Dear Deer

“I’m sorry, what?” Lauren asked the aging attendant. The old woman smiled pleasantly; her eyes sparkled with life despite her wrinkles. She looked down at her clipboard to double check her form, then back at the mid 20s patient; she nodded.

“I’ll take good care of you, dearie. I need to fill in some missing information. Unless I’m in the wrong room?” The elderly orderly looked around the room then raised an eyebrow. “You’re Lauren Hutchinson, right? Born 1-1-96?” Lauren nodded. “I’m missing your death date.” Lauren gasped, then immediately exhaled into a heavy sob. Her body shook as tears filled her eyes. She did hear ‘death date’ correctly and did not know how to process the fact that she was dead.

“Oh dear me, no!” the aide rushed to Lauren’s bedside and wrapped a wispy arm around the young woman. “That close, huh?” Something about the woman’s embrace helped Lauren calm down. She wondered if her attendant was an angel. She felt at ease and her mind cleared.

“June 5, I guess,” Lauren shrugged.

“I’d ask you what year but it’s obvious you mean today,” the old woman joked. “All our journeys end at some point, dear,” she squeezed the patient again. Lauren sighed and felt better.

“You’re right. It was fun while it lasted but it’s time to move on.” She looked up at the orderly and smiled. “What’s next?” she asked.

“This is your last one,” she patted Lauren’s head. “I haven’t gotten that far yet.” She gave Lauren a final hug then released her. She made herself comfortable on the bed and smiled. “I guess Ezey wasn’t your caseworker, huh?” she winked.  “He’s a soft touch as easy as his name; you’d have all the answers already.”

Lauren tilted her head and narrowed her eyes. After a moment she shook her head slowly as if she didn’t know she was doing it.

“No…,” she whispered. “It was… Isla.” Her head tilted the other way. “Who’s Isla?” she quickly added the question.

“Oh, dear.” she clucked her tongue and shook her head with pity. “I won’t let you pass on like this,” she pulled a scalpel from the front of her red and white smock. “Not while you’re still slumbering.” The frail woman grabbed Lauren’s arm with a firm grip. “This might sting a bit dear,” she said. Lauren nodded. She felt completely at ease in the woman’s presence; despite the blade carving into her skin.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” Lauren’s nurse dashed into the room.

“I’m waking her up,” the orderly said. She stopped cutting Lauren’s skin. She pressed a white gauze square against the wound then looked calmly at the nurse. “I won’t let her life end without knowing what it’s about.” The nurse sighed and crossed her arms.

“I don’t disagree but shouldn’t you wait until she’s closer to death before you decide for the universe?” the nurse asked. Lauren perked up.

“I’m not dead?” she asked. The two women ignored her to focus on their conversation.

“She will be today, She said her death day was June 5th.”

“I’m still alive?!” Lauren pulled her arm out of the orderly’s hand: the old woman let it go but her focus stayed on the nurse.

“And how do you know that?” the nurse asked.

“She told me,” the orderly pointed at Lauren. Lauren saw her chance and jumped in.

“I thought I was already dead!” she blurted out the instant both women’s attention landed on her.

“Oh,” the orderly said. “So you don’t know your death date?” Lauren shook her head vigorously.

“No. Who knows that?” she asked.

“Fae,” she replied and pointed at the green forms on her clipboard. “You’re color-coded for fae.”

“What?” The nurse glanced down at the orderly’s clipboard: it held several mint green forms. yanked the clipboard away and looked over the forms; then, she shook her head.

“Fae forms are printed with dark green ink. These are just printed on green copy paper.”

“Oh. Well now I know, thank you,” the orderly said.

“How did you know my favorite number?” Lauren asked. She was looking at the 45 scratched into her skin. “And why did I let you do this?” she asked. The old woman sighed and stood from the bed.

“I’ll call Mundo,” she said.

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