THE FINAL ACT

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By Hecson John M.  Manaligod

The girl was 15 years old when she died.The pale color of her face-a classic sign of shock-indicated the cause of her death.  dengue hemorrhagic fever infection.  It marked her three-day agony. I looked at my watched and noted the time of her death. 10:26 a.m.

To me and my friend Randy, she was first to die under our care since we  began our OJT two months ago.  The only thing left for both of us to do now was to accord her body the appropriate care it deserves prior to the final preparations for burial.

Before it was to be delivered to the morgue, Randy and I were assigned to prepare her body. You probably think this should have been left to the staff of funeral parlors. But postmortem care is also a part of out training as nurses.It was to be my first.

While I was placing the pillow under her head, I accidentally brushed my right thumb against her cheek,  creating a small scratch near  her left ear.  I uttered a silent apology to the dead girl as I continued with my postmortem procedures. Suddenly,  Randy and I noticed the lights of the room went on and off intermittently for a couple of minutes.

We stared at each other for a moment, and then continued with what we were doing as if nothing unusual had happened. It was a tedious process, taking almost an  hour to complete. After tagging the body, I went to our changing room,  washed and  disinfected myself, and donned a fresh uniform, ready to turn to my two charges.

I was on the verge of collapsing  from exhaustion when I  returned  to my boarding house late that evening, intending to catch up with my sleep,  having been on duty since six that morning. I just finished taking a bath and was  ready to go to bed when I  sensed something wrong. I grabbed my bag and searched its contents.I couldn’t find  my wallet. I must have accidentally dropped it at the hospital.

I was worried that somebody could have picked it up and took my P500 weekly allowance.   I decided to sleep, hoping that some good soul  had found it and turned it to the hospital desk staff where I could claim it.  Gradually,  my eyes closed. Later I awoke to the sensation of something that was  tugging at my blanket.

I looked around in the dimly lit room and saw nothing unusual. I was ready to dismiss it as muscular twitches and get back to sleep when I heard a knock on the door of my  room.  Without much thought, I clutched the vase in my room, went to the door and turned  the doorknob. Burglars? Who else would have the nerve to disturb people in the  wee hours of the night?

I remember my landlady once told me  that a month before I started my OJT a critically  injured female student  from a nearby dormitory was  rushed to the hospital  after three men repeatedly stabbed her when  she opened the door   to her room  to investigate suspicous noises that roused her from bed one night.

Fortunately,  the girl  survived. The memory of that incident served as a warning for me not to venture out of my room unarmed.  The vase I was holding was large enough to knock any burglar  unconscious if ever I had to  defend myself.

Upon opening the door,  just enough for me to get a glimpse of my mysterious  guest, I was relieved  to see a young girl. In the dim light  of the hallway, the look on her  face  and her thin built assured me that she couldn’t even hurt a fly.

But why did I get the feeling that something was not right? She  looked  familiar but  couldn’t  identify her.  I told the girl, “It’s almost midnight, Iha, aren’t you supposed to be sleeping?” Then I asked her, “Anyway,  what is it?” “I’m sorry to disturb you kuya, but did you lose your wallet this morning?” She  asked me in a low voice.

Her question took me  by surprise, but I still managed to blurt out, “Why, yes, I did.  How did you know that?”

Assured that she  meant no harm,  I fully opened the door and placed the vase I was holding on the floor, feeling a bit embarrassed  that I was talking to the girl while  cluthing it a minute ago.

She handed over to me my lost wallet, with its 500 content  still in place. I was elated and was about to thank her when  she replied, “You dropped it inside the hospital. I happened to come by when I found it.”

“Alright, do I know you?” I asked  the girl. “You look familiar to me, but I think I’ve forgotten your name.”

“You mean you’ve forgotten about it?” She also replied with a question. I felt a bit annoyed. “Forgotten about what? Answer me first, who are you ?”

“You gave me this scratch near my ear, remember?” she replied, showing the mark I could  have given  only to the girl who died from dengue hemorrhagic fever that  morning! And then suddenly she vanished right before my  very eyes.

I shut the door and remained awake the whole night, terrified over the apparition I just saw.

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