The Flat Line

For my late wife Susan for all the encouragement she gave me.


The window was cold to the old man’s touch as he leaned on it and gazed out. The Earth was slowly wobbling around the outer edges of the round window. The man looked up and could see the hub at the center of the wheel like space station as it was spinning in orbit above the Earth.

Seeing his reflection in the porthole he noticed his dark hair was out of place. While looking at his image he calmly swept his hands through his thin hair and patted it down as best he could. With a dissatisfying smirk and a shrug of his shoulders he turned away from the window.

He looked down the pale white hallway that slightly curved upward in both directions. It was sparsely furnished with only a few small pictures and numerous signs along the walls. A few other visitors passed him in their own silver white sterile jumpsuits. He looked down at his own and tugged on it. It was a vain attempt to make it fit around his plump body a little better.

After quickly giving up he walked down the hallway looking over all the signs. He was puzzled and stood there looking at them all.

From nowhere a small metallic ball appeared and was now hovering over him. A metallic voice emitting from it asked, “Welcome to Medical Station X12. My I help you?”

Startled the old man looked up at the ball and replied, “Oh, why yes I need to find…”

The man was suddenly interrupted by a beam of light coming from the ball. The man froze as it bathed his face in a soft green glow. Another thin red beam scanned his deep dark brown eyes.

“I.D. confirmed, data required on our Hospice ward is now downloading,” said the ball.

The man pulled up his left sleeve to see a number of tiny lights flashing on a dark band strapped around his wrist. When they all stopped only a single green light continued to blink.

With a sudden breeze the man looked up to find that the metallic ball was gone, leaving just as quickly as it arrived.

Looking back down at his wrist the man touched the green light on the band. A holographic image of the station appeared hovering over the band and his wrist. The view zoomed in and focused on the section of the station he was at. It zoomed in even further to display the hallway he was in. A flashing green arrow appeared in the image. It was obviously pointing him in the direction the ball had expected him to be going.

He ventured deeper into the station finally making his way to the Hospice ward. Once there he found numerous robotic nurses flying by him about their tasks. The man noticed they were a much older model. Instead of having artificial skin, like the more modern human looking versions, they had harsh metallic bodies.

“Ah you frigging NOOB!” screamed someone from a nearby open doorway.

Curious, the man stopped and looked into the room to see what was going on.

In the hospital room was a very old frail looking man sitting up in his bed. Numerous bottles of pain medication littered the floor. Before him was an active three dimensional display. In his swollen hands was some kind of device and on his sweaty bald head was a headset with a microphone.

On the screen was a jungle scene and a well armed soldier with a weapon of some kind in his hand.

The old mans fat fingers were furiously working the device. After a few seconds, sweat started to drip off the end of his microphone.

He stopped and stared intently at the display. Without warning the character on the display jumped out from behind some foliage and shot another one.

Bright red blood engulfed the image as the old man let out, “Ah Ha, ownage on your sorry fifteen year old ass!”

The man in the hall chuckled to himself as he walked on down the hallway looking back at his holographic map.

After a few twists and turns he found himself in front of the door he was looking for. With a touch of the band on his arm his three dimensional map disappeared.

He gazed at the door and the small holographic control panel beside it. With a deep sigh he nervously reached for the touch points on the panel of light.

Before he could activate any of the holographic controls he heard a crash on the other side of the door. It opened and a shiny robot nurse flew out of the room dripping wet. On the other side of the door was a puddle of soapy water, a small metal container and what looked to the man like a primitive wash cloth.

“…and send in a real fucking person next time to give me a sponge bath you cold handed metal bitch!” ranted a slightly older man from a bed in the center of the darkened room.

The man on the outside of the door was reluctant to enter.

The foul mouthed man in the bed spotted him and asked. “Well, what the hell do you want? Damn bureaucrats! Do you need to take every fucking credit I’ve got left, just so I can stay in this dump to die?”

For a second the man hesitated in the hall. Slowly he turned to walk away.

From inside the room the old man suddenly softly asked, “Billy… Billy is that you?”

The man in the hall stopped, turned around and replied, “Yes Frank, I mean… Dad, it’s me.”

Cautiously Billy entered the room and carefully stepped over the wet spot on the floor. The thin, pasty white man in the bed struggled to sit up. The door to the hallway closed silently as Billy walked up to the bed.

The room was dark and almost empty. A number of unusual machines surrounded the bed. A large holographic display appeared over it displaying all the vital signs of the man. There were no windows in the room; the only real source of illumination came from a small video screen mounted to the wall facing the bed. It depicted a bright sunny day in an empty park somewhere on the earth below.

Billy looked up at the information over the bed and watched the bouncing line being displayed of his father’s heart beat.

“Can you tell what it all means Billy?”

Looking down at the bald frail man he replied, “No Fra… Dad, I’m not familiar with…”

Frank interrupted and asked. “But I thought you were a doctor now?”

“I have a Doctoral degree, but only in genetic engineering, I couldn’t tell a cold from a broken leg from this data.” Billy said with a half hearted smile.

“Oh I see,” grumbled Frank as he lay back down in the bed. He then pulled on his short robe so he could get it to fit around him better. With a short struggle he finally managed to get it where he wanted without mumbling more than a few “Oh shits”.

With his bright blue eyes he looked back up at his boy and asked, “Well can you at least tell me what all this crap is around me? They say it’s helping to keep me alive.”

Looking only at the floor Billy replied, “No, I really don’t know what they all are.”

“Hum…” his dad grumbled. With some reluctance he finally inquired, “Is your sister Mandy or Mom not coming? Are you the only one going to show up?”

“I’m afraid so.” Billy coldly stated.

“To bad, I was hoping to…”

“Hoping to do what? “ Billy angrily interrupted, “Try to fix all the horrendous messes you created for your family on your death bed?” As Billy finished a small tear rolled down his cheek.

The old man turned red and pointed a bony finger up at the boy and was about to let loose, but stopped. He lowered his hand and his normal pale white color returned. He said, “Your right, I’m in my eleventh hour and I want…”

There was a long silence.

Billy rubbed the tear from his face. With less rage this time he asked, “Yes, what is it that you do want? What could you possibly want after all these years old man?”

“I’m not sure.” Frank replied squinting up at the younger man. “I don’t think I’m seeking redemption since I never believed in any kind of deity or god.”

With a somewhat softer tone Billy said, “Yeah, but Mom had always hoped and prayed otherwise.”

“That’s true son she always did.” Frank said smiling as he thought about Billy’s mother.

After a few seconds Frank continued, “I don’t know maybe my conscience has finally gotten the better of me, after all this time. I guess I was hoping for… forgiveness for all that I’ve done. I really wanted Mandy to give me a chance to…” Frank stopped and he couldn’t continue.

Billy snapped, “Look Frank since this might be the last chance I’ll have to tell you. The truth is we were all glad when you finally left us. You made our lives a living hell!”

“Son I know, I …”

“Things were bad, you were always hopped up on drugs and always beating on us!” Billy shouted as tears welled up in his eyes.

“I know I did, but I don’t remember ever…”

“Then you did the worst thing a father could possibly ever do to his daughter. Oh my God Frank! Do you have any idea what you did to her?” Billy said crying openly over the old man.

Turning away from his father Billy added, “I really don’t know why I bothered to come.” He then looked at the door to the hallway.

Just as he took a step towards it he heard crying. Quickly Billy spun around to see the old man sobbing out loud. He couldn’t believe it. Was his father actually experiencing true regret over what he had done?

With a heavy heart Billy drew closer to his father and looked down at him with a smile. He was able to squeak out, “You are still my father and a human being no matter what you have done. You know out of all of us Mom never did quit praying for you. She still is hoping you would…”

“Repent and see the light? Ha!” Frank sobbed as he wiped away his tears. “That’s not likely to happen to me no matter how much your mother prays.”

Looking up into his sons dark brown eyes he added, “Do you know why I’m here son? I’m just a mere hundred and seventy four, that’s barely middle aged. I’m certainly not here because of that. No, it’s because of all the abuse I’ve done to myself over the years. All the drugs I took and all the sex I had with just about anyone. I just wanted to have fun. I could never seem to get enough self gratification. I always wanted, needed more! I didn’t give a crap about how to get it. I just knew I wanted it. Now it seems all that abuse has finally caught up with me.”

“I don’t know what else to say,” Billy replied. “I just wish I had my dad when I was growing up and not that monster!” Billy sniffed as his tears began to flow again.

“I’m really sorry son I wasn’t there for you as a real father. I’m also sorry for all the terrible things I did to you all. Please tell your Mother and Mandy that for me,” Frank sobbed rubbing away fresh tears.

“Sure Dad I will,” Billy choked out through his sobs.

“Do you know what the tin cans around here call dying?” Frank asked Billy.

Billy replied by shaking his head no.

“They all call it going beyond the flat line. Funny don’t you think?” Frank said followed by a soft chuckle.

“I guess it is in a morbid way.” Billy replied wiping away his last batch of tears while holding back more.

“It’s strange how you think about life. When you are young you don’t think about death at all. Only after you see it first hand do you even start to think anything about it. Later as you see older relatives die you can’t seem to quit thinking about it. Now being that it’s so close I find it all around me.” Frank said with an ever growing softness in his voice.

Looking over at the doorway Frank continued, “I’ve managed to keep the Grim Reaper in the lobby for a while now, but I’m sure he’s tired of looking through the year old holo-books they have out there.”

“Don’t talk like that Dad, you never know they…”

Looking back up at his son with new tears in his eyes Frank interrupted, “I know better than that son. You see I’ve been dead for a while now. I’ve only hung on just a little longer in case one of you might come to see me. I wanted to tell you all just how much I truly regret everything I did to you all and just how sorry I really am.”

“I…” Billy struggled with the words. “I can only speak for myself. I at least can forgive you dad while I still can.” Billy replied as he began to cry softly again, grabbing the old mans hand he held it tightly.

“Thanks son that is at least some comfort.” Frank softly said with a tear rolling down his face.

Billy stood quietly over the old bald man trying to hold back more tears. He noticed his fathers’ breathing was becoming shallower.

Faintly Frank said, “You always wonder if there is life beyond this one. Some of us go through life not thinking much about that, but I’m sure most of us hope that there really is one. Even I do now, but I’m afraid mine won’t be that nice.”

“I thought you never believed in Hell Dad?” sniffed Billy.

“I don’t, I never did Heaven either, but if either exists I know which I will be headed for.”

Frank looked over at the mess he made on the floor by the door and whispered, “Well they are going to love the next mess I’m going to make…”

He looked back up at Billy and closed his eyes as his last tears trickled down his face

There was a loud alarm, Billy looked up at his vital signs and saw the heart monitor was flat. In a flash, a number of human and mechanical staff ran into the room. They worked on the old man shouting and making lots of noise. Billy still managed to hold his father’s hand through it all, even over the protests of the medical staff.

Slowly the noise began to fade away, the room became dark. Frank could no longer feel his sons grip on his hand. Then there was silence. It was now pitch black. Instead of being frightened, Frank was somewhat calmed by it.

“Well now, what’s next, fire and brimstone?” Frank said as he floated alone in the dark.

A light formed in the distance and slowly it began to grow.

“No fucking way!” Frank exclaimed.

The light grew and Frank suddenly found himself surrounded by it. A shadow stood over him calling his name.

“Frank, Frank”, it said faintly.

Frank could now feel the dark figure hovering over him holding his arm.

“God is that you? I…

The figure only laughed out loud at him. Frank was puzzled he wasn’t sure what was happening.

Everything finally came into a sharp focus. He could see the dark image over him was now a tall green slimy creature with two protruding eyes. Frank let out a scream in terror.

“Ah Fuck, I am in Hell!” He exclaimed.

Frank then tried to break away from the creatures grasp. It had a long tentacle wrapped around his arm, but his arm wasn’t the same any more either. It was also a green slimy tentacle.

“Oh fuck! What did you do to me? I am in Hell!” Frank screamed.

“Come on Frank, it’s my turn to play the game!” The creature said through a small narrow mouth as he retracted his tentacle from Franks.

“Turn to play what?” Frank replied looking around the brightly lit blue room. It was small and looked like a bedroom.

“Human of course, now give me the interactive helmet so I can play!” said the creature taking a small webbed cap off Franks head and placing it onto his own.

The cap was attached with some kind of a cord to a small glowing box. That box was connected to a large flat screen. All of which was on a small table nearby. Some odd but familiar language and graphics were being displayed on the screen.

Frank rose up off what seemed to be some kind of bed and told the other creature. “But I lived almost two hundred years, was I playing that long?”

“You are a hog that’s for sure, but it was only about seven minutes. Now move so I can lie down on the bed to play. It’s more comfortable that way.”

Frank slowly moved off the bed to let the other creature take his place.

Franks real memory was now starting to slowly come back. He could now remember that he was really only nine years old and this was the first time he was able to play this new educational game. He also remembered the other bossy creature was his older brother, Irwin.

“Thought I was Satan didn’t ya?” said Irwin from the bed.

“Yeah, I guess I didn’t know how in depth this game took you.”

“Well with that crappy score I could see why you thought you were bound for Hell.” Irwin replied just before he activated the game to take his turn.

“I’ll do better next time, but I did manage to gain a few extra points at the end.” Frank replied.

By Lee Crystal

From: United States