Dorothea didn’t think of herself as an “angel of mercy”. She simply provided a badly needed service that benefited the patients, and their families. She had spent years watching grieving families hover over loved ones that would never recover, and the hospital struggle to find room for the sick. She remembered the first one like it was yesterday. On a whim she had pumped him full of epinephrine, causing acute cardiac arrest. The feeling she got from that was indescribable. For the first time in her life, she felt like she had a purpose, that she was making a difference in the lives of others. That was why she became a nurse in the first place.
Lying in bed alone in her little apartment, Dorothea would sometimes go over the list in her mind to help her sleep. There had been forty-seven in all. Most were hopelessly vegetative, but some might have recovered partially. But who was to know for sure? It was better to be safe and put them all out of their misery. It had been six months and three days since the last one, and she was feeling the restless urge building up inside her again.
Mr. McGuffey was admitted two days ago, and Dorothea couldn’t have been happier. He was a police detective and had been shot in the back during a chase with a criminal. The x-rays indicated that his spine had been severely damaged at the T9-T12 vertebrae. The poor man would never walk again and he would likely struggle with incontinence and sexual dysfunction for the rest of his life. Dorothea couldn’t bear to think of him suffering like that. Something needed to be done for the sake of all that was good and pure. Something that only she could provide.
After volunteering for the night shift, Dorothea prepared herself for her special moment. She was giddy as she made her rounds, even whistling at times. She couldn’t wait to usher Mr. McGuffey on his journey to the other side. On her break, she went to the store-room and pulled out a secret stash of needles and the vial of Epinephrine. She drew out a large quantity of the clear liquid into a small hypo and placed it in her pocket. When she clocked back in, she made her way to Mr. McGuffey’s room.
The pale man was lying perfectly still in the bed with IV’s in each arm, and an oxygen tube taped under his nose. Dorothea eased in and checked his chart before going over and looking at his sleeping face. It was such a shame she thought. A shame that such a young man would never again know the pleasure of a woman, or the freedom of walking on his own. He was very handsome, and in another life, she would have liked to have known him. She stroked the side of his face gently with a gloved hand and pulled the needle from the pocket of her scrubs.
Dorothea aligned the needle with the IV port, but before she could push the plunger, she heard the man mumble something. She leaned in and put her ear to his mouth. With labored breath he spoke again. “What are you doing?”
Dorothea, in an uncharacteristic show of boldness, kissed the man on the lips and whispered in his ear. “I am sending you on to a better place my dear. Just relax, and it will all be over soon.” She stood up and began to push the needle in the port. Without warning, the man reached out and grabbed her arm.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” he screamed.
Dorothea gasped, and struggled to free her arm. The man was stronger than she could possibly imagine and his grip bit into the flesh of her wrist. Without thinking, she punched him in the mouth with her free hand and when he flinched, she wrenched her arm free. The sound of the other nurses coming down the hall caused her to panic so Dorothea flipped the needle around and tried to jab it into McGuffey’s chest. He caught her hand and twisted it hard. The pain caused her to collapse, falling on the needle. Dorothea’s knees buckled and she slid to the floor. As she lay there, she watched the needle sway back and forth in the skin of her forearm.
Within a minute, an icy hand reached up into Dorothea’s chest and clamped down on her heart. Her lungs seized up and she couldn’t get a breath. Pain shot down her arms and darkness slowly closed in around her.
The darkness never left poor Dorothea, but she wasn’t lucky enough to die. She could hear the beeping of the machines that kept her alive, and she could sense when someone entered or left the room. She couldn’t move her limbs or speak, but she could feel every stick of the needle or pinch from the doctor. Horror settled into her mind as she realized that she was now a prisoner in her own body, and that there was no one to help her out of her misery.