouched behind the stone. The only sound I could hear was a high pitched wheeze. I looked at the grave. Mary Winchester born September 22, 1973 died November 12, 2001. The fact that my hiding spot contained the grave of someone my exact age only served to heighten my terror. Just as I was selfishly contemplating my mortality, thoughts of Michael ricocheted throughout my brain. Grief consumed me once more.
Soft footsteps parted the grass near my hiding spot.
I didn’t dare look up. Through my peripheral vision I could see the green light grow. I held my breath and waited for the inevitable.
Right as I felt I was going to pass out from lack of oxygen, a shrill laughter filled the air. Miraculously, the green light grew dim. I took a chance and brought my head above the stone. I could see the two lights retreat into the woods.
When I finally got home, I called out for my Mom and Dad, briefly holding out hope for a response, but I knew better. I quickly grabbed the keys to my car and my wallet and ran outside. As I exited the door, my phone rang. It was my Mother’s number. Reflexively, I answered the call. The same shrill laughter I heard in the cemetery greeted me on the other end of the line. My heart lept into my throat.
“You’re too much fun. It looks like you got acquainted with Ms. Mary Winchester today and who wouldn’t want to be? She’s been a real delight these past thirteen years, and you’re thoughts about Michael, I got a real kick out of that. Him, not so much.” He said this in a jovial tone that chilled me to the core.
“Where is he? Is he in H-…?” I didn’t dare finish that sentence.
He paused momentarily. As he spoke, fury returned to his voice. His retort was intense and delivered with such certainty it will stay with me until my dying day and beyond.
“Don’t worry. You’ll be with him soon enough.”