Threads of Life

She broke into a cold sweat every time Nurse Ektapoulos entered the room.

Nancy Trent had been in Ward 8 of Sunset for almost three months. Her son, Nick, had dropped her off two months ago, at her insistence. Nick couldn’t attend to her needs any longer. She was gradually losing control of her bladder and bowels and couldn’t bear the indignity of dependence on her son. He led a hectic life and she had increasingly felt she was dragging him down. Her mind was still alert and vibrant and she was capable of wheel chair bound mobility; except there was no place to go. She wanted to be the author of her own end-of-life story. She craved human companionship but had stopped expecting interaction with any family members other than the provision of three meals and sanitary care.

Nancy had finally asked Nick to move her to a hospice. She knew she had less than a year left. The cancer was spreading fast. She wanted to spend her last several months in a ward full of people who were in a similar situation. She had always felt that the best psycho-social counseling would come from like-minded souls, from fellow travelers along the same last road. She wanted to talk to others, see how they felt, how they were preparing themselves for the final moment.

Nick had raised some generic, insincere objections and had finally agreed to bring her to the Sunset Hospice Care facility.

In three short months Nancy had become the darling of Ward 8. She had a very positive attitude and her brilliant conversational skills had all her ward mates in thrall. She kept their spirits up, displaying higher energy levels than the others in the ward. She was even able to wheel herself around and assist anyone who needed her help.

Yet there was something about Nurse Ektapoulos that bothered her.

Nursee, as they called her, was always cheerful, stopped by each bed every morning, checking vital signs and making entries on each chart. She always had kind words to say to everyone, asking about their sons, daughters, grand kids and other family members. She even remembered their birthdays. But every time Nursee was near Nancy’s bed, Nancy’s nerves were on alert and she felt her adrenal glands kicking in, ready with the flight or fight response, if only her limbs permitted.

Nancy had always been a light sleeper and her cancer ravaged body had found it increasingly difficult to snatch more than two hours of sleep each night. Morphine had always made her nauseous and she found the tolerance of pain infinitely preferable to the indignity of vomiting.

It was during one of these sleepless moments that she had observed Nursee creep into Ward 8 at night, long after her scheduled rounds were complete, and inject her good friend Miriam with a syringeful of something. She then crept out as silently as she had entered. Miriam never woke up the next morning.Miriam’s passing was sudden and shocking. They had talked and Miriam had said that she expected to live at least another six months. She had felt comfortable and her pain had been well-managed. There hadn’t been any signs of progressively accelerating deterioration. But this was a hospice after all and the possibility of further investigation in this matter was remote.

Nancy had relegated her insomniac observations to the deeper recesses of her mind when, after three weeks, she observed Nursee enter Ward 8 once again. This time she walked over to her buddy Nathan’s bed. Nathan didn’t wake up the next morning. Nathan had been terminally ill with bladder cancer but he had also been in a stable state, comfortable and cheerful on most days. The two incidents were too similar to be coincidental and Nancy was now extremely wary of Nursee.

Nancy was one of the few patients who had sufficient mobility on her wheelchair and used to routinely leave the ward to visit other patients in other wards. This morning she decided to set off on her morning excursions during the time when she knew Nursee would be busy with her rounds. She wheeled herself down the lime green corridors, to Nursee’s office at the end of the hallway. The door was open and she entered.She started looking around and saw a very organized office. Nothing was out of place, it was quiet as a mausoleum. There were glass cabinets full of all kinds of vials. And then she glanced up at the wall art and the statuettes resting on her desktop and her cabinets. They were various forms of the three life- thread weaving daughters of Zeus and Themis – Clothos (the weaver), Lachesis (the measurer) and Atropos (the snipper). Her eyes then alighted upon the name plate on the desk – A. Ektapoulos, R.N.

She sifted through some correspondence on the desk. She spotted an envelope with a return address of L. Ektapoulos addressed to A. Ektapoulos. She was inquisitive enough to peek inside the long manila envelope. Therein lay a piece of knotted thread – with about 65 knots in it. The paper inside had a single name on it – Nancy Trent. It was Nancy’s 65th birthday today. She glanced at the knotted thread and then the piece of paper and as she lifted her eyes to the doorway she saw the backlit form of a beaming Nursee, Ms Atropos Ektapoulos, framed in the doorway, a lifted syringe in her hand.

1 Comment

  1. this flash fiction praagu is the most amazing piece of fiction i've read by you… chilling to the bones and an amazing deft usage of greek mythology…exquisite!!!

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