Norbert had cancer. It was eating him up for so long now that he didn’t pay any attention to it any more, despite the ever present pain.
Harold was mainly suffering of dementia.
He had forgotten all of his past as a stone mason and was now maintaining the looks and habits of a little polite and stunted professor, with a gift to persuade visitors to bring him chocolate bars, despite his diabetes.
Gregory just had bad temper and a high propensity to fall.
All together, they were 237 year old and the occupants of the room 304, for what have seemed an eternity.
Then the lad made his entrance.
Or at least, two porters made it for him.
Norbert was dozing, while the other two were bickering.
Harold had spent the last five minutes puffing and panting.
“What’s wrong with you again?”
“I’ll be honest, I seem to have some difficulties to get up…”
“So what? Shut up!”
That was when the two men burst in, pushing a bed loaded with various equipment. You could see a young man, semi-conscious, shaken by irregular convulsions, in the middle of it all.
“Greg, leave Harold alone. Let the young lad have some rest.” Even feeble, Norbert’s voice commended authority.
“Maybe we should call an ambulance?”
“Grrr! It’s not my fault if the old fool is completely senile!”
All felt silent and the calm settled on room 304. A peacefulness only perturbed by the noises common to all hospital wards… and the feverish whimpers of the lad.
Later that night, a strange ballet took place. Harold, blindly feeling his way, put his hand on his Zimmer frame; Gregory managed to fall out of his bed without attracting the attention of the nurses and Norbert dragged his tall and gaunt body, towing his IV behind him in the dark room. They all came to look at the young lad and watched him. He had his eyes half-closed, a sallow complexion and was sweating so much that he seemed to be melting. He was shaking and moaning constantly.
Against him, he clutched a little clay dog that, obviously, some small clumsy hands had taken a great care to shape. They had all seen him this afternoon, the little boy with the blond curls and the worried eyes, into the arms of the mother who kept crying at the bedside of her husband… Even Harold remembered.
Without a word, they looked at each other and nodded. Gregory required more insisting stares, but finally acquiesced with a grunt.
In the morning, it was discovered that Norbert had died of a pulmonary embolism, sudden and nocturnal. It was assumed that the big-C had finally won.
A little later, Harold quietly fell asleep and forgot to wake up. Old age presumably…
Gregory muttered a sardonic “Things come in threes”, looking at the lad. His humour was rarely appreciated… In the early evening, he made an innocuous fall on his way to the toilet, yet, this time, he did not get up again.
When the lad’s fever dropped, the doctor declared, smiling, that he’d passed the worst of it.
Close by, and yet so far away, three indistinct shadows were watching…
Do you think he will remember us?
Of course not, he would eventually ask himself questions.
It’s too bad in a way, because…
Oh, shut up will you!
And the faint shadows faded away.